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[Page 411]

Jews from Kremenets in the World

 

Kremenetsers in Argentina
(A Short Story)

By Itsik Hoykhgelernter (Buenos Aires)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

When we talk about Kremenetsers in Argentina, one cannot determine exactly the years when immigration began. One thing is clear, that in 1880s, Kremenets, like all of Volhynia, was not seized by the emigration mania of the “Baron Hirsch Plan” in Russia and Lithuania. Moreover, when we examine the archive of Jewish colonization in Argentina, we don't find the name of a single Kremenetser.

The first Kremenetsers to make their way to Argentina were: Mikhel Shnitser, Yosef Miler (Mirtse's son), and Khona Etinger's son Mates, around 1910–1912.

With the outbreak of World War I (1914), the first chapter in the drift to Argentina came to a close.

Beginning in the 1920s, when the Polish government began to oppress and pursue the Yiddish population, especially in the annexed territories, the question arose sharply and prominently among the young people, who saw no future and no prospects there.

 

Steering committee of the Landsleit Club of Kremenets and the Surrounding Area in 1965

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But the emigration involved not only young people but also families, so that in 1926 there was already a small group of 60 or 70 people. Understandably, the Kremenetsers, like immigrants from other towns, uprooted from their old homes but not yet citizens of their new land, longed for a comfortable environment, for the warmth and nearness of people like themselves. They lacked a meeting place where people could meet about their daily labors, discuss things, get a bit of advice, or proclaim their nostalgia for what they knew, for the cultural, the work–related, and the musical town of Kremenets.

For these reasons they began to think, and in the house of the Shikhmans, the first organization of countrymen was formed. The chairperson was Yudel Shikhman.

The activities, sadly, were limited and short–lived. Conditions changed: the younger element became more acclimated to their Argentinian surroundings. Others strove to create better economic positions, so the organization did not last long.

Then came the thirties. In Kremenets, as in all of Poland, economic and political conditions became catastrophic. To the shores of Argentina flowed a stream of diverse people, mainly young working people with experience in all sorts of community activities; professional unions, drama clubs, libraries, and cultural institutions, and so our family of Kremenetsers came back to life. The number of townspeople grew from day to day. In 1931 there were at least 300 people, constituting 60–70 families. From our old home came bad news: the jails were overflowing with political prisoners, and they needed help.

 

Active Members of the Kremenets Landsleit Club in Buenos Aires, along with Vyshogorodok and Pochayev Townspeople

[Page 413]

Soon there was a meeting in the home of Neta Zeydel, and they decided to create a committee to help the political detainees. Participating were Neta Zeydel, Barukh Zaytler, Itsik Hoykhgelernter, Yudel Katkovnik, Ester Roytberg, Nison Daniek, A. Goldsher, and A. Shikhman, along with their wives.

Characteristically, even though the Kremenetsers came from different political perspectives, they showed such understanding for their work that the undertakings of the committee were totally attended to. They even formed a mandolin orchestra that presented artistic programs. It was indeed a pleasure to see how the family of Kremenetsers revived and supported their birth city and created the clean mountain air of the “Volhynian Alps,” as Z. Segalovitsh had called them.

So it went for several years, until 1935, when the committee ceased its work because of political conditions in the country. There was an attempt to transform the committee into a Landsleit Club, but it was not possible. The Kremenetsers began to live each for himself. Some of them incorporated Jewish aspects into their secular lives and brought honor to the Kremenetsers in Buenos Aires. This pattern continued until 1946.

In 1945, when the horrifying bloodbath ended and the world conflagration was extinguished, when we began to receive the horrifying news about our people's devastation, the great work to help the remnant of our refugees began in Buenos Aires. A group of landsleit gathered together at the behest of M. Katz and his wife and recreated the Landsleit Club. The instigating group that was chosen by the people included Pinye Tshudnovski, B. Kiperman, Y. Benderski, A. Hoykhgelernter, Y. Katkovnik, and Feyge Kaner.

 

Women's Committee of the Kremenets Landsleit Club in 1963–1964.
X indicates the president, Tsiupe Roytenberg Katz

[Page 414]

They soon organized a project to proclaim the first fundraising campaign and elect a steering committee. The meeting was on October 11, 1946. Elected to the committee were the following: chair–N. Berzovski; secretary–A. Hoykhgelernter; treasurer–Y. Benderski; trustees–Sh. Shpigel, A. Golifman, Y. Tsvik, L. Gondsher, Aronov, P. Tshudnovski, D. Sher. They also collected 12,000 pesos as a start for the continuing great aid effort, which would have to expand.

People were soon in (written) contact with survivors in Poland and concentration camps in Germany and Italy. People did not wait for the establishment of permanent contact with the survivors. The project expanded. In November 1946, a women's committee was established, in which the following were active: Tsiupe Katz, Feyge Tshudnovski, Rose Kiperman, Gitel Katkovnik, Arbit, Reyzel Sher, Nekhe Tshudnovski, and Manye Fishman. At the same time, the following were elected to the steering committee: Menin and Averbukh from Pochayev, and Tshatski and Shulik from Vyshgorodok.

After sending out the first aid and maintaining a list of a significant number of survivors, they were determined to make a number of demands of Paraguay. (The doors of Argentina had been closed.). At the same time, they paid the Joint for 10 ship tickets.

In 1948, our secretary, A. Hoykhgelernter, went as a representative from the Argentine community to the unveiling of a monument to the ghetto fighters in Warsaw. We sent with him a large sum of money, and he was authorized to make contact with Kremenetsers.

 

Some Buenos Aires Kremenetsers at the reception Banquet for Henekh Hoykhgelernter, may peace be upon him; he visited from North America. Next to him is the president of the Landsleit Club, Moshe Pak (right), and the secretary, Tsvi Bernshteyn (left)

[Page 415]

In Bratislava, in our countryman Trastanietski's home, about 40 people gathered. They created an organization of Kremenetsers, to whom Hoykhgelernter transferred the funds. At that time, along with the survivors in Warsaw and Lodz, there were about 60 people.

In Paris our secretary worked with the “Joint,” and they sent our comrade Duvid Matshan to Paraguay and later to Argentina.

The year 1948 was a profitable one for our work. A youth committee, led by M. Katz and Itsik Shikhman, was created in the club. And just as the steering committee strove for greater donations to the state of Israel, so the young people worked for the same cause. In that same year, the first group of survivors whom the club had summoned arrived. As I said, with the rise of Israel, when many of our survivors made their way to Israel, our club directed help toward them and set up a permanent relationship with them…. Later, when such help was no longer necessary, the club turned to local projects. They formed a loan office with the aim of helping needy fellow townspeople, and a greater cultural role was revealed. Among all these projects, they excelled in two receptions: one for the world–famous concert violinist Isaac Stern and the other for our compatriots Avidor Perlmuter from Israel and Yitschak Vaksman, chair of the Kremenets Society in New York. I should also mention the reception for the Israeli ambassador to Argentina, Yosef Avidor, who was Yosef Rokhel in Kremenets. Also, on December 13, 1964, there was a memorial service for the 30th day after the death of R' David Shikhman in Israel.

 

Memorial service for the 30th day after the death of R' Duvid Shikhman, may peace be with him (who died in Israel). By the reader's stand is Cantor Mordekhay Katz–our fellow townsman in Buenos Aires.

[Page 416]

It should be emphasized that parallel to our local activities, we never forgot the bright memory of martyrs. Year in and year out, in August we organized a memorial service where we honored the 14,000 slaughtered and murdered parents, brothers, sisters, and children of Kremenets and its surroundings. Also, in 1954 we planted the “Forest of Kremenets” in Israel in the name of our martyrs.

The activities of the organization–which was later led by M. Pak, and then later by L. Beznovski, and also steering committee members Y. Arbeyt, Menin, Goldsher, M. Katz, Y. Roykh, Sh. Shpigel, Ch. Fayer, Shulik and Rosenberg, Y. Hoykhgelernter, V. Zaltsman, and Y. Benderski–proceeded normally. At that time, there were two initiatives: the first, to publish a Yizkor Book in which our dear town should be eternized for all generations, and also to serve as a memorial for our murdered ones; and the second–to transform the loan office into a credit cooperative, which would strengthen the unity among our compatriots.

Thanks to the great interest that it aroused, our secretary at the time, H. Bernshteyn, established the cooperative under the name “La Esperanza” (The Hope).

As with any beginning, there was little work at first, but it was not long before our compatriot Chayim Mardish took over as chair, and thanks to his enthusiasm, with the help of treasurer Sh. Nodel, the work increased and the cooperative expanded. It also succeeded in realizing the dream of creating a building for the cooperative and club, in which the Kremenetsers could have their spiritual home–their cultural home, in which they could continue the golden chain of their home town. And indeed, in August 1965 they bought their own building, in which both institutions were housed.

 

Some of the founders of the Credit Cooperative “La Esperanza” in the Kremenets Landsleit Club

[Page 417]

On the other hand, the Yizkor Book initiative lagged behind. It went through various versions. First, when our townsman H. Hoykhgelernter came as a guest, at the reception that the club threw for him, he promised that he would help with the work–the work was given a boost, but because of a disagreement among committee members, the work on the Yizkor Book came to a halt.

So the problematic Yizkor Book was in abeyance for several years, until in 1964 another special committee was created and transformed into the steering committee of the club. The reorganization involved the following: Y. Roykh (chair), Y. Fishman (vice–chair), Ch. Nodel (secretary), M. Hoykhgelernter (pro–secretary), Sh. Nodel (treasurer), N. Kiperman (pro–treasurer), Vokaln, Ch. Mardish, Sh. Yergis, A. Shpak, M. Katz, R. Fayer, and A. Galifman.

With renewed strength, and with great interest and enthusiasm, the new steering committee, with the help of the new Women's Committee (which included Tsiupe Katz, Rivke Roykh, Feyga Nodel, Ester Shpak, Feyga Tshudnovski, and Freyda Yergis), the word proceeded, and in only a few months the Yizkor Book went from a dream to a reality–in 1965 the monumental work “Kremenets,” the spiritual memorial, was published, a remembrance of our martyrs, the holy ones of our cultural and hardworking city.

So this is a short history of people from Kremenets and the surrounding villages, and it will surely stimulate our compatriots to bring closer and embrace our unity with warmth, and to enlist our children in our labors, in order to plant our traditions, to pull the golden thread of our community and political leaders, musical and cultural folk, who grew from the cultural outpost of Volhynia, from the cultural, laboring, and singing city of Kremenets.

 

Steering Committee of the Credit Cooperative “La Esperanza” at the Kremenets and the Surrounding Area Club

 

[Page 418]

Survivors in Kremenets

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

We have received a letter from our fellow townsman Yitschak Vakman from New York. The letter is dated July 1965. He sends us a list of the remaining Jews who still live in Kremenets. He received the list in that month directly from Kremenets, from the townsman Yisrael Mandel (Simche Bershtelmakher's son).

The list is as follows:

Yisrael Mandel
Segal from Katerburg
Shapinke, a baker's son
Tevel Fishman, a dental technician
Yasha Landsberg (Dr. Landsberg's son)
Elke Lerer (a doctor in the hospital)
Mendel Senderovitsh (the son of the Petrikov rabbi). He lost his right foot in the war.
There was also a barber, Tsimerman, who died several months ago.
This is the sum total of Jews in our old home.

 

Commission of the Union of Kremenets, Vyshgorodok, and Pochayev in 1965

Seated, from right to left: Chayim Nudel (secretary), Yasha Fishman (vice–president), Yisrael Roykh (president), Yitschak Shpak, and Hartse Golifman
Standing, from right to left: Chayim Fayer, Itsik Hoykhgelernter, Avraham Yergis, Tsiupe Katz, Mordekhay Katz, and Nuta Kiperman

 

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