A Speech given by A. Boymfeld at the Unveiling of a Memorial Plaque in Rio de Janiero
by A. Boymfeld
Translated by Tina Lunson
Sunday the 25th of October, 1953. At the Unveiling of a Memorial Plaque at the tomb of the martyrs of the Ostrovtse Jewish community at the cemetery of Villa Rozali in Rio de Janero, the chairman of the Union of the Ostrovtse Landsmen gave the following speech:
Fellow landsmen of my birthplace Ostrovtse, with broken hearts we bow our heads in the greatest veneration for our own, who were dear to us and whose lives were ripped away from us along with one third of the Jewish people by the Hitler murderbands and their helpers. Human language has not yet found a suitable expression for the horrific extermination of six million Jews.
Our sorrow cannot be forgotten and will not be forgotten. For every person who has his selfworth there will always be etched in his memory Remember what the Nazi did to you.
We Ostrovtse folk can not forget our appalling loss.
For hundreds of years Ostrovtse was a place of Torah, a center for Jewishness. From Ostrovtse the light of Torah streamed out through many geniuses, scholars, rabbis and rebis. Our landsmen lived a proper Jewish life in Ostrovtse. Jews lived Jewishly, not just on sabbath or holidays but the whole week. Every little lane, every corner, the unions, the clubs, the studyhouses, the old shul of over 400 years, the tailors' studyhouse, with its traditional psalm readers. The kheyders, the Hasidic prayer rooms with their prayerleaders like Berl Roysenman, Kahyim Halpern (Khayim Lubliner), Berl Rozentsvayg (Berl Vevis), Yehoshua Kuperman, the yeshiveheads Ayzik Mendl Balke, Yankev Mendl Goldfinger and his traditional style of blowing the shofar which amazed everyone.
And I cannot forget my dear friend, Moyshe Lederman, the longstanding chairman of the Mizrakhi, the darling of all the members who with such devotion managed the offices of councilman, alderman and vice president of the community council. He wanted to know the disposition of every member, especially of that member who needed help. Members of Ostrovtse Mizrakhi who are making a fuss can confirm that I have a lot to tell about Ostrovtse. There were three of us members doing that work: Moyshe Lederman, Yehoshua Kuperman and Iser Boymfeld.
Who of you does not remember our devoted culturalspiritual member of Mizrakhi, Leybush Halstock his lecture every shabes from Perek, Mishnayos and Ayn Yakov drew an audience that packed the Mizrakhi meeting venue and then the lectures had to be taken to the new studyhall as well.
We can also not forget our laborers: the tailors, blacksmiths, butchers, wagondrivers, porters, fishermen, glaziers, bathkeepers, locksmiths and goldsmiths. All of them joined the Jewish organizations, unions, libraries; took part in discussions, sought to make things always better and more fine. Ostrovtse was a dear town, and so we cannot forget her.
Today marks the eleventh year that we have come together in order to remember the martyrs and pure ones, our dearest and most sacred, our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, grandfathers and grandmothers, uncles and aunts, relatives, friends and neighbors, the entire Ostrovtse Jewish population, the whole murdered Ostrovtse family, tortured, suffocated, burned.
Ostrovtse landsmen, we are all mourners today. Each of us is saddened by the great misfortune that we all encountered. The great catastrophe, the unworldly pain and torment that our own went through, can
throw an individual into despair, doubt, negligence and loss of self.
But Ostrovtse landsmen, we cannot allow ourselves that. The wonderful bravery and heroism of the active fighters in the ghetto did not teach us any doubtfulness, only awakeness.
Landsmen, today on the eleventh yortsayt we dedicate the memorial plaque for the Ostrovtse community at the common grave Tomb of the Martyrs the common grave of the pieces of soap that the Nazi fascists fashioned from their victims, of the gassed and shot Jews, among them our Ostrovtse folk too.
As fate would have it, the soap pieces were brought to the Ostrovtse Landsmanshaft in Rio de Janeiro by the remnant of Ostrovtse survivors. Many of us had a good cry, looking at the soap and thinking, who knew whether this is the remains of one of our own?
It is with the greatest reverence that the Ostrovtse folk took on the work of bringing the soap to a Jewish grave in a mass funeral.
Many disturbances were created by interested parties in order not to allow the soap to become holy. Those interested wanted to split the Ostrovtse committee that had carried on and carries on still today, the fight against Jewish criminals: the kapos, brigadiers, and camp directors. They wanted to substantiate that the soap was not made of Jewish fat. The Ostrovtse Landsmanshaft in Rio de Janeiro refuted the lies of those interested parties. With confirmation from the Jewish Central Committee in Warsaw, with confirmation from the Jewish Investigation Committee for the Crimes of the Germans, it was clearly shown that the soap pieces were made from Jewish fat. So it was successful in showing the truth for the Rio Rabbinate and for the Jewish community. And the Ostrovtse folk along with the entire Jewish population have appeared to carry out this great mass funeral of thousands of people, Jews and nonJews
The current management of the khevre kadishe [burial society] with Rov Zingerevitsh at the head has, with the help of our member Shmuel Erlikh, come to carry out this holy obligation: to eternalize the common grave of these unknown Jews in the Tomb of Martyrs. Every Jew, from whatever place he is, sees in this common grave the symbolic gravestone of his near ones.
My dear brothers!
The Ostrovtse Landsmanshaft, which is beloved by all of you, has already procured much honor for you by its stubborn and open fight for justice. As you know, we have fought many times against the illwilled betrayers in the Jewish community; those who want to make kosher the bastards and obtain new birth certificates and letters of ancestry from the Ger [Hasidic] Court, that they have created and distributed in Rio. But as laughable as that is when such a certificate falls into the hands of a fellow Ostrovtser, who knows everyone from the time of his first pair of shoes? It remains just a scandal and a joke for the makers and procurers.
But it is not with that that our task ends. There are Jewish attorneys who through other ways, also want to demonstrate that brothers Zeyfman, and Itshe Kerbel too, are fine people and perhaps even finer than all of us.
That is also no wonder. When Jewish defenders were able to sell the honor of those whom we commemorate here today, why should the attorneys not sell their soul?
Brothers, if we will stand guard, that devilish plan of theirs will be bankrupt. But with our stubbornness, with our fight for truth, we will honor the memory of our martyrs.
Speech by A. Boymfeld
Translated by Tina Lunson
Esteemed landsmen of my Ostrovtse, my native town!
In the midst of this joyous moment while we are all gathered here to observe the tenyear memorial event, everyone's thoughts are tied to the great destruction that took place ten years ago in our hometown of Ostrovtse.
Everything that was created with such care and devotion over hundreds of years was wiped out in a short time: a Jewish settlement, Jewish wealth, Jewish organizational forms. Ostrovtse, the one hundred percent Jewish settlement, still stands living in our eyes: the market square and all its four corners, from one end to the other all Jewish houses with Jewish businesses businesses that were inherited from one generation to another, to children and grandchildren. So children were reared there, married and further spun the Jewish life. So many jammed Jewish streets: Opter, Kiniver, Drildzer, Shener, Mintsbergs Street, Shul Street and more and more! All those streets were densely occupied by Jews: Hasidim, scholars, merchants, rabbis, geniuses, wise men, ritual slaughterers, greats of their generation and laborers: a Jewish community, a society of merchants, an artisans' guild, small retailers, libraries, parties, Jewish schools, a TalmudTorah, a yeshive, a Mizrakhi school for a few hundred children, that was known as one of the best in the entire area, a conscious youth and a wellorganized worker force that was active in every field.
At this moment, when our thoughts and feelings are transported to our home town Ostrovtse, images float before our eyes of the large, old historic shul with its generations of legends. Who of us, dear landsmen, does not recall the iron neckring attached to the entrance, on the right side of the vestibule? Legend tells us that it was used for the excommunicated who had gravely sinned. They were locked into that iron neckring and each person who went into the shul could spit on them and recite the wellknown verse, You shall abominate and abhor it for it is to be shunned. Who of us does not remember the old studyhouse, from which sprang all of our party leaders, the bench politicians around the warm heatingoven with Reb Mayer'l the cantor's [son] may he rest in peace. At the head: all the pupils with claimed tables for the rabbis; the new studyhouse with the privileged lecturing pupils pupils for morning lectures and evening lectures. Not every boy merited being a pupil of Reb Borekh Kahan! Who of us does not remember the small Tailor's Studyhouse with their psalm reciters group from before dawn, its simkhes torah celebrations, their own prayer leaders and Torah readers. Also recall a strange fact which is worth remembering: an old tailor, hearing that the Torah reader was making errors in the weekly reading, demanded that the reader be put aside and on that same shabes a 14yearold boy was brought up to replace him. And do you know who that was? Our member of the local Ostrovtse Committee, the yisker cantor, Mr. Mayer Shtraytman!
Who of does not remember the Ostrovtse cemetery? I remember to this day the legend that went around as a living fact in our town, about the gravestone that turned itself around… and the rabbinate with the community representative from Damoldik , indicated that no one should be buried for eight els [Biblical measure, apx. 18 inches] around that grave. It really did remain empty, with small gravestones around it.
And who among us does not remember the Ostrovtse humorist, the politician and tonesetter? Reb Mayer the cantor's, Zindale Boymfeld, Mordkhe the Lipske Rabbi's son, Reb Shmuel Blank, BenTsion Rembishevski, Mordkhe Halpern and others. And last but not least the Ostrovtse saint Reb Mayer Yekhiel Haleyvi may he rest in peace.
I remember the Zaklodnikes from the time of the First World War: Reb Asher Herts (Kalman Yoshe's son), Kalman Boymfeld, Berl Rozenman, Moyshe
Vaynberg, Zisi Manises, Shoyl Fefer, Pintshe Mintsberg and others.
My dear landsmen! If I were to depict for you all the things that I remember of my early childhood on until the day when I left my birthplace Ostrovtse, it would take up too much time and would too much unsettle your minds, remembering your own family and friends who are no longer among the living. Everything was taken from us by the thieving bands, by the basest outright sadists whose like has never been seen throughout human history; by the Nazi fascism which in its barbarism surpassed all the limits human understanding can comprehend. One cannot believe that such an event could happen in the 20th century. But it is a hideous fact: it cost us six million victims! And our Ostrovtse, the town where we were born and reared, was exterminated and there no stone is left upon a stone.
Landsmen from Ostrovtse!
Our vexation and heartclenching, our excitement and disgrace grows even more, since from our own have sprouted up vile and base Jewish representatives of the Ostrovtse settlement, criminals and cannibals in human form. Our large archive is full of facts and accusatory material against their doings, which were confirmed by the Jewish Agency and also by the Polish Home Army where they were noted in the list of war criminals. Those are the brothers Avrom and Leybush Zeyfman may their names be erased from among us!
I do not want to annoy you by mentioning again all the facts of the criminal deeds that were perpetrated by the Jewish persecutors, the brothers Zeyfman. But I am forced to do it, because each of you, dear landsmen, should know how to defend the honor of our own, our sisters and brothers, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. I will therefore recall here all the tragic facts about what was done by the debased Avrom and Leybush Zeyfman. All the criminal deeds are confirmed by witnesses, surviving Ostrovtse landsmen:
know who they are! Avrom and Leybush Zeyfman used to go every night in the camp to collect a few Jews those who had money and force them to report to the commandant's office. There the Jews were beaten almost to death, their bodies stomped on, and their sex organs twisted until the victims fainted. Then they revived them with a pail of cold water in order to further torture the victims and to force out the hiding places of their money or valuables.
Landsmen, some of those witnesses are here with us in this hall, and they hear very clearly the words that they themselves have confirmed. Ostrovtse landsmen! Our deep wounds are not yet healed and cannot be healed entirely. Our tortured, exhausted, torn away will never come back to us again we must therefore sacredly protect their last wishes, their last work for us survivors of Ostrovtse: Revenge! How could we be quiet and indifferently accept the khutspedik letter that arrived from Israel, adorned with rabbinic signatures that will have an effect on the local rabbinate, that the shunning of these two brothers be removed? Where is the human conscience of those rabbis?
Ostrovtse landsmen, we swear, that hand in hand and in locked rows, we will defend the honor of those of our tornaway sisters and brothers, colleagues and friends and of the entire Ostrovtse family. Eternal shame to the criminals! Down with their defenders!
|Gathering at the report evening of the Special Committee that researched the Zeyfman matter|
by Eber Beynerman
Translated by Tina Lunson
The correspondent Dovid Markus (Rio de Janeiro) brings the news about the rehabilitation of the two brothers Zeyfman, by the Israeli rabbinate in Jerusalem, with an appeal to the rabbinate of Brazil to lift the shunning of the guilty murdering brothers Avrom and Leybush Zeyfman, and thus they have received a pinch on the cheek of innocence for their deeds, warming themselves by the fire of our own holocaust.
It is characteristic that soon after the Israeli Justice freed from guilt one of the sadists, the [ghetto] police assistance chief under the Nazi regime in Ostrovtse, Moyshe Putshits, (whom the Polish police have challenged as war criminals), there also occurred the cleanwashing of the brothers Zeyfman and others.
That quickly allowed their relatives of the Israeli rabbinate to put pressure on the Brazilian Jewish settlement to lift the ban on the brothers Zeyfman.
That intervention by the Israeli rabbinate, through the messengers of the relatives who fled to Israel, also indicated that the sister of the murderers Zeyfman, Keyle Zeyfman, is no more and no less than a grandchild of the Ger Rebi (a thing that is far from any truth).
But that trick has not helped either, because the Ostrovtse landsmen knew the pure truth very well and the fury of woe by the Brazilian Jews became more bitter and the outcry became They can never be forgiven!
Before that time many documents came to light that illuminated the most filthy work of these murderers over the remainder of the surviving Jews in 1942. Of special value are the documents that the Jewish Historical Institute in Poland published about the murders by those Nazi butchers.
Those very youths from the most eminent, shall we say, Ostrovtse periphery, those same sadlyfamous fine proprietary young men from the town, as [ghetto] police officers and slave drivers, outdrove and outdid the Nazis in their cruelty.
A strange, corrupt morality dominated in that Jewish gentle element of Putshits, the brothers Zeyfman, up to the base hierarchies that bought the offices to be the ruler over those remaining, exhausted and condemned to death, and when someone begged for mercy from them, they got only one answer: I will not give my head for yours!
In 194, the wrath and outrage grew against all the local collaborators. New York, Toronto, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and other smaller settlements came out with an embittered anger against those criminals mentioned above, presented witnesses who went through the Hitler hell. And sure enough the investigation resulted in a cooperative understanding.
For one thing, the appearance in 1947 of a brochure in New York about the criminal deeds of the brothers Zeyfman, and the publication of the book Khurbn Ostrovtse [Annihilation of Ostrovtse] in Buenos Aires in 1949, depicted the dreadfulness of the brothers Zeyfman and Putshits and other collaborators of that cut.
But the Ostrovtse folk remain on their guard, that those same filthy collaborators who
saved themselves by the fire of our national destruction, not find any redress among Ostrovtse ranks.
The Ostrovtse folk the world over will certainly not agree with the rabbinic judge in Jerusalem, with the decision to lift the excommunication from the criminal brothers Zeyfman.
However laconic it sounds, in the passing of the recent year they have been set out on a good path. The verdict provides that it is a mitsve to befriend them and take them into Jewish society.
The rabbis have cleansed them but not the Ostrovtse folk throughout the world!
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