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Kelme - An Uprooted Tree


The following descriptions are modest accounts about the Jewish community of Kelem a community that once existed and is no more. The idea about writing a book about Kelem was brought up many years ago by Nissan Isserlis, of blessed memory. For that purpose, he gathered material and bits of information from articles, books, and from any source that he could get his hands on. This dream, to publish a pamphlet, or even a book, about the Jews of Kelem was thwarted by his serious illness and untimely death.

When his collected writings on Kelem came into our hands, we saw that they were all arranged according to subject matter relating to the “shtetl” and its rich history of the past.

In writing about Kelem's distant past, we relied on information that we found in books, articles, and various sources, which were also used by Isserlis. The period of the l930's and 1940's and the portions describing the period of the Holocaust and the destruction of the Jews of Kelem, were written exclusively from the personal memories and oral and written testimonies of Jewish Kelmers, survivors of the war.

Described here are scenes of Kelem, its houses and streets, various Jewish occupations, the rich Torah life of the Kelmers, their cultural and political life, some outstanding personalities in the world of Torah and also “just plain Jews”. In the descriptions about Jewish vocational life are interwoven true stories about the fate of other people from various families. These are accounts about miraculous survival or about cruel death at the hands of Lithuanians, collaborators with the Germans.

Brought forward here are personal testimonies by survivors about their survival and miraculous escape from the Nazis. Included also are accounts of survivors who, to our sorrow, have passed away in the meantime. These are the testimonies of Yaakov Zak, Chayah Rose, and Chanan Levin. These were collected at the end of the S. W. W. (1946) and were written down by a Jew named Koniochovsky. This material was discovered by accident by Elkanan Stern at “Yad VaShem” and added to this book. These testimonies describe and back up everything that was written about the murder of the Jewish community of Kelem.

The photographs included herein were taken from the collection of photograph albums of Nissan Isserlis. These photos which show the life of Kelem were collected diligently by him and kept after his death by his wife, Jaffa, of blessed memory, and later by their children, Akiva and Sara.

Our thanks and gratitude goes to them and to all those who helped us and were forthcoming with their memories, such as Yosef Rol, Elchanan Stern, Yitzchak Levinsky, Yoninah Mer, Dora Shapira, the Miasnik family, the Chaluzin family, Hania Meltz, and many others. The accounts and memories of all of the aforementioned are written and documented herein.

We fervently hope that all that is written in these accounts about Jewish Kelem, its glorious past and its tragic end will serve us in perpetuating Kelem's memory in our hearts.

  The Authors  
Ada Marcus-Karabelnik   Bat-Sheva Levitan-Karabelnik

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