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[Page 5]

A Message from the
Association of Immigrants from Shumsk

Translated by Rachel Karni

When information about the enormity of the Holocaust reached us we took it upon ourselves to achieve two goals: to become a body that would assist the survivors from our town and to devote ourselves to perpetuating the memory of the Jews of Shumsk who had been killed.

We had been taught not to maintain here in Israel the exclusiveness that was common among Jews of each town or country in the diaspora. We had been educated to strive for the unity of the Jewish people. Thus we viewed our association only as place to remember our loved ones who were no more and to educate our children to honor the memory of their forefathers. The activities of our association have remained faithful to this goal.

We succeeded in the task of helping those who were in need of assistance. Among the survivors from Shumsk there is no one today who is needy. Their homes are firmly established in the State of Israel.

As a body that sees as its goal the perpetuation of the memories of our loved ones we were only successful in one activity -- that of gathering annually on the terrible date of the massacre in Shumsk. We view this memorial meeting as one of the greatest importance and will not break this tradition.

But for many years a feeling has accompanied us that this is not sufficient. We are the people of the book and it was felt that it is our obligation to prepare a book that will serve as a record of the terrible iniquities of the Nazi criminals and as a lasting memorial to the Jewish community of Shumsk and her wonderful people. The book would serve as an educational tool for our children, and through their reading of this book they would understand their responsibility to maintain unbroken the chain of generations. They would better understand us and would learn to love their -- and our -- forefathers who maintained the flame of our unique identity in all situations and conditions.

It is for these reasons that we were so enthusiastic to prepare this book and ready to devote so much time, effort and love in this undertaking. We view this book as the highlight of the activities of our association and its crowning achievement.


[Pages 6-8]

Preface of the Editorial Board

by Pesach Lerner, Rafael Sapir and Chaim Rabin

Translated by Shimshon Bahat

Together with all members of the Association of Immigrants from Shumsk we recite the blessing “Shehecheyanu vehigianu”1 upon the completion of the Shumsk Yizkor2 Book. We feel that we have repaid a debt owed to our parents, sisters, brothers, friends and neighbors with whom we grew up and who were massacred, starved and beaten to death, crushed, shot and buried alive, individually and in mass graves, with no headstones or memorial on their graves.

This is the only memorial we could erect for them, prompted by our conscience and God's will.

All of us from Shumsk participated in this task -- those who accompanied the book to its publication with care and genuine enthusiasm and those who enriched it by adding impressions, experiences and assessments to its contents. We all joined together to complete this portrait of the Shumsk community along with the editors, who spared no effort to prepare and publish the book.

The team of editors who organized the effort was in fear of failing in some way, thus dishonoring Shumsk's martyrs. They thank all those who shared in this project. The editorial team notes with appreciation Pesach Lerner's dedication to the task both as the community's beloved representative and as a member of the editorial team.

The editorial team especially notes Zipora Weisman's assistance, performed with great dedication, and thanks Esther Lerner, who as a caring partner to Pesach Lerner took care of all the day to day responsibilities and made their home a hub for the activities of the Shumsk Association and for the work on the Yizkor Book.

Our feeling is that they did this with good will. Without their efforts, especially those of Pesach, the organization's attempt to publish a Yizkor Book might not have come to fruition, God forbid. Explicitly mentioning and emphasizing Pesach's contribution is supported by everyone from Shumsk.

*

The humanity of the Shumsk community, and other such communities, magnifies the responsibility of the German nation from which prowling beasts have emerged to annihilate Jews and eradicate their memory. No conscience can be silent in the face of this heavy responsibility.

Yizkor books are a reminder of German atrocities and a warning to all those who might attempt to follow in Germany's footsteps. The testimonies in these books, serve as sources for future generations and are of lasting value as documentation of Nazi evil. They were written by those who faced that evil, suffered severely, survived and recounted their experiences just a few years later.

We tried not to slip into revenge but to let things be told as they were lived by those who witnessed them. That being our major purpose, we have devoted the necessary space to the chapters related to the Holocaust.

Our role is also to create a monument to the Jewish community of Shumsk that is no more. To this end we have included portraits of individuals in the town, and personal experiences and feelings expressed in poetry and prose. From these chapters the Shumsk community emerges as one of caring, good people, worthy of being remembered forever as an emblem of caring humanity who cherished human dignity and preserved their moral fiber in all circumstances.

In the Shumsk Yizkor book we publish for the first time the “Diary of Vellas,” titled in Yiddish “A brivele der mamen” (“Letter to Mother”) by Zipora (Rojchman) Weisman. We see in this diary a living portrayal of a young Shumsk girl's agonies, facing the physical and mental hardships of illegal aliyah3 (immigration to the promised land), turning her face to mother Shumsk, who set her on her destiny, inspiring her to distance herself from Shumsk but beckoning her at the same time.

The original diary has been placed in the Labor Archive4 and serves as documentation of a bygone era. Its publication in our book is the first and only to date.

The letters published in the book also serve as documentation of the periods in which they were written.

We have also included chapters of folklore by M. Chazen, David's brother, who left varied, interesting articles.

*

The editorial board expresses its sorrow for two things:

  1. The omission of portraits of Motil Perlis and Kopel Zoref, who were two pillars of Zionism in Shumsk. Thanks to them Shumsk turned into a hub of Zionist vision and action.
    We are also sorry that no one was found to fully depict Herzog Milman, Yosl Neiman and others, the nurturers of Zionist activity in Shumsk. Thanks to them many Shumsk youngsters went on aliyah, thus literally saving their lives. May our very lives be an expression of our appreciation to them.
  2. The martyrs list which is not complete for obvious reasons.
While denouncing the crimes of the Nazis and their helpers, we call your attention to chapters in the Holocaust accounts that highlight the role of individual gentiles who put their lives at risk, especially the Shtundists.5 Their life-saving deeds elevated them to highest spheres of honor for human bravery. Their names have a place of honor in our book and signal to us that not everyone is untrustworthy.

We regarded the task we were eager to accomplish as heavy and sacred, and we thank all those who helped make it a reality.

We ask forgiveness for omissions made – they were not done on purpose.

Pesach Lerner6, Rafael Sapir7 and Chaim Rabin8


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Shehekheyanu vehigianu: (Hebrew) Literally, "He who kept us alive and brought us here," words of a blessing that is a common Jewish prayer of thanks to God, recited to celebrate special occasions or accomplishments. Return
  2. Yizkor: (Hebrew) Remembrance Return
  3. Aliyah: (Hebrew) Literally, ascent. The term is used for the immigration of Jews from the diaspora to the promised land, the Land of Israel. "Making aliyah" by moving to Israel is a basic tenet of Zionism. Return
  4. The Labor Archive: Archyon Haavoda, the Moshe Sharett Labor Party Archive, founded in 1965 in Israel Return
  5. Shtundists: An evangelical Lutheran Protestant sect of German origin which had been settled in this area in the past. Their religion mandated love and esteem for Jewish people, and Shtundists in the area were known for being sympathetic to the Jews during the Holocaust.. Return
  6. Pesach Lerner was born in Shumsk in 1901 and emigrated to Eretz Yisrael in 1921. He founded the Organization of Shumskers in Israel. For more biographical information, see the translator's notes on page 199 of this yizkor book: http://www.jewishgen.org/Yizkor/szumsk/szu185.html#Page199 Return
  7. Rafael Sapir (the name originally was Sforim) came to Shumsk with his parents and siblings as refugees during World War I. Having been teachers of Hebrew, they opened a school in Shumsk where Hebrew was taught and were active in the Zionist activities in the town. Rafael was among the first people from Shumsk to emigrate to Palestine.. Return
  8. Chaim Rabin (1910-1990) was editor of the Shumsk Yizkor Book and many others. See biographical note at page 345: http://www.jewishgen.org/Yizkor/szumsk/szu343.html Return

 

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