Tuesday, April 21, 2009

May their memories be for a blessing

Today on Yom Hashoah (27th of Nisan) I wish to honour the memory of

Hersz Lieblich צבי בן יוסף
Chaja Lieblich (Bratshpis) חיה בת יצחק
Moniek Lieblich מרדכי בן צבי

...and to transmit the light of their yahrzeit candles around the world.

I'd like to share with you some words I spoke on the occasion of the consecration of a memorial, on Friday 26th December 2008, at Karrakatta Cemetery in Western Australia.

...They were the grandparents and uncle of my cousins Anne and Karen, and my sister Helen and I …three gitte neshumes, simple folk from a farming region in the south-east of Poland, who died as martyrs …al kiddush Hashem, probably in July 1942, when their Ghetto was transported to the Belzec death camp.

...we are thankful, and feel privileged, that we can place a memorial to them here at Karrakatta, close to where we laid our fathers to rest a few years ago.

…Obviously we never met these ancestors, because they were murdered before we were born, however I think it’s appropriate to tell you a little of what we know about them.

Hersz Lieblich
My grandfather Hersz Lieblich was born c1890. He was a farmer and a grain dealer in the village of Kamien, just north of Rzeszow.

When Dad and I visited Hersz’s farm in northern summer of 1990, it was full of strawberries. Perhaps he also grew strawberries in his time. He certainly grew beans, because during that visit, a neighbour recalled that when the Nazis came to evict the family from their home, Hersz ran and hid in the bean fields.

I gather from this anecdote that Hersz didn’t readily submit to Nazi authority.

Chaja Lieblich (Bratshpis)
Hersz’s wife, my grandmother, Chaja, was born in Stobierna, also near Rzeszow, in 1896. We recently discovered that her grandfather Mordechai emigrated to Philadelphia in 1914, following six of his children, and leaving the seventh child Isaak (Chaja’s father) in charge of their horse-trading business. Mordechai purchased a ticket to also bring Chaja to USA, but she never used it.
I guess her emigration was prevented by the Great War, after which she fell in love, married Hersz, and went on to have three sons with him: Josef (Yossel), Israel (Srulec) and their youngest, Mordechai (Moniek).

I gather that Chaja was a seamstress, because a neighbour told us in 1990 that she still had a handkerchief that Chaja had made her.

Moniek Lieblich
Moniek was born c1925-6, almost certainly not long after Chaja’s grandfather died in Philadelphia, and so he was also named Mordechai after that patriarch.

He was about Bar Mitzvah age when the Nazis evicted the family from their farm and forcibly transferred them to the Rseszow Ghetto.

Their Deaths
In the Ghetto, the elder boys, Yossel and Srulec were forced to work for the Nazis. They were on a work detail at nearby Jasionka Airport, for several months, at which time the Ghetto was transported to the Belzec Death Camp.

History shows that it was a particularly brutal transport, with the residents of the Ghetto being herded through the town to the railway by the Nazis and the local population who jeered and beat them in the street.

Some of the leaders of the Ghetto were killed in the town or in the nearby Glogow Forest. I imagine that perhaps the rebellious Hersz died that way, in his early fifties.

Chaja, then 46 years old and her 13-or-14-year-old son, Moniek were probably herded onto the train and gassed to death at Belzec soon after that.

When our fathers Yossel and Srulec were brought back to the Ghetto from Jasionka, their parents and brother were gone.
Rebuilding the family
Yossel and Srulec survived the Shoah and eventually settled here in Perth to rebuild their lives.

I’m sure that Hersz, Chaja and Moniek would be satisfied that their surviving sons raised four children and ten grandchildren, all true to the tradition from which they sprang.

They are in our thoughts, together with Yossel and Srulec, each time we name a new-born child, celebrate a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, or celebrate a marriage. With each milestone the family grows stronger and builds anew on what was destroyed.

...We are proud that, the family is going from strength to strength …and that Am Yisroel Chai, v’Kayam!
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