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[Pages 65-83]

CHAPTER III

Zmigrod following the war

 

With the end of the war, some Zmigroder Jewish survivors returned, visited the shtetl and Halbow and left the area. One of these was Leo Rozner who went on to visit Mathausen concentration camp where he spent the war years.

 

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Leo Rozner visits the Mathausen concentration camp where he spent some of the war years

 

where he Only one Jewish family returned to Zmigrod and resumed a lonely Jewish life, Pinkas Wohlmut and his wife. Pinkas survived all actions and concentration camps but lost his entire family. He remarried and insisted on living in Zmigrod near his ancestors in spite of the dangers facing Jews in these areas. Jews who visited Zmigrod always stopped to visit and chat with Pinkas. He kept in contact with many survivors and asked for donations to restore the overgrown Halbow burial plot. Slowly the area was cleared and fenced in.

 

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Memorial tombstones were erected by survivors for their families murdered at Halbow

 

A small monument was erected inside the fenced area describing the event that took place. On the fourth yahrtzeit, or memorial day, of the killings at Halbow, July 7, 1946, Shia (Yehoshua) Zimet, a native of Zmigrod and a survivor of the Shoah, son of Sender (Alexander) and Mirele Zimet, organized a memorial ceremony at Halbow that was attended by a few survivors from Zmigrod.

 

Jews of Zmigrod Memorialized

Bluma (Zimet) Engelhardt, a relative of Shia Zimet, kindly sent us a copy of the memorial poem and eulogy that Shia Zimet composed in memory of the Jews of Zmigrod who were murdered and buried in the mass grave of Halbow near Zmigrod, close to Jaslo, Galicia, Poland. The murderous event took place on July 7, 1942, when about 1,257 Jews were murdered.

Shia Zimet delivered the memorial poem, written in classical Yiddish, at the mass gravesite in 1946. With him were a few of the Zmigroder survivors who were still in Poland at the time.

The poem is barely legible and I (William Leibner) took the liberty of restoring the text and I then loosely translated it to English.

Here is the poem.

צום 4טן יארצייט פון די
זמיגראדער קדושים

כ’ב תמוז תש’ב

‘הנאהבים והנעימים בחייהם ובמותם לא נפרדו’

מיט א צעבראכן הארץ און א פארווונדיקטער נשומה;
מיט א געבויגענעם קאף דערמאן איך היינט;
די 1200 קדושים פון אונזער שטעטל;
וועלעכע זענען אויף אן אכזריוודיקען אויפן אומגעקומען;
דורך די רוצחישע הענט

פאר מיינע אויגן שטייט דאס בילד
,פון מיין שטעטעלע
,די שול, דאס בית המדרש
,די כשרע קינדערלעך מיט שווארצע חיינעוודיקע אייגלעך
און שווארצע געלאקטע פאהלעך
.אין מיינע אוירען קלינגען זייערע זיסע שטימעלעך
…פון דער מזרח וואנט אמן, יהא שמה רבא

פון דעם אלעם איז היינט נישט מער
געבליבן ווי א בארג ערד
אויף דעם גרויסען פאמיליע גרוב
אויפן האלבעווער בארג
דארט ווו עס געפינט זיך דער ספר פון זמיגראדער יידן

יהושע צימעט

 

To the 4th memorial day (yahrzeit) of the slaughter of the Jews of Zmigrod

Tuesday, July 7, 1942

“In life and death the Jews of Zmigrod were never separated”
(Biblical quotation referring to the friendship of Jonathan and David)

With a broken heart and an injured soul,
head bowed,
I memorialize today the 1,200
Saintly Jews from our township
who were so cruelly murdered by the killers.

Before my eyes appears the picture
of my little hamlet;
the synagogue, the study center,
the precious children with their shining black eyes,
their curled side curls.

In my ears ring the sweet little voices
And from the Eastern wall (in the synagogue, we hear)
“Amen, May his Great Name…”
(A line from the Kaddish repeated by the congregation)

From all this nothing remains but a heap of earth
on top of the big family grave
on the hill of Halbow
Where the book (of History) of Zmigroder Jews is located.

Shia Tzimet then recited the Kaddish, followed by the reciting of several psalms.

Shia Zimet then continued with his eulogy.

I bow my head before you 1,200 saints of my city Zmigrod, who were so brutally murdered by beastly hands. My heart is torn apart when I read these few lines. What can I, as a survivor of the holy community of Zmigrod, say on behalf of the massacred people? I, merely a human being, an earthly creature, what can I do for you? Presently, I am not able to pay the full respect and honor that you saintly murdered Jews deserve. With the lighting of a candle, reciting the Kaddish and reading a section of mishnayot, I think that these acts will please you murdered people who suffered so much until

 

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Jewish survivors of Zmigrod, meeting at the Landsberg D.P. camp, Bavaria, Germany on July 7, 1946, to memorialize the slaughter of Jews in Zmigrod, Galicia, Poland

The picture was presented by Selig Eisenberg, a native of Zmigrod and a survivor of the Shoah. William Leibner, Zvi Keren, Max Findling and Shimon Lang have identified the following Zmigroders:
Seated (bottom row), left to right: Hanina Eisenberg/Stein, Lea Bronfeld, Baruch Krebs, Berish Krebs, Naftali Bronfeld and his wife, Jehshua Engel.
Second row, left to right: Malka Eisenberg, Shimon Lang, Lea Bronfeld's daughter, Jakob Leibner, Jechzkel/Chaskel Bobker
Third row, left to right: unknown, unknown, Reisel Kornfeld with her baby (Shimon), Heniek [Henoch] Krebs [Brish Krebs' son] standing: Izak Shaul/Szol Krisher
Fourth row, standing: Jechezkel Krisher, Selig Eisenberg and Chaim Kornfeld.

 

your souls left you. My conscience is not satisfied with these deeds. I am hopeless, I stand here with my arms crossed and I do not know what else I can do for you.

As the Jewish presence in Poland declined, Zmigrod received fewer and fewer Jewish visitors. Pinkas Wohlmut continued to live in total Jewish isolation in Zmigrod. He tended to Halbow and the Jewish cemetery in Zmigrod. The survivors of the camps and the repatriated Jews of Zmigrod left Poland and headed to the German and Austrian D.P. camps.

The Jews remained in the D.P. camps several years and then most of them left for Israel when the State of Israel was proclaimed and it opened the doors to all Jews wanting to come to the country. Other Jews went to the USA, Canada, Australia, South America and Western Europe. Many of them did not forget their little town of Zmigrod and formed societies of former Zmigroder residents. Below is a partial list of members of the Zmigroder society in Israel. The society was active for a number of years. It held annual memorial meetings on July 7, or 22 Tamuz, according to the Jewish calendar. The society continued to memorialize yearly the tragedy of the Jewish community of Zmigrod and Osiek.

The society helped the needy Jews of Zmigrod in Israel. The society also sent money to Pinkas Wohlmut in Zmigrod to repair and maintain the cemetery of Zmigrod and the Halbow burial ground. The former Zmigroder in New York established a new society called “Ahavat Achim” or brotherly love society under the leadership of Jakob Leibner. The old Zmigroder society had ceased to exist. The new Zmigroder society established a cemetery for the members, and assisted needy Zmigroder in the USA and Israel. The society also helped Pinkas Wohlmut to maintain the Halbow burial ground. The society also memorialized the Zmigroder Jews that perished in the Shoa.

Below is a partial list of the members of the Zmigroder association in Israel. The names follow the Hebrew order of names below.

Edelstein, Hannah
Leshkowitz, Zahava
Weinberg, David
Findling, Mark
Feller, Israel
Engel, Yehoshua
Kinderman, Sara
Leizer, Yehiel
Westreich, Mina
Findling, Chaim

 

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Partial list in Hebrew of the members of the Zmigroder society in Israel.

 

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Rare blank of the invitation letter to the members of the Zmigroder society in Israel to memorialize the martyred Jews of Zmigrod and vicinity. The society has ceased to exist for lack of living members.
Ze'ev Gross was the temporary head of the committee located at 4 Aristobul Street in Tel Aviv

 

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Entrance gate to the Zmigroder section of the cemetery in New Jersey

 

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The Zmigroder society “Ahavat Achim.”

The columns are inscribed with the names of Zmigroder Jews who perished in the Shoah. Behind the columns we see burial tombs of former Zmigroder Jews who died in the USA

 

The intention was to represent the continuation of Jewish life that the Nazis and their helpers tried to erase from memory. My late father, Jakob Leibner, the son of Ephraim and Shprince Reisel Findling–Leibner, a native son of Zmigrod,

 

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Pinkas Wohlmut's “matzevah,” or gravestone, in Zmigrod

 

devoted a great deal of time and energy to this society. (where does that phrase go?)

Pinkas Wohlmut continued to live a lonely Jewish life in Zmigrod. He tended to the Jewish cemetery and to the Halbow burial ground. He died on June 22, 1956.

His wife buried him at the old Jewish cemetery next to his ancestors as he wished. She left Zmigod for Israel. Pinkas's grave indeed closed Jewish history in Zmigrod. Jews continue to visit Zmigrod and reminisce of past days when Jews were an integral part of Zmigrod.

 

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The late Jacob Leibner

 

Since the Jews could not be in Zmigrod any longer, they formed various groups or “landesmanshaften” wherever there were Zmigroder in the world. Jakob Leibner was very active on behalf of the Zmigroder society in New York and kept in touch with many of the Zmigroder survivors.

 

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Second from left, Max (Mordechai) Findling, Leo Rosner and Shimshon Findling, son of Yechiel Hersh and Sima Findling. The Findlings were first cousins, natives of Zmigrod and survived the Shoah. They met in Zmigrod wth a former Polish acquaintance in the square of Nowy Zmigrod.

 

Max Findling and Leo Rosner devoted a great deal of time, energy and money to maintain and preserve the Halbow monument and the Jewish cemetery at Zmigrod.

Max Findling and his wife visited Zmigrod on several occasions and supervised repairs and maintenance of the Halbow burial ground and the Jewish cemetery of Zmigrod. Max was very attached to Zmigrod and did everything in his power to memorialize the shtetl.

Below is a German record of Mordechai's work record during WWII.

 

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Mordechai Findling's war record card maintained by the German authorities

 

The document was obtained from the Arolson files at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. It is in poor condition but it describes the various horrible places where he was detained by the Germans.

Findling Mordechai (Markus), son of Eisk and Rachel Findling. Stateless Jew.
Born in Nowy Zmigrod on July 23, 1923.
1940–1942 Arrested in Nowy Zmigrod and sent to Dukla as a forced laborer.
12/7/1942 Returned to Zmigrod. Sent to Plaszow labor camp.
1/5/1943– 1/1945. He was transferred to Czenstochowa labor camp from Plaszow.
1/1945. Marched out of Czestochowa to another camp but was freed along the way.
The card also indicates that he left Germany for Italy and was on his way to Israel.

 

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Simon (Shimon) Findling at the entrance to the Zmigrod courthouse

Simon Findling is a native of Zmigrod, the son of Chiel Hersh and Sima Findling. The family left for France following WWI. Simon was in the French Army.
With the defeat of France, he was interned in Switzerland but escaped to France where he joined the French resistance

 

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Max Findling surveying the restored Jewish tombs at the Zmigrod Jewish cemetery

 

The little hamlet of Zmigrod lost its entire Jewish population during WWII. There are no traces of the Jewish presence in Zmigrod except on some doorposts at the entrance of the house where the “mezuzah,” or quotations of the bible, used to be inserted in the door frame. We also find a Jewish presence at the Jewish cemetery. But Zmigrod has no Jews. As a matter of fact, the entire Jaslo–Krosno region has no Jews. We find a few Jews in Krakow. It is indeed a sad story of an entire region that had a dense vibrant Jewish population and within a few years was converted into the biggest Jewish cemetery.

 

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The Jewish cemetery of Zmigrod proper as seen recently by Jean Krieser, a descendant of Zmigrod
(Photo donated by Jean Krieser)

 

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