In the absence of 99% of my father’s and mother’s family, all murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust of World War II, I was deprived of the normality of family life.
To perish means to suffer death, usually in a violent, sudden or timeless way.
The book “These we remember, Memoirs of survivors, Yizkor Book of Ivenets, Kamin and surroundings, A Holocaust memorial book” it is, in fact, one more Memorial Book: the Book of Yizkor of the Holocaust.
This is Memoirs of survivors of the Shtetl Ivenets, today located in Belarus, where my mother was born and lived until 1935.
In this book is the testimony of my mother, Rachel Katz. She pinches my heart and sheds my tears every time I flip through it. The book deals with life in the shtetl, Ivenets, the Ghetto and the Holocaust.
Having cut the legacy of family roots
My mother, Rachel, had a sister, Chaya, whom she loved very much. I don’t know how many brothers and sisters my mother’s parents had, my grandparents. I never knew any relatives of my grandfather, Yosef Katz, or my grandmother, Rivka Gurevitz-Katz. They all lived in Ivenets and other places in Poland. Nazi atrocities shortened their lives.
My father, Yisrael Gringer, had two brothers and one sister. I also know that between my grandfather Leib-Arye Gringer and my grandmother Chaya Lipchitz-Gringer they had seventeen brothers and sisters. None of them survived the Holocaust, and I never met any of them. All of my father’s family, except for his sister, Riva, perished in the Holocaust. Riva managed to escape the Nazis to the far north of Russia, and one of my grandfather Leib’s brothers, Avraham, survived the Holocaust, but his wife and children did not.
I had the privilege of knowing only my dear Aunt Riva and my Uncle Avraham.
So, in fact, I ended up being born into a family whose family roots were very broken.
I grew up without having grandparents. my minimum extended The family reality was two aunts and two uncles. But the rest of the extended family was missed, apart from my parents mentioning them very often.
I grew up in a Holocaust home of survivors and the longing for those who perished in the Holocaust was felt in our daily lives.
My mother and father are no longer alive, but their presence is always with me. However, the presence of the whole family has been a permanent enigma for me.
I needed to explore my family roots. I wanted to get closer to the roots of the family foundation of my mother and father. I visited my mother, Rachel’s birthplace, Ivenets, today a small and remote village in Belarus, about 2 hours drive from Minsk, the capital of Belarus. I visited the city of Vilnius-Vilnius, formerly in Poland, today the capital of Lithuania, where my mother’s family moved in 1935.
I visited Warsaw, Poland, where my father grew up. However, while exploring my father’s family roots, he took me on a trip to Łódź, a city in central Poland, where the Gringer and Gurevitz families had very deep roots.
Much of Ivenets appears to have remained as it was for decades before most, if not all, of the Jews who lived there were murdered by the Nazis.
these we remember
in 2021 i wrote about my emotional trip to Ivenets.
The book “These we remember” in a chapter of Racher-Katz-Gringer he wrote:
Page 169 – “My city Ivenetz”
“In these passages it is my desire to bring up several links that have been a whole chain of events in the life of the Jewish community and its customs. Hundreds of Jewish communities were scattered throughout Poland before World War II, some were close to large cities, which influenced small-town customs. However, there were villages far from the big cities and there life flowed on calm waters. The lifestyle of the Jews there was simple. It was a constant struggle for them to maintain material and national existence in a hostile and unfavorable Christian environment..
“One of these shtetls was Ivenets. Now that I remember Jewish life there, I understand that it was no different from other ‘shtetlach’ in Poland..
“Ivenets was located not far from Russia’s border with Poland and that proximity influenced the Yiddish language pronunciation of the Jewish people..
“I see my Shtetl through my eyes and my soul. The market with its line of stores; I see before my eyes the shopkeepers in front of their stores, standing and waiting for a customer to arrive, since the buyers were few during the week, and in the absence of anything to do, the merchants went to the neighbors and gossip rolled around. to the mouth. However, the pace of life was different on Wednesday, the day market day took place. That day, peasants from all over the area gathered at the market with their merchandise. And in the stores there were many people, hubbub and competition and endless sales..
“An additional image is painted before my eyes; Shabbat (Shabbat) is taking over our city. A holy fear hangs over everyone; early morning Jews stream into Beis HaKnesset (Synagogue); The faces of the Jews throughout the week changed. Peace and harmony spread across their faces and the presence of the Divine Shabbat hung over them..
“In the afternoon the Jews go out to the streets to accompany the Queen of Shabbat; I see the rabbi, and his chaperones walking; in peaceful wonder, his path was cleared. And the richest men walked importantly through the streets of the town, recounting or discussing the daily events..
“Typical were the relationships between large and extended families, like my father, the family of Joseph Katz. As I got older, I began to understand the relationships of an extended family. Great was my joy that here and everywhere I look I will find a relative.”
Page 333 – “we remain remnants”
“In 1935 my parents moved to Vilna. However, the link with Ivenets remained: we still had our father’s sister and her family there and they have moved to live in our house. We also traveled there at every opportunity and people from the town came to visit us in Vilnius..
“A few years later we entered the routine of the big city as the world’s skies grew ever darker. The Nazis conquered country after country and the media was filled with horror stories, but no one believed the rumors because they couldn’t be believed..
“The year is 1939. War broke out, Vilnius was bombed and the Russians conquered it. The city was full of refugees from western Poland. we were lucky.
“The Russians abandoned the city soon after, handing it over to the Lithuanian administration. Life returned to normal. However, the calm did not last. In 1941, after the Germans had conquered Poland and most of Europe, they also invaded Russia and carried out destruction and devastation..
“The Jews of Vilna were on the verge of extermination. They imprisoned us in the Ghetto and the extermination began. I remember that event before we were ghettoized, one of the landowners near Ivenetz contacted my father and suggested that we move to his property and hide there. This man was prepared to accept all the risk and help us. But my father hesitated and we stayed in Vilna..
“We lived in the ghetto for two years; two years of fear, despair and hunger. However, the liquidation of the Ghetto also came. Some of the Jews were transported to the labor camp; others to Nazi death camps. My sister Chaya and I were separated from our parents, without us ever knowing if we would see each other again. As we were parting, our thoughts turned to our family still in Ivenetz..
“We were in a concentration camp. Oppressive work, hunger and torment were our lot. We saw the extermination of European Jews with our own eyes.
“We were lucky to still be alive. We return to Poland as orphans, homeless and wounded in soul and body, with a spark of hope that even though someone in our family may still be alive. They were vain hopes. We had to start from scratch to rebuild independent lives knowing that everything was destroyed. No parents, no family, no friends.
“We were told horrible stories about the heroism of Uncle Leib Doarrer. Some consolation he was. However, it was difficult to get used to the idea that there was no one left alive from a large and extended family, such as ours..
“The ground burned under our feet. We could not stay in Poland, which had helped the nazis to exterminate the Jews. Every stone cried out: Flee! Get away! But we felt the hatred of Poland and headed towards the Land of Israel, the only place where we could rebuild our lives..”
Lost contact with the past
My mother died. This is the mother I had, an orphan with a wounded soul and body. Memories of her yearn for Ivenetz from all its streets and alleys, from its gardens that bloomed in summer and from its snow in winter. She could never get it out of her head.
In Ivenetz, where they work hard and earn a living in poverty and hardship from Shabbat to Shabbatthey had great wealth in spirit and education, in their love for the Land of Israel.
My exploration of family roots at Ivenets was pretty grim. No Jew is to be found there. The Jewish community that my mother so vividly described is no more.
As a post-Holocaust human product, the Holocaust that took place on the clock of my mother’s generation is vivid to me even though I have not experienced it. I am well aware of the terrible event.
The life my mother lived in Ivenets is almost surreal. It is fading fast as the horrors that the Jews of Europe faced in the late 1930s and into the 1940s are fading fast with the expiration of that generation.
Family roots run deep, but sometimes they end prematurely.
The resounding slogan ‘NEVER AGAIN’ is the hope that life in a shtetl like Ivenets will never fade away as a fait accompli.