by Josef Piwniczni (Nitzani)
This preface is a Yiddish translation of Mosze Siwek's Hebrew preface. It is
translated into English on pages 5-7 (Preface by Moshe Shiveck).
by Moshe Shiveck
Oh that my hand were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I
might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!
Jeremiah, Chapter VIII, Verse 23.
Twenty-five years are gone and past since that terrible, bitter day when the
curtain rose to reveal a spectacle of horrors the likes of which had not been
seen by human eye on the face of this earth. These were shockingly horrible
sights to those of us who had stood outside the conflagration of the Nazi
Holocaust, unable to extend the hand of salvation. And it was like a mocking
dream to those snatched from the burning fire, who found themselves facing an
indifferent world, rejecting them and behaving as though nothing at all had
The years that have passed may, perhaps, have blurred the individual's memory
of the agony and helped to heal his wounds, but we refuse to be consoled about
the calamity, the parents made childless and children made orphans. The further
we are removed from this terrible period, the more strongly are we charged with
remembering and perpetuating the magnitude of our disaster, with infusing the
hearts of our children with a consciousness of the Holocaust if only for the
sake of the generations to come after us.
About a decade ago, we immigrants to Israel from Dąbrowa Górnicza banded
together to establish a memorial to the memory of our Jewish community, which
the hand of the Reaper rose up against during the great Holocaust which
overtook the House of Israel in Poland. We took upon ourselves the sacred
mission of perpetuating the image of Dąbrowa Jewry for the coming generations,
a true image of lights and shadows. As the remnants of the generation which
lived in this fateful age, we deemed it our duty, and a command from our dear
ones who marched, to the furnaces, to recount to the coming generations, as it
is written: And you shall tell your son in the time to come, to
collect fragments of tablets, splinters of creations and memories from the life
of the city and its Jews, to try and shed light on its civic, national,
spiritual, religious, cultural and economic experiences, before they are
swallowed up in the gulf of oblivion.
We did not delude ourselves; we knew that the road would be long and arduous
before we would succeed in making the book materialize from the plan to
reality. We also knew full well that we were not appealing to authors to
recount their memories, but rather to the people who came from our city -
ordinary working people the year around. They might be immersed in their
personal and family cares, but we knew that our fellow-townsmen guard in their
hearts many particulars of utmost importance about our community, its glory and
The command In your blood shall you live! has accompanied us since
we first appeared on the stage of history, but all the preceding pales in the
face of the acts of atrocity and annihilation committed against us by the Nazis.
This book bears witness and testimony to the crimes of the German people, to
the years of oppression, torture and murder of the Jewish community in
Dąbrowa, under conditions of dreadful isolation. These transpired in the
prison of the ghetto and in the death camps, with the active participation of
the Polish people and the indifference of the enlightened and
cultured world to the right and to the left, which knew very well that
the Nazi monster was digging its preying claws into innocent men, women and
children, sucking their blood night and day with Satanic barbarism. These Sons
of Belial trampled with a heavy foot, plundered in broad daylight, strangled
our brothers and raped our sisters until the last capillary of the heart was
cut in cold blood and with a brutal hand. No writer can recount our catastrophe
or enumerate our casualties. The human hand is incapable of describing our
Dear to us are the chapters of glory and heroism recorded by our
fellow-townsmen in their struggle with the oppressor before their holy souls
were carried away in the defense of Israel's honour, which was not desecrated;
so are we deeply moved by the pages of suffering and torment which were dipped
in the blood of our brothers and sisters who were led to their destruction
without ever having heard of the establishment of the State of Israel for the
afflicted people. But the parchment is too short to set down everything in the
columns of this book. What we have done is but a little part, a symbol of the
turbulent period in which the life thread of our community was severed. How
great is our pain that we cannot even perform the true rites of memorial prayer
for the pure souls of the victims of murder in absence of full data on the
names of our loved ones.
Our description of the outstanding personalities of the city does not dim the
glory of the masses who, in their honest simplicity, infused Dąbrowa Jewry
with their down-to-earth nature and character. In this book, neither the
weekday Jew with his Milei D'Alma worldly discourse nor the
Shabbat Jew in his silk caftan with his Milei D'Shmaya discourse
of Heaven will be neglected. The coachmen, the porters, and the drawers of
water have all disappeared and are no more. But their shades walk with us
through each and every line of the hundreds of pages of this book.
In delivering this book to the people of Dąbrowa in Israel and wherever they
may be, we are unveiling the monument which it was incumbent upon us to erect
upon the family grave of our beloved parents, brothers and sisters of Dąbrowa
Górnicza and it is fitting that we construct this monument in the free and
independent State of Israel.
Magnified and sanctified be the name of the Jewish Community of Dąbrowa, and
may He who maketh peace in His high places grant peace unto us, unto our land
unto all the People of Israel. Blessed be the memory of the community.
The book before us
by Juda Londner
Translated by Avi Stavsky
In the year 1955, the Association of Former Residents of Dąbrowa
Górnicza received a missive from the Zagłębie Association in
Melbourne, Australia. This was an invitation from the editors of the
Zagłębie Journal, signed by the members, Mr. Auerbach and Mr.
Fridman, to participate in this project. Several ex-Dąbrowa people
received this invitation and participated on their own, but the Dąbrowa
Former Residents Association did not feel any urgency to respond, despite the
pain and burning annoyance that they themselves had not yet issued their own
Yizkor book, as they [then] lacked the means to do so. It was thought that the
Dąbrowa community deserved its own monument which would tell its story.
These pages in front of us are in fulfillment of this effort.
The book [now] that lies before us went through many birth pangs and struggles.
The target [i.e. objective] was that the Dąbrowa Jewish community would
not forget the slaughter. The suggestion of the Zagłębie Association
in Melbourne, Australia to participate in their book was not seen as a solution
to our effort but [merely] as an aid to theirs.
With the publication of this volume in front of us, it alone speaks for itself.
Its pages will tell the story of the Dąbrowa Jewish community to future
generations. The book will show the justice of [the decision] by those who did
not want to simply be a chapter in the Zagłębie story. To have
acquiesced would truncate an important part of [Dąbrowa's] story and to
deprive forever the lion's share of the Community's life forever and cause its
memory to descend and be forgotten.
The dilemmas about the forms [for this project] began immediately with the
arrival of the first refugees in 1945; Miriam Schrotman Oks and Dwora Rajcht
Oks. From their mouths came the first tidings of the destruction of the Jewish
community and its suffering by the Germans.
The Association of Dąbrowa-Górnicza [Jews] in Israel, at the head
of which was Rabbi Chanoch Gerszon Szpilberg, of blessed memory, founded this
organization in Israel. There was hair-raising evidence presented by those
rescued [persons]. Tears flowed incessantly. Kaddish was said in public [as
well as the] el maleh rachamim. A monument was erected in the Holocaust Cellar
[at Yad Vashem]. But the anger was still unreleased. We searched for a more
concrete, more tangible expression for the pain that was with us. We were
unable to find a definition for the size of this pain because our brains were
unable to cope with the idea of the destruction of an entire community.
The remnants of [other] vibrant cities and communities came out with their own
Yizkor books [and] collected funds for the education of the younger generation
with the help of their brethren in America. A few even began to build cultural
memorials in Israel for the memory of their communities. In their path followed
other communal organizations and saw in the Yizkor book a cerebral expression
for future generations.
Zagłębie, and at its head Będzin, published a thick Yizkor book
under the editorship of Mordechai Hampel and Dawid Liwer. Sosnowiec also sought
to prepare a book, but Dąbrowa remained with its dilemma for nearly
fifteen years. The insult was a burning dearth of solace for those survivors.
The fear that no memorial would be left [as a legacy] was ingrained deeply. The
solution: to be aware of our own plight [and take matters into our own hands].
A lack of faith in our own capabilities, a lack of faith in the generous hearts
of members of our community [and] poor advice thrust upon us about our
inability to handle the huge cost of this undertaking [to the effect] that it
was not possible for the remnants of our community to complete this [project].
In the year 1965, the writer of these lines approached the Association with the
assistance of member Kalman Barkai, in an effort for [to achieve] this book. At
[the meeting of] the Association were: Rabbi Hanoch-Gerszon, of blessed memory,
and members Chaim Grawicer, Efraim Lancner, Josef Piwniczni, Kalman Barkai,
Riwka Barkai, Pinchas Lustiger, Judek Spzigler, Neta Nusbaum and Simchoni. The
author of these lines promulgated a call to write and this was heeded and was
received by all members [then] present. The book received a warm welcome and
support from all the Dąbrowa people within Israel and abroad. It was born
in 1966 at the home of Rabbi Hanoch-Gerszon Szpilberg of blessed memory.
It is hope this book will service [to tell the story of] three communities:
Będzin, Sosnowiec and Dąbrowa [and as a] notebook to
Zagłębie of which they were a part as a witness wave to those
beautiful communities of Zagłębie which were wiped out by the Nazi
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