« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Pages 385-389]

Neresniza

48°07' 23°46'

Ruthenian: Neresnice
Hungarian: Nyereshaza
[Russian: Neresnitsa]

Translated by Moshe A. Davis

A village located approximately 20 kilometers northeast of the city Tecs.
On the narrow-gauge railroad line Teresif-Kenigsfeld. Administrative center
for the surrounding villages. Nearly all inhabitants Ruthenian.

Population

Year Jews Total
1830 77 1460
1880 327 -
1910 - 1568
1921 - 1618
1930 523 1948
1941 - 2351

Early Jewish Settlement

The first Jews to reach Neresniza almost certainly arrived there between the late 1710s and the early 1730s. However, the 1725 Jewish census of Maramaros does not mention a single Jew in this village. The first recorded Jew is Eliyahu (Illies), who was married with two children, listed in the census of 1735. According to the data listed in this census, Eliyahu apparently was well established, with an ample income. He owned a horse, two cows, and employed a worker. He was under the protection of the local Hungarian noble Josef Batlan, and paid a land-rental tax in the amount of 22 florins per year.

It appears that the Jew Eliyahu did not settle in Neresniza for an extended period of time, for in the next census of 1746, there is listed a single unnamed Jew, married and with a single child, who paid 6 florins per year. In the census of 1768 there is listed a Jew by the name Leiba Leibovits, whose family numbered 5 individuals. He was poor, as he did not pay any land-rental tax. He did pay a toleration tax in the amount of 3 florins per year, and a head tax of 6 florins. His occupation was peddling, and he distilled whisky in small amounts, exerting much effort to bring in his income. All of these early Jews who arrived in Neresniza came from Galicia.

In the census of 1830 were listed the following families (in parentheses the total number of family members):

Yankel Markovits (4),
Pinkus Zido (4),
Yankel Wolf (7),
Barko Zido (4),
Yanko Davidovits (3),
Beinis David (4),
Moshko Yosefovits (5),
Leib Hershkovits (2),
Shimsha Zapida (4),
Avraham Zapida (4),
Barko Yosefovits (5),
Isaac Zapida (6),
Hersh Zapida (2),
Hersh Yankele (4),
Shloma Chaimovits (3),
Samil Chaim (4),
Yerucham Leibovits (4),
Isaac Chaimovits (5),
Leib Zido (3).

Community Organization [and Individuals of Note]

We have no information on the era in which the Jewish community of Neresniza was first organized. It is probable that by the end of the 18th century there was already an established minyan in the town, and probably a designated house in which communal prayer services were held. As the number of Jews in the town increased, so the Jewish community matured, eventually taking on the appearance of an established kehilla. Among the first accomplishments of the community was the establishment of a chevra kadisha (burial society), the building of a mikveh, and the hiring of a shochet.

Until 5689 [1929] there was a single beis midrash [study hall] in Neresniza. During that year, the Jews split into separate groups, according to their various Chasidic orientations. The Vishnitz Chasidim, who were apparently the majority of the Jewish population, established for themselves a “klois” [small synagogue / study hall]. There were also a number of Sighet chasidim who worshipped in the [original] beis midrash of the community. Two smaller synagogues were established by the Spinka and Borstein chasidim. Thus the Jews of Neresniza prayed in four independent synagogues.

There was never an established Rabbi of the community. The Rabbi of [the neighboring town of] Vilhovitz served also as the de-facto rabbinical leader of Neresniza. The Vishnitz chasidim took as their Rebbe the Rabbi of Vilhovitz, Rabbi Chaim Meir Hagar, who followed in the footsteps of his father, the Vishnitz chasidic Rebbe of Grosswardein [Oradea]. Reb Gedaliyah Dovid Berkovitz [see below], besides being a shochet, was additionally a halachic expert and decisor. In more difficult questions of Jewish law, he turned to the Dayan (Rabbinic judge) of Vilhovitz, Rabbi Hertzel Weiss, who was known as an outstanding scholar with an extremely sharp mind.

The name of the shochet Reb Avraham Yehuda appears in the subscription list to the book “Imrei Shoham” (Kalameh 5640). His family surname is not mentioned in the source. He served in Neresniza in the 1880s.

In the generation before the destruction, the community function of shochet was filled by Reb Chaim Yisroel Berkovits, a locally renowned rabbinical scholar, an halachic expert who headed the local yeshiva ketana [high school yeshiva]. His yeshiva ketana attracted students from the surrounding villages, who were hosted for daily meals in the homes of the local households in Neresniza. He would visit the author of the book “Tzemach Tzadik” from Vishnitz. After Reb Chaim Yisroel Berkovits passed away in the late 1930s, his place was filled by his son, the previously mentioned Reb Gedaliah Dovid Berkovits. Besides being a renowned and expert talmudical scholar, he possessed broad knowledge, speaking numerous languages, among them German. He was considered in his generation to be one of the greats of the Vishnitz Chassidim. He was very involved in community matters, and was held in great esteem in the town. He attracted the young, who accepted with open heart his advice and direction, which was given with great wisdom and tact. A responsa addressed to him is found in “Shearis Menachem” by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hagar of Uber Wisho (Bnei Brak, Israel 5735 [1975]), section B, page 355, responsa 8 (undated): “…regarding your question of whether it is permitted to cut trees growing in a graveyard for use in building a mikveh, without which there are not sufficient funds to build the mikveh, upon which question Your Honor expounded somewhat…”. Reb Gedalia Dovid Berkovits also owned and operated a general store, which his wife continued to operate after his being hired as a shochet.

Five or six teachers taught Torah in Neresniza, starting with a teacher for beginning students and finishing with Gemara (Talmud) with the commentaries of Rashi and Tosefos. Education was not under official community supervision, rather the teachers were chosen by either the parents of the children or by the local rabbinical leaders. Most of the Jewish children also learned in the local Czech school. There was a separate school for the local Ruthenian children, which in general was not visited by the Jewish children.

Elementary school teachers included: Reb Yaakov Shlomo Einhorn, Ezra Fogel, Yosef Leib Berkovits, and Avraham Melamed.

Among the community leaders of Neresniza between the World Wars, it is fitting to mention in particular Reb Shimon Petenyi, the son-in-law of one of the wealthiest residents of Neresniza, Moshe Klein. He was a student of Rabbi Dushinsky of Chust, and was chosen from among the students there to marry Moshe Klein's daughter. He was born in Donasardali. He made a good living in the grain business, and was the only Jew in Neresniza not to wear a shtreimel [fur hat] and a kaputa [knee-length jacket]. He prayed according to the Ashkenazi custom in his birthplace in Oberland. He was universally esteemed for his honesty and straightforwardness, his extraordinary manners, his scholarship and fear of heaven. He always spoke gently, and avoided arguments. Secretly, he would deposit bags of flour at the entrance to the houses of the poor of the town. His night hours were exclusively reserved for learning Torah.

Among the Vishnitz Chasidim in the town, Reb Yosef Weiss was the spiritual catalyst. He was the son of Reb Dovid Weiss (halachic expert and decisor in Wisho), and was nicknamed “Reb Yosel Nachmans”. He was born in the village Depolya in Romanian Maramaros, and was a student of the author of “Arugas HaBosem” from Chust. Reb Nachman Steinmetz, who was then one of the wealthiest residents of Neresniza, chose him as his son-in-law, before he lost his wealth. In the dowry, he gave to Reb Yosel a large house and a substantial amount of cash, which was invested in a banquet hall. But Reb Yosel was totally spiritual in nature, separate and elevated above the vanities of this world, and understandably, in a few years the business closed. In his older years he supported himself by tutoring older students in Torah studies. Reb Yosef Nachmans was a sharp scholar, and to the same extent that he was great in learning, so also was he great in personality and in Chasidus. As we mentioned, he was the spiritual catalyst among the Jews of Neresniza, who enlivened the spiritual life of the entire community. He organized the evening meal in the Vishnitz “klois”.

The Admor [Chassidic Rebbe] of Seret-Vishnitz told the story that once, his father (the author of “Ahavas Yisroel”) was staying in Vilhovitz. Suddenly, his father gave the order to hitch up the horses and to travel to Nereniza. When they reached Nereniza, he dismounted from the wagon and approached the store of Reb Yosel. He peeked inside, and immediately returned [to the wagon and gave the order to return to Vilhovitz]. When his Chassidim expressed astonishment at the sudden journey and return, the Rebbe from Vishnitz explained simply, “I wanted to see how Reb Yosel looks as a storekeeper.”

His fate during the holocaust was also different from that of the rest of the other Jews of Nereniza. He was not cremated in the ovens of Aushwitz; rather, he was transported to a forced-labor camp near Crakow. Even in that furnace of suffering, he did not abandon his outstanding devotion and saintliness. He refused to defile himself with the “delicacies” of the camp, rather he lived on a diet consisting solely of dry bread. His body weakened from starvation, but his spirit remained steadfast and strong. He encouraged those who faltered, and breathed hope into those on the verge of despair. During the Days of Awe in 5705 [mid-Oct 1944] he organized in the camp a Minyan for prayer, and himself led most of the prayer service from memory. Those who participated in those prayer services were strengthened by the experience for the rest of their lives. Weakened by starvation, bitter cold, and beatings for refusing to work on the Shabbos, he returned his holy soul to his Maker on 27 Cheshvan 5705 [13 Nov 1944] in Reichenbach-Langenbielau [the Bielawa subcamp of the Gross-Rosen (Reichenbach) concentration camp complex], and merited a proper Jewish burial by the inmates of the camp.

Another personality who is fitting to memorialize from among the Vishnitz Chassidim of Nereniza was Reb Zerach Kramer. He was supported by the generous Jewish population of the town, for he was known as a Torah scholar whose learning was his only livelihood. He was a living lexicon, with an amazing breadth of knowledge of the various Chassidic leaders and of their lives, their family histories and places of origin. He mesmerized his listeners with his recollections of the lives and actions of the various Chassidic masters.

A significant part of the town was composed of the Klein family: There was Reb Shlomo Klein and his three sons Moshe, Yaakov, and Alter. They were all Torah scholars, Vishnitz Chassidim, and among the wealthiest residents of the village. Shlomo Klein's brother was Meir Hersh Klein. His son Zayde was a teacher of Torah and read the Torah during public Torah readings. The sons of Moshe Klein were Naftali, Meir, Shimshon, and Yaakov. Reb Nachman Steinmetz, mentioned above [as having been Reb Yosel Nachman's father-in-law], was Reb Shlomo Klein's son-in-law. He was among the leaders of the Vishnitz Chassidim. For the duration of the Days of Awe he would stay in the city of Vishnitz. His son Meir Dovid was an outstanding Torah scholar who supported himself as a doctor and [trainer(?)]; he also gave classes in religion in the government schools. In Aushwitz he was beaten to death by S.S. troops.

There was in Nereniza another Jew, who was famous in his own way - Berel Indik, known as “Berel the tinsmith”. He was a close follower of the Vishnitz Rebbe, possessed a [simple] faith, and was known to be outstanding in his fear of heaven. He davened [prayed] with tremendous enthusiasm, and was known for the extent that he put himself out for guests. He never ate a meal without guests at his table. He finished reciting the entire book of Tehillim [Psalms] twice daily, and was awake every midnight to recite “Tikun Chatzos” [a special prayer said in the middle of the night]. On Shabbos evenings, even heavy rain and snow would not prevent him from walking to the communal Sabbath meal in the neighboring town of Vilchovitz. Reb Berel supported himself as a tinsmith and was respected by all of the residents of the village and the surrounding area.

Reb Wolf Yosef Yosefovits was another of the simple Jews of the town who supported himself with the work of his hands. He was a wood cutter. While chopping wood for householders of the village, he would sing to himself chapters of the Psalms by heart. He was very careful with his speech, taking great care to distance himself from gossip and talebearing.

Another respected householder was Reb Yaakov Stern, who owned a shoe store. He was an honest and respected merchant, and a Torah scholar. He was the sales agent for the “Bata” factory, famous in Czechoslovakia. He was the son-in-law of Reb Wolf (“Welchi”) Berkovits, who was a flour merchant, Torah scholar, and known for his good deeds, from among the Borstein Chassidim.

The “Maskil” of the town was Reb Dovid Yudkovits, who had a leaning towards the Zionist movement. In the First World War he was captured by the Russians, and while a prisoner of war came in contact with the Hebrew Haskala Movement (the Hebrew “Enlightenment” movement) and the related Nationalist Zionist movement, and was inspired by it. He supported himself as a manufacturer of beer and liquor. He was a Torah scholar with fine character traits. In his outer appearance he did not differ from the external appearance of the other Jewish inhabitants, wearing a shtreimel and a kaputa. He was a Chasid and feared heaven.

In about 1927 was founded in Neresniza for the first time a branch of the “Mizrachi Youth” movement. As a counterbalance to this activity, immediately the “Aguda Youth” movement was organized. However, through lack of organizational strength, both of these groups disbanded not long after their founding. Both groups became active again only shortly before the holocaust, during the period of Hungarian rule, when also were formed in the town branches of the “Bnei Akiva” and “HeChalutz” movements. None of these groups fulfilled their potential, however, as the holocaust overtook them.

Neresniza was a central administrative center for many of the surrounding villages. In Neresniza the local fair took place. In the village was a clinic, staffed by a doctor and a nurse, a police station, and a post office. In the 1930s, a high school was also opened. The village was lacking in plots of land fitting for agriculture, due to the torrential rains and flash floods that occasionally occurred in the area. The residents of the village supported themselves mainly in small cottage industries and workshops, and as merchants by buying and selling. Apple orchards were established, which produced a relatively large cash flow. This particular industry expanded, and its produce began to penetrate markets throughout the country, even reaching as far abroad as Germany and England. Also from Neresniza wood, eggs, milk, and other products were exported by rail.

130 Jewish heads of families made their livings as follows: approximately 75 as shoemakers, carpenters, tinsmiths, tailors, in construction, etc.; a handful of Jews from the town worked the land as farmers; about 40 families made their living as merchants. Few of these were wealthy, most were either small shopkeepers, middlemen, or peddlers. At least 10 families were supported by the charity of the community. In the mid-1930s, small industries were founded: a weaving mill, a brick factory, a bicycle shop.

In Neresniza lived a special breed of “strong Jews”, who were capable and willing to guard their Jewish honor, even with their fists, if necessary. The local gentiles knew that the Jews of Neresniza were not faint-hearted.

Among those who came from Neresniza, we feel obligated to mention David Ben-David [(surname originally Davidovits)], born in 1920, presently a resident of Nir-Etzion [in northern Israel]. After learning in a number of Yeshivos in Carpatho-Russia, he joined the “Bnei Akiva” movement and came to Israel as a pioneer settler. During World War 2 he joined the British army with the intention of trying to come into contact with survivors and investigating personally what was happening to the Jews during the holocaust. Eventually he deserted from the British army, and after many dangerous adventures, visited his hometown of Neresniza. Shortly after his arrival, the town was captured by the Red Army (see below). After returning to Israel, he fought during the Israel War of Independence in the settlement of Kfar Etzion, where he was a member, and was captured by the Jordanians. Ben-David authored an encompassing work on Neresniza. Much of our information was culled from his work, which at present [1986?] is still in manuscript. [This work was later published privately, with the title “Bridge Over Abyss”.]

Another Neresniza native was Dr Aryeh Galia-Greenberg, a teacher, writer, and researcher. The subject of his doctoral thesis at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, was “The Tradition of Commentary on the Pentatuach” (Jerusalem 5729 [1968]), written under the supervision of Professor Dov Sadan.

The Holocaust

During the transitional period - after the period of Czecheslovakian rule had ended [in November 1938] and before the Hungarian conquest [in March 1939] - the local Jews suffered greatly at the hands of the “Chechen” Ukrainians. About 100 Jews from Neresniza, fearing the nationalist Ukrainians, went into hiding, for many Ukrainians had borrowed money from these Jews, who had liens on their property. Now that the Ukrainians were in power, they threatened to take “revenge” on the Jews. There was a second vengeful side to the fear that the Jews of Neresniza felt when the Ukrainians took power. Jews from the neighboring town of Vilhovitz had sent word to their brethren in Neresniza that the Hungarian army was marching towards Neresniza. The Neresniza Jews quickly hung Hungarian flags on their houses. However, it was not Hungarian, rather Chechen Ukrainians (who passionately hated the Hungarians) that were marching towards Neresniza. The Jews' mistake kindled additional hatred of the Ukrainians towards the “traitorious” Jews. A “black list” was compiled of leading Jewish persons who were to be executed. A Jewish lawyer from Tecs sent a series of strongly worded warnings to the leaders of the local Chechens not to harm the Jews of Neresniza. The orders for executions were not carried out, and the matter passed relatively peacefully. In truth, the Ukrainians' hold on power in the area lasted an extremely short time [approximately 5 months], for in March 1939 Hungarian forces overran the entire area.

With the entrance of the Hungarians into Neresniza began a series of evil decrees. 36 craftsmen and shopkeepers had their business licences revoked. In 1941 masses of poor, destitute Hungarians flooded the region, arriving by train and on foot, not having found sustenance in their home country. These Hungarians descended upon the local Jews and plundered them. They went from building to building, with great cruelty throwing the storekeepers and householders into the street, and ransacking their homes, stores and workshops. Dozens of Jewish families were thus financially broken and left destitute.

On the eve of Tisha B'Av 5701 [Friday, August 1, 1941] came the enforcement of the dreaded residency decree. The local gendarmes poured into Neresniza, accompanied by the local Christian religious leaders and local slanderers. They hunted from house to house. Every individual who was not able to document his Hungarian citizenship [and taxpayer status] from the year 1851 was imprisoned and forcibly transported to Galicia. In Neresniza 16 entire families were trapped and sacrificed in this horrid decree, numbering 70-80 individuals. Only scattered individuals from this deportation survived to filter back into Hungary. In comparison to other villages in the area, the percentage of deportees was relatively small, thanks to a local Hungarian with a human conscience, a teacher in the Ruthenian school in the village, and a former officer in the Czecheslovakian army. This Hungarian found out about the decree before it's announcement. He went from house to Jewish house and warned those who lacked the necessary papers to hide until the danger would pass. All of the remaining Hungarians in Neresniza (there were only a total of 5 Hungarian families in the entire village) enthusiastically and wholeheartedly participated in the liquidation of the Jewish population of the town. The deportees were murdered by troops of the Hungarian and German armies, with the help of the Ukrainian populace of Kaminetz-Podolsk in Galicia, and in other locations.

The shochet Reb Gedaliah David Berkovits was thrown into the local prison for having issued dozens of marriage certificates to Jewish couples in Neresniza. These certificates were needed in order to establish proof of Hungarian citizenship. He was held in the prison for about a month, during which time he displayed tremendous personal strength. The shochet held his position that the marriage certificates had been issued in accordance with the laws of the land. He announced a hunger strike in response to not being allowed to wear tefillin while praying. After he was freed, the gendarmes expressed their respect for this Jew for his unwavering stand, and for his behavior during the entire duration of his imprisonment, for even though he sustained his hunger strike, he did not interrupt his Torah learning.

Approximately 50-60 of the Jews of Neresniza were drafted into forced-labor battalions of the Hungarian army. 19 of these died in the snow-laden fields of the Ukraine; another three died as prisoners of the Red Army; six were brought, after three years of back-breaking labor, to death camps in Germany and were murdered there. Only 29 of the draftees survived.

A few days before Pesach 5704 [during the first week of April, 1944], German forces entered Neresniza and deployed themselves in various positions in the town. Rumors filled the air, and parallel to the baking of Matzos for Pesach, the bakeries and housewives hurriedly began baking dry cakes and bisquits in anticipation of fleeing the village. The wealthier Jews of the town opened their pockets, and the Jewish grain merchants their storehouses, distributing free flour, money, and other supplies to all in need.

On Wednesday, 26 Nisan (19 April 1944) the expulsion of the Jews from Neresniza began. The previous day, gendarmes had passed from house to house in order to insure that all of the Jewish inhabitants would be present at the large Study Hall for the general summons. All were present. The next day the entire Jewish population was loaded into train cars at the Neresniza station and were brought to the Mateszalka ghetto.

For 35 days, from 20 April until 25 May 1944, the Jews of Neresniza remained in the Mateszalka ghetto, one of the worst ghettos in Hungary. On [Thursday] the 25th of May, the Jews of Neresniza, Terneve, Bedevle, Leh, Novoseliza, Kalin, Bogdan, and Bistina were commanded to prepare to be transported. Hundreds of individuals - men, women, and children - waited in line for 36 hours, oppressed by hunger, thirst, and exhaustion. Children were crying, as the May sun beat down on their heads. The line moved slowly, a few steps per hour, and then stopped. Step after step, the Jews dragged themselves, their children, and their few remaining possessions for over a full day until they reached the inspection point, which was manned by the local police together with the secret police. There, each Jew was checked, random Jews were mercilessly beaten, and any object of value was confiscated on the spot. Many of the Jews were stripped naked and humiliated by being forcibly inspected in their bodily orifices. The Jews already felt that the end was approaching. One Jew was found to be in possession of a Hungarian passport; on the spot he was sadistically murdered by being cut into pieces. The murderers gleefully yelled, “To where you are all going, you won't need passports!” On Shabbos afternoon [5 Sivan 5704; May 27 1944] the train left Mateszalka, each car stuffed with over 80 individuals. The journey to Aushwitz lasted 4 days and 4 nights.

Only a single Jewish family remained [in the area of Neresniza] alive and united. A gentile neighbor by the name Kovitz hid the family in various hiding places, both within the village and in the surrounding area. A few days before the liberation, when the family had already undergone tremendous suffering, railway workers continued with the efforts to save them, sealing the entire family into a closed railway car which was moved back and forth from station to station along the Neresniza - Teresif line, until the area was liberated by the Red Army.

There were numerous attempts to escape from the deportation, but all of them failed. Approximately 10 young people from Neresniza attempted, with forged papers, to reach Budapest, where already lived a number of Jews who had fled Neresniza earlier. These young people were discovered and forced from the train in Teresif, and placed in the Selist ghetto. From there they were transported to Aushwitz. Most of the Jews who had escaped to Budapest earlier (in 1941-3), survived.

After the holocaust, some survivors returned to Neresniza. We will here quote from the previously mentioned memoirs of David Ben-David, who had deserted from the British army. He writes:

“…The next morning, we purchased tickets and boarded the small train which connects the village of my birth with the world at large. This same train, which has whistled its way already for decades, from as far back as the reign of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, which has seen rulers fall and new rulers rise; here, she remains a faithful vestige, she hasn't changed her path and hasn't increased her speed… This train was always full of Jews; in her rail-cars every evening and every morning there was a Minyan, and the gentiles were pushed aside; they couldn't stand to be in the same place with the Jews, who made the train into their own. When the day of reckoning came, all of the local Jews were loaded into these same green railroad cars and were taken, like nameless slaves, never to return.

Now the train is totally non-Jewish, the smells of non-Jewish food and non-Jewish work waft from her: the smell of cabbage soup and pig manure, tobacco and fat. With no Jews, the gentiles have begun to do business.

So we sit in a corner, in a rail-car filled with gentiles - a small group of five bereaved, forlorn, orphaned, mourning Jews; withdrawn into themselves; while from every side glances are shot at us, glances of amazement, of narrow-minded hatred and jealousy. Uncircumsized eyes, begrudging the handful of Jews who remain. For they knew, and they had hoped, that all of the Jews would be killed.

Here, the stop at Terneve! At the station not a single Jew. From Terneve the train moves on, continuing until Neresniza, where it pulls into the station. The station is empty, almost deserted. A few gentiles are milling around, with glaring, astonished eyes turned our way in curiosity and amazement. The heart cries out and shudders, “LORD OF THE UNIVERSE, WHERE ARE THE JEWS?! Where are the wagon-drivers with the crowing voices; the Jews who come to greet the arrivals with their whips in their hands, calling out, “to Vilhovitz!”, “Noveseliza!”, “Ganice!”, “Neresniza!”… Where are all of the peddlers, with baskets of bagels and buns; where are the merchants, and the curious Jewish onlookers…??

Here are the first Jewish houses… What eternal sadness, what emptiness!… Every stone in the wall cries out, and tears flow from every brick… Everything is empty and deserted. The joyful laughter of children no longer peals through the windows, the mooing of cows is no longer heard from the sheds. The heart constricts and the vision blurs. Here is my parents' house!… What, THIS is my parents' house?… The house in which I grew, enjoyed, and struggled for 17 years, the house where I spent my entire youth? The house whose every floorboard is soaked in a loving mother's tears, praying for her children, that they should grow to be G-d-fearing Torah scholars, the house whose every stone absorbed each morning the sighs of “Shaarei Tzion” and the chapters of the Psalms that my father of blessed memory would recite… Where are my brothers and sisters, for whom I cried out so many heartfelt prayers and spilled so many tears when I was in foreign lands, in the deserts of Syria and Libya, for whose rescue I enlisted and for whose sake I fought?

I enter inside. The wind howls through the broken windows. The floor, the sinks, and the cellar are all dismembered and destroyed. The floorboards are torn away and the ground is covered with horse dung - Red Army troops chose my parents' house and turned it into a stable for their animals. I have no strength to lift my feet. My entire being has turned to stone. Only when I enter into the small room that we used for the Sukkah - all at once all of my pain and all of my feelings burst out - I cry uncontrollably - My entire being pours out. I weep… The entire universe weeps with me. I cry as I never have cried… I climb to the attic and find a torn tallis, a remnant of my father's tallis, G-d should avenge his spilled blood!… I pick it up, I fervently kiss it and gently stroke it, I press it against my heart and take it with me as an eternal reminder, more precious to me than anything.

First, I needed to legalize myself. I approached the town office to register my presence. I presented my papers, told my story. The town secretary, a Ruthenian woman, a native of Neresniza, had been a good friend of my mother of blessed memory. She greeted me warmly, and with joy… From the town office I went to register with the local police. The head of the militia here was a Ruthenian officer from a neighboring village, who arrived here with the Czech army which had been fighting with the Russians. The other guards were young men from Neresniza, with whom I had learned together in school. They still remembered me, and treated me with respect. A transport arrived in the courtyard of the police station. A transport filled with Germans from the German settlements in the area. They were all being deported to Germany. I gaze, and enjoy the sight. I become involved in what is happening. One German presents a certificate written in English, the guards do not understand English. I explain to them the contents of the document. The guards are curious, how does a native of Neresniza have proficiency in English? I explain to them that I have just returned from Italy, where I met some Britons. My stature rises in their eyes. The guards comfort me, they promise me that it will be good for me there. The village is in need of young intellectuals…

Now I am registered; legal. An honored resident of Neresniza. I approach and gather together the 12 surviving Jewish embers, the Jewish youth to be found in the village. I encourage them to leave Neresniza as soon as possible. Another Jew enters, and upbraids me. He orders me to leave the youths alone, not to encourage them to again go out into the uncertainty and dangers of the road. They have wandered enough, he screams, they will remain in the village, and will make do. When he insinuates that it would be better if I would be the one to leave the town, I understand the hint…

In the meantime, a few other bereaved Jews have reached the town. They have returned from the forests, from forced labor under the Soviet regime. I saw their pain and their poverty; on their return to the village of their birth, they were not greeted, not by their wives and not by their children; neither with property nor possessions, not with social welfare, and not with sympathetic rulers. In place of support and recuperation, they were immediately conscripted into forced labor, cutting down trees in the forest in exchange for a few pennies.

I visited the town's Jewish Study Hall, and the “klois”. I found the two houses of prayer in a shambles, the floor filthy and the pages of holy books fluttering in the wind. In the klois I found a parchment fragment of a Torah Scroll, on it written a portion of the curses. Was this the finger of G-d hinting to me?

I hike up to the Jewish graveyard, to bade farewell to my ancestors' graves. I find the graveyard vandalized; the fence destroyed, tombstones uprooted; miscreants have defecated on the graves. In a forest of tombstones, blackened with age and leaning, beginning to fall, with difficulty I find my grandfather's grave, may his memory be blessed: “Here lies David Yehuda the son of Yeshayahu Mordechai”. With my fingernail I crumble pieces of the stone from the tombstone, in order to bring with me as a remembrance to the land of our forefathers, just as did the exiles from the Spanish Expulsion of 1492. I take leave of my grandfather, and of all of the other grandparents of the town. With tear-filled eyes I gaze down from the mountaintop cemetery down onto the town of my birth, Neresniza, for the last time. The July sun is beating down in full strength… Never have I seen Neresniza so beautiful as it appears today. What grace has descended today upon the town of my birth! In the surrounding fields, peasants and their wives are energetically working and reconstructing their lives. The scars of the war are healing; yet here stands a miserable representative, a lone orphaned survivor of the Jewish community which has been cut off from its ancestral graveyard and forever separated from its beloved, and from its birthplace.

Driven and confused, I run from the graveyard, straight to the train station, fearing to look back. Only when the train's wheels begin to move and to clatter, do I lighten a bit. My spirit, which threatened to burst, calmed somewhat… “

Bibliography:

Remembrances of Neresniza and other places until the end of the Second World War (Manuscript), David Ben-David.

Interviews with a number of Neresniza survivors.

Sefer Karpatoris (Encyclopedia of the Exiles vol 7), Yehuda Erez, editor; p 263.

Magyar-Zsido Okleveltar, Budapest, vol VII, 1963, pp 308, 747; vol XVI, 1976, p 103.

Yad Vashem testimonies: 015/1408; 015/1782; 015/2584.


Translated and edited by Moshe A Davis. This translation is dedicated to the memory of my grandfather Benish Davidovits (in America, Bennie Davis), and to the members of his family (family surnames mainly Davidovits, Markovits, and Katz) from the neighboring village of Leh (Szeleslonka, Shirukiy Lug), who were murdered by the accursed Nazis and their accomplices. Hashem Yenakam Damam!

In this translation, I have endeavored to maximize ease of readability and the grammatical flow of the material, while keeping true to the spirit and the content of the information contained therein. To this end, in many places I have taken the liberty of rearranging the sentence and/or paragraph structure from that of the original Hebrew in order to improve the clarity and natural flow of ideas in English. Also, in many places I have slightly expanded the material, in order to clarify ideas or to define concepts which may not be familiar to readers who lack background in traditional Jewish customs and who are unfamiliar with Jewish Law. My own additions I have set apart by enclosing them in square brackets [].

Please note that many of the original sources used by the authors of Sefer Marmaros were written in languages other than Hebrew, which is the language of the text of Sefer Marmaros itself. Those original sources were not available to the translator, and thus most of the surnames as transliterated here may in fact have been spelled somewhat differently in the original source.


List of Jewish surnames mentioned in this article:

Ben-David (Davidovits)
Berkovits
Chaim
Chaimovits
David
Davidovits
Einhorn
Fogel
Galia-Greenberg
Hagar
Hershkovits
Indik
Klein
Kramer
Leibovits
Markovits
Melamed
Nachmans
Petenyi
Steinmetz
Stern
Weiss
Wolf
Yankele
Yosefovits
Yudkovits
Zapida
Zido

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Maramures Region, Ukraine     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Lance Ackerfeld

Copyright ©1999-2014 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 22 Jun 2008 by LA