by Issac (Yitzchak) Weltman
Donated by David Polen
When I recall what happened to me in the 40 years I spent in the Soviet Union long dark years, replete with atrocities and cruelty in the gulags of the far East, the plains of Kazakhstan and the deserts of Turkmenistan in central Asia, the degrading and cruel interrogations, forced labour in temperatures of 60 degrees and constant hunger in the first 10 years, I ask myself where I had the strength to overcome all this, and the answer is educations and faith.
The education I soaked up from childhood in Hashomer Hatzair, a warm, but poor Ken in Brody seeded foundationsvalues in me that accompanied me in my youth, adulthood and into old age. I knew deep down that only in Eretz Yisrael, our historical homeland, can the Jewish people realize renewed and productive lives without Diasporaism, go back to the land; the movement instilled one clear goal in us: Aliya to Israel and kibbutz.
I was born in 1921 in the city of Brody to a traditional Jewish family that celebrated the Shabbat and all the holidays. On Shabbat we went to the synagogue to pray. My father Avraham Ben Ovadia zl' was a Hebrew teacher, who also taught literature and Tanach (bible). He was a Russian refugee. Born in Uman not far from Kiev in Tzarist Russia from whence he ran away during the 1903 pogroms he settled in Brody, married my mother Hannah Reif zl' from Lupatin, a town close to Brody. My older sister Rivka zl' was born in 1909, married Pinchas Garfunkel of Brody and lived on Kolyova St. My second sister Chaya (Klara) zl' was born in 1916 and was active in Hashomer Hatzair. My youngest sister Frieda zl' was born in 1927. My parents and sisters perished in the Holocaust, and to this day I do not know how, or where. I have 3 more brothers in Israel: Ovadia born 1911, made Aliya in 1935 and lives in kibbutz Gat; ShaulEzra, born 1913, made Aliya in 1939, fought in the (Jewish) Brigade 19441945 and in the War of Independence, lives in Petach Tikva; and Pinchas born 1919, made Aliya in 1948, lives in Moshav Ta'ashur in the Negev. We lived on 7 Vasola St., behind the Jewish school. Later we moved to 4 Krupniche St.
At home we spoke Hebrew a rarity in Brody. Thus writes the renowned Brodian Professor Dov Sadan in his book From the Circle of Youth: Even in those days, there were those that kept the embers glowing. The last Hebrew teacher in our city Mr. Weltman, a Russian refugee that settled here, preserved the Hebrew language in his home, and when he strolled through the streets with two of his sons he spoke our language (Hebrew) with them. They were always followed by astounded youngsters who envied them. I happened to stroll with them one day and was lucky to stop outside the closed train station and listen in to their conversation spoken in fluent Hebrew, while I could do nothing but listen.
In the 1930's my father and Mr. Lerner, the Hebrew teacher established the Tarbut (culture) Hebrew school where they taught the Hebrew language, literature, Jewish culture and bible studies. My father was an ardent Zionist. A blue and white JNF box always hung on the wall in the house and we also had Hebrew books and biblical texts. I did not go to cheder. Abba taught us chumash and prayers at home. For a period I sang in the Great Synagogue choir.
In 1932 I joined Hashomer Hatzair. The ken (nest) was located in the community center opposite the Ukrainian church on Leshnyovski St.; later it moved to Landau's factory on the same street. I was a group leader (madrich), a large squad leader and from 1938 served as a member of the leadership committee (mazkirut).
Ken activity was teeming: scouting, sports, debates and discussion evenings. I loved the hikes to Leshniyovski Forest. All Shabbat and holiday activities were held at the forest. We would light bon fires, sing songs about kibbutz, the Jezreel valley, the Galilee, the Kinneret (sea of Galilee), Jerusalem, working the land. We danced the Hora had ‘mifkadim’ (flagship ceremonies). We delved into autodidactic study of science and knowledge: world history, Jewish history from ancient times to the modern period, philosophy, psychology, astronomy, Zionist history, labour movements in the Diaspora and Eretz Yisrael. The Ken had a large library; we also borrowed books from other libraries. We read late into the night by candlelight broadening our horizons. We also had journals, materials and newsletters sent to us by the central Hashomer office.
Stormy arguments erupted in the Ken when a group began wondering whether the Zionist solution was an answer to the problems of the suffering Jewish community. They believed that redemption would come from the Russian revolution. We would then argue into the small hours of the night, trying to change their minds, resorting to arguments from Borochov's theories and the doctrines of the Hebrew labour movement in Israel; fighting over every person who wanted to defect to the antiZionist underground.
The following members of the 1939 Hashomer graduate group managed to make Aliya after much suffering: David Altman, Kibbutz Gazit; Shmuel Zilberschits, Afula; Sonia Katzman, kibbutz Beit Zera; Rachel Katz, Haifa; Nunia Rausch, Kfar Saba; Lucia Auerbach, Haifa; and a few older ones Isaac Rauch, TelAviv; Shiko (Joshua) Mendel, Be'er Sheva, and others.
Suddenly, the war was upon us. At the beginning of September 1939 Nazi planes bombed the train station. Most of Poland was run over in the blitzkrieg that shattered all resistance. In the middle of September long columns of the Polish army marched through Brody on the way to Romania.
On September 17 the Red Army conquered western Ukraine and Belarus and we found ourselves under the new regime. Initially, the population of Brody was sympathetic toward the Soviet government. Members of the Ukrainian communist party organized a very friendly reception with flowers, red flags and slogans. In the first few months many of these communists secured positions with the local government that had been previously closed to them; young Jews got positions in the postoffice, militia, banks and cooperatives; Jews were placed in all levels of government, economic and cultural institutions. The Soviets also created many opportunities for study and training.
However, the first days of naïve belief quickly faded. The new Soviet regime leaves no room for doubt: it will not tolerate foreign ideas and organizations. The traditional (intolerant) approach of the regime to Zionism now determines its attitudes towards Zionist organizations. Yet, we (Hashomer) continue to meet, sing, study albeit with extreme caution… until a day in 1939 when the N.K.V.D. enter the Ken (meeting place), execute a search and confiscate our flag and stamp. We were put on the black list.
I travelled to Lvov to the Hashomer office at 6 Slovetsky St. for consultation. They sent me to the Hashomer Hatzair Hachshara in Djikov, a few km from Lvov that was still in operation at the time.
The economic situation in our town was dire, especially in our home. We were on the threshold of poverty. My father was sick and couldn't work. I began working at 14 as an assistant in Hollander's shoe shop and later at a sawmill next to the train station. Eventually this job also ended. There were many unemployed in town. So, along with some friends, I decided to volunteer to work for a year in Russia. We thought that there far from home, where no one knew us, the N.K.V.D. wouldn't harass us. We received an advance on our salary and a free train ticket. We left Brody at the end of 1940 myself, David Altman, Michael Greengrass, Shmuel Katz, Mundek Gadoldig and Heinrich Teshker. On February 4 we arrived at KosiaGora, not far from the capital city Tula where we were taken to a large factory for the manufacture of cement and molding iron. I worked as an assembler of mechanical implements. When the year was up we intended to return to Brody.
We were arrested one by one on the night of February 3 and taken to a special internment center for political prisoners of the N.K.V.D. located in the basement of the splendid N.K.V.D. building in Tula. Even the local population was ignorant of its existence.
I was held in solitary confinement from day one. Life in prison was very difficult and cruel. I never saw daylight. During the day I was not allowed to sleep and interrogations were held at night. This continued for two months. Much pressure and torture were exerted to get me to sign a confession. I had a particularly hard time as I knew no Russian. Thus, I did not understand what they said and could not read their protocols.
I was hungry all the time as the food I got was never sufficient. At times, I received no food for a whole day when the interrogator was dissatisfied with my answers. On April 15, 1941 the whole group was found guilty of Zionist activism and belonging to Hashomer Hatzair. Following articles 1058 and 1158 we were sentenced to five years in a ‘closed’ camp. I, as leader of the group, was sentenced to 7 years hard labour at the camps and 5 years of exile. We were transferred to a quarry not far from Keluga, a city in the vicinity of Tula. The work was very hard: smashing large boulders into small stones by hand.
When the RussoGerman war began our situation went from bad to worse; there was little food, the work was very hard and we also had to work Saturdays.
At the end of September 1941 the German army was approaching Moscow. The Russians decided to move the camp farther east. It was a terrible transfer. We walked hundreds of kilometers in the cold and rainy fall weather along muddy sideroads. The guards rode on horses accompanied by dogs on the sides to prevent escape. Our clothes and shoes were torn and wet and we had nowhere to dry them. We received no food. Once a day the guards allowed us to dig up potatoes and collect cabbages that had been left behind in the fields alongside the road. We never washed and everyone was infected with lice. We kept going for three months. Anyone lagging in the last few rows, ill or tired to death, was shot on the spot. We were scared to death of finding ourselves in the last row. At night we were corralled into an empty barn left by the kolchozniks who were also fleeing east for fear of the Nazis. We finally arrived at Riazan, a city in the east on the Oka River. There we were loaded into the bottom of a boat. It was terribly cold. We were all wet and hungry. We sailed for 7 days until the river froze over. Many died on the boat and the piles of bodies accompanied us until we got to the railroad station in Morom. There we were loaded like cattle onto railroad cars in the month of December. To this day I do not understand how we survived under those conditions.
On January 1, 1942 we arrived at a camp in Oresk 150 people, all sick… 10% of the total that began the journey. After a few days of rest I was sent to dig foundations for factory buildings. The ground at minus 40 was frozen.
During 1942 our dear friend Shumuel Katz gave up unable to endure the difficult conditions at the camp any longer. He drank profuse quantities of water with salt, swelled up and died… may he rest in peace.
In the summer of 1943 I parted from my dear friend David Altman, as I was sent from Orsk on a long journey to the fareast to the camps in the city of Komsomolsk on the shores of the Amoor River where we began laying the infrastructure for a railway to the port of Sovietskaya on the Pacific Ocean. It was to be a 500 km track in the taiga forest. Not a soul lived there, only the army guarding us ensuring we did not escape. Every 10 km there was a camp. All the work was hard labour: sawing, cutting down trees with a hand saw and pulling a tack'cha (wheelbarrow) filled with soil and rocks. Conditions were very difficult. We worked in extreme cold temperatures without fitting clothing, always hungry. Many died of malnutrition, scurvy and other diseases.
In 1946 I was sent to a camp in Outer Mongolia in the Nasohki train station on the border with Mongolia. I worked there building the railroad from Ulan Ude to Ulan Bator. During this time from 1942 until I was released in 1948 I was registered, along with many of the prisoners, as part of Ander's Polish army and the army organized by Wanda Vasilevskaya. When the lists were sent to Moscow my name was always deleted. Even at the end of 1945 when a large contingent of prisoners was released they did not let me go. I was considered very dangerous. Thus, months and years passed with no hope… only despair. By then I knew that my family parents and sisters, in Brody was no longer alive. New prisoners arriving at the camp told us that the Nazis had killed them all.
I was left with a single ray of hope that I might get lucky and manage to make contact with my brothers in Israel and perhaps a miracle would occur and we would be united.
February 4 1948 after 7 years as a prisoner I was released from the camp to spend the next 5 years banished in exile. I received 2 loaves of bread, a herring and B= kilo of sugar 10 day provisions for the train journey, along with a ticket to my destination in Turkmenistan. I had no clothes, not even underwear, no shirts and not a penny in my pocket. I arrived in Tashkent with no clue how to begin my new life.
I sat for 2 days in the train station, desperate, weak and hungry. I couldn't leave the station due to the cold and wet weather. On the third day, a local man approached and asked if I wanted to work. Gladly I responded. He explained the work would be done in the ParaKum desert with a group of topographers preparing maps for digging a canal from AmuDaria to the Caspian Sea. The man also told me conditions would be difficult a very hot summer, no water, living in tents and moving daily by camel and donkey back from place to place, with payment being rendered at the end of the season; I would only receive clothes and food from the first day. I had little choice and agreed. On February 28 we travelled by camel convoy to the work place. At the end of the season I got paid and quit. In 1949 I received a temporary identity card for 3 months and went to work in a new city NavitDag, which they began building in Turkmenistan. They had found oil there and needed workers. I began working as a porter carrying logs and later designing platforms. There I met my wife Polina who helped me greatly and went along with me no matter what fate brought.
From NavitDag I wrote my first letter to Israel and through the Histadrut I got addresses for my brother Ovadia and my friend David Altman.
On 6.9.50 I was arrested for a second time. My house was searched and all the letters and photographs I had received from Israel were confiscated, along with Yiddish books. I was taken to the internal N.K.V.D. prison in the Turkmeni capital Esh Kabad. This was the period when Jewish persecution was organized by a special decree from the dictator Stalin and Zionists were arrested and murdered.
My interrogation lasted 6 months. I was charged with pursuing my Zionist activities after I had been released from the camp in 1948 and had conspired with the enemies of the Soviet State to topple the government. The letters I had written to Israel were presented as the incriminating evidence.
On March 10 1952, without trial, I was sentenced to exile for life in Kazakhstan charged with Zionist activity. On March 20th I was taken under heavy guard to the remote village of AkTau in Kazakhstan. I was to report to the N.K.V.D. office twice a month. My wife followed promptly. We began a new life in the new location rife with political prisoners. After Stalin's death (Sept. 20, 1954) I was released from exile, but stayed put as I was not given identity papers for lack of a birth certificate. I told them that all my documents from Brody were in my file with the N.K.V.D. to no avail. Only in 1955 was I permitted to travel to Brody to bring them a copy of my birth certificate, or a certificate indicating the archives did not have the document.
And so, after 15 years I am travelling to Brody. I was very excited. The whole way I thought I might find traces of my family, that there would be someone who could tell me what happened to them. I arrived in Brody in the morning to find the rail station in ruins. I walked to town. I encountered strangers speaking Ukrainian; half the ‘rink’ (market) was gone, replaced by green grass. I walked toward the synagogue and saw a roofless structure, no windows or doors, as after a big fire. The entire area behind the synagogue, where the ghetto had been, was empty with only remnants of houses left behind. It was very quiet and sad. After this I went through Zloty St. to the magistrate building that houses the government offices. I presented my request to several officials. They looked at me as though I was a creature from another planet and sent me from one to another, until I got to an N.K.V.D. officer. He explained that the Brody archives were now housed in the central city of Lvov and that is where I needed to go. There were a few hours until the train to Lvov was to depart so I walked about town. The central park was deserted; few trees remained. The statute of author Kuznievski had been removed. The municipal clock wasn't working. The ‘kushari’ (military canteen) was overrun by an army of N.K.V.D. officials. The Grand Prager bank and the rest of Zloty street hadn't changed; only of the Jews there was no sign.
I walked to Leshnyovski St. toward the 5th house where my family had lived. I saw the green gate of the community center and walked to the well. Our alley Krupniche, was on the left and the house no. 4. I went in. Ukrainians from the Krakow area, 1000 km from Brody, were living there. They don't know what happened here during the Nazi era. They live here since 1946. The local Ukrainians were removed from Brody from 19451947. The Poles left for Poland. The entire city suddenly seemed strange and hostile.
I travelled to Lvov and there I received the required certificate in lieu of the birth certificate that was not found in the central archives.
Finally, at the end of 1957 I received a document from both the High Court and the Attorney General's office that my conviction from 1941 had been overturned and the investigation into my file was terminated for lack of evidence. After all the bitter events that I lived I had only one goal in life to make Aliya at all costs. I knew that the only way it was going to happen was through Poland.
I travelled to the Polish embassy in Moscow and there I was told that while there was a PolishSoviet agreement to return Polish citizens to Poland as long as the N.K.V.D. objected they could not assist me and I needed to make the request to the appropriate Soviet body.
I wrote many such requests. On March 4 1959 I got an answer the matter will not be discussed as there are no documents certifying past Polish citizenship. After that I moved around to many places in Siberia. All the while I kept in touch with my brothers and friends in Israel. In Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, where I lived for 17 years I studied at the Technion (technical Institute) graduating as a certified technician. I got a good job with a company assembling heavy equipment and my economic situation improved. Where ever there were Jews interested in learning Hebrew I taught the alephbet to children and adults. With the aid of Israeli stamps I told them about our holidays, the history of Zionism and the kibbutz movement. At night I listened to kol Yisrael. I travelled to Moscow to attend every event where Israel was represented. In 1963 an international film festival in Moscow featured Israeli films. In 1966 I went to see the Israeli booth at the international exhibition showing agricultural implements.
Many Jews in Siberia knew my brothers and asked what was happening in Israel. Beginning in 1965 I submitted requests to make Aliya, but was refused. My brother Shaul from Israel wrote letters to Gromyko the Soviet foreignaffairs minister and to President Voroshilov but never received an answer.
In 1975, one of the KGB agents, out of the goodness of his heart, told me that if I wanted to make Aliya I was wasting my time in Krasnoyarsk as it was a closed city. He suggested I move to the western sector of the Soviet Union where I had a better chance of getting an exit visa. Following my requests I was transferred in 1976 to the city of Smolensk where I submitted a request for a visa. Only in 1979 after being refused for 14 years I got a visa to emigrate to Israel. Finally, on June 3 1979 my wife and I took our first steps on Israeli soil. I hadn't seen my brothers in over 40 years. In 1980 I was inducted into the organization of the Prisoners of Zion from the Soviet Union.
|Document # 1
Translated from Russian
This certificate is given to the settler Ignatz Ben Avraham Weltman, born 1921 in Brody the region of Lvov, a Jew sentenced in compliance with articles 5810 and 5811 to seven years in prison and released for resettlement.
The certificate is to be presented to the Passport Division of the Interior Department of the settlement.
Director of the Interior Ministry
|Document # 3
Translated from Russian
The office of the Attorney General of the Russian Federation of Soviet States
City of Iskitim region of Novosibirsk
We are informing you that following the decision of the Presidency of the Supreme Court of the Federation of Soviet States of July 30 1957 the sentence of the Regional Court of the 1516 of April 1941, as well as the Supreme Court's sentence of the Russian Republic from 1.5.54 have been rescinded, and the case against you terminated for lack of evidence.
The attorney in charge
|Document # 4
Translated from Russian
Russian Federation of Soviet States
I hereby certify that the sentence of the Regional Court from the 1516 of April convicting Ignatz Ben Avraham Weltman born in 1921 that worked as an assembler in the meteorological factory in Kosogorsk following article 1058 and 1158 of the criminal code of the Soviet Republic, as well as the Supreme Court's sentence of the Russian Republic from 1.5.54 have been rescinded based on the decision of the Presidency of the Supreme Soviet Court from July 30 1957 and the case terminated for lack of evidence.
Secretary to the President of the Supreme Court
In response to your application from 11.11.59 I am informing you that your request will not be discussed as you have no documents certifying your past Polish citizenship.
Director of the Interior Ministry of Novosibirsk
|Organization of Brody area émigrés
Tel Aviv August 15 1979
I hereby certify that Mr. Yitzchak (aka Ignatz) Ben Avraham Weltman was born in Brody, a town known as Jerusalem D'Austria (Galicia), later of Poland and now the Soviet Union.
The above mentioned was born in 1921 and from early childhood like the rest of his family an ardent Zionist, who in his youth joined Hashomer Hatzair and was a member of its leadership. Following the onset of war between Germany and Russia in September 1939 (WW II) and the invasion of the Red army in Eastern Poland he was prevented from going to the Hachshara and making Aliya. He remained in Brody and continued his Zionist activities underground for which he paid a high price: he was arrested and sentenced to prison and hard labour in the ‘gulags’ and later exiled to the hinterlands. He was finally released and allowed to reach a safe haven in our country.
His time working in the Soviet Union and his suffering for our homeland will be recorded as part of his service to this country.
Sincerely, chairman of the organization
Standing in the front row: Michael Lamm, Dorka Vengler, Leshnover, -;
Sitting: Yona Furman, Dushya Gladshtein, Meshulem-Shilk Shtok-Sadan, -, Ovadia Veltman
Sitting: Tartakover, Manya Lamm, David Worm, Lusya Ofefa, Dr. Milek Halprin (Physician), Musia Lillian, Milek Tzitron, Khava-Eva Golan nee Gemershmidt, Shimon-Shimek Fitch
by Shmuel Lamm
Translated by Moshe Kutten
Edited by Yocheved Klausner
The two residential buildings and my father's factory were located in one of the most beautiful corners of Brody. This corner bordered with the Jewish Hospital, on Pyekreska-Szpitalna Street. These places were my favorites for outings and painting.
The factory and the residential buildings were situated around a big courtyard with flowers, all sorts of fruit trees, a vegetable garden, all sorts of poultry birds and even a peacock. A horse and a cart, which my father used on his trips to places outside the city, were also positioned there. My father, Ya'akov Lamm, loved people and was loved by people. He was a modest man, a working man who was also employed by the city of Brody as an assessor. Many of his inventions, in the field of mechanics, were registered in the Polish Patent Bureau. He received orders from Brody and from far-away cities such as Bialystok and Lvov. My mother, Gitla Lamm, was a modest, soft-spoken woman and a house wife extraordinaire. Despite the fact that we were nine children at home, my mother always found time to read a book. Our maternal grandmother lived with us after our grandfather passed away at the age of 104.
The children's names were Avraham, Simha, Moshe, Chana, Ester, Shmuel (myself), Yitzhak, Manya and Matilda.
At the outbreak of First World War in 1914, our family ran away to Zlotchov on a cart. The Russians arrived there a short while later and we returned to Brody with the Russians. Our factory was mobilized to work for the Red Army. We fixed all sorts weapons as well as cars. Upon the retreat of the Austrian army from Brody in 1916, we ran away to Lvov and stayed there until the end of the war. During the war, two of my brothers, Avraham and Simha served in the Austrian army as professionals specialized in fixing cars and weapons. My father and my brother Moshe got jobs in fixing agricultural machines in a plant in Lvov. Since my father was an exceptional professional, he remained on that job until the end of the war. We were fortunate to see the procession of Lvov Jews, celebrating the Balfour Declaration in 1917. A short while later, at the end of the war, we experienced firsthand the war between the Poles and the Ukrainians, a war won by the Poles. The Polish soldiers were allowed 24 hours to rob the Jews: they burnt synagogues with the people trapped inside, robbed and murdered many Jews in Lvov. At the end of the riots, a funeral for the murdered took place. Tens of thousands of Jews participated in it.
We returned to Brody in 1921. We did not recognize the place we used to live in. Everything was ruined. The two residential buildings and the factory were destroyed. In their place, we found an empty plot. They even uprooted the fruit trees. My father and the boys started to build everything from scratch. First,
they rebuilt the factory, and then the residential building. Orders started to flow in from all over Poland. The business flourished. Later on, we built an iron casting factory.
Two of my brothers got married. Avraham married Berta Tzernetz. A boy and a girl were born to them Enosh and Ditah. Simha (Simon) married Shenka Bialitzka. They had a son named Shonyo. Moshe (Morris) married Rosa Poliner and they immigrated to the US. Chana married Frank Levin and they had a son named Willy. Ester, Shmuel and Yitzhak immigrated to Eretz Israel during a very short period of time (1933-1934). Manya arrived in 1937 but could not get accustomed to the life in Eretz Israel and she went back to Poland. She managed to marry Pink and she bore him a son. She became a teacher in one of Brody's schools. When the Russians entered Brody with the outbreak of World War II, they confiscated the factory, put a commissar in charge of it and sent my father with two of my brothers to work somewhere else. That was the reason why they did not run away, when the time came, with the Russians. My brother Moshe wrote to them from the US to run away with the Russians, and they managed to reply that they would remain the owners of the property with the Germans. This was the extent of their ignorance about what was in store for them. Their fate was sealed, together with the fate of the rest of the Jewish city residents. They served the Germans until the last moment. My father was sent to the death camps three times but was brought back since he was needed at the factory.
I do not know how everybody perished in the Holocaust. My father, mother, brothers, sisters, uncle and aunt and the rest of the relatives were all murdered at the hands of the German oppressor, every one of them in a different way. May their memory blessed.
Morris and Rose passed away in the US. Ronya and her husband Yitzhak, as well as Ester passed away in Israel.
As opposed to my own parents, Yehudit Cohen from Mikhalova, the mother of my wife Pnina knew in her heart, even as early as 1934, that no Jews would remain alive in Poland. She would say in Yiddish, every time she managed to send another child away from Poland: - another child is safe. This is how Pnina, her sisters Leah and Rina, her brother Mendel, may his memory be blessed, who immigrated to the US but passed away there at an early age, managed to get out and survive. Her father, Yitzkhak Cohen passed away before the Germans entry. Her mother Pnina along with her married sons Moshe, Gutka and their children were all sent to the Trebilnka incinerators and murdered by the Nazi oppressor. May their memory be blessed.
by Hinda Wahl (Hela Tuch-Tuviel)
Translated by Moshe Kutten
Edited by Yocheved Klausner
I was born in a very Haredi house in Mikolayev (Drohobitz district). My father, the Hassid Yitzkhak Wahl, married my mother to be, Vincha Minitzer who came from a very rich house and we owned many fields as well as businesses. We were raised by the Torah and religion. Our house served as a meeting place for the entire village. The Torah was studied in it. My father was the most honorable person in the village. Even the non-religious villagers dared not enter the house without a Kippah on their heads.
Despite the fact that we were devout people, our family was progressive. My father did not oppose Zionism and education. He even agreed to have a donation box for the KKL-JNF in our house. My brother collected donations for the JNF and was active in the movement. Some of the children in our family studied in Brody and the rest in Radzikhov. We had a Torah scroll in our house, bequeathed to my father by my grandfather, who was convinced that my father deserved to live his life in a house suitable for accommodating a scroll. We assembled a minyan, and conducted organized religious life.
The dominant theme in our house was the longing for Eretz Israel. We would receive a calendar from Eretz Israel annually. We would review it reverently and caress the pages so dear to us, with love. The calendar would be hung in a place of honor. I remember myself standing in front of the calendar looking at the picture of the Wailing Wall drawn on it. Sad thoughts would flood my head, mixed with a glimmer of hope. I wished, with all my being, that the words printed on the calendar: Next Year in Jerusalem, would become a reality. I would be standing and looking at the calendar, with my heart filled with a strong will and hope that I would, some day, reach Eretz Israel.
We were nine children in the house. Miryam, the oldest sister, married Shulem Wahl and they owned a leather business as well as a small wholesale and retail store. My second sister Ester, married Hersh Zomer. They owned a small wholesale beer shop. My brother Shaul Wahl was an owner of a grain shop. He was named after the famed Shaul Wahl who was, according to the Jewish tradition, a king for six hours [i]. All of these relatives lived in Brody. We also moved to Brody in 1934. Malka and Charna lived near Radzikhov. Krina married Herman
Doner. I was told that she worked at a clothes warehouse in Dubno when the Red Army approached Lvov in 1944. Details about her whereabouts vanished after that. My brother Yosef studied in a business school and later on served in the Polish army. He organized an escape from the Nazis' captivity but was caught. He never returned to us. Our youngest sister, Henia, was in the Brody ghetto. I found out that, she too, was taken away from us too soon.
World War II broke in 1939. I found out that my brother was in Lublin. I went there to look for him, but was caught and sent to Auschwitz. We were employed at forced labor in harsh conditions and I suffered tremendously. However, even when I was subjected to endless tortures, I kept the hope that I would, someday arrive in Israel and would be fortunate to see the Promised Land with my own eyes. At the same time, I made a vow that, when I would be lucky to be saved, I would devote all of my energy and time to take care of the children who suffered so much.
Indeed, after being tortured for so long that I began to think that the end would never come, the US army liberated us in 1945. Along with many other refugees, I went through Czechoslovakia to Vienna and from Vienna through Semmering to Kapfenberg where I met my husband to be, Tzvi Tuch. We arrived in Rome under the Illegal Immigration organization. This is where I married my husband and where we started both to work voluntarily in a sanatorium leased by the Joint.We did all the menial jobs for no pay, despite the fact that everybody laughed at us and asked us why we do the work without getting paid. We gradually made progress in our work until I was appointed headmistress. I worked for the youths who were on the way to Eretz Israel as illegal immigrants. I devoted myself to this work with all my heart, as this was a way for me to fulfil my vow. We kept in touch with all of these youths, who are now grown adults, up to the present time.
In the meantime, a cousin of my husband, who lived in France, heard about our survival, and sent us tickets to go to France. We only stayed there for half a year despite the fact that my husband was offered an appealing job. I did not accept my husband cousin's pleas to stay in France. I told him that I want to have my kids born in Israel.
I was able, at last, to realize my life ambition and to make Aliyah. We had the right to receive a free apartment, but we did not accept it. We worked and paid for the apartment. I was continuously crying and asking myself why I was so much luckier than many others to reach Israel and to give birth to two cute daughters.
In Israel, I looked for a job in children institutions. I worked at Armon House, Kiryat Ya'arim, Zionist Youth House and the Mizrahi Girls Youths institution.
Tears come to my eyes, even today, when I think about this childhood prayer of getting to Israel and its fulfillment. Notes by the Book Editor
by Naftali Harash
Translated by Moshe Kutten
Translated by Rafael Manory
My father returned with his seven-members family to Brody in 1927 from Hungary, where they immigrated to during World War I. My father was a soldier of the Russian Czar then. Following hardships and wandering around in exile, lasting many years, we decided to return to Brody and unite with our family who stayed there. When we returned to Brody we were known as the Madiars [the Magyars, i.e., The Hungarians- MK].
In Brody, my father had to start everything from scratch. It was not easy to settle down and to support a family in a new place. My father was a religious man, and he made sure that his children learn Torah in a Kheder . Our family was an exemplary traditional family. My mother, of blessed memory, was a Yidishe Mameh [Jewish Mother- MK], in the full sense of the word. My father, of blessed memory, was an honest, good natured and loved by all his acquaintances and anybody who knew him. He was a symbol of purity and gentleness, always looking for ways to do favors for others. He sat down to studies for many days, and at the same time dealing in business to support his family with dignity. When we, the children, grew up, we helped with support of the family, in modesty and respectably, as parents like ours deserved.
When I reached the age of 17 I joined a Zionistic youth movement, and was sent to a Hakhshara, in preparation of making Aliyah (immigration to Eretz Israel-RM). My parents objected to it, but gave up when they realized that I was determined in my decision. After completing the Hakhshara I started preparing to make Aliyah immediately. The long awaited day was not late in coming. I was fortunate to have my request to immigrate approved and I immigrated to Israel. From the day my feet touched the Israel's soil, I had only one thought: to bring the rest of the family to Israel. I worked hard in a citrus grove earning 15 grush a day. I saved one mil after the other, until I had enough money to pay for a certificate of immigration issued by the English Mandatory Immigration Department, for my family. I received the long-awaited certificate for my parents and two of my brothers who were below the age of 18. I could not add the other two sisters to the certificate, as they were older than 18.
In the meantime, a third sister made Aliyah as a pioneer. Only that sister and I survived from our entire big family. My parents did not use the certificate because my dear mother, of blessed memory, did not want to leave the two sisters alone in a foreign land, as it was impossible to add them to the certificate. In the meantime, the war broke in 1939 and the Nazis, may their memory be forgotten, murdered them all. I never saw anyone of my family members again. The only thing left as a memory from them is the unused certificate.
While talking about exceptional people, it is impossible not to mention my uncle, Khayim Mordekhai Kharash, who was known in Brody not just as regular person but as a Lamed Vav'nik. This man did more than his ability for the community's neediest. There was not a Sabbath when he did not host one or two
of the town's needy' s guests.
When a needy bride had to get married, and did not have the means to buy her wedding dress, she would find a shelter in Khayim Mordekhai Kharash's house. A lavish wedding would be arranged with tables set sumptuously. All of that was paid by Khayim Mordekhai Kharash, and it wasn't a rare occurrence by him. Everybody in town remembers these events. Khayim Mordekhai did not live for himself. He lived to serve the public. Charities and benevolence were an integral part of the day-to-day life. He really observed the Jewish phrase: Let anyone who is hungry sit down and eat.
His entire family perished, except one daughter who lives in the USA.
by Joseph Kahana
Translated by Moshe Kutten
My late father was born in the town of Stanislavtchik, near Brody, to his father Moshe-Zelig HaKohen. He was orphaned at a young age when his mother passed away, and was sent to study agriculture at a relatively young age. As time passed, he progressed with his studies to the point that he achieved the rank of a farm manager. My mother Etya, may her memory be blessed, was the daughter of David Hersh Patchnik, who was known in Brody and its environs as a Torah scholar and as a devout observant. My mother had four sisters and one brother, all settled in Brody and its surroundings. The youngest of my mother's sisters, Khana (Khan'che), married Betzalel Wilder. They lived in the town of Stanislavtchik and raised one son and six daughters. One of them, Sara, and her husband Yekhiel Shpilka now live in Afula, Israel. They lost their only daughter during the Holocaust and came to Israel with their son who was born in a camp in Germany. The brother of my mother, Mordekhai (Moti) Patchnik, lived the entire time with his family in Brody. He was a man of letters and served as a Gabai [synagogue administrator. MK] in Beit Midrash Betzalel. His youngest daughter made Aliya in 1934 and married Yitzkhak Lamm, a Brody native.
In 1913 my father took the management of the Dembina farm, owned by the famed Graff Chertoriski. The farm was adjacent to the city of Trembowla in the Podolia province, where the whole family moved to, except of my older brother, Khayim Leibish, who stayed behind with my grandfather in Brody, where he continued with his studies. We experienced hard life during the First World War and immediately after it, as the only Jewish family at the big palace of the Graff and its surroundings. In 1919, my father decided, under the persuasion of my mother, to leave the farm and move back to Brody to live near Grandfather. We left on our way back to Brody in March of that year, but regrettably did not find Grandfather alive. He passed away just four days before we arrived. For us, this was a very gloomy beginning. My father bought a house using some of his savings, and the rest of the savings were used by him to deal in trade (in which he did not succeed due to his lack of business sense). The house was located in Ostrovchik Street no. 11, where my parents lived until their last days. My father's spiritual world widened significantly in the city. In the Beit Ha'Midrash (Di Mitelsteh Kloiz - The Middle Kloiz) where he prayed, he found the meaning of his life. He was one of the first people to arrive in the morning and among the last people to leave in the evening. He was observant, truthful, diligent and good-hearted. Those were the reasons why people loved him, may his memory be blessed! My mother was also humble and diligent, composed and limitlessly devoted to the family. May her soul live in memory forever!
We were four brothers in our family. One brother, whose name was Mordekhai, passed away in 1920, when he was only 18 years old. Everybody in Brody called my oldest brother, Khaim Leibish, by his nickname - the Broder-Kind the Child of Brody. Starting in 1919, he owned a textile store called Brink adjacent to the store of Mita Frenkel. In 1932, he closed
the store and started to work at the city hall. He continued with this work until his last years. He lived on Kolejowa Street in a nice house where my sister in-law, Sara, managed a restaurant. They had two children: a beautiful girl by the name of Nuna, whose life was cut short abruptly at the age of 15, and a son named Yosef, also a very cute child. My sister in-law and her two children were taken to Auschwitz and never came back. A few months later, my brother committed suicide. My second brother, Avraham, was a very talented man. He married Hinda Klein (Sapir) from Staro-Brody, where they owned a beautiful house with a wonderful fruit tree grove around it. Avraham worked with the firm of Lustman-Koren, who owned a sawmill in Brody, near the railroad. In 1934, my brother was sent to the Carpathian forests as a wood-expert and he worked there until the Nazi invasion into Poland. My brother, my sister in-law and their three children were subsequently murdered by the Nazis. My wife's sister, Ester (Azhya) married David Khodek from Brestechko. Starting in 1935, they lived in Brody, in the house owned by Holtzager Brink. My brother in-law's brother, Peretz Khodek and his wife Rivka, nee Aperman survived the Holocaust and they live today in Ashkelon, Israel. My wife also had an uncle who lived in Brody. He was the elder Rabbi Avraham Levin who completed the book of Rabbi Steinberg.
The Nazis murdered more than 60 people from my closer family, who lived in Brody and its environs. May their memory be blessed!
by Joseph Ettinger
Translated by Moshe Kutten
Edited by Yocheved Klausner
I am always able to see the image of my mother, Miryam Ettinger nee Goldring, in front of my eyes, short built and full of radiant love for her two children. Her husband, my father R' Shmuel Ettinger, may his memory be blessed, passed away and was taken away from her prematurely. My mother wished to bestow on my sister Liza and I the best material and spiritual values. She had always mentioned her eminent educator, Dr. Herzl, who was a teacher in the local Jewish school and who always aroused in her the love for the Jewish nation. We inherited the love for the Jewish people, the Jewish way of life and the nice and warm attitude toward other people.
My grandfather, R' Shlomo Shmaryahu Goldring, may his memory be blessed, my mother's father, was a man of Torah and good manners. He lived by the phrase: The world is built around three things: Torah, work and charity. Anonymous charity was his main trait. He took care of the city orphans for years. My grandfather raised eleven sons and two daughters, and endowed them with the guidelines for an exemplary self-discipline. Along with that endowment, he always remained a loving and loved father. He is engraved in my memory as a person with his long white beard who maintained a puritan way of life. He would often urge me to accompany him on his way to the great synagogue, where he served as one of the Gabais [synagogue administrator. MK]. He was very proud of his wide branching family. Dressed in his white robe against the lighted candles, his Yom Kippur's blessing of his grandchildren is still ringing in my ears: Always be proud and be a righteous Jew!
My uncle, my father's brother, R' Khayim Ettinger, may his memory be blessed, moved in 1926 with his family from the town of Berestechko to Brody. He was a scholar. He knew his way around the Jewish Talmud like R' Shmuel knew his way around the Babylonian city of Naharde'a. Moral and honest was my uncle, R' Khayim. He contributed significantly to my education and to the shaping of my personality. He won me over with his pleasant manners and his scolding, always directing me to doing good deeds. In 1943, my uncle Khayim was murdered by the Nazis. May his memory be blessed.
Dear people, whose images are etched in my memory, taught me the Torah. I experienced the heavy hand of my teacher, R' Avraham Der Roiter's (red-hair) since the age of three. Fear and horror would get hold of me every time he would approach me with the intention of punishing me with his thumb. Yaakov, the son of the famous butcher in town, R' Melekh Unreich, studied with me in the Kheder. The butcher sported a large belly, which saved him when a bullet lodged in his stomach. Among my prominent teachers, was Nakhum Okser, the father of the city orphans and a dedicated educator. I still keep in my memory his amazing stories drawn from the bible. I would also mention Mr. Arnold Mustzisker, who let me have the honor of feeling the wrath of his strong arm, for which I am actually thankful. There were also my teacher and educator in the elementary school,
Mr. Kalman Henrik, my teacher Shaul Bernshtein, teacher Arye-Leon Sheinholtz who guided me through the mysteries of our religion and Jewish identity, as well as Mr. Keller, my elementary school teacher, an historian who published research articles on the subject of Pan-Europa. I would also mention the principal of the elementary school, Philip Ashkenazi, who was active in the movement for the assimilation of the city Jews and the school treasurer, Mr. Wildholtz, who did not comprehend the meaning of the regime change when the Austrian government was replaced by the Polish one. There was also professor Tchatchkes, who was the religion and Jewish history teacher in the local high-school. He was not fluid in the Polish language and therefore his lectures about historical affairs of our national history drew thunders of laughter among the students.
As far as acquiring a profession, blacksmithing and turnery, is concerned, I need to favorably mention R' Yaakov Lamm who helped me tremendously and with dedication. His sons Avraham and Simkha helped him. I would also mention R' Chone Zinger, the brother of the journalist Mendel Zinger, who taught us English. Thanks to him, my absorption in the British army during World War II was relatively easy.
A whole line of our town people is passing in front of my eyes. I would have wished, if I could, to write a few words for each one of them. Operatives of the Ha'Shomer Hatzair youth movement, and people of ZTG (the Jewish sports organization), with whom I spent most of my free time, are in this procession of images. Those were the days! I loved the walkway of the main street Zlota (Gold Street!). I used to stroll worriless in this street along with other teenagers, feeling healthy in both my body and my soul.
I asked the beautiful, innocent and virtuous Nushka Freed, a member of Ha'Shomer Hatzair movement, to join me on my way eastward, but she preferred to stay with her parents. Like many others, she did not want to believe in the horror stories, which circulated around the town about the cruelty of the Germans. The Nazis and their collaborators the Ukrainians murdered her, her parents, her grandmother and her aunts.
I shall mention many others, only by their names:
Eli Moshe Lehrer the shoemaker and his sons[Page 315]
Yosef Katcher, locksmith, gym teacher and soccer player
Mundek Khutiner, gym teacher
Moshe Reinart, counselor in the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement
Ibah Frider, soccer player
Munyo Frider, soccer player
Khayim-Noakh Shapira, dedicated Melamed [Jewish Torah teacher. MK]
The Schwarzman family, carpenters.
Members of the Perels family, wheat merchants
My friend, Tzadok Gruber, who was killed as a soldier in Ukraine
Khayim Khazan, Mohel
David Sapir, caretaker at the Big Synagogue
R' Aleksander, caretaker at the Big Synagogue
R' Moshe Gliner from the Khevra Kadsiha [the Jewish burial society. MK]
R' Zauber, Talmud teacher and synagogue preacher
Yuma and Leib Hertzberg and their parents
Gershon Eisenberg, mason
Kalmus, pharmacist[Page 316]
Rabbi Yosa'le Popper
Dr. Adolf Yung, physician
Diamant - according to Kalman Hernik, Dr. Diamant told the Gestapo people who came to arrest him: Let go of me and salute! You are standing in front of a captain in army of King Wilhelm the 2nd. The Germans' response was: nevertheless - a Jew.
Schleifer he was nearsighted and threatened to sue anybody who would blow into his ear.
Mendel Parnes his nickname was trenzak (sacks opener), sacks merchant.
Black Papka (Di Shvatze Papka), owner of a prestigious coffee house.
Hozer, owner of a candy store.
Arye Zigelboim, his son Yitzkhak, his brother Eli and their families.
Rabbi Heshel Doner.
Pinkhas Doner, baker
Holtzzager, the registrar of the Brody congregation
Perl Pestes (Perl di langeh 'long Perl) - owner of a popular restaurant
Max Rismak and sons, industrialists
Fox and sons, books.
Waltman, Hebrew teacher
Brestling, calligraphy teacher
Klaper, restaurant owner
Kristiampoler, electrical engineer
Dr. Horn, lawyer
Moshe Zabber (Moshe der krimmer), owner of a horse drawn cart and a poet of rhymes
Chone Kachkeh, owner of a horse drawn cart
Yosef Kahana, water drawer
Minka Fush, sold kosher milk
Polga, sheet metal worker
Dr. Oprecht physician
Lipah Halprin, wealthy affluent merchant, was considered the town's rich man
Shlomo Dishel butcher
Artzi Shorr municipal auxiliary policeman
Dr. Maximilian Hirt, lawyer
Dr. Bernard Lustig, lawyer
Tzimels, orthopedic physician
Nunek Rogovski, violinist
Redziviller, barber and accordion player
Yosef Misit, butcher
Lupateh, bakery owner[Page 317]
Ordentlich (Stochek!)Weiss brothers, butchers
Uri Anshtendig, Melamed
Moshe Shorr, merchant
Khaim Rofeh, paramedic and physician's assistant
Golda Kopika, member of the women Chevra Kadisha (burial society)
Tzoler, paramedic and physician's assistant
Moshe Tantzer, exceptional swimmer who saved me from drowning
Levenshtein, the conductor of the Big Synagogue chorus
Vilner brothers, porters
Naftali Seidenboim, murdered by a Ukrainian
Shvedron, merchant, alcoholic beverages
Ostersetzer, who prayed with a mournful voice at the Big Synagogue
Margarovitz, sheet metal worker
Zilberg, owner of a bicycle repair shop
Masser, sign painter
Noakh Schtok, painter and promoter
Shmuel Kokosh, tailor (last resort)
Mrs. Kanner, seller of stationery
Chinyo Eisenbruch, printing-shop worker
Maness Sapir and his wife Charllota
Akselrod, gravestone engraver
Fitch-Veinschtok, printer and stationery merchant
Dr. Kaplush, municipal physician
Dr. Ambus, lawyer
Avraham Kantor owner of an agricultural machinery shop
Max Kantor, student and painter
Yisrael-Yulek Shvabish, student and soccer player
Tzverdling merchant who would remove his hat when talking to the mayor on the phone
Rubinshtein, producer of ropes
Leib'ele, sheet metal workerAt the end of this multi-colored procession, I would like to turn the attention to Parnes' restaurant on 1 Kalir Street. People from a different world were meeting there, who were not very careful about the integrity of their manners. Many of them had character traits similar to that of Robin Hood.
We had in our town some shady creatures as well, which were dear to my heart and I would like to mention their names:
Motl ShtreicherAll of these people integrated into the Jewish street in Brody, my beloved city, and remained in my memory.
Itzi Boiko and his son Khaskel
Moshe Katolik who converted but returned to his roots a short while later
Dr. Kohen who lost his mind while working on his second doctor degree thesis. He was held in a mental hospital in Lemberg, and when he was released he did not know about World War I.
Itzik Meshko with his dogs
Okah Shilda, who gave birth to a baby boy from the gentile Vasilly
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