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On the Lanzut Community

by Michael Walzer

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Ever since the overwhelming majority of European Jewry was blotted from the face of the earth by Nazi Germany, attempts have been made to restore the memory of cities and villages and establish a memorial to those beloved Jews who were exterminated with a cruelty never before known in human history. This sacred task is vested primarily in the sons and daughters of those cities who have remained alive. In the book presented here, we, children of Lanzut in Israel and the lands of the Diaspora, have endeavoured to bring our dear ones back to memory by reconstructing the life of Jewish Lanzut as far as we remember it and on the basis of historic documents. This Book of Lanzut has mostly been prepared in Hebrew against the background of life in Israel and in the atmosphere of normality which is characteristic of the State of Israel. It includes a comprehensive section in Yiddish which contains a translation of some of the Hebrew essays; and it also has this English section with endeavours to summarize almost all the material found in the Hebrew.

The volume is the fruit of ant-like work, engaged in for years by a few individuals. They have not spared either their time or their energy in order to gather financial resources and literary and other material on the part of our city, and now present it to readers who themselves come from Lanzut, or to their descendants, as an everlasting memorial. The destruction of Jewish Lanzut has not broken off the succession of generations. May the remaining children of Lanzut be followed by a generation who will preserve its past and ensure that the city will never be forgotten.

 

How Lanzut came about

The city of Lanzut was founded in 1349 by the famous Polish King of Kasimir the Great. He settled German refugees from the town of Landshut in Bavaria, south Germany, at this spot thus giving rise to the name “Lanzut”. Over the centuries the history of the city reflects the history of the nobles who ruled Poland. Many of the regional disputes which affected the city's history derived from various religious Christian schisms. They city passed through wars, burnings, murders and vengeance and, as usual in history, it re-arose again and again from its ruins.

At the end of the 14th century, Lanzut became the seat of Prince Wladislaw Opolski. Early in the 15th century, under the dynasty of the Jagellons, the city became the property of Otto of Pilce. Early in the 16th century, Lanzut was destroyed in a Tartar attack and subsequently, it suffered from the disputes and expulsions of the Dominicans and the Lutherans. In the 17th century, the city was sold to the famous Prince Stanislaw Lubomirski, a pious Catholic who fought against the Tartars and thereafter supported the king of Sweden in the Swedish wars. Finally, Lubomirski was expelled and his estates passed into the hands of his five sons. For a long period, Lanzut was subject to the whims and goodwill of the Lubomirski dynasty until the last of them died in 1783. In 1816 it passed, in accordance with the laws of inheritance, to the Potocki family who set their stamp on its regime and way of life and economy until our times.

 

The Jewish History of Lanzut

There are documents recording the presence of Jews in 1563, some of them descendants of exiles from Spain. During the Lubomirski period, there was a well-organized Jewish community which enjoyed certain privileges and rights. At that time, Jews were permitted to build houses by special warrant. From 1730 onwards, there is a Pinkas or Communal

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Register giving the minutes of meetings held by the leaders of the Jewish Community of Lanzut. The community was then headed by seven Parnassim (Wardens), who were elected during the middle days of the Tabernacles Festival for a period of one year.

The Lanzut community was linked with the Przemysl community within the Council of the District of the Land of Reissen (otherwise known as Ruthenia or Red Russia). During the 17th century, it suffered heavily from Tartar invasions. In the middle of the 18th century, the Jews suffered greatly from the bigoted activities of Bishop Waclaw Syrkowski who imposed a number of restrictions on them. During church processions, they were required to conceal themselves in their houses, to close windows and doors. Those who were in their shops had to stand bareheaded like the Christians. Any who disobeyed this order had their property confiscated and were arrested.

From the 19th century, the Jewish community in Lanzut became economically well established and increased in numbers. In 1865 they numbered 1,200 in a total population of 3,000 while in 1880, they constituted more than 45% of the total population.

As in all the centres of Eastern Europe at that period, the communal affairs of Lanzut were in the hands of the orthodox and the Hassidim who opposed the Haskala (Enlightenment and Rationalist Movement) and endeavoured to prevent it from exerting any influence. By the 1870's, however, Lanzut already had its own notable group of Maskilim. Later, it also became influenced by the spirit of modern times. The young people, who learnt in schools rather than hedarim, brought the spirit of modernity into the life of the community. Relief institutions were established as well as institutions for poor wayfarers.

In 1860, a new graveyard was established in Lanzut. It was the fourth of its kind.

By the 20th century, Lanzut was known as a city of maskilim. The younger generation belonged to all trends and currents. There was a lively Zionist Movement with personalities who set their stamp not only on the local life but some of whom immigrated to other countries where they contributed greatly to the progress and culture of the new Jewish communities.

 

Personalities of the Rabbinical and Hassidic World

In the long history of our city, there were outstanding Rabbis and Hassidim who achieved renown in the Jewry of their periods. Rabbi Moshe Zvi Hirsch Meizlisch served as a Rabbi of Lanzut in the years 1758-1767. Reb Moshe Lipshitz, the son of Reb Judah Leib of Ludmir, followed by his son, Reb Zvi Hirsch Lipshitz, author of the work: “Tiferet Zvi”, was also Lanzut rabbis during the 18th century. They were followed by Reb Moshe ben Itzhal Eisik and Reb Yehiel Michel ben Abraham. From 1777 until 1819, the Rabbi was Reb Aryeh Leibush, author of “Gevurot Aryeh” who was renowned as one of the great saints of his generation.

The story is told that the Rabbi Reb Aryeh Leibush used to visit the Jewish shops in town and check the weights himself in order to ensure that there should be no deception. He safeguarded the moral level of his community, and was popular among Jews and non-Jews alike.

In Lanzut lived Reb Jacob Isaac ben Abraham Eliezer Halevi Hurwitz who was known as “the Seer of Lublin” and was a famed Hassidic figure. He was also known as the “Lanzut Saint”. In his synagogue was a room where he studied and which, for that reason, was afterwards known as the “Lubliner Shuhlechel” (Lublin Chapel). He had a great many Hassidic followers who regularly came to Lanzut in order to visit him.

In the years 1816-1865 the Rabbi of Lanzut was Reb Eliezer ben Reb Zvi Elimelech Shapira of Dynow, author of many significant rabbinical works including: “Bnei Issachar” and “Derech Pikudecha”.

He strengthened the Hassidic influence in the community and exerted a very considerable effect among them. After his passing, his place was taken by his son Reb Simcha. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Rabbi was Reb Mendel Shapira.

 

The Synagogue and House of Study

Like all typical Jewish towns in Poland and Eastern Europe, Lanzut had Hassidic shtibelech (conventicles) and Houses of Prayer. The Synagogue and House of Study were what set their stamp on the daily life of the Jews. The Synagogue was the official representative centre in the respective Jewish communities. The House of Study was intended both for study of the Torah and for prayer. It had a more popular and general character than the

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Synagogue. Naturally there were cities in which the functions of Synagogue and House of Study became identified since they were both often to be found either in the same building or next to one another. That was not the case in Lanzut, however. The national, social and religious life which was fostered for generations by our forefathers and ancestors, the prayers which were offered to the One who dwells on High, the sighs and weeping, the joy and happiness which burst forth from their hearts, all echo in our ears until this day and suffuse the walls of the Lanzut Synagogue which still stands in its place, having been saved from absolute destruction by sheer miracle.

The Lanzut Synagogue is a building going back to the 17th century. It is constructed in Baroque style with an arcade in the form of arched entries resting on pilasters. Within it, it has a number of magnificent candelabra (“spiders”) whose chains are joined by rosettes. During Hitler's war of extermination, the Synagogue was saved by a miracle. The Nazi intended to burn it, heaped benches up within and set them on fire; but it is told that Potocki intervened to save the historic edifice and the Nazi interrupted their destructive activities in the middle. According to legend, the Lanzut Synagogue cannot be harmed. Not only did it serve as a religious and traditional centre of Lanzut Jewry, but it was also the centre of the local national youth revival.

In 1956 eleven years after World War II, the Lanzut Municipality prepared to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the town and resolved to destroy the Synagogue. However, Dr. Wladislaw Balicki vehemently opposed this step and proposed that it should be turned into a Jewish Antiquities Building. He also persuaded the Municipal Council to hold the exhibition marking six centuries of the city within the Synagogue building.

The Synagogue wardens whose names I remember were: Menahem Mendel Sternheim; Hayyim Israel Mond; Joseph Meir Rosmarin; Israel Kishiner (Kesztecher); Isaac Sauerhaft; Naphtali Goldstein; Shlomo Magenheim and Moredechai and Joshua Flashen.

The Lanzut Bet Hamidrash (House of Study) consisted of a building of one tall storey with a women's section and a prayer room for Belz Hassidim. The internal style of the Synagogue resembled that of the usual Bet Hamidrash of the Jews of Eastern Europe in our times. Long tables stood beside the walls on which were carved all kinds of names of children and youngsters who had studied there and next to them were benches as long as the tables. Above the benches were shelves full of all kinds of books, both old and new. In the corner of the Bet Hamidrash stood a big stove warming old Jews as they sat studying the Gemara. Those praying in our Bet Midrash included the late Rabbi Reb Eliezer Shapira. The doors of this building were open day and night to everybody who wished to come and study and to every poor man who came from other cities and could spend the night near the stove. The prayer quorums said their prayer from dawn until noon without interruption. The Bet Hamidrash was a social and public centre for many of the townsfolk. There they studied, there they heard what was going on in the world and within its walls, they dreamt of a better future.

 

Hassidism

In Lanzut, the Hassidic Movement struck deep roots immediately after the passing of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov in the year 1760. The name of Lanzut became a “basic concept” in the Hassidic world of Poland, Russia and the neighbouring territories on account of the outstanding leaders of their age who were to be found there and who drew many Hassidim to the city. A very large number of the Hassidim who came here subsequently became Rabbis elsewhere, beyond the frontiers of the country as well.

 

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Yeshiva Students From right: Eliezer Lipschits and Pinhas Cohen

The saintly Rabbi Elimelech Weissblum (of Lizansk), one of the disciples of Rabbi Dov Ber the Maggid (Preacher) of Mezeritch, lived within twenty-five kilometres of Lanzut. (Lizansk belonged to the Lanzut District). According to Hassidic chronology, Rabbi Elimelech spent some time as

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Rabbi in Lanzut before moving on to Lizansk. The “Seer of Lublin” who lived in Lanzut, was one of his principal disciples. Lanzut was also regarded as a transit city for Hassidim of various currents who passed through. The meetings of these Hassidim left their impression on the city and also on Hassidic history and are on record in Hassidic legends and stories that were widely current among the Jews of Eastern Europe.

Hassidism was a mass movement and many of its outstanding figures emerged from the common people. The Hassidic circles of Lanzut included a number of these rare characters. Among them, mention should be made of Reb Wolf, the Psalm-sayer, a simple Jew who used to recite Psalms day and night. He was famed because in his visions he saw the great Saints of his own and earlier times who conversed with him as a personal friend.

The Hassidic circles established their own “kloizen” (house of prayer) which served as synagogues and meeting places for the Hassidim who followed and believed in a specific Hassidic rabbi. The Hassidic movement fostered the love of song and melody. As a result, there were many good cantors in the city who were very popular among the congregation. There were singers and also “klezmerim” – those folk-musicians of whom many tales are still told. When there was a wedding in Lanzut it was never necessary to invite klezmorim from elsewhere. The town could always provide its own.

Let us mention the names of several of the outstanding “leaders of prayer” in our city. At the Great Synagogue, the Baal Tefilla in our days was Reb Mordechai Flashen. At the High Holidays, Reb Mendel Shapiro would chant the “Mussaf” or Additional prayers while Reb Mordechai chanted the Morning Prayers. The outstanding Baalei Tefilla included Reb Naphtali Lipshitz who is now in America. Others who led the congregation were Reb Itshe Sheyes (Wiener), Reb Sholom Estlein, Reb Joel Lipshitz, Rabbi Alter Wagshal, Reb Israel Shussheim and Reb Zelig Teitelbaum.

In the large Bet Hamidrash, the following took turns in leading the congregation: Reb David Hayeches Wolfman, Rabbi Eliezer Shapiro, Reb Aaron (Weber) the Shohet, Moshe Wart (son-in-law of Reb David Goldman), Moshe Kraut, Reb Judah Jacob Bels, Reb Hayyim Reisner, Reb Simhale Shapiro and Reb Isaac Shohat. The Shofar blowers were: Rabbi Eliezer Shapiro and Reb Jacob Peterseil (Director of Blasts). The Bible lectors were Reb Berish Hirshman, Reb Hayyim Reisner and Reb Israel Drillman.

Singers included: Pinhas Wolfman, Pinhas Carpiol, Abraham Carpiol, Moshe and Joseph Langzam, Baruch Reif, Pinhas Shapir and Abraham Sheinman. Moshe Vered, the son-in-law of David Goldman who was the cantor and slaughterer, also composed tunes and at Simhat Torah used to prepare his own tunes for the prayer “Sissu Vesimchu” (Be glad and rejoice at Simchat Torah). He had a choir of twelve.

 

Cantors

The traditional cantorial music was not held in high esteem by Hassidim who preferred the “Baal Tefilla” or Leader of Prayer. However, the Jews of Lanzut were known to be enthusiastic amateurs of song and were always very fond of good Hazanim (Cantors) who preserved the old Jewish melodies in accordance with the best traditions of Jewish Hazanut (cantor ship).

Let us mention here some of the Hazanim of the past hundred years whose names are still remembered. Hayyim Shapiro, son of Reb Sissu Sofer, was Hazan with a choir in the Synagogue until 1902. Berche Shapiro, who was also known as Berche Hazan; Meir Kerner of Zholkiev who used to wear a high hat during prayers and was a modern Hazan who could also play musical instruments. He went to America and took with him from Lanzut the Meshorer (cantorial assistant) Naphtali Knispel. Yedel Bakon was a Hazan who prayed in a shtreimel (traditional round fur hat of Rabbis and Hassidic Rabbis) and went abroad. Leib Kirshner came from Kishinev in 1912 and organized a large choir in Lanzut. The Hazan Joshua Balsam came from Rozwadow.

 

The Zionist Movement in Lanzut

At first, Zionism was an underground movement in our town. The extremely orthodox groups, it will be remembered, were always opposed to every new idea that emerged among the Jewish youth, for fear that it might lead the youngsters from the right path. The Zionist Movement began in Lanzut in the 19th century with the Maskil (modernist) Isaac Weissman who was the herald of the generation of the Enlightenment in our city.

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Summer camp of Lanzut youngsters in Tarnawka village, 1928

He published essays in the Hebrew periodical press of the time and his discussion in the pages of “Hashhar” made a great impression on his followers and opponents alike. Thereafter, the Haskala circle expanded in the city and the first Zionist Society was established in 1894 under the name “Zion”. Year-by-year, the number of Zionists increased and after the First Zionist Congress in 1897, they no longer hesitated to identify themselves openly as members of an organized Movement.

After the First Congress, the Zionist Movement commenced public propaganda. In those days there were no currents and parties and so a general committee was established headed by Zvi Hirsh Tannenbaum, son of the head of the community, David or Duzhe Tannenbaum, with a group of active members consisting of: Getzel Drucker, Joshua Tannenbaum, Getzel Glanzberg and the devoted and energetic Zionist, Joseph Meir Rosmarin, the vital spirit of the Zionist Movement in Lanzut.

Following the election of Joshua Tannenbaum as chairman of the local committee, activities expanded. The Zionists had to hire quarters from a Christian because no Jewish householder was prepared to hire them a place. At this period, the outstanding and active Zionists were: Shlomo Greenbaum, Mordecai Hitter, Gedalia
Estlein, Schroter, Yitshak Adler, Berel Zissapfel and Abraham Zawada who published a pamphlet entitled: “Waking Up those who slumber” (Mekit Nirdamim) which was recommended by a certain Rabbi on the grounds that the author was an observant Jew. This pamphlet set out to prove that the Return to Zion was a commandment enjoined according to the Torah and that orthodox Jews were duty-bound to support the Zionist idea.

Zionist activities spread far and wife and reached into the Bet Hamidrash and the ordinary Jewish masses. Young men from Lanzut who studied at high schools outside the city, helped to spread the Zionist idea when they came home. Among them were Dolek (Abraham) Drucker, the son of the famed communal worker Getzel Drucker, and the student Aaron Hitter.

When World War I began in 1914

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Zionist activities contracted and were replaced by emergency measures to meet with the needs of the situation. Yet, even before World War I came to the end, the Movement began to expand and grow stronger. The reason for this was a number of Jewish officers in the Austrian army who were enthusiastic Zionists, who openly worked for the Zionist idea and strengthened the local Movement.

In October, 1918, the State of Poland was re-established and included Galicia where Lanzut is to be found. On 14th October, 1918 the Jews demonstrated in accordance with a decision of the Zionist Organization which demanded that the Polish Government should recognize the right of the Jews to return to the Land of Israel and the right to elect organized and recognized Jewish communities. However, the hopes awakened in Polish Jewry by the Balfour Declaration were embittered by the pogroms which were conducted in Polish cities and proved how bitter and evil the fate of the Jews was in foreign lands.

In 1919, the local Zionist Organization was re-organized. A. Spatz was elected chairman; Shlomo Greenbaum, vice-chairman; Abraham Drucker, vice-chairman. Members were: Dr. Leon Markel, Arieh Dishe, Moshe Estlein, Hayyim Trauring, Yehiel Nussbaum, Rosa Perlmutter, Rivka Shapiro, M. Apter and Haya Shiffer. The following were co-opted on behalf of the youth: Eliezer Stempel and Nahman Kestenbaum. At that time, Eliezer Stempel, Michael Rosmarin and Menahem Baumel went to Eretz Israel while Abraham Drucker went abroad to complete his studies.

A powerful Halutz (Pioneer) Movement was organized in our town and was followed by Aliya to Eretz Israel. Among the instructors of the Movement were: A Hitter, E. Stempel, K. Trompeter and Joseph Seifert. Together with the Halutz Aliya to Eretz Israel, hachshara (training) centres were established in Poland and a general Halutz Hachshara point was also set up in Lanzut. In 1925, the following proceeded to Eretz Israel from Lanzut:
Abraham Sheinman, Menahem Anmut, Michael and Bezalel Sternheim, Menahem Stempel, Zvi and Israel Birnbaum, Wolf Katz, Mordechai Paster, Dov Rosmarin and others. With the development and expansion of the Halutz movement, various Zionist youth organizations were established. These were: “Noar Hazioni”, “Young Wizo”, “Bruria” and “Betar”. Until 1930, the Shomer Hatzair was the only youth movement in our town whose members actually proceeded to Eretz Israel. The active members of the Shomer Hatzair group included Michael Walzer who represented the Shomer Hatzair on the local Zionist Committee until he proceeded to Eretz Israel during 1929 and joined the Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz in Ness Ziona. In 1926, David Har, the founder and leader of the Poalei Zion in Lanzut came to the country with his wife and two children and became one of the builders of the Yishuv. Their son Shraga fell for the homeland in one of the Hagana actions. David Har was an active member of the Lanzut Organization until his last day.

The Zionist Movement in Poland underwent grave crises as a result of the changes in that country's regime. The anti-Semitic Movement there brought the Zionist Movement face-to-face with new objectives. In Lanzut, within the framework of the Zionist Youth and cultural movements, new institutions and societies were established such as: “The Zion Library”, the Hashomer Society, the Trumpeldor Sports Association and the Bet Haam. All the Zionist Organizations were exceedingly active including General Zionists, Mizrachi, Poalei Zion, Revisionists, Hashomer Hatzair, Freiheit, Akiva, Bnei Zion, the Zionist Youth, Beruria and Betar. In those last days of Polish Jewry, the Zionist Movement in our town was headed by Dr. A. Drucker who was slain during World War II by Hitler's henchmen together with his active comrades.

 

The Poalei Zion Movement

The first branch of the Poalei Zion in Lanzut was established in 1918 with the following committee: Hirsch Yasem, chairman; David Har, secretary; Naphtali Laufban, Moshe Zucker and others. The immediate cause for the establishment of the organization was the attack on Jews by Polish anti-Semites.

The Zionist Jewish youth reached the conclusion that it was necessary to proceed to Eretz Israel and the Poalei Zion took steps to carry out this idea. Those were years of change and crystallization in liberated Poland. Many Lanzut Jews whose livings depended on the Potocki estates found themselves facing a vacuum. It was necessary to organize enterprises in order to ease Jewish distress. The Poalei Zion set up a co-operative consumers' store and also began to engage in popular education activities and

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national enlightenment. Many and varied cultural programmes were regularly presented.

By 1920, the Poalei Zion Movement was already a significant factor in town. The branch activities were centred round large premises. The members Israel Zucker, Moshe Har, Israel Keszecher, Laizer Popiol, Eliezer Gelber, Sheindel Kesztecher and Joseph Har worked hard and were the vital spirits of the movement. A dramatic circle was established and its members evinced considerable artistic talent. They included: Esther Wolf, Tzivia Tuchfeld, Kalman Teitelbaum, Deborah Sauer, Feige Har, Wolf Guttman, Moshe Har and Gitsche Yasem.

 

“Freiheit – Dror”

Thanks to the Poalei Zion Movement in Lanzut, a Jewish youth movement was established in the town in 1929. This was the popular Youth Movement Freiheit. The founders of the branch were: Moshe Har and his comrades Sheindel Keszecher (Frieder), Gitsche Yasem (Har), Shlomo Levady (Yasem) and Zeinwill Levadi (Yasem).

The Jewish Youth in Poland reacted to the Palestine disturbances in 1929 and the economic and political crisis which Polish Jewry underwent by a call to immigrate and fulfil themselves in Eretz Israel. This call was also voiced by the Freiheit members in Lanzut. In 1930, a group of Freiheit haluztim proceeded to hachshara (training) for pioneer activity took first place among the members.

They played a big part in all measures on behalf of “Labour Eretz Israel” for cultural and sports activities, setting up the “Kraft” and “Hapoel” groups.

 

The Mizrachi and Young Mizrachi

The religious section of Polish Jewry never accepted the secularist general Zionism on the one hand, while the ultra-orthodox section of Jewry was opposed to the Zionist idea as such. In response to their Jewish national needs, however, the religious Zionist Mizrachi and Young Mizrachi Movements were organized thanks to the inspiration of outstanding rabbis and religious and spiritual leaders.

The Zionist Religious Movement in Lanzut developed under the influence of Reb Anshel Katz, an outstanding scholar and sage. In 1919, Rabbi Rapoport of Yendziyov visited Lanzut and delivered an address in the Bet Hamidrash calling on people to join the Mizrachi. His call bore fruit and the Mizrachi Movement was set up with Reb Anshel Katz as its first secretary. The chairman was Reb Getzel Drucker while the committee members were: Elimelech Perlmutter, Hayyim Wolkenfed, Benjamin Greizman and Moshe Halperin.

In 1920, Reb Anshel Katz was elected chairman of the branch with the following committee: Reb Yehiel Nussbaum, vice-chairman; Aaron Mushel, secretary; the late Reb Joshua Frei; Reb Gedalia Engelberg; the late Reb Leibish Melon; the late Reb Gedalia Estlein; the late Reb Elijah Reich; and the late Reb Aaron Wolkenfeld.

The Misrachi exerted a great influence on the religious youth, and many of the Bet Hamidrash habitués joined the Movement. Reb Anshel established a branch of “Torah Ve'Avodah” (Torah and Work) and conducted study in various religious classics every evening. Under his influence, Moshe Friedman and Eliahu Reich proceeded to hachshara within the frame of the “Halutz Hamisrachi”. The active' members of the Young Mizrachi included Moshe Kneller who is now in Antwerp, where he is assistant chairman and general secretary of the Mizrachi and Hapoel Hamizrachi.

The living spirit in the Young Mizrachi was the late Isaac Katz, son of Reb Anshel and member of Kfar Etzion who met a heroic death among the heroes of the Etzion Block in the course of the Israel War of Liberation. With the aid of Moshe Kneller, the young Isaac set up “Hashomer Hadati” in Lanzut and together with the late Shalom Karniel (Treller), established the unit of Religious Pioneer Youth. The Mizrachi premises were in the house of Joshua Wasserstein and subsequently in the Bet Haam. Mizrachi leaders and workers who regularly visited Lanzut included the scholars and outstanding speakers Dr. Abraham Gottesdiener and Rabbi Maimon.

After Reb Anshel Katz proceeded to Eretz Israel, Yehiel Nussbaum headed the branch and Kneller became secretary together with Joshua Frei who became chairman of the Torah Ve'Avodah Movement.

 

Agudat Israel

Agudat Israel, generally referred to as “The Aguda” was a religious movement which in its early stages was far from all matters of organization and politics. In the course of time, the Aguda accepted the idea of settlement in Eretz Israel, established its

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Young Agudat Israel members, 1932
Seated from right: Yeheskel Bogen, Feivel Adolf, Moshe Rosenberg, Veivel Shapiro
Standing from right: Joel Puderbeitel, Nissan Koenig, Mendel Vaxman, Simha Greener, Moshe Kneller and Simha Sapier

own training centres and sent Aguda halutzim to the country.

The Chairman of the Aguda branch in Lanzut was Reb Feibish Adolf. The members used to meet in his home where they were chiefly engaged in joint study of the Talmud. In the course of time, the Aguda established a number of aid and relief institutions: A Gemilut Hesed Fund, Bikkur Holim (society for visiting the Sick), and a Hevrat Eshel (Board and Lodging society). During the 30's when the Eretz Israel spirit began to penetrate the Aguda fortress, and particularly their youth, an Aguda training point was set up in Lanzut. Many of the householders provided work for these halutzim including: Reb Zelig Kerner, Reb Meir Estlein, Ephraim Krantzler and others.

 

Hashomer Hatzair

The Shomer Hatzair branch in Lanzut was established in 1919 on the initiative of Issachar Reiss, born in Lwow and brother-in-law of the advocate Leon Markel. He reached us from Vienna where he had studied at the Hebrew Teachers' Seminary and was one of the founders of Hashomer Hatzair. The latter was the pioneer Zionist Youth Movement in our city.

Many of the adolescents who had previously aimed at assimilation or simply having a good time, came to the conclusion that the only solution for the Jewish people was their restoration to their own country, Eretz Israel. Against the background, the Pioneer Youth Movement came into being and first and foremost, Hashomer Hatzair whose members included the intellectual and pioneer young people of Polish Jewry.

The Hashomer Hatzair Movement in our city educated a whole generation of young pioneers who fulfilled the Zionist command in Eretz Israel and continued in this work until the destruction of Polish Jewry.

 

Akiba Zionist Youth

This began in the Zionist Youth Group of 1929. Its vital spirit was Nahman Kestenbaum and his assistant, Dr. Edward Maurer, Magister Joshua Kneppel, Kalman Wolkenfeld and Isaac Greenbaum. The membership rose to 150 and included student

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and working youth who organized themselves in the following groups: Hatikva, Devora, Shoshana, Yehudit. Their instructors were: N. Kenstenbaum, Kalman, Wolkenfeld, David Fast, Rachel Sapir, Jacob Derfler, Haya Katz (Steiman) and Samuel Greizman. Their branch was full of cultural and educational activity. Groups studied Hebrew, Jewish History, Bible and Eretz Israel geography. Oneg Shabat gatherings were also held. In order to prepare to be halutzim and proceed to Eretz Israel, the Akiva members went to hachshara units in Cracow, Katowitz, Warsaw and elsewhere.

In 1933, Shmuel Greisman, David Fast, Penina Yust, Bluma Kornblau, Gedalia Estlein and Joseph Margenheim came to Eretz Israel as halutzim.

The members of Akiva were educated in accordance with the value of Hebrew and Jewish culture and in the light of the vision of the rebuilt Eretz Israel. This education helped to shape the character of many one-time members who succeeded in arriving here before the extermination and are now living in the State of Israel.

 

Zionist Cultural and Educational Institutions

The growth of the Zionist Movement in our city and the organization of Zionist Youth Movement led to an expansion of educational and cultural activity which rapidly became the primary field in preparing and training the new Zionist generation. The young people realised from the first that they had to improve their knowledge of the Hebrew language in every way possible. A Hebrew school was established together with libraries and various circles.

Lanzut was known as a city of maskilim and Jewish scholars. The form of education expressed the aims of each particular generation. Earlier, when the overwhelming majority was exceedingly pious and observant, the traditional Heder was the basis for the education of the youngsters. From it, they proceeded along the educational ladder to the Bet Hamidrash and the Yeshiva which engaged almost entirely in the study of the Talmud and the related traditional literature. Only a small part of the young Jews went to the general secular educational institutions where they acquired a general education. Some individuals continued their studies outside the town and even outside the country.

In due course these helped to bring into being an enlightened generation educated in the national and general culture. When Zionism came they were the first to spread the Zionist idea among Jewry at large.

 

Education in Lanzut

During the first half of the 19th century, the language of instruction in the Lanzut schools was German. There were only a few pupils and there was no compulsory education. In 1864, a school was opened by monks and in the course of time became a general school. B. Zardecki, the Polish educationalist did a great deal for education and the establishment of schools there including the Sienkiewicz Gymnasium.

The Jewish school in Lanzut was established on the initiative of parents who sent their sons to the Municipal Gymnasium and wished to make sure that they also had a Hebrew education. This Hebrew school, which was established with the assistance of the West Galician “Tarbut”, was regarded as one of the best in the region. Those who helped to bring it about were: Shimon Rosenblitt, chairman of the Committee and Yehiel Nussbaum. The Committee members were: Yehiel Nussbaum, David Yust, Shlomo Greenbaum and Anshel Katz. The Hebrew teachers at the Yavneh School included Nathan Wahrhaftig, our outstanding teacher, a rare scholar and exceptional pedagogue who spoke nothing but Hebrew; the teacher Kahana who had been working as a “Hebrew teacher” as early as 1913; Alter Graubar who had a rabbinical diploma, A. Lederman of Czortkow who was also active in the “Ivria” Society and used to lecture and speak in public, and the teacher Zeinvel Hammersfeld.

A Bet Yaakov Hebrew School for girls was established in 1931.

It should be noted that the Jews were 30% of the1400 pupils at the general elementary school. There were few Jewish pupils at the Gymnasium in our town. They adapted themselves only with difficulty to the conditions of study there as classes were held on Sabbaths during the hours of prayer and synagogue. Here mention should be made of Professor Dr. Koller who passed away in Israel in 1955. His son is a lecturer at the Hebrew University. Dr. Nathan Kudish, one of the editors of this volume, studied at the Gymnasium and was also a “private” teacher of Hebrew. He came to Eretz Israel in 1934, is now headmaster of the Bar-Cochba School in Tel-Aviv and is known for his essays on education and pedagogics. The first Jewish pupils

[Page XXVI]

at the gymnasium included: Moshe Stecher, Leon Rubin of Kolbaszow, both in the U.S.A. David and Itshi Rosenbach, Joshua Kesten and several students from Borszczow and Buczacz.

 

The Neurim Library

The Neurim Library was born in the Lanzut Hebrew School whose life and activities were not restricted to study alone. The pupils of the Hebrew School quickly became a group who devoted their attention to the complete range of independent Hebrew education. Under the influence of the educationalist Nathan Wahrhaftig, they established the first Hebrew Library which served its purposes in educating generations of young Hebrew readers. The need of finding their own means of Hebrew expression led to the foundation of the Hebrew Theatre in Lanzut which transformed a group of young amateurs into Hebrew actors. The first financial step taken to establish the Hebrew Library came with the performance of “Hatemura” (The Exchange) which was produced by Nahman Kestenbaum. The cast consisted of: Henya Greisman, Michael Walzer, David Trompeter, Israel and Esther Yust and others. This successful performance led to others such as: “Ahasverus”, “Moses” and other plays. The proceeds were used to purchase books for the Neurim Library. The first bookcase was prepared by Mordechai Paster (who passed away in Israel). The library soon owned more than five hundred volumes which were loaned twice a week to young folk and adults alike. Among those who devoted themselves to the Neurim Library, mention should be made of Zvi Sauerhaft, Moshe Rosenblitt and Isaac Greenbaum, grandson of the Maskil and Hebrew writer, Isaac Weissman.

 

The Daat “Wiedza” Library

The aspiration towards enlightenment and knowledge on the part of the youngsters studying at the elementary schools led to the establishment of a library which served the school youngsters. It provided books of value both for study and literature for the ordinary youngsters who were also full of thirst for knowledge. This new cultural enterprise was of great benefit to the young Jews of the city. The library was housed in the home of Mrs. Ebner and her son Sever served as voluntary librarian. A library Committee constantly laboured to improve and expand it.

 

The Hazamir Musical Society

The Hazamir Orchestra in Lanzut was part and parcel of the life of our city between the two World Wars. It made appearances in other Galician towns. Its musicians and accompanists in their special costumes with their hats striped blue and white brought the Zionist spirit to every place they visited.

The establishment of Hazamir goes back to the year 1914 when it was founded by Zvi Ramer, Berek Landau, Arieh Stitzel, David Har, Eli Belfer and Abraham Sheinman.

Its only appearance at that time was on the 20th Tammuz at the Memorial Meeting for Dr. Herzl. Those who remember that performance will also doubtless remember how the orchestra with difficulty succeeded in playing the songs: “Al Em Haderech”, “Hushu Ahim Hushu” and “Hatikva”. The rabbi, Eliezer Shapira, intended to proclaim a herem (excommunication) on the entire Society because boys and girls came together in it. World War I interrupted its activities, together with the dispute about it.

In 1919, The Orchestra renewed its activities together with new members. During that year Moshe Feilshuss, a gifted trumpeter, came to Lanzut. He had been a First Soloist in the Paris Orchestra thanks to which fat he had been spared internment during the war. He joined Hazamir, acted as its conductor for many years and raised an entire generation of pupils: the brothers Trompeter (two of whom play in the Orchestra here in Israel); Marcel Spatz; Zeinwill Levadi; Michael Walzer; Arieh Wiener; Abraham Margel and others. Until 1921, it was an exclusively String Orchestra but afterwards it became a wind orchestra thanks to the initiative of Moshe Feilshuss and Shimon Wolkenfeld. The Orchestra commenced activities with seven players but by 1924, there were 37 besides dozens of pupils and students.

One of the first performances of the Orchestra was at the Berger Theatre in Reisha when Peretz' play: “Shalosh Matanot” (The Three Gifts) was presented.

Hazamir appeared in most of the towns of Galicia under the batons of Feilshuss, Wolkenfeld, Zvi Ramer and Sheinman.

Hazamir was faithful to its function and mission. It was established for the Jewish population and appeared free of charge whenever called on in order to bring aid and benefit to those in need,

[Page XXVII]

including charitable institutions and societies supporting the poor and the sick. Any fees that it received were devoted to the purchase of musical instruments.

 

The Dramatic Circle

The absence of a suitable hall for performances was a serious obstacle in the development of local cultural life. For this reason, only second-rate theatrical troupes visited Lanzut. A Dramatic Circle was therefore founded with the purpose of interesting the Jewish population in dramatic literature and also raising money for the erection of a Bet Haam or Peoples' Forum. The Circle included not only persons possessing dramatic talent but also active workers in the field of culture.

The circle began by performing short plays in the small hall of the community above the Mikveh in the bathhouse. In view of the opposition of observant groups, the circle moved to a forsaken warehouse which they repaired for the purpose. From there, they moved on to the quarters of the Poalei Zion and subsequently continued their performances in the Polish hall “Gwiazda” at a high rental.

After the erection of the Bet Haam, which attracted important theatrical companies to Lanzut, the local Dramatic Circle also had to adapt itself to the good tastes of the public and presented choice and outstanding plays.

 

Bet Haam

It may be said that the Lanzut Bet Haam was the swan song of the nationally-minded Jewish public in that city. It was the leading undertaking of the local Jews and the youthful generation during the last decade of the community's existence. The Bet Haam brought hope and faith to the younger generation, who said the “Shehechyanu” blessing over it, but were not privileged to enjoy it long….

The Bet Haam was inaugurated at Hanukka 1930. Notables present included: Count Alfred Potocki, District Governor, the Mayor, a representative of the Army, representatives of the Courts and the Post and representatives of the Zionist Organization in Cracow and Lwow. The opening ceremonies ended with a large party. The Bet Haam building, which cost ten thousand dollars, symbolized the strong will and boundless faith of poverty-stricken Lanzut Jewry and their fervent younger generation, in the vitality and permanence of the community. Funds for the purpose were recruited from the real facts of the situation, and the sheer necessities involved. The initial encouragement for erecting the Bet Haam was brought by Mr. Friedrich of America when he visited Lanzut. The “Lanzut Townsfolk Association in the United States” sent five hundred dollars for the “Hebrew School” which served as a basis for the erection of Bet Haam. At that time, there was already a Committee for the erection of the Bet Haam headed by Engineer A. Spatz as chairman, Laiser Fass, secretary, Pinhas Zwiebel, treasurer and Moshe Feilshuss, Gittel Sheinman, Dr. Lotringer and his wife Ida, Anshel Katz, Dr. Leon Markel, Oster and Rachel Anmut as members.

The Committee commenced its activities with a large-scale contribution campaign beginning with a “Bricks Undertaking”. Building commenced in 1929. It was not easy to raise funds for some Jewish circles in the town were not at all interested in it. But mention should be made of the generous assistance of the noble Count Potocki who contributed the roof.

The opening of the Bet Haam seemed to change the entire face of our city. The Zionist awakening increased and spread. Performances and evening parties were held there and it served Zionist activities in the city.

After only a few years, heavy clouds began to gather over the life of Polish Jews and damped the enthusiasm of our people. Anti-Semitism and Nazism left their mark on Jewish economic and public life throughout the country. This gloom did not cease until the final catastrophe which consumed all European Jewry after the outbreak of the War.

 

Heroes of Israel from Lanzut

Michael Sternheim, a rare and most devoted Halutz. He spent most of his life facing grave danger. From his arrival in Eretz Israel, he undertook defence and security activities. He died a hero's death while serving in the British Army during World War II, meeting his death in the famous Company 462 which set out by ship from Alexandria to Malta and was sunk. He drowned together with another 138 members of the company. Michael was born in Lanzut in 1905. During World War I he lost his father, who died of typhoid in a military hospital. At a very youthful age, he began

[Page XXVIII]

to work and during the 30's wandered all over Poland until he joined the Hehalutz. He arrived in Eretz Israel with the Fourth Aliya. As early as 1936, he joined the police and served in the Arab district of Beth Shean. Subsequently, he joined a kibbutz and quickly found his way to a life of danger and heroism, joining the Transjordan Frontier Force which was exclusively Arab and was run by Circassian and British officers. After various changes and wanderings, he returned to regular work and once again engaged in the field of watchman ship and security. When World War II broke out, it was perfectly obvious to Michael Sternheim that his place was on the front lines. He swiftly made his mark in the army. The Jewish soldiers of his unit used to say: “We aren't afraid as long as Michael is with us”. But he found his death in the most difficult days of the war for the Allies, while hastening to the relief of Malta.

Shraga Har was born to his parents Zipporah and David Har in Lanzut in 1922 and was brought by them to Eretz Israel at the age of six. He went to school in Tel-Aviv and by the age of fourteen was already a member of the Hagana. He was an instructor and a daring fighter. He fell on 22nd February, 1948 in the battle of Sarona, together with his comrade Arieh Kesselman.

Asher Shleifstein fell on April 7th, 1945 in the very final stages of World War II. He was a member of the first unit that fought near “Dempsey” in the last conflict between the unit and the Germans. Shleifstein was a signaller and was hit by a burst of bullets. He was born in Lanzut in 1919 and educated in Germany, coming to Eretz Israel in 1934. In 1936 he joined the Supernumerary Police and joined the Army in 1940.

David Kesztecher (Kez) fell on April 22, 1948 in the battle for Haifa when he already had the rank of Seren (Captain). The Army camp near Haifa bears his name. He was born in 1924 to his parents Rivka and Ephraim Fishel and came to Eretz Israel with them in 1934. He studied at the Bialik Gymnasium in Haifa and was already active in the Hagana in 1939. At first, he served in the communications unit and after completing courses and distinguishing himself, he mounted the ladder of rank. He participated in the founding of the Gadna and was the director of a department. In 1947, he was admitted as a student at the Haifa Technion. However, the struggle that preceded the establishment of the State of Israel consumed all his time and energy. He fell in the daring battle for the city of Haifa and did not live to hear the bells of victory which proclaimed the conquest of the city after that battle.

Zvi Goldblatt was born to his parents Samuel and Rachel in 1909. In 1914 his parents moved to Dombrovo. In 1931 he came to Eretz Israel, joined the Hagana and in the years 1936-39 volunteered to patrol the Tel-Aviv-Jaffa boundaries. Upon the outbreak of the War of Liberation, he was appointed one of the defenders of Jerusalem who forced the way to it. He fell on October 21, 1948 at Deir Abu Tor.

Isaac Katz fell in the battle of Kfar Etzion during the War of Liberation in 1948. Born in Lanzut in 1917, his father Anshel Katz was one of the choicest figures of the romantic Zionist period in our city. Isaac came to Eretz Israel with his parent in 1936 and took the way of fulfilment and vision. He continued the tradition of his parents in his synthesis of religion and nationalism, joining the Hapoel Hamizrachi religious groups of settlers. At first, he lived in Kfar Pines and afterwards in Kfar Etzion kibbutz which lay in the hostile and blood-stained region between Bethlehem and Hebron. He was one of the liveliest young men and most daring fighters of the religious camp.

 

Lanzut Personalities

Getzel Drucker. One of the most esteemed figures of our city, an outstanding maskil who combined faith, tradition and enlightenment in his own person. Prior to the Zionist representatives in official institutions, he represented the Jewish public on the Municipal Council and was a leader of the community. He never engaged in chicanery or unworthy methods of appeal and represented them honourably and fairly. He was one of the first active Zionists in Lanzut; chairman of the local Keren Hayesod, enthusiastic supporter of the Hebrew school and the accepted arbitrator between Zionist and orthodox circles. Exceedingly modest, he was one of the faithful leaders of our community.

Engineer Abraham Spatz. At Zionist meetings, his regular slogan was: “If I am a Zionist, - then I am one under all conditions”. For many years, he was Chairman of the Zionist Organization in the town, a member of the Community Council and its

[Page XXIX]

temporary chairman. His Zionist activity was marked by devoted simplicity. The Zionist youth revered him for his idealism and purity of character. He was tortured and murdered by the Nazi together with the rest of the congregation.

Zvi Ramer. Even before World War I, Zvi Ramer joined the Zionist ranks and was a member of the Ahavat Zion Society. He organized a musical group which was the foundation of the famous Hazamir. During the War, he fled to Russia saving himself from the Nazi murderers but perished alone somewhere in the wastes of Siberia.

Shlomo Greenbaum. He began as an enthusiastic Hassid and used to tell how he would hang himself up by his girdle at the Court of the Rabbi of Alexander in order to see the lustre of his rabbi. In Lanzut, he became an active member of the local Zionist Committee. During World War II, he was forced to become a member of the Judenrat and was compelled to provide workers for forced labour. With head raised high, he guarded the honour and lives of the Jews as best he could until he was arrested and shot in the Jaroslav Prison.

David Yust was a watchmaker – a wise and enlightened man. His home was a centre for lovers of Haskala and Zionism in Lanzut. He endeavoured to proceed to Eretz Israel but could not do so. Until the outbreak of the war, he was a member of the Community Council. His letters to Eretz Israel were filled with longing and yearning. “What is the news with you? What do your papers write?” His only interest was what was said and done in Eretz Israel, as though that land were the centre of his entire world. He vanished during the wanderings of the War period and his grave is unknown.

Yehiel Nussbaum. An active member of Mizrachi. During the war he took the wanderer's staff in hand, set out and reached Samarkand in central Asia where he died and was buried.

Moshe Flashen also died in Samarkand. It was said that he was born at the same time and under the same constellation as Count Potocki for he was born in Lanzut in 1886. He regarded the bakery which he managed as an incidental affair in his life. He was good-natured and thought only of how to help his people. About three years before the outbreak of the war he was elected to the Community Council where he proved to be a reliable support for all who were in need or in distress.

Michael Rosmarin almost succeeded in living in Eretz Israel. He was one of the first to come here after World War I but could not find his place and therefore returned. He went back to his Zionist activities and was one of the most gifted actors in the dramatic group. He perished together with all the others.

Moshe Feilshuss, a conductor of Hazamir. A popular and courteous person with great musical gifts and was active in the Zionist Movement. He was murdered together with his family.

Shimon Wolkenfeld saw to it that there were double musical instruments for Hazamir. He obtained instruments for the orchestra, made it his business to provide reserves and was an expert at discovering young musical talents. After joining the Revisionist Party, he established a Revisionist branch in Lanzut. He was murdered during one of the Lanzut actions.

Laizer Fass. One of the veteran members of the local Zionist Committee with a model sense of public voluntary service. He was the secretary of the Bet Hamm. His wife Rivka née Bot used to help him in his public activities. They met their end together with their good comrades.

 

Mosaic

You might almost suppose it to be the same world – vast and fascinating and heartening with all its people – those millions and hundreds of millions and the little twinkling stars – how vast they all are.

Yet, if we lower our eyes for a moment we can see ourselves, our own image; the earth in its various shades of blackness and all its little stones and pebbles: the houses, the Jews, the children and the old folk – Lanzut.

A city of dreams….
Was it nothing more than a dream?

* * * * *

First there was Torah. The Synagogue, the House of Study, prayers, commandments and good deeds, societies; “Welcoming Travellers”, “Visiting the Sick”, “Aid for the Needy”, “Supporters of the Poor”, “Free loans”, “Talmud Torah”.

Sabbath. The town is still. A sermon at the synagogue. Societies and groups studying together.

Summer and winter and summer: Twilight and May moon. A fine rain dripping on the light dust covering the roadway. The scent of lilac spreading

[Page XXX]

through the air. In the distance Polish girls can be seen wearing their coloured kerchiefs as they walk together from church. Young fellows strolling through the meadows outside the town itself. Dreaming eyes. In the town itself, everything dashes forward as usual. Jews are seeking a living and have plenty to worry about. Who can pay attention to the scent spreading through the air and intoxicating young hearts?

Potocki's coach passes, harnessed to six horses. His attendant sitting behind sounding a horn which is as long as the whole coach itself, to inform all and sundry that a great lord is passing by. Everybody moves aside in genuine affection. Potocki's rule is not oppressive. It is a link between him and the local population. Jews and Gentiles alike. He is an enlightened man.

And, not to be mentioned in the same breath – the House of Study. Lads sitting beside the long wooden tables. Here and there are lecterns and reading stands as in the famous Yeshivot. If you wanted to make a sketch of Bialik's “Matmid” you would just have to find one of these Beth Hamidrash lads standing against his lectern with his eyes tightly shut, body leaning forward and filled with dream.

Yet, it is the same reality of the House of Study, the same dreaming lads immersed in their distant worlds: the Beth Hamidrash lads.

A winter's day…..Not a particularly romantic winter's day. The snow is not falling and the earth is not covered by a pure white delicate mantle. Indeed, it is covered by a grey winter cloak, a mixture of snow and very earthy mud. It is just an ordinary winter's day. Icicles are hanging from the roofs and give the landscape a very queer look. The icicles are dripping and wasting drop-by-drop, and you know what their end will be. They are going to fall to the ground and melt as soon as the sun grows stronger.

In the distance there is a noise and tumult. It is market day. The sound of horses….calves and pigs. Peasants with long whips in their hands. Wagons fill every corner. Everybody goes out “to warm up in the market atmosphere”. The heart seems to become cheerful.

* * * * *

And now something grey fills the whole air. Choking clouds coming lower and lower, filling your nostrils and throat – choking. Is this the end? Expulsion. All the Jews gave been leave the town and cross the River San so as to enter the Russian Zone.

Wandering. Journeys for weeks on end in goods trains and animal trucks and on carts. Hunger, depression and death. Many return to the German Zone, to the dear ones they left behind. “Anyway, what will happen to everybody else will happen to me as well”.

A common fate. Everything blurred. World without thought or consciousness.

* * * * *

Once again the angel spreads his wings. “I shall go down to my city and see what has happened to the townsfolk in my birthplace”. How are the tender little children? That was not long before the end.

So you make your way towards the little town. You are like a stranger. Here you can feel the beginning of the end: Loneliness and isolation. Jews isolated from everything. Shops…shops. Waiting for a customer as though everything were the same as in bygone days….

Here is the watchmaker's shop. The door never closes, what with poor folk going around from home to home and coming to seek alms. The shop owner rises each time and gravely hands a coin to each one: “Who knows whether I won't be in their position one of these days?” he says.

The Jewish delicatessen of the town. A group of youngsters standing and chatting about Eretz Israel and life in Poland. Among them are students and young folk, some of them with reputations for courage and bravery. Two young Poles aged about eighteen pass by and push against me. I instinctively give them as good as I get and stretch them both out on the ground. All the Jewish lads who have been standing with me suddenly vanish so that I am the only one left standing, ready to fight back. When I see them I ask: “why did you run for your lives?” and they answer: “You know that were are not afraid of those young louts and a great many more. But do you really want to bring a pogrom down on us like the one in Pshitek?” (That had been the last major Polish pogrom against Jews before the outbreak of World War II). And they remind me of the pig-dealer and notorious butcher who used to throw stones at Jews. When they complained to the police inspector, he said: “You can thank God that there isn't any pogrom in Lanzut,

[Page XXXI]

and don't come complaining about little trifles like that…”

 

lane031.jpg
Zionist youth in Lanzut say goodbye to Hayyim Hebenstreit when he leaves for Eretz Israel

My feet lead me to the House of Study. I am astonished. The whole big chamber is full of lads and young married men studying Torah. The place is too small to contain them all. It astonishes me. Some new wind, after all, has long been blowing through our town. Many have gone overseas. Many others have gone into all kinds of business. Yet here, once again, they are returning to themselves, to the Synagogue. I remember the words of the sages who declared that the worse the situation of the Jews grows in Exile, the stronger their religious yearnings are. The more the Gentiles forced them out and persecuted them, the more they took themselves back to the Synagogue and continued putting one fence in front of another in order to maintain a barrier between themselves and the alien and hostile world.

And how alien and hostile it is!

And now I visit the Chairman of the Zionist Association. He embraces me. “Oh, how much I want to be with you in Eretz Israel” he says and bursts into tears. (But it never came about and he met his death together with all the others).

The rabbi invites me for a conversation and talks to me about high and holy matters. “It seems that in spite of everything there are sparks of holiness within you” he says and goes on: “but the trouble is that you do not fulfil the commandments…”

I part from my townsfolk. I look back for the last time on the place where I was born, on those who are nearest and dearest to me and enter the train. The wheels clatter and in my brain the Yiddish song echoes: “Is this my poor little town? Is this really the place, or did I maybe see you only in my dream?”

* * * * *

You raise the head that has grown heavy on your shoulders and look up at the sky; that sky which is so close to those who believe in it and hope.

[Page XXXII]

The stars signal to you as though they were your old acquaintances. Little by little you re-assume the beautiful days of childhood and your eyes seem to grow fresh, young, innocent and full of faith .

Why not?

Each and every star is a friend. Each star is a brother and companion.

* * * * *

Comrades, companions and brethren. My brother fled to Russia under fire. Fled! And from the depths of Siberia he relates: “I remember the day we started out. My family was with me when we set out on our journey into the unknown. It was the seventh day of the war. We moved under a hail of bombs and through the fire of machine guns. We moved through a sea of tears and blood. We moved on without knowing if we would ever arrive at a secure place. All around us men, women and children fell. Oh those children! And you imagine any more dreadful sight than those innocent children, hopeless and helpless, children who cannot yet understand what is happening? And they are being killed by bullets turned on them by Nazi murderers flying low in their aeroplanes over this unfortunate sea of refugees who are wandering where there are roads and where there are no roads. God of vengeance, where are you? We went on foot a distance of five hundred kilometres like that, before we arrived – those who did arrive – in Soviet Russia. Now I am another man, a man who believes in everything. Everything is possible, everything can happen in a lifetime, after all that we have seen on this bloody path from our town here.

“Russia. Do you remember how we used to speak about that marvellous country? With what curiosity we used to talk about it and how much, how much we longed to see it sometime or other? Now I am here in the very midst of that life although it is wounded and torn apart. This is a gigantic country. Here, everything looks different; the people, the land, and the air you breathe. The people seem hard. They have faces made of bronze, copper or maybe it is wax. It is very rarely that you come across a laughing person. I am doing my best to understand what life is like here.

“ – Greetings to all of you; to all children of Lanzut wherever you may be. May you be at peace. Will there be peace for us as well?”

 

lane032.jpg
Unveiling of memorial monument to the Lanzut Martyrs in the Martef Hashoah, Mount Zion, Jerusalem

[Page XXXIII]

On the 21st day of Ab 5702, five thousand Jews of Lanzut and the neighbouring villages were taken away and slaughtered in the Palinia Forests.

The surviving Jews of Lanzut in Israel and the Dispersion have proclaimed the 21st of Ab as a day of mourning and commemoration for the Lanzut community throughout the ages.

Who can describe the sufferings and despair of these holy martyrs during their last moments?

Who can number the tears they shed? How shall we express their deaths by burning and what tongue can describe the slaughter of babies before their parents' eyes?


Yizkor

LET THE Jews of Lanzut and their children and those who come after remember the thousands of Jews of their congregation and the surrounding countryside who were murdered when they had done nothing wrong ……

LET THEM remember the day of mourning in memory of their holy congregation which was blotted from the face of the earth, and all the spiritual and material possessions which were destroyed, despoiled and pillaged…

LET THEM remember the common grave in the Palinia forests within which are buried men, women, old people and infants, all pure and holy, who perished in countless ways and their ashes which are scattered over the soil of Poland…..

LET THEM remember those who had been lying for generation on generation in the Lanzut graveyard and who remains were flung from their graves by wicked hands ….

LET THEM remember the sons of Lanzut who fell on every front waging war against the destroyers of Israel…

LET THEM remember the sons of Lanzut who risked their lives and lost their lives in the war of liberation for the re-establishment of Israel.

May the souls of all these holy martyrs be bound up in the bundle of life ….

Yitgadal Veyitkadash

 

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