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April 11, 1980     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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April 11, 1980
 

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Page 6. HERITA6E, Florida Jewish News, April I!. 1980 In this article Judith Manelis. director of Editorial Sen4ces for National UJA, gives a moving account of her visit to Poland as part of a UJA-sponsored American Jewish Press Association mission to Eastern Europe and Israel. The article appears by permission of The Jewish New of Metropolitan New Jersey. by Judith ManeUs I am home now, away from the destruction and the redemption. I feel transformed as I knew I would, but so totally that I find it hard to assimilate all that I feel. Fifteen days together in our small tightly knit group of 18--our Chai Group. Fifteen days of feeling my Jewishness as never before. Fifteen days that cre- ated a closeness so meaning- ful and so profound that the swiftness of the separation at Kennedy Airport left me shaken. My return to my own family, my own home, my own universe has been painful. I am like an astronaut reenter- ing the earth's orbit from outer space. Last night I felt hurt-- forcibly cut off from a group of individuals who had become my family and my world. It is now 4 a.m., and I am sitting in my office at home try- ing to sort out all that I have felt during these 15 days. Faces, so many faces pass before my eyes, faces etched into my mind and consciousness. I see Pinchas, caretaker of Warsaw's Jewish cemetery, wiping away a tear a s he waved goodbye to our departing group. I see Mr. Jakubowicz, President of the Jewish Com- munity of Cracow, with his gentle humor standing in the Remo Synagogue of Cracow explaining the history of the synagogue and joking easily amid the living dead. 1 see the young Jewish student pre- paring for Poland's Yiddish theater in a class made up almost entirely of Gentiles. How ironic to see non-Jews carrying on the decades-old tradition of Yiddish theater in Poland because no Jews remain to give it life. I see Mr. Krupka of the Jewish Historical Institute of Warsaw standing with dignity amid boxes and boxes of Jewish identity cards and the records of destroyed Jewish communities throughout Poland and other lands, speak- ing calmly and simply about Polish Notes to cold. I don't know if it was simply the lack of heat or the emotional coldness that I felt, the chill of knowing that I stood in a room surrounded by the remains of some four million Jews of Poland and surrounding areas. I see the face of the man who guided us into the Warsaw synagogue, the only one remaining from the 300 synagogues and .shtibotackh PINCHAS SZENITZER, last member of the Hebra Kad/sha (burial society) of Warsaw (r), and son (l) care for the 500,000 some odd graves in the Gezia Cemetery of Warsaw. At the end of the cemetery is a mass grave of thousands of victims from the Warsaw ghetto. United Jewish Appeal photo service the research being done on the Holocaust. Here Jews are attempting to preserve the memory of Jewish life in Europe before the Nazi cataclysm. But it is another war, a war against time, for the research- ers are middle-aged and old. And soon there will be no Jew left in Poland to research and remember. The building was col d , very (small synagogues) that once" stood in Warsaw. Was it my imagination or did the sunken eyes and heavily lined face tell me the story of his suffering? And Jewish children... I did not see one Jewish child in Poland. I was angry in Warsaw. I was very angry. How dare they rebuild that city.., the buildings on Twarda and Mila Streets where the Warsaw Ghetto once stood. How dare they use the names of Jewish martyrs and writers on their street signs. How dare they cover over everything so nicely to make it seem that we never lived there at all. Give us a monument and a couple of street signs and everything will be all right. Snuff out the lives of over one and a half million Jewish children and adults and call it urban renewal. I jogged in the snows of Warsaw. And as I ran down the street along the park, reaffirmed my own life. I am alive, I thought. I am breathing. I am running. God damn you Nazis. You didn't get me... although you burned my uncles and aunts in the synagogues of Lithuania and shot my cousins to death in the dark pit of Babi Yar. We took the plane to Cracow. It was funny getting a ride to the airplane sitting only a few yards away from the terminal. We all laughed as we would at many points along the way, at silly, nonsensical thing. We created humor as we stood on the brink of destruction. And we were afraid for ourselves amid the horror and stench of death. But we never spoke of our- selves then. Only later did some of us express the thought that it could have been us, our children, our parents. Cracow is a beautiful city. Yes, let us walk its streets and visit its landmarks. Let us see the university that tried so hard to exclude Jews, the university whose few Jewish students were tormented and reviled. The city of Cracow was not destroyed by the Nazis, our guide said. Its buildings were left intact, its Polish culture spared. Only a little matter of the Jews, I thought. They are gone now. But the buildings are there, and Polish culture moves along. The Jews? Well, we have this museum here. and this synagogue there.., preserved for the tourists and Jewish visitors. You are welcome to come and see it all. my friends. We welcome you. You are an ancient people. Add another relic to your past. Another holy spot to your list of holy places. I Another chapter of Kiddu.sh Ha Shcm to your history books. You Jews like to study and remember. We returned to the bus for the drive to Auschwitz and Birkenau. It was snowing. We had awakened to a white carpet spreading across the the city of Cracow. Pure white virgin snow to cover the blood of Poland? Impossible. The snow continued to fall throughout the day. It gave us no respite as it ble,,v against our faces, thrashed our bodies, permeated the many layers of our clothing. Even our bones were chilled. On to Auschwitz. We began to notice the signs, signs that said the word Oswiecim, the Polish equivalent for the German Auschwitz. The final destination for the final solu- tion. The snow fell. The bus labored on. Never a single thought that the weather might keep us from the destination that we were head- ing towards, the reason for our coming No words of com- plaint, no concern for our own safety. Only the sanctity of our mission sustained us and the bus pushed onward through the snow. These were blizzard conditions and we knew it. It didn't matter. Another arrived. There lot. A parking modern. Au become a major tion. The bus license plates diversity of come to The driver a quietness group of 18. room for jokes forsaken place. We walked in reception buildin a small souvenir shop and witz? and saw a frightening. A impaled on a body broken We wal itself. Looking up iar scene.., the fence, the railroad tracks over the Macht Frei'" ( Man Free.) everything so Had I been here in books and nightmares. Butt ' always the samel in Auschwitz... half-crazed, near very strange it be walkinc tranceway into the once world of suddenly empty  no longer a We entered There was no behind us. Nazis were tourists pathways HELEN GREENSPUN (continued from page 1) wherever he went, he brought his sack and prayerbook. He wanted to pray. The Germans asked what do you want to do and he said pray, so he prayed." The Germans went into the house to search. "They did not find anything, but we were scared. "At night we could not go out, we stopped going to school, we couldn't finish our education. I was 12-and- a-half-years-old." And the incidents worsened. Helen saw SS officers drag her father by his beard. She heard him scream.., but she saw them let him go..The Germans buried the Rabbi alive after he dug his own grave and killed the temple's Shamas. "There are so many incidents... I could go on and on." Helen's father sent her and her brother to a farmer where they could have food and a place to sleep.., a safe place. But one day Helen saw a sign reading that farmers should inform them of Jewish kids. No harm would come to the farmers.., they'll give them a dollar and a bottle of vodka. "I was afraid, a farmer, a Pole, would do anything for a bottle of vodka." The farmer; who was paid by Helen's father, gave her a long skirt and barbushka and told her to sit on a stool and milk the cows. "I never touched a cow before, I was afraid. When the Germans came in they asked 'any Jews7 I didn't speak, I just shook my head and began milking the cow." Helen returned home to report the incident to her father. He decided to take his children back home and "whatever will be, it's going to be." A few months later (in i 941 ) it was announced that all kids, 16 and 17 years of age will be transported to labor camps. "My brother and sister were to go. I was not ready to go. I was 12. I was too young. My mother sent me out with a package to give my brother as he was leaving. I ran out. There were a lot of people. They pushed and pushed me... SS OFFICER shearing a Jew's beard. Poland, c, 1939. Yad Vashem Archives, Jerusalem o "I never saw my parents again.'" Packed like pigs on a truck, Helen was taken to a labor camp--Skarzisko. It was a month before the high holidays. She later learned that her youngest and oldest sisters were taken to another camp in Poland... Kelce. Helen always makes Yahrzeit for her little sister and brother on the day they left home "because I don't know when they were killed.., when they were taken to the gas ovens." At Skarzisko Helen had a good job working in the mill where flakes were made from potatoes to feed the camp. "I had a good job and I was "with my sister." Her brother was in a different camp nearby. "There were three camps--Work A, B and C. I was in B, my brother was in A. Nobody who worked C ever came back." Helen and her sister often smuggled food for their brother who they took turns meeting every other week. When the Russians came closer in 1941, Helen, her sisters and brother were taken to Chestochow, a city in Poland, another labor camp. All the Jewish people from Kelce were also brought there. "We looked and looked and on the truck were my sisters and we were united." Helen said they were treated good in Chestochow for a while because when- ever a group like the Red Cross were brought in they showed her family--live together in one family.., an unusual sight. '  "i  SS MEN amuse themselves by c. 19340. Two of Helen's sisters worked with ammunition, the others were still working with potatoes and in the garden. One day when Helen's brother was cleaning the mill, the Germans turned it on... he was crippled and they sent him away.., away to Germany. In 1944, as the Russians again came closer, Helen and h'er sisters were to be taken to Dachau, "pushed in trains like pigs and if you were more aggressive, you were lucky to reach a windc)w." All four sisters were there and "we decided was going to be together." On there was no down, to stretch feet. "We stopped some of the some tried to some were want to run away. I if I ran awa, be killed. We be together." The ride to seemed like "We had no the bathroom, we only once, some never woke up... To be