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Though our hearts are full of yearning it is with great satisfaction that we present to the reader our book, a memorial book to our shtetl[1], Vysotsk.

Our shtetl was small and modest. This fact and all that goes with it – the small number of former residents of the shtetl living in Israel, their lack of skill in expressing themselves in writing, the financial constraints – all this determined the scope, form and appearance of the book.

The space in the book devoted to historical aspects is limited. We did not have sources or witnesses to assist us in drawing on events and stories from the distant past.

We only came across a very small amount concerning the origins and history of the shtetl.

Despite that, there is relatively a good deal of material in the book on the life and struggle of the shtetl in recent times, during the first 40 years of the 20th century and up until the Holocaust; this was the most turbulent and crucial period in the life of our shtetl and in the life of the other shtetls of Volyn [Volhynia] and Polessia – those are the years during which the world order and society changed among the nations and among Jews. These years left their mark also on the lives of Jews of the shtetls of Volhynia and Polessia, among them our shtetl.

At the beginning of this period our shtetl witnessed the great migration to countries on the other side of the ocean; afterwards came the suffering and hardship of the First World War and the horror of pogroms and hunger after the war. It was at this time that we experienced the great awakening that followed the Balfour Declaration and the Russian revolution. The life of the young people was characterised by the tumult of those days; the overwhelming majority joined the Zionist and in particular the pioneer organisations (HeKhalutz[2] and the HeKhalutz HaTzair[3]) – for education purposes, training and emigration to Eretz Israel[4]. So during the course of the fifteen years from 1924 until 1939 about 160 young men and women from our shtetl (c. 20% of the Jewish residents of our shtetl) came to Israel. The great majority were members of HeKhalutz HaTzair and HeKhalutz and the pioneer training kibbutzim[5].

It was a decisive period in the life of our shtetl and the impression of the period is stamped in the book in front of us. That is not to claim that we were able to incorporate everything. It is likely that certain chapters, events and deeds are not fully expressed here, either because there were no witnesses of the events or because of a lack of space in the book. At any rate the overwhelming majority of things that are written down we put together… they relate to this period, and for good reason.

The second period that is well represented in the book is the period of the Holocaust. The witnesses of this period are the last remnants remaining alive from the great slaughter. It seems to us that the words of the survivors that are in this book are not only a description of the horrors that took place within the borders of our shtetl, but also add valuable evidence to the literature of the destruction and the Holocaust in general.

Another section in the book is the part dedicated to the memory of the families and relatives who perished. In this section there are also interwoven words of memory and respect to people who in their lives and deeds contributed greatly to

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the character of the shtetl and its way of life. The scope of this section was determined by the writers themselves, that is to say by those who responded to our appeal and wrote about their families and relatives.

We note in appreciation and gratitude all those who contributed to the publication of the book: the many who contributed their money, all according to their ability, all of them former residents of Vysotsk; those who wrote and gave oral accounts of their experiences and their memories; those who supplied pictures and collections of material; those who were involved in the editing and preparation of the book and those who brought it to the publishers.

We shall not give thanks, we shall not hand out praise - we have done something that for us is a debt of honour to the memory of our family members and innocent, martyred relatives, an eternal memory for us and a witness to the truth for our children after us and to the generations to come. Let this book about our shtetl Vysotsk be an eternal tombstone to one of the remote shtetls in the diaspora, where we were born, where we were raised and grew up and whose memory has been branded in our hearts ever since we left and arrived in Eretz Israel, to work and to make a new life.

  1. Yiddish: small town return
  2. Pioneers return
  3. Young Pioneers return
  4. The Land of Israel, to which Zionists aspired to emigrate return
  5. collective training camps, forerunner of Israeli collective agricultural settlements return


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