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[Page 36]

Jews in the Ghettoes of Poland (poem)

Malka Weisbloom

A German storms into your home,
Like a wind, a gale
He shoots the wife and kills
Oh little child, who will save him
In the cupboard he hides, stay in the cupboard
And please cry not
From the town square the cries of the tortured sound
Hearts turn heavy as stones
Children are crying loudly
Mother we are doomed, this is the end.
They also sent my father away
And I was left all alone
Homeless, a vagabond
Alone as a stone in the field.
The heart aches so much
Jews are marching there in a row
Brothers, sisters, mother and father
To the common grave
Why is it, why oh why
Surely you know –
Tell me why.

[Page 37]

The Jewish People Lives!

Yaakov Katz

With awe and reverence, ardently and with a heart quivering with a holy fear, I wish to join in expressing something of the purpose and meaning behind the publication of a memorial book for the Jewish community of Wierzbnik-Strachowitz.

This was a grand community with a long heritage and deep Jewish roots. In her, we first wove the fabric of our lives and futures, and in her foundation of tradition were laid in our souls forever. In Wierzbnik-Strachowitz's synagogues and study halls we imbibed the living Torah. To her came the blood thirsty Nazi beasts and she went up in smoke. The town is gone and only scattered remnants have escaped.

There has emerged therefore, a felt need to establish a lasting memorial to Wierzbnik-Strachowitz. A living monument in the form of a memorial book was conceived. Its pages were to tell of the life and death of this bustling community in whose shade we had been secure, of the war and of the struggles to save her. It would once again advance the contention that, “The Holy One of Israel will not fail.”

For each and everyone of us, it is thus a sacred duty to aid and support to the fullest possible extent those engaged in this holy work, as it is written (Exod. 17, 14), “Write this for a memorial in the book.” We must be for them “…aiding and supporting brethren.”

In this memorial book we must recall from the depths of the past tortures and torments those dear innocents who bore their suffering with exalted courage. But we must also, so far as the human pen is able, record and eternalize the rich tapestry of tradition: steeped lives, of God; fearing and learned men, men of action and labourers, simple persons and seekers of enlightenment. In brief, we must chart the community's life course from its shining dawn tills its sunset. We must memorialize all for the sake of those who were not privileged to witness the enemy's downfall and the consolations of Zion and Jerusalem. We must memorialize for the sake of our dear ones who went up in flames, sanctifying the Holy Name.

Led to slaughter, they breathed their last pure breath on the altar of their will to remain Jews. Sons of a chosen nation, “stiff-necked” people, they chose to guard the spark of Judaism, despite all. We must memorialize too for our own sakes; we, “splinters saved from the fire” a last remnant which has emerged from bondage and been vouch saved a glimpse of redemption. We must memorialize also for the sake of future generations.

Wierzbnik-Strachowitz was a thriving and flowering branch of the splendid, deeply rooted tree of Polish Jewry and an ornamented link in its chain, a fruitful and productive shoot of Jewish stock. But when the axe of the German hangman was aimed at that beautiful tree, even the gentle and wonderful branch of Wierzbnik-Strachowitz was cut in its prime.

Twenty-eight years have passed since the Nazi terror directed its poison darts at Israel, employing weapons and tactics of destruction hitherto undreamed of by mankind. We were (Jeremiah 9,21), “ As dung upon the open field and as the handful after the harvestman which none gathereth…”

Even in the long, blood-drenched history of Jewish martyrdom there is no likeness or parallel to those deeds of destruction.

We, the survivors and mourners, will never forget our loss. Our agony must be unceasing for those who, innocent and pure, fell victims at the hands of the scum of the earth. Let us hope that the conscience of an enlightened world will finally awaken, clearly realize the situation and learn the necessary lessons from this unparalleled Holocaust. Even now, we must be on guard against those who call for a new genocide and who deceitfully schemed to uproot us from the land of our Fathers, our eternal homeland since Abraham.

We are thus commanded on the basis of every consideration to kindle an eternal flame of memorial for our fathers, families, and relatives. May it burn before us forever, sanctifying their name in public mind and all the holy of Israel.

For us it is a privilege and a holy obligation to eternalize the history and events of the village, her social and spiritual life, organizations, public institutions and personalities. Only thus can we understand the proud and brave stand of our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, blood relatives and dear friends who were brought to the slaughter with lips trembling at the thought of vengeance.

Their last words were of, “The G-d of Israel who is a G-d of Vengeance” of, “The people of Israel which lives and endures.” The downfall of Hitler and his cohorts must certainly not be of any less importance or significance to us than that of Amalek, Haman, Pharoah, or any of Israel's enemies throughout the generations. We were commanded to remember Amalek to celebrate Purim with joy and the reading of the Scroll of Esther. We celebrate Passover and tell stories of the Exodus till morning. Doubly so, should it be out holy obligation and that of all Israel to externalize in flaming letters and in public what the monstrous figure of Hitler bode for us. Unquestionably, enormous difficulties will arise in the practical implementation of such a weighty task. Those pioneers who have unselfishly shouldered the burden of this sacred duty will certainly meet many financial and social problems. Most difficult perhaps, will be the patient “ant's work”, of collecting the mass of material, connecting its diverse threads and of finally reworking it for publication.

More than once doubts have arisen whether the strength of these pioneers, Jews and non-Jews alike, would suffice to overcome all the difficulties inherent in this invaluable task.

For those working on this particular volume, the scattering of the descendants of Wierzbnik-Strachowitz throughout the wide world, and their differing relations and attitudes towards the nation's spiritual treasures, weighs as a heavy problem. There is also a lack of substantial and reliable information about the history and events of Jewish Wierzbnik-Strachowitz.

Despite all difficulties, however, our great faith in the “Rock of Israel” together with our belief that (Jeremiah 51,5), “Israel is not widowed” have renewed in us the hope that our combined efforts will suffice, “to roll off the stone from the lip of the well.” We will succeed. To me it seems as if our requests and prayers have already been answered. After long, fatiguing efforts, we are now finally entering the advanced stages of the projects realization. G-d willing, the book will soon appear in a format which will do honor to those from the town and its surroundings.

We realize that the work cannot be altogether faultless or complete, certain details regarding personages or historical periods may be missing. We may, however, accept such deficiencies, secure in the knowledge that the editors and all those involved in the project have done everything possible to obtain source materials, to encourage participation and to bring to light memoirs and information about events and feelings in the life of the villagers.

Let me take this opportunity to give my blessing and encouragement to all those engaged in this holy task and to all who have given it material and spiritual aid. Special mention must be made of the small group of organizers of the project who have not spared pain or effort to ensure the book's speedy publication. Similarly, we must thank all those who have actively participated in this lofty cause, whether by volunteering information or contributing financially. May they all be blessed!

May the memory of those who are not with us serve the State of Israel and all the House of Israel. May their merit help protect us from those in every generation who hate us and would seek to destroy us.

May the memory of our town and her holy martyrs be bound up with the eternal life of the renewed State of Israel in which we conceive some small consolation for our great loss. May the State be a source of hope and encouragement to all our brothers and sisters everywhere, thus strengthening the weakened ties among Jews. May her influence serve to forge a new link in the splendid, continuing chain of Jewish learning and values in the tradition of the prophets.

Let us say Amen – may such be thy Heavenly Will!
“Again will I build thee and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel.”

[Page 40]

Wierzbnik: the Town, its Location and Growth
– Excerpt from a Geographic Dictionary

Wierzbnik is an urban settlement, formerly a township, in the Iłża County. It is considered both the local and regional authority.

It is located on the Łysogürski plains, on the left bank of the Kamienna River, flowing some four kilometers from town, into a large lake (near Michałüw).

The settlement is located in a valley formed by the joining of several rivers, collecting water from broad forested regions. The most important among those rivers is the Łubianka, branching from the eastern bank of the Kamienna. On the opposite bank lies Starachowice.

Wierzbnik is located about 4 miles east of Wąchock and 20 miles south of Iłża. There is a stone Catholic Christian church in town, an elementary school, a town courthouse, a municipal office, a railroad station which is part of the Dombrowiec line connecting Będzin and Ostrowiec, about 17 wiorst[1] from Będzin and 15 wiorst from Kunów.

A market day takes place every Friday, and a fair takes place once a year.

The Œwiętokrzyski monastery ruled over the large forested areas by the shores of the Kamienna, bordering on the estates of the Cysters of Wąchock, and the two cooperated in efficiently exploiting this wilderness.

This may be the reason that prince Radoshevski, royal secretary and cardinal of Kiev, secured a concession from Polish king Sigismund the 3rd and decided to found the settlement of Wierzbnik in 1624, locating it 6 miles from Wąchock and opposite to Starachowice. The king gave the place his sanction according to Magdeburg Law, authorizing the weekly market days and three fairs a year. The Cysters protested, claiming that the land the town was built on was under the municipal authority of Wąchock and the controversy over this matter continued unabated for nearly a century.

Prince Opatówski built a stone church in Wierzbnik and gave the town various concessions. 167 tax payers were accounted for in 1674 while the legal issues with the Cysters were still under debate in the court of Radom. Both parties eventually agreed to delimit the area. According to a census, 9,887 souls lived in the Iłża County that year, among them 651 Jews. This county included the settlements Brody, Dziurów, the Hercules mines, Jabłonna, Kochów, Krzyżowa Wola, Michałüw, Ruda, Stikov, Svirta, Wenecja, Rajdowa, Książ, Starachowice and Wierzbnik.

(From a Geographic Dictionary, vol. 13, Warsaw, 1893)

  1. Approximately 1 kilometer Return

[Page 41]

A Precious Pearl Shattered

Moshe Sali (Kerbel)

The community of Wierzbnik exists no more. Bloodthirsty murderers cut this bough from the great tree that was the Polish Jewry, eradicating it. Its memory shall live on in the hearts of the hundreds of survivors scattered in Israel and the Diaspora.

It was one Jewish settlement among the many that took root and became a part of their surroundings. Before its downfall it has reached a peak of national and public life, of enlightenment and experience, everything that was good and glorious about this enterprise – independent Jewish life in exile. The sleepy, seemingly peaceful town of Wierzbnik was like a living, conscious cell in the larger organism called the Polish Jewry, reflecting the struggles of the lives of Jews in Poland before the Holocaust.

The great stream composed of all the national social and political movements of the Polish Jewry flowed in every direction in Wierzbnik. It is true that the hundreds of children and youths considered the traditional home, the Heder[1] and the Melamed[2] to be their main sources of education. However under the influence of the youth organizations and the local Zionist movement, the desire for active Zionism spread and Israel was on the minds of all.

Everything was seen in a new light during those turbulent times. The Jewish youths learned that the routine existence offered no escape from the hardships of exile, because it failed to answer demands of time, the longing and the yearning for redemption hidden in their hearts. The youths therefore reached the conclusion that they have lost their way in life and strove for a change, a way out. While the Zionist movement served as the source for the Zionist spirit and the Hebrew language, HeHalutz and the other youth ovements served as the anvil on which the realization of Zionism was forged.

With great effort they shaped moral values that became general consensus. We transformed from the ones who received and were inspired into the ones who gave and offered inspiration – and the Jewish community underwent a process that changed its cultural values, as many started to weave their lives into the movement with great enthusiasm and faith.

One by one I imagine the people and characters of the town, like a colorful mosaic; public and individuals, with their lives, their ways, their manners and their actions during everyday and holidays. This wondrous gallery of characters and institutes, which grew from the colorful background of various classes: the commoners, the craftsmen, the grocers and traders, the rich, the professionals, religious scholars and ordinary Jews, this was the life of the vibrant town yearning for human and national salvation, one of the many holy communities that were destroyed. Like precious pearls shattered and torn away from the necklace that adorned the Jewish people.

The light was extinguished, the fire of enthusiasm quenched, the fountainhead of Jewish vigor, initiative and ingenuity dried up.

  1. Religious elementary school Return
  2. Religious teacher Return

[Page 42]

Chronicles of the Town and its Jews

Jerachmiel Singer

A small settlement called Wierzbnik was founded at the center of Poland, on the bank of the Kamienna River, a tributary of the Wisła River,, growing as time went by into a vibrant town. I remember that the residents of the place used to tell that the town received its name from the abundance of willow trees (“Wierzba” in Polish) in the area. Whether this claim is true I cannot prove, because in my time the surrounding area was full of conifers, and willows were not numbered among them…

The town lay in a valley, surrounded by hills. To one side were the ridges of Wenecja, and on the other, the hills of Starachowice. Two roads and railroads stretched out from the town, one being via Wąchock, leading to the industrial city of Skarżysko, and the other being via Kunów, stretching to the town of Ostrowiec. A third road led to the city of Iłża.

During the reign of pre-revolutionary Russia, until World War I, the town was part of Radom County, while following 1918 it became part of Kielce County, in the region of Iłża. Although the region bore the name of another town, the existence of railroad tracks placed it in Wierzbnik.

As aforementioned, the town was surrounded by forests and the land around it was rich in high quality iron deposits, although ones that were misused. There were also deep deposits of fireproof clay located midway between Wierzbnik and Wąchock, around Proszowice. All of the above contributed to the development of industry in town and around it. First and foremost was the metal industry. At first, the raw iron was smelted where it was dug using primitive methods that prevented mass utilization. However during the second half of the 19th century, a smelting furnace was built in the neighboring town of Starachowice. This would be a good opportunity to mention a rarely known fact: the initial establishment of the metal industry based on these iron deposits was carried out by the Rotvand family, one of the most respected Jewish families in Poland, which built the large metal factory called “Starachowice Factories”. This family played an important role in building the Polish economy. Along with the Volberg family they also opened the high technical college in Warsaw. The factories I mentioned earlier were expanded during the Russian regime and the steel-mill known as Stalownia, where the steel was manufactured using the Martin approach was another legacy of that era.

The wartime acquisition policy of Poland changed between 1920-1922 and the government decided, among other things, to establish a military industry in Starachowice. As a result of this decision, all of the existing factories that manufactured war supplies became government property. Among them the government also inherited the factories that were owned by the Rotvand family (51%), but over the years the name was forgotten, despite the fact that its owner was among the founders and builders of the factory. Furthermore, although these factories were expanded and developed to employ as many as 20,000 workers, they failed to employ even a single Jew. Only during the German occupation were the Jews forced to work there allowed to peek inside this behemoth, which was out of bounds for them in the past.

It should also be noted that this factory was formally owned by an organized body called in Polish “The Central Industrial Organization”, which also controlled the factories in Nisko, Ostrowiec, Skarżysko, Radom, Blizin and Pionki.

There was also a factory called Rogalin in our town, which manufactured bricks and ceramics.


The lumber industry

The lumber industry, in which Jews took a prominent part, deserves some attention. Since my family was connected to this field, I will allow myself to dwell on it in detail.

My grandfather, Yidl Mysliborski, built a factory that produced turpentine, which was necessary for manufacture of chemicals. The production of turpentine was carried out by burning the tar of the conifers that filled the forests surrounding town.

I remember a legend I was told by my grandfather, about the Russian Tsar and his wife who spent their vacation in their palace in Spała. One day, while they were riding in the countryside, the queen caught a whiff of smoke and inquired about its source. When she was told that it came from the burning of tar, she stated that it might harm the birds of the forest… and as you know, the queen's will is near-absolute and her subordinates were immediately ordered to move the factory to Martzola, on the road to Iłża. After World War I, it was moved again to Starachowice, near the home of the Isenberg family.

However during the 1905 revolution, the factory was a dangerous place to live by, since it was located in the forest, inviting common bandit attacks and visits from the Russian Tsar's Ochrana. My grandfather therefore decided to move to Wierzbnik. Chaim Zajfman, who lived on Starachowicka Street, advised him to buy land nearby and my grandfather accepted his advice and built the famous courtyard “Mysliborski Hoif” which in time became practically a town of its own.


The first houses and public structures

Here is another detail worth mentioning. When my grandfather purchased his land, Starachowice road was already lined with the houses of the following families: Kalman Winograd (Goldzhak), the parents of Mendel Binstock, Pesach Isenberg, and near Lower Starachowice, the house of the Mora family. As far as I know, the family of Yaakov Mawer (who currently lives in the United States) was one of the oldest in town and the home of Yeshayahu Guterman was one of the first houses built. Its architecture was unique, in particular the entrance and the cellar which were reminiscent of castle labyrinths. The owner was not a local, but his wife Zelda, a daughter of the Mawer family, was a native of Wierzbnik. As the town grew, this house became a central location and was even nicknamed “Rot-hoiz”. As many as 20-25 Jewish families lived there at the time. Nevertheless, it fell victim to urbanization plans and was torn down just before the outbreak of World War II. The ancient house on Niska Street, which belonged to Yaakov (Yankel) Kornwaser, suffered a similar fate. Kornwaser was one of the most respected families in town, along with Brodbeker, Dreksler, Herblum, Tenenbaum, Mawer, Winograd, Binstock and other families. Those families were among the first to settle in town, and originally made their by living baking bread for the miners and factory workers in the area.

I remember the synagogue on Niska Street, which underwent considerable renovation during my time. Some claim that it was built toward the turn of the previous century. As for the Mikveh, it was burned to the ground during World War I and was rebuilt with the assistance of the Joint and other philanthropic organizations.

I must note, however, that the majority of the Jewish population in town came from the nearby settlements and villages, moving there on their own or through marriage. This is indicated by the people named after their place of origin, such as Yaakov (Yankel) Razfiner, Avraham Lubianiker, Bzhezher Leibish Prendechiner, Shmeril Mlyneker and others.It is unclear if the large butcher families of Herblum and Rubinstein were direct descendants of Wierzbnik, while people like the Rotmanovich family (the parents of Avraham-Buba) and Hanna the baker, the wife of Shmuel Isser, were most likely among the “original” residents of the town.


The economic foundation of the Jews of Wierzbnik

The lumber industry was an important source of employment for the Jews of Wierzbnik. The surrounding forests provided lumber for house-building and industrial purposes, as well as support beams for the mines. Merchants from the Russian and German occupation zones came to Wierzbnik, to purchase this lumber, and the lumber trade gradually expanded, even earning a special nickname – “brakazh”. The lumber sold had to be loaded girded into freight cars, and many Jewish porters and craftsmen were hired for this purpose.

After a time, the four sons of the famous merchant Meir Zanvil Lichtenstein – Yoseph Reuven, Moshe Pinchas, Daniel and Avraham Lichtenstein – opened a plywood factory. The factory was built by the road to Iłża, near the lake in which the lumber was immersed so that the layers used for the plywood and furniture industries could be peeled off it.

A lumber drying branch was also established near the factory, and those structures changed the architectonic looks of the entire area, giving the formerly rural scenery clear urban characteristics. The factory employed many workers and craftsmen, including clerks brought from the big cities – Warsaw and Lodz – making it an important, vibrant public institute. It seem to have been the first factory of its kind, manufacturing parts for the furniture industry and spreading its reputation beyond the town, doing business with important merchants all over the country.

Another part of the lumber business was the lumber-mill by Starachowicka Street, also managed by the Lichtenstein brothers. And as we talk of this family, which played a major part in building and developing the town, we must mention that the first Jews to immigrate from Wierzbnik to Israel came from that family.

While on the subject of the Lichtenstein family, Daniel's wife, Mrs. Helcha Lichtenstein, was an exceptionally active member of the socialist party. Rumors told that she used to “ambush” workers by the factories after work and give them speeches while standing on a barrel…

Her speeches were passionate and called for the workers to rise against the regime. However the Russian Tsar's Ochrana quickly discovered her actions and began persecuting her. In light of this development and since the family was involved with the Hovevei Zion movement (Lovers of Zion, an immigration movement), they all decided to immigrate to Israel.

When they came to Israel, most of them settled in Petah-Tiqwa and the ones who followed them settled there as well.

Like the Lichtenstein brothers, who were important to the economic foundations of the Wierzbnik Jewry, the Heller family too was a prominent part of the Jewish public. The family originally came from Russia, and the factory they have opened grew over the years into a giant that branched well into Russia, Poland and South America. The founder of this great concern was Hershel Heller, son-in-law of the famous Jewish millionaire Wissotzky. The factory was later renamed “Hortzi”, after the aforementioned founder. This firm was also active in the east of Poland, in Karsi, in Mikaszewice, near Łuniniec, in Solec and around Bydgoszcz.

When Poland gained its independence, the owners of the concern built a lumber-mill in the area, by the Kamienna River, and years later they added a modern plywood factory. The foundation of these factories following World War I was important for the establishment of the Jewish community. It provided employment, offered material aid to the lower social classes and supported social, cultural and political organizations and institutions.

In order to fulfill the needs of the manufacturing processes, the factories attracted people who emigrated from Russia to Poland after the revolution. These people were members of Hovevei Zion, intellectuals mainly, whose habits and social-cultural traditions greatly encouraged the awakening Zionism.

During 1921-22, youth groups organized and took up physical labor at the factories in order to prepare for immigration to Israel. Some of their work involved the driving of carts to the factory, which they did while singing in Hebrew as they worked. The living spirit of this group was Hochblit, brother of Moshe Bernstein's wife Abigail. Yaakov Goldgrub recruited a Hebrew teacher named Zheloni from the town of Kielce, who taught the boys the Hebrew language, Hebrew songs and military foot drills.

Among the participants of these groups were Avraham and Shmuel Unger, Uri Helstein, Moshe Birenzweig, the sons of Shmeril and Efraim Pratzovnik, both Manela brothers, Ovadia Goldberg, Shlomo Goldberg and the sole member who actually made it to Israel, a man named Bar.


The Heller Factories

Having temporarily worked at the Heller family's factories, where many Jews found employment, I remember well the excellent working conditions and work relations. One of the prominent employees was the factory manager, Mr. Rubin, a talented man and a visionary who was the subject of legends; Gincberg, the Rosenstein brothers, Getzko, Moshe Bernstein, Benyamin Helstein, Berl-Yidl Rosenberg, Yitzhak Mendel Kerbel, Avraham Goldstein, and during the last years, before the outbreak of the war, Yaakov Shiner.

As aforesaid, the firm employed many Jews and was an important part of the Jewish economy in Wierzbnik.

Before the holidays, the company provided the Jewish community with monetary donations and leftover lumber, to be distributed among the poor.

After the passing of the factory owner, his family immortalized him by building a brick fence around the cemetery in his memory.


During World War I

It is a fact that the constant motions of the fighting armies during World War I brought the front line closer to Wierzbnik. Eventually, the Russian authorities ordered the place evacuated and forced the residents to migrate to the town of Iłża.

This order came out of the blue for the Jewish residents and most, if not all, were unprepared for such a radical and sudden move.

The slowness of their preparations clearly showed their reluctance and the Russians used drastic measures to rush the eviction, driving people out while screaming and shouting, “Come on, come on!”

The people were understandably agitated and fear and terror were in the atmosphere. People had to leave in a hurry and could only take with them the bare necessities and the clothes on their back. It was a sad, depressing sight, this entire crowd of refugees fleeing for their lives with their belongings and babies in their arms, headed for the nearest town, Iłża. They naively assumed that when they arrive in town, they can rest a while and perhaps even find food, but the Russians allowed them no rest and they were forced to march on, to the city of Radom, exhausted and worn-out as they were. When they reached Radom they joined with other refugees and were forced to stay there two months, suffering from destitution and misery, although many found residence among the local Jewish families. Our family lived in the house of a famous wealthy lady named Malka Korman.

Fortunately, the front line shifted once again and we could return to our homes in Wierzbnik. The days rolled by, and the effects of the historic events taking place in this world were evident everywhere, including our town. New frameworks and patterns started emerging here and there, in traditional areas of life and especially social life. The Jews in town assimilated all those processes and played an active role in them.

The leader of our community at the time was Heinich Kazimierski, son-in-law of Eli Kalmanzon, who was known as the informal patron of the Jews of Wierzbnik. He was a well-educated, intelligent man, wise and kind hearted. These fine traits earned him respect and access to the authorities, allowing him do much for his community.

Following the war, several Jewish families received official permits to trade in food products such as sugar, salt, oil and so on. This was a necessary arrangement since the needs of the hour dictated a rationing of such commodities.


Zionist activity

This period also foreshadowed the awakening of the Jewish youths, who sought a purpose in life and wanted to shape their future path. Many turned to the work circles and a few found enthusiasm in the Zionist idea. Among the first residents of town to realize this dream and immigrate to Israel were Ovadia Goldberg, today a resident of Benyamina, and Shlomo Goldgrub.

There were other residents who did not see Poland as their future, although their conclusions carried them in other directions, and they immigrated to Brazil, the United States and Canada. To Brazil went Anchel Grossman, the brothers Manela from Krutka Street, the son of Pinchas Manela, the sons of Shmeril and Efraim Pratzovnik, and the sons of Itzik Mendel Kerbel. To the United States and Canada left the sons of the tanner Hershel Kleinberg, Urish and Yoseph and his daughters – Sheindl and Mania. Another phenomenon, unique to this period and noteworthy, is the seminary students, who spent years studying nothing but the Torah and now abandoned the seminary, changed their manners and dress and joined the secular movements.

Among those Yeshiva students were: Leibale Tenenbaum, Moshe Birenzweig, Moshe Feldman, Yaakov Kaiser-Tenenbaum, the son of Pinchas Manela and others.

It was about that period that Mr. Simcha Mincberg, son-in-law of Moshe Pinchas Lichtenstein, began his public activity. He was already famous for public activism in his own hometown, but when he moved to our town he worked extensively with a group of people who labored in the factories owned by the Lichtenstein brothers and the Heller family.

They had two different goals: one was increasing and expanding the Zionist concept, establishing organizational movements, teaching the youth Zionist activism, teaching the Hebrew language, and so on. Their other goal was ensuring the existence and peace of the Jewish public, and expressed itself mainly by waging battle against the authorities and municipal administration, protecting the rights of every Jewish citizen and resident. Among the activists who gathered around Simcha Mincberg were: Yoseph Dreksler, Hershel Lichtenstein, Yoseph Tenzer, Moshe Feldman, Moshe Birenzweig, Yoseph Unger, Leibale Tenenbaum, Yeheskel Morgenstern, Meir Baumstein, Yitzhak Rosenberg, the Rosenwald brothers, Yeshayahu Yona Szarfharc, Avraham Frimerman, Berish Guterman, my father and others.

Other activists in this field were Shimshon Frimerman, Shmuel Isser and Shmuel Cohen.

One of the typical phenomena of those times was the special places of worship that served as a kind of substitute for those activists who left the seminary, the various “Shtiblach” that adopted the ideals of national renaissance. Searching for spiritual “bonds”, they organized groups for public prayer sessions, and held these sessions at private residences. One such place, where people prayed for years, was Zajfman's Hotel. Avraham Zylberberg, Mordechai Lipstein and my father read the Torah regularly, while Simcha Mincberg was the Baal Kore[1]. Prayers such as El Adon were sung by a choir, led by the sweet voices of the Unger brothers. Incidentally, two of the brothers, Becalel and Shmuel, eventually became cantors.

Prayers were also sung at the end of Yom Kippur, with the musical accompaniment of Motele Isenman and Moshe Lustig, filling the atmosphere with a sense of warmth and elation.

Tashlich processions were organized by the Zionist Organization for the New Year, during which the youth marched in both directions, singing marches in Hebrew. As time went by, the movement acquired its own gathering places. The first among them was the home of the Taubman family, and later the house of the Drajnudel family and the house of Yeheskel Szternkrantz. The movement also increased and expanded its activity from one year to the next. Among the results of this activity was the Tarbut School. For a time, just after its inception, the Zionist movement in Wierzbnik acted as a single, organized body, but the events and divisions that took place in the world led to similar developments in our town. When the Beitar movement was established, some activists joined the new organization, which wielded considerable power, while the more religiously-orthodox Zionists organized a separate group, led by Shmuel Tenenbaum. At first, they gathered on the ground floor of the Talmud-Torah and later they moved to Ilzhezka Street and even opened their own school. Some of the movements famous throughout Poland – the Bund and HaShomer HaTzair – were missing from our town, but we had a group called “The Evening Class Alliance”, which turned out to be tightly linked to Poalei Zion the Left, founded by Yaakov Zerubavel. This group was led by Shimon (Shimale), an educated man with a staunch proletarian mindset, and Chaim Binstock, Yaakov Vigdorovich and Marmel Furman. This group was the axis around which the proletariat youth gathered. They fought for better conditions at their workplaces, organized night classes for impoverished workers to provide them with a proper education and even founded a library and a sports club, sponsoring a sports team called “Gviazda”. Their first activities were public lectures given at the home of Avraham Zylberman and eventually they became a decidedly leftist movement. When Zerubavel returned to the Zionist Organization, they too changed their approach to the Organization and showed willingness to cooperate with it instead, but the war that broke out in 1939 destroyed all their nice plans and lofty ambitions.


Bnot Zion (Daughters of Zion)

A women's organization called “Bnot Zion” was also established. Its members gathered in the attic of Pesach Isenberg's house. Among the activists in this organization were: Pola Laks, my aunt Gucia Tenzer, Macia Lichtenstein-Mincberg, Esther Guterman, Frania Unger, Mania Zylber. Among the clerks were Hilia Rosenstein, Bernstein, Gincberg, Shmuel Heller's wife and others.

The women of the organization collected donations for Zionist goals, and also acted in the field of culture, organizing festive events, plays and so on. One such unique event was etched into my memory, though I no longer recall the actual name of the play. It was staged in the firefighters' lot on Koleyova Street, which was later turned into an elementary school. I recall that my aunt, Mrs. Tenzer, played the role of Rebecca and Pola and Isaac Laks participated in it as well. They have borrowed the costumes from Rabbi Yaakov Regensberg's wife. It was the first play I have ever seen and it left me with a sensation of marvelous fantasy…

Another event I recall from those days was a play called “Achashverosh”, performed just before Purim at the municipal movie theatre “Pshigoda”. Among the actors were Hochblit, playing the role of Vaizata, and the photographer Ostrian from Radom playing the role of Achashverosh. I also recall a skit performed at the firefighters' lot in which Hershel Lichtenstein played a drunk and sang the famous song “A Jew goes to the bar”.

The women's example and success has inspired the start of a musical band, comprised mostly of violinists accompanied by a few wind instruments. They organized public performances in our town and sometimes played in nearby towns as well. An excellent violinist called Moshe Lustig (who later immigrated to the United States) lived in our town at the time. Another man, called Isenman, was a first class clarinet player, and the fame he won eventually earned him a first chair in the city orchestra of Lodz. Among the other participants of the Wierzbnik town band I remember were the talented klezmer[2] Yoseph Plaitze, Gershon Lichtenstein, Moshe Birenzweig, Sheine Goldstein, Max Heinich and Yitzhak Vaigenshperg. They were all youths filled with the need of doing and versatile artistic activity, resulting in a glorious cultural enterprise.


The political direction

The activists of the Zionist movement subscribed to a variety of different viewpoints. The majority were followers of “Al-Hamishmar”, led by Yitzhak Grinbaum and Moshe
Kleinbaum (Sne).

I would like to take this chance to note that Yitzhak Grinbaum tried organizing the middle class (we used to joke that “Mitelshtand – Shtand una mitel”) to immigrate to Israel and settle Wadi Havari, today's Emek Hefer. Many were excited about the idea, but only two actually emigrated: Dov Frydman, who currently resides in Kfar Yanai, and Shaul Weisbloom, a resident of Kfar Vitkin.

Among the more organized members of the public were the craftsmen, who even had their own club, on Visoka Street, at the home of Ovadia Goldberg's parents. The leaders of this group were Yaakov Kopf, Yeheskel Szternkrantz, Avraham Rubinstein and Ephraim Lustiger. Their main duties were securing proper permits from the authorities that would allow the craftsmen to work unhindered; arranging the payment of taxes; and so on. They paid no heed to political issues, although during elections to the community board or magistrate they supported the candidacy of Shmuel Isser.


Rabbinical disputes

Wierzbnik had a long lasting reputation of rabbinical disputes that broke out from time to time. Before World War I it was the descendants of rabbi from Lipsk who claimed their “right” to the role of Wierzbnik's Rabbi and they had the support of the large Guterman family. There were other times, however, when the Russian authorities nominated a rabbi, among them the famous rabbi Jechiel Kestenberg from Radom. Nevertheless, during 1920-23 the office of town rabbi belonged to Rabbi Yaakov Regensberg, the son of the Rabbi of Zambrów. Yaakov's son-in-law was a rich Jew, a landowner from the vicinity of Wąchock. Rabbi Regensberg was said to be a well mannered man and popular despite the fact that many objected to his appointment for office. He died at a very young age.

His successor as town rabbi was a man from Bodzentyń, who had the support of Shmuel Isser's group, but a few years later he immigrated to Canada, bequeathing his position to his son-in-law, Rabinowicz, who was the last rabbi of the Wierzbnik community before the bane came upon it. Rabbi Rabinowicz perished in Treblinka and left behind three daughters who currently reside in Canada (see also the detailed article “Rabbis of the community by Zvi Fajgenbaum).



A Jew named Azriel Najman lived in town during the last years before World War I, and his role was maintaining relations between the Jewish population and the gentile authorities. He had a colorful, interesting persona, and was the subject of many stories and tales. Despite his old age, Azriel would drag himself from office to office and from clerk to clerk in order to settle certain issues that the Jews in town placed in his care. His second role was delivering back messages and letters from the authorities, and even postcards sent to the people of Wierzbnik by their relatives and acquaintances. He would distribute these postcards at the synagogue between Minhah[3] and Maariv[4]. Since he sometimes spent the whole day idling, he entertained himself by reading the contents of the postcards, and so when he arrived at the synagogue he already knew the contents by heart… It is said that he used to play all manner of “pranks” on people. A girl who asked him about a postcard she was expecting was told that “They offered you a match, a wise scholar, but I know you already have a man, so I tore up the postcard on the way here…” Another man was told “they offered you a metal deal, but what would you do with metal? You're a lumber trader… I figured it was a mistake and threw the postcard in the trash.”


Municipal life

As the years went by, social frameworks were formed, patterns of public life were set, institutes were established, and the Jewish community began integrating itself into the public life of the town and from time to time chose its own representatives for the municipal authority, men who represented the special interests of their senders before the authorities. Every cadence of the local authority also included a Jewish member, who was part of the municipal authority's management.

Among those members of the local authority or senior bureaucracy I recall Yoseph Dreksler, Simcha Mincberg, Yitzhak Singer, Shmuel Isser, Shimshon Frimerman and, during a period of transition, Moshe Bernstein. I will also name the heads of the local authority I remember serving in our town during the different periods: Guralchik, Sokul, and Miernik. This may be a good opportunity to mention that Sokul was by far the most agreeable mayor; he was a fisherman who voluntarily left office at the beginning of the Nazi occupation. When the Nazis set the synagogue on fire at the end of Yom Kippur 1939, he innocently assumed that the fire broke out by accident, and called for the local residents to help put it out and save the sacred building.

The unification of Wierzbnik and Starachowice caused a decline in the influence of theJews over the local authority.


Community board

It is hard to piece together the different compositions of that institute, which constantly guided the public affairs of the Jewish community. I remember several members of the community board: Yona Bzhichiner, who served for many years in the role of community board secretary (Gmina) and later “bequeathed” this position to his son-in-law, the teacher Mordechai Lis.

I also recall Shmuel Isser, who served as head of the community board and was succeeded by Avraham Mordechai Rotbart, followed by Shmuel Pochachevski. I also recall the short tenures of Willie Gelbtuch and the lawyer Shtramer, both residents of Wąchock, as heads of the Gmina.

In order to explain the unusual circumstances under which this came to pass, I must note that during the early 1930s, the two towns of Wierzbnik and Wąchock were considered one municipal authority, and the residents of the two towns therefore chose their delegates for the local authority together.

Aside from its usual activities, the community board served as management for the Talmud Torah School, which was funded by the American Joint. This funding also provided the pupils with a bun and a glass of milk every morning.

It should be mentioned that financial activities carried out by the community board, such as tax collection and payments, failed to match its budget needs. Those paid by the Gmina often had their pay delayed and faced other difficulties.

Nevertheless, the members of this institution changed in 1937, replaced by shrewd, resourceful men, who instituted extensive changes under the leadership of Shmuel Pochachevski, Yoseph Tenzer, Simcha Mincberg, Moshe Birenzweig and Gustav Drobner. One of their first acts was the restoration of the crumbling synagogue, but more important was the fact that their activity sent a general surge of awakening in the communal life of the town.

Shmuel Pochachevski, who served as head of the new board, owned a lumber-mill and a share in Eli Kalmanzon's gristmill. He had extensive plans for founding and building Jewish institutes, but the outbreak of World War II put a stop to all his ambitious plans.


Torah teachings

There were no actual Yeshivas[5] in Wierzbnik. I already mentioned the Talmud Torah School, but there were also many Heders and people studied the Torah in seminaries and even at private houses. Following are the names of teachers who spent their time and effort teaching the Torah and general knowledge to the children of Israel: Sani Green, Yeshayahu, Zelig, Jermiahu, Mailech and Shlomo. But from among all those who taught the children of Israel the language of the past, a place of honor on the eastern wall is reserved for the great teacher Mordechai Lis.

As the years rolled by we witnessed the founding of the “Tarbut” and “Hamizrachi” schools, as well as the Bnot-Yaakov School for girls.

Elementary schooling was mandatory in Poland after World War I, but only Jewish girls were allowed to attend it at first; it was years before Jewish boys were allowed to attend as well. Wierzbnik had no high schools for many years, but the Jewish parents spared no expense to offer their children secondary education, sending them to high schools in other towns.

Following are examples of those devotion and deep care showed by Jewish parents, who sent their children far away to acquire knowledge.

Salka and Yoseph Kleiner studied at the Jewish high school in Kielce, along with Eshcha Bernstein. My sister, Pola, graduated from high school in Lodz and my sister Gucia and I graduated from the Jewish high school called Shoharei Da'at in Radom. Hilel Frimerman also studied at that school. During the last years before the outbreak of World War II, Wierzbnik had dozens of high school graduates, who studied in Radom, Piotrków and Starachowice.


Relations with the Christian population

As a result of the town's unique nature and its many industrial factories ,the majority of the Christian population was part of the proletariat and shared the perspective and political approaches of the socialist party, which had a considerable impact on its tolerance of the Jewish population. The occupational profile had another effect: the town was a center for marketing the produce of the factories and craft shops, and dozens of villagers flowed into it to sell their agricultural produce and purchase the industrial products.

Under these circumstances, the financial conditions of town residents in general, and Jews in particular, were relatively good, which had an impact on neighborly relations.

This was also the reason why the famous financial crisis of 1929 largely spared the town and hardly affected it.

Another phenomenon that should be mentioned in this context is “the turbid wave” that swept Poland following Polish Prime Minister Składkowski's infamous instigation to put financial pressure. This wave hardly had any effect on Wierzbnik, despite the efforts of outsider anti-Semites to organize boycotts, strikes, and so on. These attempts failed entirely, due to the disinterest of the Polish residents of Wierzbnik, who maintained their loyal relations with the Jewish population.

There were also some incidents typical of the relations between Jews and Poles in Wierzbnik, like the rumor which spread among the gentiles about the coming of “The Jewish God”, as the doctor was known. During those dark days, many Poles have changed their skins, cooperating and serving Satan. Worse, when the war ended and the Nazis were defeated, a handful of Jewish survivors returned to their homes, only to fall prey to a traitorous attack. Eleven Jews were murdered – men, women and children. The rest escaped while they could.

The criminal behavior of these Polish murderers following the terrible Holocaust, spilling the blood of innocents during times of peace, will be remembered in eternal disgrace and the victims who fell to villains will forever be commemorated.

  1. The man who prepares the Torah for reading Return
  2. Jewish folk musician Return
  3. Afternoon prayer Return
  4. Evening prayer Return
  5. Rabbinical colleges, sing. Yeshiva Return

[Page 53]

My Shtetl Wierzbnik

Moshe Sali (Kerbel)

With a frightened shiver and a deep reverent fear I approach, to put on paper just something of my memories of my shtetl Wierzbnik from my earliest childhood years, which have been engraved and preserved in my memory to this day.

I was sixteen years old when I left the shtetl. As a pioneer I left for the hachshara in a kibbutz, in order to realize my life's ideal. At the age of nineteen I was already an immigrant in the Land of Israel, and was in fact the first one of my townspeople who dared to contend with all difficulties, to break down walls and gates and become an immigrant in the Land of Israel. At that time, most Zionists just fulfilled their duty through polite Zionist activity, by collecting money for the national funds, and obtaining a certificate [an immigration permit from the British Mandate] was as hard as parting the Red Sea.

It was a great privilege for me and those like me, who had the honor of struggling, fighting and taking part in the preparations for laying the cornerstones on which the free and independent Jewish state was erected. It is an obligation to frankly relate about the life of the Jews in our shtetl Wierzbnik, which was noisy, filled with the lust for life, and the Jewish masses that placed Zion at the head of all their joys, with adherence and longing and with the prayer “may our eyes behold your return to Zion”, and with widespread Zionist activity. Sabbath and holiday Jews, whose hearts were filled with love for the Jewish people and for Zionism. From the day of their birth, people who were immersed in the wells of Jewishness, and who also spun the thread of redemption in the dark bunkers, in the death camps and in the terrible years of the oppression, anti-Jewish measures and death.

Our shtetl wasn't blessed with many sources of income. Most of the Jews were engaged in commerce: lumber, food shops, manufactured goods, shoes, faience, fancy goods, and some were also craftsmen and laborers. The shops and the craftsmen mainly served the large Christian population of the shtetl and the surrounding villages. Who doesn't remember the market (rynek), which was entirely Jewish, and the Gentiles used to gather every Thursday for market days. The thousands of Polish workers who worked in the government iron-casting factories in Starachowice were the principal customers of the Jewish shops in the shtetl. It really was a poor shtetl, and its inhabitants lived a life that was far from luxurious. However, everyone earned a living, some more and some less, and there was almost no one who hungered for a piece of bread.

That Jewish community had lived a lively independent Jewish life for decades, and perhaps centuries. It grew and developed, created and formed frameworks and life models of a cultural, social life full of content. All streams of Judaism received their expression in that variegated mosaic. On the one side – the strict observance and enthusiasm of G-d-fearing Hassidim, an interconnected network of 'shtiblech' [small, one-room prayer rooms], Hassidim who were tied and bound heart and soul with the “courts” of the famous rabbis from the Polish cities (Góra Kalwaria, Aleksandria, Mszczonów, Radzyń, etc.). On the other side – deep feelings of nationalistic revival, and an impetuous longing for redemption, which grew out of the stubborn-courageous Jewry of that time, whose roots were deep and widespread.

The dear Jewry, which drew its vision from the stories of redemption, from the Book of Books and from the Bible, from the limitless faith that “the Lord of Israel will not lie”, from the stories of the Biluim [pioneers to Israel], which was nourished by the period of the Hovevei-Zion [pioneers in Israel] and the generation of the Haskala [Enlightenment], and from the Zionist emancipation, which was carried over the waves in that generation. It was able to give Zionist thought a special, individual structure, and to convert it to common property, in a mighty, extensive folk movement.

I can still very well remember the splendid parades, the serious propaganda and the activities, oral and written, the great acts to instill Zionist thought in every square and corner, in everyone's hearts and minds – to achieve a homeland in Zion for our oppressed and tortured people, which was to be our own home. The Lag Baomer academies, the exhibitions, the fairs for the Jewish National Fund, the processions – all filled our hearts with light and joy, lightened our yokes, and their waves carried the majority of the Jews in the shtetl with them, and the very best of the learning and working youth.

The cultural and social life of the Zionist circles in the shtetl was exceptionally lively. Each organization and each sector strengthened and extended the mighty tree of Zionism. These were the Zionists of Al-Hamishmar, Et Livnot, Mizrachi, Hapoel-Hamizrachi, or Young Mizrachi, revisionists, youth organizations, pioneers, religious groups, Poalei Zion, hachshara kibbutzim, schools - Tarbut schools and evening schools for Hebrew – the lectures, recital evenings, libraries, discussion groups, etc. etc.

Simultaneously and parallel to all this, religious Jews also carried out extensive socially organized activities in their way, and spread out a network of Agudat Yisrael, Young Agudat Yisrael and their Beis-Yaakov schools. But the very crown of Jewish national action in the shtetl was the Zionist activity, which represented the foundation of the social action in the place. They didn't underrate the smallest thing, they did every work and service: collecting penny after penny and occupying themselves with this and that. Everything for the great aspiration in life – to prepare the conditions and infuse the hearts with loyalty and devotion, and with permanent fostering for many long years, together with the realization-Zionism of the pioneering youth movements – with many young people in our shtetl having prepared themselves for Zion, to which their eyes were directed day and night, as they dreamt of the State of Israel. Unfortunately, they were not able to be with us, because their pure, innocent lives were cut off by the bloodthirsty Nazi beasts.

Actually, life in the shtetl was monotonous and gray, but there was a hope in everyone's heart that days of great and important acts still awaited him/her, that the day would come when the hope of thousands of years would be fulfilled in the free Jewish country of our dreams.

The Zionist movement and its youth movements in all streams succeeded in bringing a shine to the gray life in a variegated way, and inflate it with a spirit of hope, interest and activity. Now, when we glance back, we see with what a rich content, with what a heavenly simplicity and joy of life the social life in our stetl was filled. In every institution and organization there were always the “fanatics”, who expended their time, their energy and their soul on activity, in order to strengthen and expand the work on behalf of Zion even more.

As I stated, Jewish society in our shtetl, if it was not fanatically religious, nevertheless had a religious-traditional hue, imbued with all the signs of a true Jewish house, with its symbols and special holidays, which were filled with Jewish content. Also the heders [schools for young boys] and the Talmud Torahs [religious schools] spread the spirit of the deeply-rooted Jewish tradition.

I won't pretend and say that an ideal state of peace and tranquility always prevailed in our shtetl. The main part of life, as usual, was concentrated around the Jewish community and its breadwinners, around the synagogue and its beadles, and more than once there were arguments and conflicts between one group and another about the ways of the system of power in the community , about the representation of the community to the organs of power, about the control of public property. However, these negative events were also the results of an active social life, which gave flavor and meaning to life in the shtetl. Although the worries over earning a living and providing for the family occupied everyone, they still found the time to take an active part in the good and the bad, and believing in G-d's laws they accepted everything with love, not doubting the will of the Lord.

This small Jewish settlement, which, as stated, didn't have much in the way of writers, artists, intellectuals, journalists, and was also not blessed with exceptionally talented businessman, was nevertheless a settlement that truly breathed a well-organized social Jewish life, with large, extensive Jewish institutions.

Generally speaking, our shtetl was outstanding in its variety and vibrancy. It was a deep-rooted Jewry, with all its different strata: laborers, merchants and store-keepers, educated people and “simple folks”, who lived a modest life and who struggled hard for their economic existence.

All this was destroyed and torn up by the roots. In fire and water, with killing and suffocation, and with every imaginable horror, our dear, unforgettable fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, were brought to their deaths. Even when they were brought to the death camps and to the gas chambers, they remained firm in their faith, in Judaism.

I remember that the Jewish community in its period of grandeur was surrounded with the rays of light of a communal life, with culture, progress, a fighting spirit and longing for redemption; with an incessant struggle for life and existence – a life of honesty, that was based on foundations of happiness and righteousness.

Now, I would like to relate about all this, in order to inscribe the memories for an eternal monument of our dear martyrs with a human pen. Like an eternal flame, which should cast its light on all of those that look into these pages, which were written by relatives, children and grandchildren of the pure martyrs, whose memory will never be torn out of our hearts.

In conclusion, as someone who grew up in “Hechalutz” [a pioneering Zionist youth movement], thanks to which I found the way to make aliya [immigrate] to Israel in those years – an aliya that encountered colossal difficulties and problems and all the mitzvoth, I will dedicate a few lines to the activities in this youth movement, which placed the development of Zionism in the spirit of a working people at the head of its pursuits.

The economically better off Jews and their sons and daughters regarded the children of the worker and laborer Jews, who seemed inferior in their eyes, with scorn and derision. This, understandably, was the result of generations of upbringing. And then Hechalutz appeared in our shtetl like a rousing wind, and with a mighty effort broke down the barriers that had existed for years between the different classes of young people in the shtetl, and as though with a magic wand, a cardinal change took place in the attitude and approach, so that at gatherings and circles we began to see young people from the working, merchant and property owner classes, rich and poor – all, all together.

The majority of the young people were attracted to innovation and a change in existence, which was directed at one goal: to prepare oneself to join the members of a labor Israel.

In the evenings the clubhouse was filled with the loud sounds of young people, boys and girls who studied, formed and wove the face of their future, without barriers and ancestral prestige. There were complaints and problems, but we overcame them all. We were the first ones to go out to hachshara, far from home. We worked at very hard work in the sawmills, the forests, chopping wood – in order to adapt ourselves and become accustomed to all kinds of hard work, and to the most difficult conditions. The letters that were received at home from those who had the privilege of going for self-realization, were filled with wonder at the extremely interesting and daring life together (boys and girls), something that was not accepted at that time , because of the condemnation that held sway then in the life of the Jewish shtetl.

Who doesn't remember the tempestuous hora dances that filled the hearts with joy and happiness, and which used to sweep along the observers, young and old. Thanks to that pioneering youth and to the other Zionist youth organizations, the Jewish youth were rescued from purposelessness and their life became filled with a deep movement content. The youth learned and knew that the Land of Israel needed workers with a profession, and every evening there were study groups for various subjects, such as Hebrew, Yiddish, general history, agriculture, Yiddish and Zionist literature. There were also activities for the national funds and there were stormy debates on the topics that were then on the agenda.

More than once there were evenings and parties in the club, which certainly disturbed the neighbors' rest. However, they always forgave us and didn't complain, knowing that this was the spark that gave flavor and meaning to the life of their sons and daughters. Our hands were filled with work and activities, as it was said that the young people should promote as much knowledge as possible of the Hebrew language. We learned together about Dr. Herzl, H. Brenner, and A. D. Gordon, and a flame was lit in our hearts. We educated the youth to go outside the walls of the house and the ghetto, to the broad fields, mountains and valleys, to hike, to live communally, to breath air from meadows, lakes and forests.

All these things made us strong and determined our character. Sometimes this really wasn't an easy war and the youth had an inner argument with themselves, but in the end we overcame everything and we came out stronger and determined, knowing that we had a single clear way for us.

The members of Hechalutz and of the other youth organizations lived a lively, sparkling and cultural life, a communal life, which was permeated with the striving to convert dependence and idleness – to a good, independent life of self-realization.

And this variegated life was torn apart. A storm came and tore up the widespread and deeply-rooted tree of Zionism, and it tore it out with its roots and trunk, with its branches and leaves.

That is why these pages should be like a consolation and a source of life and knowledge, on which those for whom the memory of the martyrs is dearer than all else will draw.


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