FROM HOLOCAUST TO REBIRTH (excerpts)
By Elie Wiesel
. . . Naturally, you may have read facts and figures and documentary narratives and autobiographies or autobiographical novels; you may have seen pictures and even visited the sites. All this will not have brought you closer to the experience. For the ultimate mystery of the Holocaust is that whatever happened, happened in the soul. All the rest is commentary.
The mystery does not lie in numbers. What any Jewish child felt when he faced the executioner, or when he witnessed the death of his father, is in itself a mystery never to be revealed, for he alone, the child, the orphan, could speak about it, and he remains silent deliberately. You will never gain access to his secret, to his soul.
On the level of History, the Holocaust too is a mystery matched, in intensity and magnitude, only by the Renaissance of Israel. Yet the one does not, cannot explain the other, for the one does not, cannot justify the other. Whoever connects Israel to the Holocaust, is doubly guilty of blasphemy. The link between them? We are that link, we the survivors, we the witnesses. And, to me, we are all both survivors and witnesses, even those born after the events took place. . .
. . . I am not speaking of the past but of the present. In other words, I am asking you now what are you doing with our past ?
I remember: during those years, when we were dreamless old children in a kingdom called Night, we had but one wish left but it was a burning desire: to bear witness. Hundreds of men and women were ready to sacrifice their lives to allow one messenger to escape and tell the tale. For we were convinced that what was happening to us was shrouded in such secrecy that not even God knew about it let alone the Allied governments or "our brethren in America".
I must tell you that, had we known, then in 1944, in those months, that American Jewry knew and did nothing, I believe our despair would have been so overwhelming, the pain so unbearable that many more would not have survived. Our hope was: you did not know yet, but you would be finding out any day now. Only much later, after the war, did we find out that most of you I refer to the leadership in your communities knew. Even before we did. . .
. . . Isn't this a tale your children ought to hear today? Are you ashamed to tell it to them? Ashamed, you? What is there for Jews, born in the twentieth century, to be ashamed of? This century has taught us the very opposite: man failed the Jew did not; man betrayed the Jew did not. What was the Holocaust, if not the story of man betraying the Jew?
Certainly, young Jews emerging from war had very right to drown mankind in the hate and fire it had brought upon itself. What did they do instead ?
They proclaimed the birth of a new dream; no, the rebirth of an ancient one: Jewish sovereignty, Jewish nationhood. Wasn't that an insane thing to demand? Remember, immediately following the war, the password was internationalism. All nationalism had proved morally, humanly bankrupt. Why then did we choose just that period to formulate our wish for a state of our own? A state unlike any other, at that?
Think about it and you'll want to laugh. For there is a state now and it is unlike any other; it is Jewish and therefore more human than any other. And if I feel a sense of pride whenever I go to Israel, it is because of its moral victory. I felt it when I saw Jewish compassion toward an enemy in defeat and when I saw paratroopers hurling themselves at the Wall only to humbly weep there. I experienced History becoming part of my imagination.
Bella Knoll (Kahana)
MEMORIES FROM NADWORNA
Who lived in Nadworna till age
21, after which she emigrated
to Eretz Yisrael.
I am trying to go back as far as memory will allow, to those first childhood years in Nadworna:
It was at the end of World War I, and we were returning home to Nadworna, my mother (Cipora Kahane neι Nagler) and her five children, after having been refugees in another country. Upon arriving home, we found father had already returned before us and managed to repair the damage done to our house. During the war father had been taken prisoner-of-war to Russia.
What a happy time! To be reunited again with our dear father and our uncles, aunts and cousins. I felt Nadworna was our home in all things, in every way; the one safe and comforting place where no one could ever harm us. But I was soon to learn differently. One night, soon after our return, we were awakened from our sleep to find that strangers were trying to break into our house. I was very small at the time and couldn't understand what was happening. Later, I heard father explaining that these were the typical hooligans who attacked Jews during pogroms. Fortunately for all of us, the men in the family quickly got together and managed to fight them off.
I do not know the distant history of Nadworna, but I do know that I am the tenth generation of our family in Nadworna. We lived in a big house in the center of town. There were four shops in the front and a big courtyard at the back. There is quite a 'history' attached to this house. This property was the dowry my mother brought to her marriage. For at the time my mother was married, grandfather had made an important decision; he and grandmother were leaving for Eretz Yisrael, to spend their last days there, and be buried there. Grandfather, therefore, first divided all his property among his children and then left with grandmother for the Holy Land, before my mother had even had her first child.
Shmelki Nagler, my grandfather (on my mother's side), was a devout and zealous Jew. I, of course, never knew him, but my aunt (who later brought me up after I had been orphaned) spoke about him. Grandfather had a great deal of influence in Nadworna. At one time the community wanted to build a secular school with the aid of Baron Hirsch funds, but grandfather was very much opposed to this plan, since he feared that a secular education would turn the youth away from the path of religion and Jewish tradition.
Another touching event that my aunt recounted:
Grandmother had never been very happy about leaving her family and going to the Holy Land. When she knew mother was to give birth to her first child she made the eventful decision to come and visit her daughter! This was a most daring thing to do at that time (1904) since to travel from Eretz Yisrael to Nadworna could be quite perilous. It could not be planned or reserved for ahead. Such a trip had to be taken step by step with varying means of transportation being used along the way. But grandmother finally arrived at Nadworna more or less in time for the "Brit" of my eldest brother Yehoshua. What excitement! All the womenfolk of Nadworna came to visit and welcome grandmother, and to hear the many wonderful tales she had to tell of Eretz Yisrael.
Meir Huebner, whose house was next to ours, beside the big courtyard, was among the first Zionists of Nadworna. As a child I remember his great enthusiasm and fervor with the movement of "Return to Zion", and the many Zionist songs he would sing. Meir Huebner traveled to the Zionist Congresses and it was said that he was personally acquainted with the "Contract For A Jewish State". Perla, his one and only daughter, and much beloved by him, was my friend from childhood. She was a talented girl, who did artistic handwork and was also a writer. It was due to Huebner's influence that both Perla and I joined the "Shomer Hatzair" youth movement. Sadly, Meir Huebner, after having spent his life and all his wealth for the good of the community, died penniless. Perla remained in Poland and died in the holocaust.
The name of the street where we lived was "Boznitcha" meaning the street of the synagogues. And it was not without reason that it was so called, for at the further end of the street, most of Nadworna's synagogues were concentrated. The most prominent of these synagogues and also the one situated nearest to our house was named Vishnitz. My father was a fervent follower of the Rabbi from Vishnitz. Every morning, day after day, I would be awakened by the prayers' voices (Ba'alel Hatfila) coming from the Vishnitz synagogue, and on Shabbath and during festivals many more voices would be added. On each festival we would be awakened by its own particular prayers. I loved hearing the lovely strains of the prayers coming from the synagogue, and especially knowing that father was there taking part.
On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur we children would stand outside the synagogue and watch the grown-ups coming in groups and families to enter for prayers. How grand everything looked to my childish eyes! How proud I was to be a part of this life the life of a Jewish community well settled in a typical small town like Nadworna. To see the womenfolk, rich and poor alike, each wearing her special Shabbath dress, come to celebrate and pray on High Holidays. I would watch the womenfolk gathering together in the synagogue seeking to relieve their hearts in prayer, and asking God's forgiveness for sins committed, all requesting that the new year would be a better and happier year and ending with Gemar Hatima Tova.
Among the womenfolk of Nadworna there were many who were truly good and modest, and believed in helping others as a way of life without publicizing their good deeds. My aunt Dina was one of these women, although she had only very modest means by which to support herself. Aunt Dina at all times concerned herself with the poor. Every Thursday she would visit the poor, bringing them the necessary foodstuff with which to prepare the Shabbath meal in order to make that one day, the Holy Day, different from the rest of the week. Till this day I can still hear my aunt as she used to say "on Shabbath every Jew must be as a King". I also had to help aunt Dina in her care for the poor and needy. While still a child, aunt Dina would give me a basket full of groceries and send me off to deliver these. I would arrive at some far-off corner of the town where these poor people lived and who wished to hide their poverty, and give to each family some potatoes, flour, some beans and sometimes, even an egg. Etti Rothstein, one of our near neighbors and one of the helpful womenfolk of Nadworna, also made the rounds to help the poor and needy. Today it can be said of Tama, her daughter who is living in Israel, that "The apple does not fall far from the tree".
My father (Leibish Kahane) was devout and very learned in the Talmud and Tora, and belonged to the zealously religious group of Nadworna. After the Balfour Declaration, a second group, the Zionists was formed in Nadworna and as was the pattern at that time there was a standing quarrel between the Zealous and Zionist groups. In the wake of Zionism a Hebrew school was opened in Nadworna, the same as in many other towns. Till this day, I am still full of wonder that a devout Jew like my dear father was prepared to show a special understanding by taking me and my eldest sister Rivka to the new Hebrew school established by the Zionist group. However, unfortunately, we did not stay long at this school, due to the untimely deaths of both our parents. My mother died first and a year later my father died during a typhus epidemic. Thus there was no one left to care for our education. One of my strongest memories of the Hebrew school, is its teachers. There was Rachella Bickel, who later emigrated to Palestine, at which time, we her pupils, accompanied her to the railway station with singing and dancing. After Rachelia came other teachers, Schenker, Weissberg, Stoller, Komorovsky and last but not least Schohat. Of our teacher Schohat I have a special rememberence since we lived in the same house with his family after our "historical" house was burnt down one night.
Our second home was situated on the corner of Notraska and Koshtchelna streets. I loved our second home. It was a two-storey building and we lived on the second storey. It had a veranda all-round and was surrounded by tall trees, with a small brook passing by. In this romantic place I spent my adolescent years, and there are still times when I remember with longing this second home. We were good friends with the Schohat family who lived on the ground floor. I do not know what happened to them, if they survived the holocaust or were lost with the rest. The last time I saw them, was at the time I emigrated to Palestine in 1935, when they accompanied me to the railway station.
The population of Nadworna was divided into three different ethnic groups: The Poles who were in power, Nadworna being a part of Poland; the Ukrainians, and the Jews who were in the minority. The Jewish community lived in the center of town and that was also where they mostly made their living, especially as shopkeepers. In the town center there was also the market place with its stalls. Once a week a fair and market day was held. The farmers from the surrounding countryside would bring their produce to sell. All day long they would sell their goods, then when evening came, the farmers packed up and went off to drink. Many times they got drunk and then often disturbances broke out and we Jews would shut ourselves in our houses for fear of being attacked.
Most of the Polish and Ukrainian population lived outside the town. At weekends, the Jews liked to take trips outside the town, to relax in the surrounding countryside, but many were the times when our trip was spoilt because the Ukrainians would throw stones at us.
The Ukrainians who were a simple, uncultured people showed an intense hatred towards the Jews more than the Poles, but the Poles were also not lacking in antisemitism.
The antisemitic behavior of the Polish teachers at school created a constant hostility between the Jewish and Christian girls. Many times the Polish girls came and hit us, and then I would not be slow in returning the blows! For I was very rebellious against the unjustified behavior of the teachers. It was, therefore, a welcome outlet for me when I joined one of the Zionist youth movements which were being established at that time in Nadworna. I just happened to join Shomer Hatzair, not because. of any ideological reasons, but because a number of my friends had joined this movement and I went along with them. At the age of 15 I still had no idea which ideology was the right one.
Shomer Hatzair, as all the Zionist youth movements, contributed a great deal to the education of the Jewish youth. We were instructed in Zionism and, although, it was stated that we were not affiliated to any political ideology, we none the less also received our share of Communist indoctrination. Our goal was to build a national home in Palestine, to take the Jewish people out of their stagnated existence in the "galut". It sounded so wonderful this dream, to bring the Jewish people to Palestine and I took it up with all my heart and being. And every evening, just as every pious Jew would turn his steps to the synagogue for evening prayers, so I would hurry off to the house where Shomer Hatzair met. There I would meet with the rest of my friends and we would hold serious discussions on the issues of the day. We would sing together Zionist and other songs. On moonlit nights we would sit outside in the fields and under the trees, singing the early songs of Eretz Yisrael. On Saturdays we went on trips far into the country, marching like soldiers in our "uniforms" of Shomer Hatzair. All these activities caused a great deal of surprise and embarrassment among our community. The more orthodox of the community viewed our activities with great consternation and did not hesitate to speak out against the youth and the parents who allowed them to go to the Zionist youth movements.
Receiving communist indoctrination in the youth movement, caused many a young boy and girl to transfer to the Communist party after leaving the youth movement, and I regret to say, I was one of them. This last step caused pain and unhappiness to the families concerned, but we the youth were oblivious to this; we were idealistic and caught up in the Communist tenets and could not see which way the path was taking us. We were completely convinced that communism would solve all the world's problems including ours the Jewish problem.
But once again I was to learn differently. I was to feel the ever present antisemitism which existed in the heart of the Ukrainians, until sometimes I would be seized with the fear that if only they were given the chance, they would kill us all.
The incident which brought these fears to the fore was on the occasion of a football match between Jewish and Ukrainian teams. The Jewish youth in Nadworna also partook in sport and had their own football team. As was the custom on Sundays, football matches were held between the Jewish team and one of the Polish or Ukrainian teams.
The playing field was beside the river Bishchitza. If it happened that our team won then the Ukrainians would beat us for it. On this particular Sunday I went to watch the football match and when in the end our team won how pleased I was!
On our way home we had to cross a narrow bridge over the river. We were walking together with the Jewish team. Suddenly, there pounced upon us some Ukrainian boys; they caught one of the boys from our team and wanted to drown him in the river. As it happened this particular boy was from the Berger family. Now in this family there were more sons, brothers of the boy who had been attacked. The whole family worked as wagoners, and the boys were strong-built and brave and had strong Jewish feelings. They did not hesitate to return blow for blow when attacked by the "goyim" and they quickly rescued their brother from his attackers. All this time I was standing on the bridge, frightened and shouting continuously. Standing beside me was a Polish woman who was known as a kindly person. After the incident her husband, who was Ukrainian, came up to her and asked why she had shouted so much, "After all if they had killed a Jew, was that something to shout about" he questioned.
I grew up in a traditional, religious home. My aunt told me many bible stories depicting the heroism of our nation and it was, therefore, very hard for me, in spite of my leftist views, to accept the degrading behavior of the Ukrainians towards the Jews. After the incident on the bridge, I returned home and told my brother Yehoshua what had happened. My brother was a gentle, modest and good-hearted person. He continuously studied the Torah and we called him the "walking encyclopedia". In his eyes, I was looked upon as a rebellious, younger sister because I belonged to the communist group, and this caused him quite a considerable lot of worry and pain. Now, when my brother saw how upset I was over the incident on the bridge, he admonished me "Now my dear it is time that you returned, to build your life, among your own people and to stop searching for new ideas among strangers"; and I thankfully returned to my own. Yehoshua, my brother, died in the holocaust. We do not know in which circumstances. In his last postcards to us in Israel, he hinted at his fear of the Russians who had occupied Nadworna at the outbreak of the second World War. In one of his postcards he specifically hinted at the danger of the "red and yellow plagues", meaning the communists and Nazis.
The cultural center in Nadworna, known as "Yehudia" is a part of my memories that must not be passed over. This center was open to every Jew in Nadworna, whether it was to find an interesting book to read or to partake in the Jewish folklore. My brother was one of the regular members at this cultural center, and I, after having finished with my communist experience, followed after him. Here, I also met my future husband, owing to whom I left Poland and emigrated to Palestine. And now, before I reach the end of my story, I wish to tell about Dr. Starer, the colorful and impressive personality, who headed the Jewish community in Nadworna and was in charge of "Yehudia". He had boundless energy and a great sense of humor. It was due to him that "Yehudia" became a center of attraction and culture for the Jewish Community. Dr. Starer arranged for lectures to be given on various subjects at the center. But he understood only too well that it was not enough just to give lectures and books to youth in order to influence them towards Zionism. At Purim time, masked parties were arranged, with the youth and grown-ups dancing till dawn, and prizes were given for the best Purim costume and to the best dancer. On such occasions Dr. Starer together with his beautiful wife were in charge of the entertainment, which brought some lightheartedness and color into our drab lives, and also brought in money for the center, which was used to good purpose such as for the Hebrew School and charities. My last meeting with Dr. Starer has always remained vivid in my memory. It was at the time of my leaving Nadworna for Palestine. It took place at the railway station, and in spite of the circumstances, I was very upset at leaving my home town and relatives and couldn't stop crying. Dr. Starer came up to me and patted me, saying "Just think how many people would consider themselves fortunate to be in your place and go to Eretz-Yisrael." Unfortunately, Dr. Starer, himself, did not succeed to emigrate to Israel, and as far as I know from the information that reached me, he took poison when the Nazis came to take him away.
Many, many years have passed since I left Nadworna, and the way of life has changed, in many instances, beyond recognition, but for me Nadworna with its own special character, its streets and side lanes and all the many personalities that made up our community are still very near to me as if it had all happened only yesterday! Nadworna had its own wonderful youth, just as many other generations produced their own special youth. Some of the girls were known as the beauties of their time. Especially two young, beautiful girls I wish to single out. One was Mania Knoll, the daughter of Shalom Knoll. Mania passed the war years hiding in the forests, after having escaped from the ghetto, during which time she contracted a serious illness which left its mark even after she reached America at the end of the war and where she died some years later. Then there was Judith Kleinman who was a dazzling beauty. Judith came to Palestine in 1936 during the Arab disturbances. But Judith became very homesick for her family in Nadworna and decided to return. She was still in Nadworna when the war started. News reached us that she stayed in the ghetto with her mother till the very end, and finally they went together to their terrible fate.
The war did not pass us by here either. At the beginning we suffered air attacks, and Rommel's army was poised to overrun Egypt and invade Palestine. It was, therefore, a miracle for us when the British defeated the Germans in the desert. But the agony of hearing what had happened to European Jewry, taking with it families, relatives and friends came later. In our worst nightmares we could not have thought that such a terrible fate awaited them. There was a time in Nadworna, when at the death of each person the whole town would come to share the grief of the bereaved family. But now, after so many, many had gone, our grief was too great to bear. How could one grasp, how was it possible to comprehend the monstrosity of what had happened.
These memories are dedicated to my family and their descendants, to be passed on, and that it be known how the Jewish nation lived in Exile and then in the end was taken away to its death. So that now and in future it will be appreciated what it is to live free in one's own land.
(Translated by Zyta Eliahu neι Lewl
born in Nadworna
THE NEW TOWN IN NADWORNA
My father, the late Selig Jurman, told me that in 1914, with the outbreak of World War I, the part of the town where we used to live was burned down, and so were most of the Jewish homes; we were forced to escape through the Carpathian mountains towards Hungary, and in the town of Satmar we spent four years in exile
Rebuilding was commenced upon our return to Nadworna, in 1918. The restored part of the town was called "die neie Stadt" (the new town).
The town was blessed with a glorious landscape, the river Bistriza, the Carpathian mountain ridges and the Bukowina forests. I remember the times when the snow melted, the ice burst in the rivers, the water flooded the houses, bridges were destroyed by the torrent and rescue teams would arrive to help the damaged.
In the house of my late grandfather, Chaim Bickel there was a permanent synagogue, with many Torah Scrolls and other holy books and most neighbors observed their prayers, twice daily there. Amongst the pious were pupils of the sage who fasted every Monday and Thursday, meticulous in Commandments small and grave, who lived together in happiness and sorrow.
I am unable to describe the beauty of the holidays in our town, the atmosphere of the month of Elul and the Slichot prayers. At midnight the caretaker used to knock on the doors of the neighbors, wakening them in order to worship our Creator. On Rosh Hashanah at the time of Tashlich the congregation would go to the Bistriza river for prayers, emptying their pockets in order to be clean of sins on the day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).
In the early morning hours grandfather would take all the members of the family. The menfolk would be supplied with cocks, while the women would receive hens and they would cry "thus I atoned". The slaughterer (Shochet) would be ready outside and would slaughter the expiations. On that same day shops were closed, the Godfearing would go to the ritual bath (Mikweh). At noon, before the afternoon prayer (Minchah), everyone would donate money into the bowl which stood in the synagogue. These donations were for the benefit of the Keren Kayemet and other institutions. After the closing meal, before Kol Nidre, my grandfather used to bless the children and grandchildren; all those who came to the synagogue wished one another "Chatima Tovah" (May you be signed and sealed with happiness). On the tables, large wax candles were lit. A gentile was employed whose duty it was to keep an eye on these candles by day and at night in order to avoid a fire. The blessing "Next year in Jerusalem" was on everyone's lips after the closing prayer. With the outgoing of the day of atonement everyone would busy himself with the planning of the Succah for the feast of Tabernacles (Succot).
Who could ever forget the Feast of Esther (Purim) in our town! Endless parties, "Reduta" and plays by amateurs. It used to be a habit that while the whole family was having the Purim meal, disguised guys would appear and play the drama of the "Sale of Josef" or "The humiliated Achashverosh" and each one of them would receive his fees. Amongst these the orchestra of the "Rom brothers" would put in an appearance.
Our Nadworna was a town of Hassidim (pious men) who were connected with "courtyards" of famous Rabbis. Sons of the dynasties of Wiznitz, Otynia, Kossov, Czortkow, Stretyn etc.
Each Hassidic sect had its own synagogue. Occasionally one of the Rabbis would arrive in town for the Sabbath. Tables would be laid out, "Kwittlach" would be written, and the Rabbi would be asked for help and advise.
Who used to live in the new town?On the way from the Village Pniow lived the families Knoll, Heckerling, Tannenzapf, Levy, Wunderman, Ratsprecher Fiaker owners, who would transport travelers to the railway station or doctors to visit their patients. The families Selig Jurman, Chaim and Ovadia Bickel, Izik Drimer, the poet, Meir Hibner, the tutor Jossi Bar, the families Velvel Bickel, Harz Henrick Korenblit and others.
Most of the troubles arose because of our Polish and Ukrainian neighbors who lived with us Jews. The antisemitism was deeply rooted in them. They disseminated poisonous hatred for all free trades such as: doctors, lawyers, engineers and all Jewish merchants. This hatred ruined and destroyed the livelihood of the Jews. Jewish adolescents as well as grown ups became aware of the fact, that the only remedy would be Zionism and the aspiration to immigrate to Eretz Israel. Jews were not accepted for government service. Most pupils of Nadworna made every effort to learn in high schools and pass matriculation. However, with the conclusion of high school trouble began. Everyone was well acquainted with the "Numerus Clausus". All Polish high schools closed their gates to Jewish students, especially those for medicine, engineering and dispensing pharmacy.
Young people of our town wandered off to various countries in order to study subjects which they were unable to learn in their homeland. Upon their return to Nadworna with the termination of their studies, all kind of obstacles blew all their hopes to the winds; the only aspiration left to these young people was the fervent wish to immigrate to Israel and to abandon this hell. How great was the joy when a few lucky ones were privileged with a certificate and immigration papers for Eretz Israel. All young people, regardless of political party, participated in the farewell party. Luckiest were those who had passed the matriculation and thus could continue with their studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem or at the Haifa Technion. They would receive immigration certificates from the mandatory government. I, too, was privileged to immigrate thus on the Polish vessel "Koseluszko" which sailed to Israel at that time. We were five hundred happy students who assembled from all over antisemitic Poland destined for Eretz Israel. When we arrived in Haifa, we praised this most blissful moment of our lives.
Nadworna the charming and charitable exists no more. The town is a ruin. Synagogues and houses of worship were destroyed; the Jews of Nadworna were killed by manyfold deaths, and buried in mass graves.
Their memory will never leave our hearts.
THE HEBREW SCHOOL "TARBUT" OF NADWORNA
Before the first World War some groups in Nadworna organized courses to learn the Hebrew language. According to Rachel Bickel (Shor) the first Hebrew school was founded in 1912 by the initiative of a group of Zionist Jews who founded a Zionist federation and amongst them were: Meir Hibner, Benjamin Jizchak Herz, Hersch Bickel and they brought the Hebrew teachers Garfinkel and Glick, who chose the administrators of the schools in Polen. The teachers of the school named Families Rosenhack, Samler, Kleinmann, Bickel and Burstein, and also with the help of Dr. Ringel, one of the first Zionists in Lwow.
In the year 1920, after the First World War the studies were continued at the Hebrew school which then joined the educational network of Hebrew school and among the active members were: "Tarbut" was Efraim Shenker (Avishai) who lives in Israel, and also Rachel Bickel (Schor).
The Hebrew school of Nadworna arose great admiration among the Jewish population of our town and surroundings.
I was one of those who attended this school. My first teacher was a young man with a happy smile by the name of Stoller. We children were very eager to learn the Hebrew language and it was everyone's hope to emigrate to Palestine and to make use there of the "Ivrith" we were taught at school. We fell in love with the Hebrew songs, we learned the history of our people and the geography of our homeland. All these subjects had for us a special kind of magic and enchantment of a far-away country and homeland which one day we hoped to reach.
The studies took place 3 times a week after the studies at the Polish school. The discipline at the school was of a very high grade. In this connection I particularly remember a teacher by the name of Komorowsky. He was an old bachelor, very exact and possessed a wealth of never-ending knowledge. He instilled into us the love of learning the Bible, but sometimes we also played him tricks. Our school was near the old market but when there was a steady increase of pupils it was decided to move the school to a new building" the Kekerling".
There the first Hebrew Kindergarten in our town was founded. The first teacher was a young girl full of energy and managed to organize everything beautifully.
We also received a new teacher by the name of Schochat who came together with his family. He had the soul of a poet and played a few instruments and composed music. During his time the cultural life of our school reached a climax. He organized an orchestra of mandolin players and started a ballet class for girls. At that time the first German refugees from Germany arrived and with them a young girl by the name of Bitkover, who was the first ballet teacher.
I am sure that everyone of us who is still alive remembers the parties we celebrated on the Holidays, e.g. Pessach, Purim and Chanuka. Before every party we performed a play the subject being taken from Jewish history. I remember the Chanuka Party in 1937 when I had to deliver the opening speech. The excitement was so great that I could not utter one word until the teacher whispered me the words and in the end all went off well. The play was called "the decree of Pharaoh" and I played the part of Miriam Moshe's sister.
The year 1938 brought difficult times. Many children left our town, a new teacher arrived and there was a smell of war in the air. In 1939 the war broke out the Russians arrived in our town and with them came the end of many childhood dreams to most of us.
RAPHAEL ABOSCH Boston
HOW I REMEMBER MY BELOVED TOWN OF NADWORNA
How I remember my beloved town of Nadworna! In my memory it is a Jewish center full of Jewishness and national pride and with people who have given of all their energies to the Zion movement. A new generation educated in the Zion culture and the younger generation bound strongly together by such youth organizations as Hashomer, Halzair, Gordonia, Frajhait, Betar, lchud, Hapoel Mizrachi. I remember the Parties of the Hitarchduth and the Merchants organization. I remember the Zion teachings of the parents instilling their own dreams into their sons' and daughters' youth movements, which were worked through the Hachsharat and the emigration to Erez Israel that laid a foundation and helped build a happy Jewish life. When I close my eyes and try to imagine that I am looking at the town of Nadworna, I do not see anything there anymore not the Schuls, no synagogues, no Beth Hamidrosh, nobody from this Jewish population, not even one Jewish man in the whole town of Nadworna, none of our fathers or mothers, grandfathers or grandmothers, our brothers or sisters, no more of our hearty Jews, no Jewish youngsters not one left anywhere. I am trying to imagine where is the Jewish community which once was Nadworna. Where are the rabbis, the butchers, the teachers? Where is the Jehudia with her enriched library, the Tarbut School with the precious Jewish children, the Sport Club Hakoach and Jutrzenka? Where is the Hachshara, the Kibucim of all the Chalucyiot organizations? Oh! Oh! What heartfelt agony! Nadworna was once a Jewish community with a high standard of Jewish life. Who would believe that it would come to pass that Nadworna would be Murdered? "Jisgadal Wyjiskadash Szmai Rabu."
Glorified and Sanctified Be God's Great Name. My full-hearted prayer and good luck to our beloved and dear countrymen in Israel who took the initiative with the help of our countrymen in the U.S.A. and have established this memorial in our lifetime in the Yiskor Book for our Holy Souls who went to eternity in the dreadful holocaust in Nadworna. May God bless everyone for the dedicated and holy task that they have performed in creating this Holy Book.
by the late Dr. I. Schmerler
ONCE UPON A TIME. . .
The Jewish Cemetery
The Jewish cemetery, the old one which has existed for hundreds of years, as well as the new one, has been one of the most historic and exciting memories for the Jews of Nadworna.
It remembers the pogroms of Chmielnicki and Nalavelki. Many a victim of those assassins is laid to rest there.
There used to be tombstones hundreds of years old; others, "newer ones", with names engraved and stylized pillars. On some the blessing palms of the Cohen, on others the candelabrum (Menorah), showing that here a religious girl has been laid to rest. You had to walk around the cemetery-reflect, study and look at the tombstones covered with moss, some of them sunk deep in earth and others bent for old age.
This cemetery has been a real garden of death, overflowing with greenery and flowers, which could be better cultivated here than anywhere else. A stooping birch tree weeping over a girl deceased in childhood; old graves shaded by oaks and pine trees which would tremble even after the winds would stop blowing.
For all that, natures first changes were notable right in the cemetery. Here the first flowers could be found under a blanket of snow, here the first violets would peep up as well as the first flax. Here too, singing birds would build their nest and sing their songs. You could find the most fascinating azure and velvety black butterflies. Maybe these were the spirits of the dead children who reappeared, disguised, in order to enjoy the spring.
Later in autumn, when the leaves would yellow and winds blow over the cemetery, black crows would stop here croaking sorrowfully and heartbreakingly.
When it snowed, the graveyard would be covered in a white blanket. Absolute stillness, with only the wind blowing over the graves.
This cemetery contained two "tents" made of sandstone, burial places of two Hassidic Rabbis, Rabbi Mordechaili and family, and Rabbi Aharon Leib. Rabbi Mordechaili was a great and righteous man whose wondrous deeds made him famous past Polish Galizia into Hungary up to Munkatz. He had followers even in Marmorosch, Sigat, Uzhurut and Barzowo. In the second "tent" Rabbi Aharon Leib, well known for his piety and honesty found his rest. On Hosha'na Rabbah (the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles) pious Jews and Jewesses would rush to these tents bringing along the "Kwittlach" (written requests) and if heaven forbid a godsend punishment such as a disaster or another blow befell them, they would come in order to ask for the aid of the righteous.
In this cemetery there is also buried a couple husband and wife whose tombstones are connected by a frame as though death did not part them. The legend says that they were found dead, after a cloudburst lying hand in hand, and so they were laid to rest, their tombstone inscribed "the cloud brought them", (die chmary hot sei gebracht).
The cemetery often sheltered the persecuted. At the time of the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the first of the rebels and deserters made the cemetery their hideout. The Austrian gendarmes looked for them everywhere, however they dared not enter the cemetery as the deserters were armed.
THE OLD SYNAGOGUE
"Die groisse Schul"
It was built of the same stone as the church and the local fortress.
You would enter the synagogue by descending steps, as though into a cellar. The reason for this was, that in the past, Jews were not permitted to build their prayer houses above ground, therefore they built underground. Once you entered, you could see the synagogue in all its glory.
If this synagogue could talk, it could tell endless stories of the happiness and sorrow of Nadwornian Jews, since its existence.
On the nights of Kol Nidre the light would burst out of the windows of this same synagogue and the wondrous chant of prayer would resound. In chanting prayer the answer would sound from neighboring synagogues the "Kotzkeri" (das Kotzker Schulchel) the old and new Kosowai Talmudic study (das Kassower) Otonie of Wishnitz, and the German (dos deitshe Schilchel).
From the great synagogue Lazer Rom (Lazer der Blecher) would lift his voice, from the old school the voice of Michel Shoichet and from the new the voice of the Rabbi of Pasieczna, at "Kosowar" Schmiel Kressel and at Otonie Duzi Rosenhack. In the synagogue of Wisnitz Mosheh Rosenberg and at the "German Schmiel Samler."
At Penitential prayers (Selihoth time) one could hear the footsteps of the people on the cobblestones while it was still dark outside; one could hear old Salman Paswek coughing while he would go at dawn, a torchlight in his hand, to "Shilgass" (road of synagogues) and voices would burst forth at dawn, resounding from the synagogue, chanting "Whose every being is in his hand, . . . the spirit is yours . . ."
In this same synagogue, various outstanding Rabbis would hold their sermon and the Maggid (preacher) from Bialistock (der Bialistocker stodt maggid) would attend sermons too. There, too, addresses were heard upon learning of the Balfour Declaration and here the "Tikva" hymn was sung.
Here too the "Jescze poiska nie zginela" was sung on the 3rd of May, in the presence of representatives of the government, the Mayor of Androvski, and the city policemen Brilk and Diminizik or Vassil Swischetz.
Dr. Josef Schmerler
Dr. Mosheh Harz
BENJAMIN YITZHAK HARZ
My father, Benjamin Yitzhak Harz, was born October 1, 1878, the eldest of five children. From his father, Jehoschuah, a teacher of Talmud who belonged to the enlightened element in Nadworna, he absorbed a profound and extensive knowledge of the "science of Judaism" (Wissenschaft des Judentums). In those days the Jews of Galicia had little interest in general knowledge, but my father soon recognized its worth and importance and began to acquire a secular education through his own efforts. In addition, he followed closely the development of modern Hebrew literature, which was progressing rapidly during the closing years of the 19th century. It was then that he fell in love with the printed word, a passion which would determine the entire course of his life.
It is thus no wonder that my father was among the first young men in Nadworna to join the Zionist movement. Together with Haim Kleinmann and others, he founded the local Zionist Organization and served as its secretary. However, conflicts between the young Zionist activists and many of the older generation soon arose, as the older members of the community were to a great extent anti-Zionist in their orientation. Attempts were made to slander the Zionist movement and to arouse the District Commissioner and the local police against it. However, despite these difficulties Zionism grew and increased its influence among the Jewish youth of Nadworna.
In 1902 my father married Miriam Singer, a native of Viznitz in Bukowina. After his marriage he opened a book and stationary shop in Nadworna; however, as time progressed he came to see that there would, be little opportunity for further development of his business activities and thus in 1907 he emigrated with this family to London. By this time two sons had been born to my parents, Samuel and myself, Moses. London was then the center of the world Zionist movement. During his stay there, my father became a friend of the poet Yosef Haim Brenner, with Morris Myer (the editor of the Yiddish newspaper "Die Zeit", and with many other influential figures in the movement. Nevertheless, my mother could not adjust to life in the big city and to the general atmosphere of London life, and for that reason my father decided to move to Berlin in 1909. My sister Ester was born in Berlin.
After moving to Berlin, my father turned his efforts to the building up of a wholesale trade in books. In this enterprise my mother cooperated actively. As a result of their joint work the business prospered sufficiently for him to turn to the realization of an old dream: the publication of important works dealing with all aspects of Judaica. Not only would such books be made readily available to the reading public, but they would be presented in an attractive get-up designed to please the reader's eye as well as his mind. Books on Jewish themes and in Judaica had been published in Germany previously, but only in a haphazard manner, and their appearance was often not esthetically satisfying to the reader.
This new venture was called Publishing House Benjamin Harz (or in German "Benjamin Harz Verlag"). Its trade list soon included works on Jewish literature, art, history, folklore, music, apologetics and language, as well as works on Zionism and reference works such as dictionaries. The limited space available in the present article does not permit discussion of all materials published by my father's firm; a fuller treatment has to be left to another article.
As a result of his publishing activities, my father contributed much to the knowledge of Hebrew among the Central European Jewry. He provided them with the necessary resources for the study of the Hebrew language and of Hebrew literature through the publication of such works as Prof. Torcyner's (Tur-Sinai) German-Hebrew Dictionary, which appeared after long preparations in 1927. This was the first comprehensive dictionary of its kind, and proved an invaluable tool in assisting many immigrants from Central Europe during their initial period of settlement in Israel. In addition to the Tur-Sinal dictionary, my father also published Hebrew-German dictionaries by M.D. Gross and M.A. Wiesen, as well as a Polish-Hebrew and Hebrew-Polish dictionary by Bernfeld. An Arabic-Hebrew dictionary by A. Mayer was also in preparation, but was not in a sufficiently advanced state to be issued before the firm ceased operation.
My father showed a strong interest in Yiddish literature, and often read aloud novels and stories of such writers as Mendale Mocher Sfarim, Y.L. Perez, Schalom Alejchem and others to his friends and family, together with providing a running commentary and explanation. He also attempted to bring this literature to the attention of the German Jewish community through a series of translations.
However, by far the most important publications of the Benjamin Harz Verlag were the Talmudic and Midrashic dictionary compiled by Jacob Levy, together with supplementary material prepared by L. Goldschmidt, published in four large volumes, and the Babylonian Talmud with German translation and explanations by Lazarus Goldschmidt, which appeared in 8 large folio volumes. This latter work was in the nature of a pioneering venture, as heretofore such works had been published with the financial assistance of various Jewish organizations. However, my father's edition of the Talmud was printed without any financial subsidy whatsoever.
The Thesaurus of Oriental Hebrew Melodies was a similar venture. A.Z. ldelson had devoted his life to transcribing the melodies of the Oriental Jewish communities, but had been unable to find a publisher willing to risk the capital necessary to issue a work of such scope. My father, however, plunged ahead and published ldelson's Thesaurus in Hebrew, English and German editions. In so doing he helped to preserve and transmit material of vital interest to Jewish folklore, material, which otherwise would have been lost to both scholars and to members of these communities themselves.
The economic collapse which enveloped the world and especially Germany in the beginning of the 1930's brought about a restriction of my father's publishing activities. With Hitler's ascent to power these activities in fact ceased completely. Many books, manuscripts, drawings, matrices, and printing plates were destroyed by the Nazis and immense damage was done. What was left of the firm was transplanted to Vienna, where a branch had previously existed for many years. Immediately after the Anschiuss of 1938 my father was arrested and sent to prison. After intensive efforts lasting several months, we were able to secure his release and to provide the necessary immigration certificate for our parents to enter Israel, or Palestine, as it was then known. They reached the country in March 1939.
Upon their arrival in Israel, plans were set in motion for the reconstitution of the firm in the more favorable surroundings of the Jewish homeland. However, before these plans could be implemented, it was necessary for my father to travel to Romania, Poland and Western Europe in order to conclude certain financial and business interests of the predecessor firm in Vienna. Because of the uncertain political situation, the journey was postponed several times. When the crisis did not seem to reach a solution after months of waiting, my father decided, that he could delay his trip no longer and in August 1939 he left Israel for Romania, intending to go on to Poland from there. After having concluded his business in Poland, it was his intention to travel to England and France before returning to Israel.
The matters awaiting my father in Romania were settled quickly, and he then went to Lemberg and from thence to Nadworna, where he intended to pay a short visit to relatives and friends. After some days he wanted to proceed to Krakow and Warsaw. While he was in Nadworna, however, he was overtaken by the outbreak of the second World War. He tried to return to Israel, but the Roumanians would not permit him to pass through their territory without their transit-visa and he was forced to return to Nadworna. Before the end of hostilities, eastern Galicia was occupied and annexed by the Soviet Union according to the provisions of the HitlerStalin Pact of 1939.
My father tried in vain to obtain the permission to leave the country. In one letter he wrote:
"Everywhere we are haunted and no one wants us; nevertheless, the country in which we presently sojourn refuses to give us the possibility of leaving, for fear that we shall report on the actual conditions here."
In fact, my father was in imminent danger of deportation to Siberia since he refused to accept Soviet citizenship, which would have destroyed his hopes of returning to Israel. This danger never materialized, but only because a more somber fate lay in store for him. He himself often said, "Those things which I had feared proved not to be so terrible after all, whereas those matters which I pursued often turned out to be worse."
All his attempts to return to Israel were caught up in the mills of the Soviet bureaucracy, but in the meantime his return visa expired. The Soviet authorities finally informed him, that the extension of his visa would have to be entered into his passport before they would give him the permission to leave. When the British authorities agreed to renew his entrance visa, after considerable pressure, technical difficulties arose concerning the location where the new visa should be stamped into the passport. Thus time went by until June 22, 1941, when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union.
I obtained a report on my father's last days from Josef Kleinmann and Ben Zion Langsner, survivors of the Holocaust. They informed me, that he was in the time of the German occupation a member of the Judenrat of Nadworna. In his dealings with the Nazis my father remained upright. He fulfilled their demands to the limit of the possibilities, but he refused to submit to exaggerated demands. He knew that the Germans would not overlook his behavior and that he would have to pay for his courage eventually. Although his friends warned him, his only reaction was to observe that he could not live with the wisdom of another man, i.e. that he could only do what he thought best.
At the end of March 1942, some days before Passover, the Germans found at last an opportunity to rid themselves of this inconvenient Judenrat. It had been an extremely severe winter, the weather was still quite cold, and the ground was yet covered with snow. Despite this, the Germans demanded that the Jews of Nadworna provide them with, among other things, ten kilograms of parsley.
Upon receiving the list of German demands containing this item, my father remarked to the man who had delivered it, a Jewish collaborator of the Nazis, that if he had known that the Germans would make in this season such a demand he would have cared in time for a winter garden. The Jewish collaborator passed this sarcastic remark on to the Germans. On March 26, 1942, while attending a session of the Judenrat, my father was arrested by the Gestapo official responsible for the area. He was brought to the headquarter of the Gestapo in Nadworna, which had been located in the house of Israel Kramer. Here the Gestapo officer order his Ukrainian servant to execute my father. After his murder, he was buried in the garden of the residence.
Thus ended the life of a proud and upright Jew who tried to do his best for his people in times of degradation and distress, sorrow and fear, destitution and hunger may the Lord Avenge his blood!
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.
Copyright © 1999-2021 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 9 July 2004 by LA