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[Page 357]

The Wood Trade

by Ben Matisyahu

Translated by Pamela Russ

Donated by Jeannette Gelman

Thanks to the wood trade, Wlodawa was crowned in the world of commerce with the name “Small Danzig.” Our small town earned this respected title thanks to its export of various wood materials that went from Wlodawa to many countries, and from them also to Israel. The wood was of excellent quality, prepared and managed by outstanding experts. The merchants were famous for their solid business and precise implementation of the arrangements and orders.

The wood trade was entirely in Jewish hands. Jews grew the business into large volume, and the majority of the Jewish population made their living from the wood trade.

Wlodawa provided all kinds of wood materials (included many different regions) for construction, furniture, as well as wood for burning (combustible materials) for factories, mills, glass–works, and bakeries in nearby and distant cities. The largest part was taken by export. The wood business had existed in Wlodawa for hundreds of years. There were times when the transports were sent by water. The villages around Wlodawa – Sobibor, Rozhanka, Cisne, Szuminka, and Stawki, where the banks of the river were long, the merchants would rent these banks and transport the wood there all winter, and then, after Passover, when the ice had melted, the peasants from the villages tied the wood to rafts and straps, and then sent them down the Bug River until the Vistula. The wood floated down the Vistula until Danzig, where it would then be loaded onto boats.

That's how the export went to foreign countries and to Polish cities that were on the banks of the Bug River and the Vistula. The transport to closer cities was done by wagon. Peasants from the villages were experts at tying up the wood and shipping it across the water.

When the train line Brisk–Chelm was set up, in approximately the year 1880, the wood was transported mainly by train.

[Page 358]

At the train station, four kilometers from the city, sawmills were built and then many houses were built around them. With time, this area evolved into a town that was called Wlodawa 2 or Tomaszowa.

Of the oldest wood merchants, there were: Yisroel Holczman, a chasid [follower] of the first Koyzker Rebbe, Reb Mendele, and one of the founders of the Kotzker shtiebel in Wlodawka; Moshe Eisenberg, also a Kotzker chasid. These are the familiar names from Wlodawa: Avrohom Bigman, president of the Jewish municipality; Bernholcz, Wagshal, Neuman, and others.

At the end of the 19th century, the first sawmill was built, that was run by steam. The builders were: Matisyahu ben Yisroel Holczman, a Kotzker chasid, a partner with the Radom wood merchant Reb Hersh Ber Fuks, a respected philanthropist and Trisker chasid. They built the sawmill near the train station and they built a large wood export industry.

It is important to add that these wood merchants were the first to establish the source of income for the Jews near the train station where a fine Jewish town later evolved. These two partners very soon occupied themselves with community activity and had very good earnings from the collections for Maos Chitim [money collections for the poor for Passover matzo and food], and also for the Chevra Kadisha [Burial Society], and for the Gemilas Chesed fund [non–profit organization that distributes monies to the poor].

After the death of Reb Hersh Ber, his son Dovid and son–in–law Moshe Rechtman took over the business. They grew the wood business onto a much larger scale, and continued on with the benevolent community work.

With time, Yakov Hersh Grinhoiz built a second sawmill, and his sons worked along with him. They were: Yechiel, Eliezer and his son–in–law Widre. Yakov Hersh Grinhoiz was a pious, religious Jew and, at the same time, a fiery sympathizer of Zionist thought.

Later, more sawmills were added: from Leibel Moleritor–Lichtenberg, who during the First World War, when the Germans occupied Wlodawa, was mayor of the town; Velvel Rabinowycz, a respected wood merchant; Yakov Holczman, who settled in Tomaszowka and built the Beis Medrash [study hall, also used for prayers] there, and commissioned the writing of several Torah scrolls; his …

[Page 359]

… son–in–law, Yisroel Czester, was a Radziner chasid and a scholar; Hersh Radzinski, from Szydlowiec, along with his son–in–law Avrohm Cziterspiel; Moshe Lijos, a Pilauer chasid and his sons Chaim Yisroel, Leibel, and Yosel. The Lubliner wood merchant Eli Aron Kirszenboim set up an electric sawmill for Tomaszowka. For a time, he was president of the Jewish municipality in Lublin. There was a large sawmill in Wlodawa owned by partners Eliezer Yosef Holczman, councilman in the last Wlodawa city council; Aron Motel Friedman, Yehoshua Zimer, Moshe Lijos, and Shmuel Eli Flomenboim.

Near the village of Cisne, four kilometers from the city, the wood merchant Aba Huberman built a sawmill. A fiery Zionist, he was active in the committee of the Tarbut [Zionist Hebrew language school] school.

Leibtche Eiber also had a sawmill. At the train station of Sobibor, seven kilometers from the city, there was also a sawmill owned by the brothers, the Milstajn company, “Lijos Kresowa.”

Ten kilometers from Wlodawa, near the village of Pszcz, there was the sawmill of Moshe Sfard, from Lubomil. The only sawmill in Adampol belonged to the Krobia Zamojskis, but was always rented out to Jewish wood merchants.

The wood merchants were: Gershon Henekh Zeidman, a Radziner chasid; Reuven Rozenberg, the export company “Lijos–Fal” that belonged to the partners Shaul Volf Lichtenberg, Alter Szaperstajn, and Eliyahu Holczman; Noach Lamke, Avrohom Cohen, Yehoshua Waserman, Itche Meyer Babat, Reuven Hersh Vinograd, Yisroel Vinograd, Yosef Vinograd, Avrohom Rabinowycz, Yosef Wasernycz, Izak Ajzenberg, Moshe Ajzenberg, Moshe Mandel, Yehoshua Lichtenberg, Zanwil Pietrushka, the Sherman brothers, Benje Bernholcz, Dovid Bernholcz, the Hershel brothers, Moshe and Yitzchok Holczman, Eliyahu Chaim Kogan, Moshe Neuman, Yakov Neuman, Leibish Wajnstok, Moshe Dovid Piliczer and his sons Boruch and Leibel, Yosef Pasazhinski, Kronenberg, Nute Rozenberg, Avrohom Rajz, Yosef Shizgal, Moshe Suchower, Moshe Pietrushka, Shmuel Dov Pietrushka, Meyer Bronstajn, Hershel Zahajker, Eliezer Pomerantz, Avrohom Zigelman, Nochum and Nute Zigelman, Leibel Bialer. Wood shipping agents: Yakov Nisenboim, Itcze Biale, Yitzchok Meyer Holczman, Yakov Pietrushka, Tuvia Lichtenberg, and Moshe Sosna.

Wood brokers: Hersh Chaim Gertner, a Radziner chasid, …

[Page 360]

… authorized by large foreign companies to bring them wood materials. His specifications were accepted in the world of wood merchants; Avrohom Yideles–Furer, a Bialer chasid and his sons Moshe Asher and Yehuda; Mendel Dobrosklonka, Shmuel Aigdor Finkelstajn, father and son Freudenheit, Yosef Kogan, Chaim Pietrushka, Leibel Vinograd, Hershel Bronstajn, and Sobel. All these were famous for their professional expertise in the wood trade.

The wood workers, almost all of whom were brokers, worked with transferring, measuring, and loading. These were: Yoine, Gershon Yehosuha, Mechele, Menashe Kelberman, Nochum Knopmacher, Moshe Kuczer, and many others who were exemplary in their skill of measuring and handling. When there were disagreements, the merchants always followed their advice.

It should be pointed out that the Jewish woodworkers took on the chalutzim [early pioneers who moved to Israel] as partners for their work, disregarding that sometimes this would even bring on monetary loss.

I would like to add to the trade the pitch burners that belonged to Getzel Apel in Tomaszowka, Kleiner and his three sons, Shmuel Zalczman and his sons Yisroel and Yechiel, Yehoshua Zimer and Dovid Holczman in Sobibor.

The wood merchants gave their greatest donation of wood material when they built the Beis Medrash [study hall], stiebelech [small prayer houses] for the chasidim, an orphanage, the building for the Zionist house, and the YeshivaBeis Yosef.”

The three Hachshara [Zionist pioneer youth, those planning to emigrate to Israel and do agricultural work] centers that were in Wlodawa – Hechalutz [youth movement preparing for emigration to Israel and training in cultural and Zionist Judaism], Beitar [youth movement training in self–defense and teaching Hebrew language and culture], Hapoel Hamizrachi [training in religious Zionism and preparation for emigration to Israel] – where there were about 200 members, sustained themselves thanks to the wood merchants. The Zionist central committees knew that they could always send chalutzim to Wlodawa for Hachshara because they would always be able to find work there and be able to sustain themselves.

I have tried to list the names of the Jewish merchants whose occupation was in the wood trade in order to illustrate the great prominence that the business and export acquired, thanks to the Jewish initiative and energy. All of this, with the destruction of the Jewish community in Wlodowa, went under, was lost and destroyed.


[Page 383]

The First Aliyah

by Zishe Fuchs

Translated by Pamela Russ

Donated by Jeannette Gelman

 

wlo383.jpg

 

Dedicated to my parents: Hersh Ber and Esther Bashe

My sisters: Chana (Richtman), Raizel (Luxenberg), Yocheved (Levin), and their families

My in–laws: Zvi Hershel and Perel Hinde Herczberg, Chaya Elke Hofman, Moshe Herczberg, Ite Herczberg, and their families.

It's difficult to say when the spark of Zionism was actually lit in Wlodawa. It could be that it was at the time when the “Chibat Zion” [Lovers of Zion] movement began, with Harav Shmuel Mohliwer, Harav Yitzchak Yakov Reines, and other great leaders of Israel, who fanned the sparks of the eternal Jewish yearning for Israel into a holy fire. Most likely, at that time the Zionist ideology already reached the Woldawa Jews and finally led to the strong Zionist movement in the city. A nationalistic tree grew, that branched out into individual parties, and with great force penetrated the youth, and they began to talk about Israel as the yearned for home for the fugitive Jewish nation. Intense Zionist work began that put before it the “chadesh yameinu kekedem” [renew our days as of old], not just as a verse from prayers, but as the intense striving to be fulfilled with the return to the Land of Israel and building of a Jewish national home.

The Aliyah movement in Woldawa and in the surrounding areas began about 1920. It was the pioneer spirit that penetrated the hearts of the youth, the Yeshiva boys, and the tradesmen in Wlodawa. They went with the illegal Aliyas and with visas that they received from the Palestine office in Warsaw.

Among the first ones to make Aliyah from Wlodawa, those who left with their families, were: Moshe Bankhalter …

[Page 384]

… Noach Smarak, Eliyahu Stokhamer, Yehoshua Stokhamer, Dovid Garfinkel, Hershel Miller, Yosef Goldman, Yakov Bernholcz, Shabtai Kaminer, Chashe Bernholcz and her daughters Zahava, Mala, and Laya. Also, Avrohom Lemberger, Faivel and Gershon Henoch Bernholcz; Malke Samelson and her daughter Chana. There were a larger number of young men who went without their families. These were: Yehuda Rotenberg, Henye Rozshenker, Bunye Feigenboim, the sisters: Zahava and Yonah Reitler, Moshe Lemberger, Aharon Yoel Shmueli (Samelson), Reuven Samelson, Yitzchok Goldman, Avrohom Bernholcz, Aryeh Struzman, Dovid Rowner, Yisef and Faige Rotenberg, Yisroel Solnik, Yisroel Malczman, Janes Sherman, Yakov Rusman, Shaul Volf Lichtenberg and his son Yitzchok, Yecheskel Lichtenstajn …

 

wlo384.jpg
The membership card of comrade [chaver]
Zushe Fuchs in the Zionist organization. Year 1923

 

[Page 385]

… Zvi Holczman, Aharon Czukor, Yitzchok Nisenboim, Shmuel Bekerman. Of the young women, I recall: Sara Fishman, Laya Apelboim, Gitel Kogan.

There were surely others whose names have escaped my memory, and I excuse myself for this with the hope that if others will write about this, they will remember [the names].

Regardless of the fact that news reached Wlodawa of the difficulties that those who went with the illegal Aliyah had to endure, the others were not frightened off, and the striving for Aliyah continued to persist.

In the year 1924, the Zionist organization in Wlodawa allocated three certificates, one of which was for me. Along with me, there came: Itka and her husband Leibel Festman, may he rest in peace, and may he have long life, Yechiel Grinhoiz.

As soon as we received the certificates, we immediately began to prepare to leave. The news evoked a great enthusiasm among the youth in the city. Even the older people spoke much about this with each other.

At that time, the Jews in Wlodawa already had a bitter experience with the Polish government. Our own home suffered as well, and ignoring that our financial situation was opportune, and that I had good possibilities to establish myself, I nonetheless took a clear assessment of the general Jewish situation in Poland, and I saw the only way out – in Aliyah.

Our immigrating to Israel was an exceptional event among the comrades of the Zionist organization, and at the eve of our departure, a festive farewell evening was organized, which belongs to the unforgettable occasions of my lifetime.

The banquet took place at Motel Lederman's, with set tables. The walls were decorated with blue and white flags and the atmosphere was filled with the excitement of the chalutzim [pioneers].

The place was overflowing [with people]. All the comrades of the Zionist organization had come together as well as those who were in support – both young and old.

The event went until morning. There was no end to the singing …

[Page 386]

… and dancing. What was sung that evening! Songs of yearning and zealousness towards the Promised Land, songs of love and passion with the eagerness to sacrifice one's own life for the Zionist ideal.

The speeches were also like that, delivered by the comrades –– with whom we dreamed and struggled, experienced difficult and joyous days –– as they bid farewell to the departing chalutzim; and [the speeches] were laced with the pioneers' yearning for independence.

Our eyes were burning with the fire of young dreams. We knew that we were embarking on a road that was not littered with roses, and we gave ourselves an accounting of the difficult life experiences that were to come in the near future as we set up our new lives. But the fire of the Jewish nation's faith burned within us along with the conviction that we were going to fulfill a huge mission that, already at that time, gave purpose to our young lives.

This faith and deep conviction was expressed in the speeches that were delivered on the farewell evening, in the conversations and discussions that were ongoing at that location. Together with the yearning for liberation, they also felt a great joy with the newly received certificates that, regardless of the small number of them, still had great value, and encouraged the ongoing fight for Aliyah. Every one of the certificates received, even though small in number, helped strengthen the Zionist activities and awoke great hope for the future.

Scores of youth and elderly, friends and comrades, came to escort us to the train station, and once again the air in the city breathed with melodies of Zionist songs, in Hebrew and in Yiddish, threaded with a strong lust for liberation.

When I boarded the wagon, I felt that I was leaving my home town and the people who were beloved to me and deeply engrained into my heart. Inside, I was simmering with unshed tears, but the songs tore into them, supported them higher and higher, until the train moved from its place.

That's how the Jewish youth of Wlodawa radiated …

[Page 387]

… in its striving for national freedom, and along with tens of thousands of others, prepared for Aliyah to emigrate to the Land of Israel. But few merited to realize their dreams.

In Warsaw, our farewells were even more impressive and impacting. From the Praga train station, there was a wagon full of those going on Aliyah. It was very crowded on the platforms among the waiting trains. Along with each of the travelers, there were family members and friends. Those who were traveling were not only the young, but also the adult Jews and their families. The wealthier Jews had porters to help with their baggage. The youth, pioneers, carried their heavy parcels, valises, and backpacks on their own.

I also have memories of the relationship between the Polaks and the Jews at that time. Civilians and train officials stood around, as if watching an amazing sight, wondering cynically: “Where are these Jews rushing? To Palestine?” They smiled mischievously into their long moustaches, and their eyes sparkled with contentment. There were some who said clearly: “Go, Jews. All of you go to Palestine. Who needs all of you here!”

In this tension, we, the group from Wlodawa, we maneuvered ourselves in with our valises in hand, pushed ourselves, until we finally got to the wagon, secured a place, and then went back down to our friends and dear ones who barely maintained themselves in this tense time.

Suddenly, there was a burst of song on the platform: “Who will build the Galil? Who will…” This song came from a group of joyous youth who had tossed back their heads in ecstasy, sprung into a configuration for a Hora dance. In these songs, along with the great hope for their own national home, was also the farewell to Poland, a spiteful act to the enemy who wanted to degrade us with persecution and evil decrees. We, the Wlodawer, were also drawn into the circle of dance.

Finally, the signal came for the departure. Among the women assembled you saw mothers with dampened eyes. Many women sobbed deeply. My eyes also clouded over. I saw a mass of heads. A forest …

[Page 388]

… of fluttering hands waved before the windows in front of our fleeting eyes.

The train with several hundred Olim [émigrés to Israel] ran far away from the city, away from Poland, with a resounding boom and lonely whistle of the locomotive, always farther away from the old home and always closer to the land longed for by generations.

Our journey to Israel went on for long days and nights. We, the Wlodawer, stayed together all the time. At many stations, people came to greet the travelers. From our wagon's window, we waved blue and white flags.

Finally, we arrived at the Romanian port in Constantza, where we stayed for a few days until we boarded the ship.

For the first time, we realized how far we had come from Wlodawa, but before our eyes, the images of our mothers and fathers, relatives, friends and acquaintances still swam. Our ears still rang with their warm words of farewell and our hearts beat with a longing.

Now everything looked different. The ship absorbed our whole life, the whole tumult, the noise, the din – all inside, in small corridors, in narrow cabins, and on deck.

That's how night arrived, our first night on the ocean. One of us mentioned the Bug River in Wolodawa, the strolls, the bathing and swimming in the summer evenings, but now the ocean was rushing with a force. The whole ship, that had seemed so large when we boarded, suddenly appeared so small – a small splinter on the churning sea. For a moment, I too felt small, fragile, lost. But the closeness of my Wlodawa friends chased away the fear and the weakness. Together we felt connected to a mighty power.

Very likely, the same thing happened with the other passengers. After the tumult and noise died down, a longing settled on the faces. But soon, conversations sprang up among the chalutzim, and soon, once again, they began dancing the Hora and song drowned out and masked the roaring of the ocean's waves.

[Page 389]

The following day, our Wlodawa group expanded into a larger circle. We made connections with new people, became closer, and felt tied to a general cause.

All around, the journey was teeming with life. Also, the older, wealthier, and religious Jews didn't sit idly. They prayed and studied. From somewhere, there also came forward a Baal Tefila [individual who leads prayers] who reminded us of the Baal Tefila of Woldawa, but here, on the ship, his voice carried farther than in the town, and was threaded with the anguish of the Jewish nation that travels across oceans, across vastness, and languishes and yearns for rest in their own home. The ship got closer and closer to the longed for shore. It was as if the chalutzim awoke and once again were consumed with song and dance.

Restless Jews with larger and smaller families began to hover around their packages a day earlier. The restlessness and expectation that was expelled from everyone latched onto me as well.

I stood at the gate of the ship for hours, torn between my old home and my new one. But soon, Yechiel Grinhoiz, Leibel Festman and other youths, came forward. We lived together so wonderfully for the rest of the journey. From all of us, there was such energy, such extreme joy, and again I felt encouraged. I was young, with youthful strength and great hopes.

The ship arrived at the Jaffa harbor. Now began the real ruckus. Sailors were running back and forth. All of them ran to the upper deck where, at a small door near two sailors, standing as guards, there was already a long line of passengers ready to go down the narrow steps to the long–awaited shore.

Our Wlodawa group got together again and stood in a line. I looked at the English officers, white and Arabs, as they stood set out and watched that the line would stretch through the open doors of the large, dark rooms where we would collect the packages.

I looked at them [the officers] and felt that they were strangers who were only temporarily hosting in this land, our land, where we would build the future Jewish state.

Everything passed quickly, and soon they took us away to a quarantine camp that was surrounded by a barbed wire fence.

At the Jaffa port, our dear friend Yakov Bernnholcz was waiting for us, and he helped us maneuver the formalities, and in the evening we were already outside with our packages, and Yakov Bernholcz took us to his home where he welcomed us with friendly warmth.

Thanks to Bernholcz, as soon as we took our first steps in the land, we immediately felt the warmth, the closeness of a Wlodawa friend, the sincere readiness of our compatriot to help.

Without a doubt, this had an influence on our later journey and life on Israeli soil, and was also reflected in our living together and activities, when later we ourselves had to welcome other émigrés from Wlodawa.

After a few days, we set ourselves up with all kinds of jobs. For some time I worked with gardening. The work was not easy. But inside me, everything was celebrating with joy. I saw myself as a participant in the building of our land.

Just as with the work, I was also caught up in the social activities and cultural life that went on in Tel Aviv, the city that was in the midst of being built, the first Jewish city.

This new Aliyah brought with it a new life.

This was at the time when Grabski's[1] financial politics in Poland pressured the Jews, and then the fourth Aliyah took place. In Tel Aviv, the building movement grew, new stores opened, new workshops.

Working with gardening resulted in my working in the garden of the great writer–thinker, Dr. Asher Ginzberg, who was well known by his pseudonym Achad Ha'am. He lived near the gymnasium “Herzeliya,” and after work I would accompany him to the Zionist organization on Rothschild Street, and on the way, he would ask about my work, about the mood among the new émigrés …

[Page 391]

… and also took an interest in the lives of the Wlodawa Jews.

He was already old, but his magnetic personality gave him a lot of charm and authority. His works, essays, and articles were popular among the Jewish youth not only in Israel but also in Poland and in other countries. There were many discussions around his works. There were those who claimed he was really a great writer but not a practical theorist, not a great life instructor, because he did not work out a defined system that was close to the spirit of the Zionist youth at that time. But from close up, I was able to see his character that absorbed and radiated with the beauty of the great Jewish culture.

Finding myself within Achad Ha'am's entourage of great personalities was not only a great honor for me, but also a well of inspiration for earnest thought and also for real stories.

At the same time, it was also an honor to have the opportunity to tell him about my home in Wlodawa, and I was overjoyed with the interest that he demonstrated.

Within this hoary–gray Jew with the goatee, wound a great creative talent, and from him emanated an influence that thoroughly penetrated our spiritual lives and also had a great influence on me.

This was only one episode, one of many others that I encountered during my first years in the Land of Israel. But it would take too much space to elaborate on them. In my current work for the Wlodawa Yizkor book, I just want to briefly mention the key moments in the lives of the Wlodawa émigrés, brief chapters of a rich, multicolored, and often stormy life.

In the year 1927, a major crisis befell Tel Aviv that impeded any further growth. They stopped building and there was terrible unemployment. Each day, the mood became heavier and more tense.

At that time, the Wlodawer strengthened their mutual friendships even more so. We …

[Page 392]

… connected to each other even more strongly, often met and encouraged one another to get through these difficult times.

True, we were young, filled with energy and ready to get through hard times. But those times were really very hard. In Tel Aviv, more so than in other places in the country, we strongly felt the social crisis that also had an impact on our social life. The then–mayor Dizengoff, in the beginning, tried to appease the mood, and said this was a passing phenomenon – simply a break in the too–quick tempo of building and growth. But in the city, we knew that it was an inevitable deficit in the city's treasury that had to be strongly repealed from the city's economy [to address the economy of the city].

Later came the events of 1929. A year earlier, Dizengoff once again took over the running of the city, and continued doing so also after those events, and did everything so that Tel Aviv could continue to build and grow.

Today, if I ever happen to be strolling on Dizengoff Street, I remember those times when he was the father of the city and he had to overcome so many hardships. During the Wlodawer get–togethers, we would often talk about his deeds, that elevated him to the lofty level of the builder of the first Jewish city. He synthesized the old and the new on a sandy beach that many did not believe could sustain a strong foundation.

In the year 1929, during the bloody unrest in the country, among those who fell were also the brothers Yosef and Yehuda Rotenberg from Wlodawa. This tragedy was very difficult for us Wlodawer to bear. The Rotenberg brothers were good and sincere friends, and were devoted and active in our social lives. It was a long time before we could come back to ourselves after this loss.

All this time, there were new émigrés coming to Israel from Wlodawa, young and adult, all of whom slowly, some more easily than others, set up their lives in many different places in the country, worked at all kinds of fields – in the economy, …

[Page 393]

… in security equipment, and they were also active in their social and cultural lives in many different places.

All these Wlodawer who were spread across the country, remained in contact with their friends in Tel Aviv. They tried to establish a Landsmanschaft [compatriot] committee in Tel Aviv, but it didn't really last long. There were times when the contact was slow. Some did not withstand the economic difficulties, the climate conditions, and then left to other countries. Some went back to Wlodawa. But there were also those whose great yearning for the Land of Israel brought them back from the farthest places, and as they returned to Israel, they were once again welcomed warmly by the Wlodawa friends with great hospitality.

At that time, the Wlodawa Jew Eliezer Bernstajn settled in Israel. For a long time, he had lived in London, but had maintained his ties to Israel all this time, [a sentiment that] he had brought with him from his home Wlodawa, and then later, he and his family settled in Israel. He became financially successful, and with his money he bought land, bought houses, planted orchards in Tel Aviv and Rishon Letzion, and got out tens of Jewish families from Wlodawa, for whom he tried to get opportunities to settle in Israel.

We, the émigrés from Wlodawa, stayed together, young and old. The youth were wrapped in a feeling of self–sacrifice, filled with strength and dreams, and filled with energy to fight against the murderous Arab mobs and against the equal brutality of the world.

One must emphasize the closeness that the Wlodawa compatriots felt towards one another. At the same time, it was characteristic for the Wlodawer people to have a strong sense of righteousness, a hatred for evil, for wicked people, and with all one's nature, to love the honest person. It turned out that I was in the very web of activity with the first group of Wlodawa émigrés until those that came the last, saved from the ghettos, the camps, and the forests where they fought and shone with many heroic acts. I …

[Page 394]

… feel that I should write a lot more about them, about all these Jews whom I met and about their lives that is so rich in heroic stories and in tragic moments. Very likely, others will tell these stories. I take responsibility to recount the names of these people whom I remember and with whom I was closely tied in joy and in sorrow, in times of difficult crises and great hopes, and I have to emphasize their strong will and the determination of both the early émigrés and the latter ones from Wlodawa who overcame many challenges and rooted themselves firmly in Israel, worked and struggled in the economic and security units, in many different fronts in Israel, and also in the Jewish Brigade in which they voluntarily enlisted.

These faces are etched in our memories forever, these who live and work together with us until today, and also those who sadly are not alive. We follow their voices, until today, at the frequent get–togethers, since the first days at the family Bernholcz, at the sisters Reitler, where we used to meet and discuss problems of our former home and also discuss actual issues of politics and economics in the Land of Israel.

Although we were still very young during this evolutionary time, we still felt very connected to those whom we had left behind in our former home, Wlodawa. There were still some very young ones among us, and to more than one, his mother still came in his dreams and turned towards him as if to a child, and when asked with a thousand “why's?”, there was always only one answer:

“We are building a new home!”

Each of us lived with the hope of bringing over our dear ones, and we maintained contact the entire time with Wlodawa, with our families, with parents, and with friends.

The letters that we received from Wlodawa, were frequently the main topics of discussions at our meetings. These were letters that cried out with pain of the exile in Poland that in those times greatly oppressed the Jews. Each letter of their communication was soaked through and through with their tears, breathed through with anguish and yearning.

Until September 1939, the correspondence was almost regular, and our …

[Page 395]

… cries to each other were constant, both through the letters and through the new émigrés, to our homes in Wlodawa.

The closer that September 1939 came, the greater the unrest in our mood, with the worry for the lives of our dear ones in Wlodawa …

[Page 396]

… until the outbreak of World War II that completely tore asunder the connection with our old home where the murderous destruction began.

 


Footnote

  1. Wladyslaw Grabski was prime minister of Poland in 1920, then in 1923–25. He was a political economist, and statesman who reorganized Poland's monetary and financial system. Return

 

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