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[Page 6]

The Jerusalem of Zagłębie

The Editors

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

What more can one say in the introduction that has not been said in the columns of the Book of Będzin? They contain the memories of its past and the persona of its personalities, the rhythm of its life and spirit and soul and also the events of its struggle and the death of the mass of Jewish communities in southeastern Poland, of Będzin, the Jerusalem of Zagłębie.

Yes, Jews built her and [made her blossom]. Generations placed their energy and abilities and soul in her and she became a Jewish city, a beehive of activity and creation, of a zest for life and good qualities, of lofty striving and Lovers of Zion and Israel. A Jew would ask for a train ticket to Będzin; The gentile [ticket] seller would joke: To Jerusalem…

Between the lines of the book, a life's storm is revealed to the spirit-eye of the reader that pulses with zeal and acts of talent, a struggle for existence combined with stubbornness and optimism, love of the people and of man, a world of Hasidus and Torah, Zionism, Halutzism [pioneering], worker and youth movements, a Jewish people in miniature, a pugnacious and creative people, proud and brave, within the realm of coal and iron, at the bloody border. And it looks out at you from the many pictures in the book, of the masses who welcomed the Gerer Rebbe, of the group of activists of various hues and flags, of young people and community activists, of the bright, open, beautiful faces, of women and men, old and young, and they shine as the Angel of Death hovers behind them, although they do not have it in their thoughts…

[Page 7]

And when they already were in its claws, and until their last breath, they struggled, hoped, believed, defended themselves. It is impossible to read without a deep, internal shock, the authentic chapters of Dovid Liwer (from the book, Ir Hametim [City of the Dead], Tel Aviv, 1946), in which live the tremor of the annihilation and in which live its horrors, in their entire intensity and which are very rarely present in similar chapters in Holocaust literature; And what Arya Liwer says about the heroic double luck of the Halutz [pioneer] young people against the murderous enemy and their Jewish servants; and the rare gallery images of Mordekhai Hampel and his translations; and the contribution of M. S. Geshuri, who enriches Jewish historiography in general; and the luminous chapters of the loneliest revenge takers and weapons smugglers and fighting bunkers and of the rebels in Auschwitz, the grave of Zagłębie Jewry, tragic, unique, terribly lofty tests also the martyrology of the Third Destruction.

If they had not been alone and isolated, we would have at least helped them to get weapons! – So the bitter complaint repeats in a series of lists of those saved, who have not forgotten.

[Our home] of Będzin is no longer here. The sources of life and vitality are dried up, the treasures of creative energy destroyed, the human cargo exterminated, but her remnant will live eternally in the Book of Life of Polish Jewry, in the groups of her exiles, in the struggle of our people and its culture, in the creation and contribution to the building of our homeland.

This book, which is published 16 years after the Holocaust – a product of the sincere efforts of the saved and surviving Będziners, the last generation born in her, will shine like an eternal memorial candle in eternal remembrance of the annihilated community. And its primary mission is perhaps for the generation of the sons.

[Page 8]

A Word from the Publishers

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

It was not easy for us to publish the Pinkas Bedzin, which we now present with a feeling of satisfaction and of a duty to the remnants of Bedzin Jewish descendants in Israel and all over the world fulfilled.

Years ago, as soon as we received the shocking information about the Holocaust, we thought about how to perpetuate the sacred memory of our annihilated community in the form of a book that would tell with dignity the history of the very rich Jewish life of our city over the course of its long existence and the martyrology and the annihilation of the over 40,000-person dynamic community.

Naturally, it was enormously difficult to realize this idea. We came up against all kinds of obstacles and, mainly, there were those who were not prepared to take upon themselves this sacred and responsible mission.

Many annihilated religious communities, large and small, were immortalized in special yizkor [memorial] books thanks to the efforts of the surviving remnants. On the contrary, Zagłębie, to our sorrow, was backward in this realm. Actually, we immortalized our holy martyrs, erecting a magnificent monument to their dear memory at the cemetery in Tel Aviv, but doing only this did not satisfy us. We strove for another great work that would be found among the books of every Będziner Jew who is connected to his home city through so many dreams and memories and should live for eternity in the history of the Jews.

We took care that a faithful, authentic work about the annihilated community, among the famed communities in Poland, would remain for the future. Therefore, we thank the praiseworthy action of our dear friends, Dovid Liwer and Motek Hampel, who altruistically took upon themselves the difficult and responsible task of accomplishing the idea of a memorial book. They put years of care and effort into the work, with initiative and labor, in searching and rummaging and assembling documentary materials, documents, descriptions, testimonies of those, through a miracle, living remnants; they made even the smallest episode a telling picture of the diverse Jewish Będzin. We appreciate the intensity, the diligent work, both literary and technically, that was done by them with reverence and care for maximum perfection.

* * *

Regarding the language of the book, the Będziners in the Land of Israel – and they were still the majority – proposed that it be published in Hebrew. On the contrary, the hundreds of people from the town who lived outside the Land [of Israel] wanted it to be published in Yiddish so that every published word about their home city would be understandable to them. We decided to publish the book in two parts, in both languages. Each part was a work unto itself, each complementing the other, and what is most essential is found in both parts. Because of financial difficulties, we were not able to publish two separate books.

We feel an obligation to thank all of those who helped us in various ways: the writer and editor, A. Sh. Sztajn for shaping the book and maintaining its quality; the author and researcher of Hasidic melodies, our devoted friend, M. Sh. Gshuri (Brukner) from Jerusalem, who contributed great, brilliant research work about Hasidus, houses of worship, rabbis and cantors from Będzin to the book; the dear friend, Yosef Rozenzaft (Switzerland), who always warmly answered our call with significant material help; the friend, Shlomo Liwer (Magdiel) and all [Będziners] in Israel, Europe and America and Australia who contributed support for the book in whose pages the soul of our annihilated Będzin lives.


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