by Shmuel Goldner
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
I am too insignificant to write the foreword to the Yizkor Bukh [Memorial Book] of the Krasnik kehile [organized Jewish community] a book whose pages are absorbed with a rich history, simple memories and also remembrances of horrible suffering and pain; pages through whose lines float the holy souls of our city, destroyed by the foe.
With deep trembling vis-à-vis the past, present and future, we approached this great task of publishing a memorial book. We dared and took to the work, which was not easy. We did not have any sources about our kehile from generation to generation, possibly because the majority of the material was lost during the war years, or the important events were never recorded. However, we knew for sure although superficially we did not find anything significant that within the community, the achievements of communal life took shape daily, rich in Torah and in good deeds. The Krasnik community always had a creative life that made it famous throughout the Jewish diaspora. Therefore, there was a stronger pull for many Jews to come and settle in Krasnik.
But our hopes were not disappointed. After taking off its external garb, a rich history of hundreds of years of achievement was revealed a community that recorded magnificent pages in the life of the oldest Jewish communities in Poland. We were not successful in revealing the rich origins of the religious life of hundreds of years ago, despite our turning to various institutions that conduct historical documentation of the communities. Possibly, they could not provide the material because they did not have it.
We did not succeed in finding an expert who could reveal the concealed generations' long religious life in Krasnik, but we know without any doubt that Krasnik was a well organized Jewish community where famous rabbis sat on God's throne. The study of Torah was organized into various groups and philanthropic institutions always carried on their activity there. Krasnik was not known particularly for its great personalities, whose various activities were recorded in Jewish history. The Jewish residents of Krasnik were always working people, plain Jews devoted to their people, simple but devoted with zeal to Mosaic Law and Israel. Therefore, perhaps they did not leave their stamp on history. However, they did not tarnish the name of Israel either. In the course of all the years of the existence of Jewish Krasnik, there were never found, God forbid, idolaters, converts, informers and, also, no assimilated Jews.
We are pleased that the number of survivors from Krasnik is proportionally greater than in other shtetlekh [towns]. This is because the Nazi foe created labor camps on the spot where many Krasnik Jews worked. The majority of the survivors are now in Israel and they have described the frightening era in this book.
These memories bring out descriptions of horror and terror, destruction and pain, blood and tears, hunger and disease, despair and hope, rebellion and strength. Reading this material for the first time and later, the proof sheets, caused sleepless nights and spectral dreams as well as days of going around in despair. These remembrances will certainly leave the strongest impression when read. In bringing forth these memories for future generations and for the shame of the people who murdered us, we fulfilled the mitzvah [commandment] zichor (Remember!).
In this book we collected the descriptions of Krasnik landmanschaft [organization of people from the same town] life throughout the Jewish Diaspora as much as was possible. The living conditions in Krasnik were always difficult and the anxieties about earning a living were great. Therefore, our Jews looked for an asylum in other lands. Emigration from Krasnik was always permitted and our landsleit [people from the same town] in significant numbers can be found in the United States, Brazil and France, where there are well organized and active landmanschaftn. Thanks to the spirit of mutual assistance that always existed among Krasnik Jews, a Krasniker Center was established in Tel Aviv with a beautiful house Heykhl Krasnik [Krasnik Palace or Temple].
The sections of the book, which include articles and pictures that were sent from this country and from abroad, do not reflect in full measure the realities as they are. Their activities are much greater.
The collecting of material lasted over six years. At the beginning, we received them drop by drop. Later it was difficult to respond to the great number of articles and pictures that began to arrive in the editorial office. Of course, more and more was available to be used, but we had to set a limit. Therefore, it was particularly necessary to shorten each article that repeated itself; the same concerning the pictures. The attitude was that each institution is important, that every organization and party must be represented in the book. If something is missing, it is only because the material was not supplied.
We thank all of those who dedicated themselves to this historical publication. We did not rest until we lived to see the publication of this honorable book thanks to the professionalism of the editor, Dovid Sztokfisz. We did everything so that this book would have historical and literary worth. We did not spare any effort or money. If we succeeded the reader will judge. We hope that the judgment will be a favorable one.
by Meir Zylberberg
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
May the idea of writing the history of the destroyed Jewish communities from which we came be blessed; our city, our old home that will always live in our memories. Therefore, it is no wonder that we Krasnikers took upon ourselves this holy task, overcame all difficulties, of which there was no lack, in such a great conscientious work and published this Yizkor [memorial] book about our annihilated community.
This was a holy duty as regards our annihilated families, all of the landsleit [people from the same town] murdered in the ghettos and camps, fallen on the battlefields and in the ranks of the partisans, perished for the freedom and independence of the Land of Israel. This was also a holy duty as regards our ancestors who built Jewish life in Krasnik for hundreds of years, where they lived, struggled, suffered, created. Today we are their only surviving spiritual heirs. Who, if not us, should record the history of these Jews? Who, if not us, should memorialize their stories, their lives and their tragic death for future generations?
We write our history with tears. Our hearts bleed each time, when we revive in our memory the images of our fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, relatives and acquaintances, of those who lay their stamp on Jewish life in our city the rabbis and dayanim [religious judges], the active people in all kinds of groups and societies, the leaders of the party organizations and of the many others who in this way or in other ways were well known. With tears in our eyes we remember the different events that a number of us survived in our young years, or about which we have been told. With a great deal of emotion we remember the joys and suffering, the celebrations and problems, the struggles and spiritual searches, the discussions and conversations with those who were ripped away from us.
The Jewish population in Krasnik was like one big family one of many families in the large Jewish settlement in Poland. But all of this was destroyed.
A Little History
Krasnik was a city with 6,000 Jews. The first Jews came there in the 15th century or perhaps earlier. We find evidence that Jews lived in Poland much earlier, for more than a thousand years, in B. Mark's History of the Jews of Poland. Polish national history began a thousand years ago with the Polish King Mieszko the First, who during his time agreed to the larger emigration of Jews, who came from Spain, Italy and particularly from Germany, where even then they had to endure persecution. In a large number of German cities, Jews, who did not want to adopt the Christian religion, were robbed and murdered. And Jews at that time sought a refuge and found in Poland the country that made it possible for them to become the crown of the Jewish people for a long time.
As for Krasnik, it appears that the first Jews settled there under our well known so-called Laczines mountain because the very old and, perhaps, the first cemetery is found there. (In out time two other cemeteries existed.) We know that for a long time, Jews did not have the right to pass through the city, which at that
time was surrounded by a high wall and closed from both sides with gates. The road to Lublin was found on one side and on the other side the road to the Vistula. How much effort and struggle must the then small community have needed to bring to bear in order to achieve the right to live, to work, to trade, to study and to have a say in the running of the city?
We can imagine that the Jews who settled in Krasnik hundreds of years ago came from Lublin because Lubliner commerce was very well known at that time and Jewish merchants were strongly represented there.
In the later years, we find Jews in and around Krasnik who were employed in work in various trades and were very well-known to the Polish dukes. In general, with the arrival of the Jews in Poland, came the beginning of the revival of various trades that they brought with them from the countries from which they emigrated and in which these trades were already widely developed.
Thus, the Jews in Poland and, therefore, also in Krasnik, became a very important component, and perhaps over a period time, even the most important factor in Polish national development. This can be confirmed by the fact that when the Catholic Church issued provocations against the Jews, King Kazimierz the Great at a certain moment placed them under his support particularly because of the important role played by the Jews in the life of the country.
If we cannot reconstruct the entire history of the Jewish community in Krasnik it is because nothing was written anywhere at that time. We find Jewish names in the archives only starting from the first half of the 16th century for various purchases of houses or land. Here we find that in the year 1539 Jews from Krasnik who lived in their own houses, had to pay their taxes directly to the king. We find recorded that in 1608 a certain Jew with the name Kakhman bought a house in the city from a Christian; that in 1627 Yakov Berel bought a house in Krasnik and in 1633 Izakowicz bought a house in the middle of the market from Sosnowicz.
When the city was still almost at the start of its development, only a market and four streets existed; one of them was a Jewish street. The four streets were named: Koszczelne, Lubelske, Szrednja and Zydowska. However, next to the walls of the city, the Jews already had two squares and 11 houses. Thus, little by little with the arrival of Jews in the city, the place grew into a center of trade and commerce.
Krasnik was also an important center during our time until the Second World War. There was the development of the trade of fruits, grain and eggs that were exported abroad.
Immortalizing Our Community
We, the children of Krasnik, scattered and spread throughout the world feel the duty and responsibility we carry. German Fascism planned to erase the Jewish people. The beginning of the wild plan was realized everywhere that their bloody, murderous hands reached. Six million of our Jewish people perished in the rivers of blood and in clouds of smoke from the crematoria.
We cannot and will not permit time to erase it all. These people should be praised because after their great tragedy, they took pen in hand and wrote about their past, searching for life in every corner of their communities so that nothing and no one who lived and created in our community would, God forbid, be forgotten.
We will thus immortalize our Jewish community that developed so quickly; a community with its rabbis, synagogues, religious schools, various groups, such as: Khevre-Kadishe [burial society], Bikor-Kholim [society to aid the sick], Hachnasas Khalah [organization to assist poor brides], Gmiles-Khesed office [provider of interest-free loans] and the various parties:
all kinds of Zionists, Bundists, communists, worker parties, master craftsmen unions, tenants unions, libraries; dozens of Hasidic shtiblekh [small houses of prayer]: Lubliner, Gerer, Modzitzer, Torbiner and many others; their Jewish scholars, intelligentsia, the various Jewish schools for young boys and for girls, religious and secular, the large and small merchants, the qualified Jewish workers and experts in their trades in general, all good, simple people. We must also remember with particularly great respect the heroism and self-sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of Jewish men and women who fought with weapons in their hands and fell. Jewish partisans also existed in Krasnik. As a symbol and example of them, we must remember the name that every Krasniker knows well: Szmukler a Krasniker Jewish hero. When he was arrested, the Germans ordered their dogs to tear him apart on the spot. Thus fell one of the Jews fighters from Krasnik.
We will also remember that the Jewish partisan group took part in the battle with the Germans at Jozefow. The figure of our fellow townsman, Wolf Wajsbrot, is particularly close to us. He was a young man of 18, sentenced to death by the Germans in Paris.
Honor their memory!
|A street in Krasnik|
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