This book is a living testimony to all those who perished in the Shoah, a lasting memorial to a rich and vibrant Jewish life and culture which have disappeared. It is sure to become a source of inspiration for future generations who will once again learn the ancient lesson of Jewish history am Yisrael chai, the Jewish people live, and will go on living forever.
Giladi spent his adolescent years in the ghetto of Piotrkow, the first ghetto in Poland. He was later deported to the notorious Nazi camps of Buchenwald and Dora. He was liberated in Nordhausen on April 11, 1945.
Immediately following World War II, Giladi helped organize the Zionist movement in Poland and worked in various towns of Lower Silesia. In 1946, he smuggled more than 100 Jewish children out of Poland, traveling with them through Czechoslovakia and across Germany to a Zionist children's center near Wiesbaden.
In 1947, Giladi returned to Poland to study at the University of Lodz, where he continued his Zionist activities.
Moving to Israel in 1950, he immediately joined the Israeli Armed Forces. While in the Army, he got married and became a father.
Ben Giladi now lives in New York City. He is the longtime editor of the New Bulletin, a quarterly, multilingual publication comprising the Voice and the Forum of the survivors of Piotrkow and their children, now scattered throughout the world.
. . . How doth the City sit solitary,
That was full of people!
How is she become a widow!
She that was great among the Nations,
And princess among the provinces,
How is she become tributary!
My eyes do fail with tears,
For the destruction of my people;
Arise, cry out in the night,
Pour out thine heart before the Lord,
Lift up thy hands toward Him
For the life of thy young children,
That faint for hunger
In the top of every street. . .
Lamentations of ]eremiah
1:1; 2:11; 2: 29.
|It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way |
|Charles Dickens |
|A Tale of Two Cities|
|Over the roofs of Piotrkow|
First, I would like to thank the Piotrkow Trybunalski Relief Association in New York, and especially its committee for the moral support, encouragement and substantial contributions toward the production of this publication.
My most ardent thanks go to Elazar Prashker for his guidance and inspiration.
I wish to express my deep appreciation to Ambassador Naphtali Lau-Lavie and his younger brother Rabbi Israel Meir Lau for their spiritual support and precious friendship. Credit is thankfully given to the translators: Pearl Krupit (Yiddish), Mordecai Schreiber and Naphtali Greenwood (Hebrew). Their skillful, sensitive efforts greatly contributed to the spirit of this book. I am also grateful for the professional editorial help of Mayda Rumberg.
The most complex and delicate task of proofreading was performed by Lorraine Justman-Wisnicki. My heartiest thanks for her devotion, which helped to achieve a high standard in the accuracy of the text.
I would like to express my gratitude to the second-generation children, whose combined efforts helped me in the preparation and presentation of the book. They are: Suzanne Ajzenberg, Toby Schafer and Alex Rosenblum in the USA, Sheine Mankovsky and her friends in Canada and Tamar Bat-Zion Hess and Ahuva Erez in Israel. Together with Hana Kozlowski, Professor Shragga Irmay and his wife Rina, they all lent a helping hand. My special appreciation is extended to Israel and Elli Krakowski, who helped to get this project off the ground.
Above all, I am immensely grateful to Mr. Moshe Sheinbaum, our publisher. His expert guidance, his intellect, his professionalism and personal involvement truly enhanced the value of the book.
Finally, my most heartfelt thanks to my beloved wife Tova and daughter Irith, who cheered me on and helped me generously during the challenging stages of creation.
I also thank all my compatriots and their children everywhere for their belief in me.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge -- in the Vistula, the Thames, the Jordan or the Hudson -- since we all said farewell to Piotrkow. We, its survivors, vividly remember the city, a miniature reflection of a lost world and a shattered civilization. Since leaving Poland, we have never stopped to think, talk or write about our home, about the glories of our forefathers and the cruel fate which befell them.
And so, the magnificent, monumental Piotrkower Izkor Book was first published in Israel. And our Bulletin later began to appear in New York. Then the periodical Heidim came to life in Israel. It was a vast treasure of the written word devoted to our glorious and tragic past and our hectic and meaningful present.
Before, during and after: everlasting stories, essays, poems, chronicles, documents, manuscripts and photos, all pertaining to the life and death of our People before, during and after the Holocaust; all accumulated over the years, with more fascinating material still flowing in. However, most of these written treasures could not be appreciated by many of our people, including their children, who do not read Hebrew, Yiddish or Polish. Their basic language is English, which has slowly become the language of the world.
Furthermore, the Izkor Book was published some thirty years ago. A lot has happened since then. Much new and relevant material has appeared. The need for an English book such as this became acutely important.
In presenting this fascinating book, I have fulfilled an old dream. It may have been one's destiny to gather in one book all the compassion, the motivation, credibility, strength, heritage and G-d-granted inspiration in order to accomplish such a gigantic task, with the help of so many talented and skillful writers, of course. This book is a final tribute to the memory of our Martyrs and is dedicated by the survivors of Piotrkow and their children worldwide.
The most heartbreaking, difficult task in the editing of the book was the selection of the material. So many important pages had to be omitted or condensed. A careful attempt was made to create a true profile of our history and our life: a reconstruction of the bygone world destroyed by the Amalek.
The treasures of our own Pompeii could only be recovered in our hearts and in our memories. Only then could they be translated into the written word.
There are very few of us left and we are disappearing day by day, one by one. Soon history will speak, at best with the impersonal voice of scholars and researchers, at worst with the poisonous voice of the anti-Semites and the falsifiers. It is therefore important that those of us who are still here to bear witness put everything on record and make it available to our children and the generations to come-an undistorted record, in all its tragedy and all its glory, so that the world will not forget one of the oldest and most thriving Jewish communities in Poland.
So, here it is. A labor of love laid out in the colorful, fascinating, touching, ever-changing and sentimental landscape of bygone days. A taste of heartfelt feelings. A long-nurtured dream. A legacy for-future generations, a solemn promise finally fulfilled: A Tale Of One City
Now, as visitors and tourists, we were the only Jews walking among ruins of what was once a thriving, vibrant Jewish community. Jewish shops, Jewish homes, shtiblech (small synagogues), Jewish educational institutes all attested to more than 600 years of magnificent Jewish history in Piotrkow-now replaced by a neglected Jewish cemetery.
My friends, young men and women from communities throughout the United States, eagerly sought out stories and memories from every crack in a doorpost where a mezuzah had once stood, guarding the house's inhabitants. The mezuzahs had long ago been ripped out by their current occupants.
In the cemetery, they lifted and set straight fallen tombstones. They did not know a single person or family, laid to rest in that forgotten place, but they turned to me again and again for an account or an explanation of one of the names on a stone. These engraved names-rabbis, community leaders, intellectuals, youth-were all part of Piotrkow's distinguished past.
Even more, though, these young leaders wanted to know about Piotrkow's tragic last days, those bitter days preceding the end of 600 years of flourishing culture and prominent scholarship. The interest of these young Jews in our calamitous past reiterated the need for a common language in which to tell our people's story, a language besides our ancestors' Hebrew and Yiddish.
Publishing this commentary on the Piotrkow community, an almost insurmountable task, testifies to this group's dedication, a dedication demonstrating an understanding of their responsibility to the future.
The reward for Mr. Ben Giladi, initiator and editor of this project, will be the satisfaction of knowing that this book's readers will be enriched with a significant part of our history. This book will be a faithful testimony to events that took place in our lifetime, a monument memorializing those whose deaths ended hundreds of years of Jewish creativity in the community of Piotrkow.
Ambassador of the State of Israel
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