|A Map of Kobrin|
Returning from a mission to Warsaw, Cracow, Prague and Budapest in 1985, my wife, Anita, and I struggled to deal with the silence we had encountered. The Holocaust had ended, but the powerful and frightening silence of unborn generations remained.
Needing to hear through that silence, we looked through the Holocaust to earlier years when across much of Eastern Europe there were countless vigorous and vital Jewish communities.
Fortunately, after World War II survivors of the Holocaust memorialized the towns and villages in which they had lived by painstakingly recording their recollections of the life that had existed in their communities before the War. These recorded memories are known to us today as Yizkor books. A wonderful anthology of these books, titled From A Ruined Garden, translated and edited by Jack Kugelmass and Jonathan Boyarin, was published in 1983 by Schocken Books. It offers brief yet precious glimpses into a great many Yizkor books, chronicles of a life that no longer exists.
In reading From A Ruined Garden, a fact remarkable to my family emerged. A Yizkor book had been written for Kobrin, the town in Russia from which my father had emigrated in 1918. We searched and found the precious Yizkor book at the YIVO Library in New York. Its treasures, alas, were not immediately available. Its authors had written in scholarly Hebrew. Fortunately the book was also found at the Holocaust Center of Northern California in San Francisco where the critical support of Joel Neuberg, its Executive Director, was obtained. Translators were soon at work.
Four years have passed. A great many people have participated in this endeavor. Today it is possible to read the story of Kobrin in English. I would like to enthusiastically add my thanks to those offered by Joel Neuberg in the pages that follow, and especially to him for his extraordinary patience and scholarship. I offer this labor of love in memory of my father, Harry Wornick (1898-1979), and as a vital link to my sons, Kenneth, Michael and Jonathan, to my father's great grandson who bears his name, and for all future generations who will need to know and understand the Kobrin that is no more.
|Ronald C. Wornick
San Francisco, May 1991
The library of Holocaust Center of Northern California includes nearly 500 yizkor (memorial) books, written by committees of survivors of destroyed European Jewish communities. Written in Hebrew or Yiddish in a conscious effort to maintain some continuity of the culture annihilated by the Nazis, these books were published in very small editions during the forty years after the Holocaust. Individual volumes are to be found in the homes of the survivors and their children, and more and more yizkor book collections have been made in the more than sixty Holocaust centers in the United States and Canada where the books are occasionally examined by readers looking for information about Jewish culture in Europe before World War II. But most of these memorial books remain unexamined because few Americans understand the languages in which they are written.
One of the services offered by the Holocaust Center of Northern California is a search of indexes of tables of contents of memorial books for patrons seeking information about their families and genealogies. Yet many of these books do not have an index and a thorough search would be very difficult. Ronald Wornick's interest in the history and culture of his family and his people has given us the opportunity to bring the story of one community to a wider public. One hundred copies of this translation have been printed and made available to Holocaust centers and libraries in the United States.
I would like to thank Nilli Avidan and Avner Perry for their translation, Fred Landers, and Shari Malkin for their editing, Brad Lakritz of the Bureau of Jewish Education Media Department for help with copying photographs, Louis de Groot and Jack Boas for their help with various aspects of the work, and the many secretaries in Mr. Wornick's office who transcribed tapes. Most importantly, I would like to thank Ronald Wornick for the interest, energy and support that made this work possible.
Written by a committee and translated by a committee forty years later, this translation undoubtedly contains errors. I take responsibility for any errors which remain. Like the authors of the Book of Kobrin. we are acutely conscious of the passing of time and the need to remind the World of what happened to that unique community. We hope this translation will be useful to researchers and inspire them as we have been inspired to learn more about our rich culture and its near destruction.
Holocaust Center of Northern California
This book of tears on the graves of our precious ones rather than scattered by the roads and paths where there is no marker or monument.
We wanted in this book to remember our city of Kobrin, from which we draw our strength and power, faith and vision; to listen to the heroic deeds of the lives of our ancestors through many generations; to remember and to recall to our children and those who come after us the final chapters of the battles our parents withstood and to impress on the memory of those who come after us: remember what Amalek did to you.
These pages distill in writing the great accusation of the Jews against the murderers and against the mad world that stands on our blood.
Not all that we wished is in our hands. The collection is not complete. The story demands completion and expansion. Never the less, the anxiety of passing days urges us to all possible haste in publishing this first edition. We hope another will come from our hands, better and more complete.
We are pleased to offer profound thanks to all who contributed to this book.
|Former Residents of Kobrin at the Memorial Evening, Tel Aviv, 1951|
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