** Webmaster Note: The following
is a translation from Hebrew by Laia Ben-Dov
as sponsored by George Zilbergeld.
Additional clarifications are provided in parenthesis ( ).
TOWARD THE SURVIVORS
that reached us during World War II and afterward about the mass
destruction was clear and definite, but nevertheless, a spark of
hope glowed in the hearts of many that someone among his
relatives perhaps remained alive.
hope-that-wasn't-a-hope, I left the Land of Israel in 1945 when the War ended, as a
representative of the movement to assist the survivors to come
to the Land.
It was a
period when millions of people were wandering, and among these
millions, there was a tiny group of survivors.
the main question.
The homes of many people were destroyed, also of those who were
not Jewish.But the
foundation the land remained.Even if the earth were scorched, it was possible to build
a house anew upon it, but for our survivors, everything had been
burnt. Behind them remained only the abyss, solitude and hatred;
the graves of millions who had been tortured and murdered
because they were Jews.The cries of the murdered had not yet fallen silent.And the Land its gates were locked.It was a period of struggle for the rights of the nation
to return to its homeland, and the entire world, which had just
now been freed from the claws of the Nazis was silent.England did not recognize the
historic rights of the nation, even after its great
made blockade after blockade and prevented the survivors from
reaching their home.Hunting down the ships filled with illegal immigrants and
sending them back to their ports of departure was the lot of the
remnants of the sword during this time.
and loneliness ruled in the refugee camps that were spread all
over Europe, along with a
longing to return to life, to stability a bit of rest from so
much suffering, a home!This was the wish of all those whom I met in the camps,
as I travelled through Italy.
swimming through the huge sea of the troubles of Israel and
the only remedy was conversation, encouragement of the
survivors, restoration of belief in their own strengths, and the
belief that we would win the struggle for our just rights to the
Land and that after that struggle, each one would be a free man
on his Land, from which he would never be uprooted again!
Via Oniyona, was the center of the refugees.It was an ancient house with long, dark passageways.In this house, the representatives from the Land were
where the transports arrived every day.From this house, the survivors were brought to all parts
of Italy.Italy, during this time, was the
port of departure, from which the ships sailed to the Land.
passed through this house.And I my eyes searched every day after the face of a
relative or anyone I knew.And behold, one evening in the spring of 1946, among the
great crowd a silvery head stood out, a face so familiar!I ran to him before me stood Yaakov Bas.This was a silent meeting.We stood there, embracing each other, for a long time We
were unable to speak.Without words, we wiped a tear.I will never forget that meeting.
time, Yaakov lived in Milano with Fanny in a small room.They lived the life of wanderers, with their bundles.
time we met, I visited Yaakov occasionally. From him, I heard
the details about the loss of his family and about the last days
of the town.It was
amazing how Shlomo Appelboim, of blessed memory, whom I met in
the Tradata camp and who joined us occasionally, told us, so
quietly and with such pain, about his last visit to our town and
his concern about the mass grave his concern for every bone
that remained unburied.He told of his meetings with the murderers, the
collaborators, who had not yet been punished.I would listen and wonder:from where do these people draw this strength, after
everything that had happened to them?And while he was talking, he would repeat and emphasize,
every time "Who among us would have believed that we would
merit to meet again with an acquaintance or relative and that we
would be able to tell about those who are no longer with us?"
about every single one who remained alive, about where he was
living at present, and about his general situation.In one of our conversations, he raised the thought that
it was desirable and worthwhile for us to contact the other
people from our town who were scattered throughout Europe, and
perhaps we could give them minimal material assistance, to plant
in them the feeling that they are not alone and abandoned, and
that it was very worthwhile to bring the people from our town
who live in America to join in this effort.
time there were four of us from the town:Shlomo Appelboim, of blessed memory; Yaakov Bas, David
Rosenfeld and his family (who emigrated to Brazil), and I,
the writer.A kind
of committee was formed, and they appointed me to write to
and to the Land
of Israel.During this period, I was broken by the stories of
horrors and by my visit to the death campTheresienstadt.Piles of ashes.Of thousands.Ovens. Torture chambers.All these accompanied me at that time, and under that
impression my first letter was written to one of those people
whom I knew from the days of my youth, Berel Chizi.His answer was not late in arriving.It was the answer of a brother and a friend, of a fellow
son of the town who knew and remembered every person from the
town.In the name
of all of the sons of the town in
America, he promised to remain
in touch with us and to help.And he kept his promise, in full.
contact with those scattered throughout Europe.And
so, the committee of four met and discussed how to divide the
assistance we had received from
and to transfer it according to addresses.
arranged the transfer of money.This cost him a lot of work and exertion.He did not send an answer to America until he
received all of the signatures acknowledging receipt of the
money that had been sent.We sent the signatures, along with a letter, to Berel
Chizi, for the committee that had also been organized there, in
connection between us and those scattered throughout
Europe and overseas was made.There were many meetings with people from the town who
had arrived in
Italy, among them Raizel
Marker, of blessed memory, and her husband.Can such a meeting be put down on paper? Or my meeting
with Yossele Schpin and many others who are now in the Land of Israel?
meetings aroused in me memories of my town, where I grew up; of
its poor and its wealthy; of the lively youth and its search for
a way of life, bursting forward; the youth movements; the
community experience; the holidays; of youthful mischief and the
worries of the elderly; the town its streets and its houses.
children when I left them, and now, I was face to face with
adult human beings who bore on their backs all of the
deprivations of the Holocaust, and miraculously had remained
assistance was limited, but it should be pointed out that this
assistance encouraged many people from the town and planted
within them the feeling that they were not alone and deserted.