Jerry Liboff* and I had spoken many times about returning to the shtetls of our parents, Dynow and Dubiecko but we never made any definitive plans. I was speaking to Sharon Brooks* one day, when she mentioned that she had been invited to Poland to evaluate the para-olimpics..... I immediately said, "I'm going with you and I am going to call Jerry in Alaska and ask him he wants to join us".... And so it was that we were on our way to Poland.
I had booked an apartment in the Old/New Historic Town through the internet. It was a crap shoot as I did not really know anything about the city. The description of the apartment, the location and the cost sounded good. Well, we were pleasantly surprised when we saw the apartment. It was located on the third floor, no elevator but it had a fully equipped kitchen, including a dishwasher, microwave and all other amenities if we planned on cooking plus a washing machine...
The area was called the Old Historic Town but actually it was reconstructed after WW II. The Nazis had destroyed 90% of Warsaw including the area where our apartment was located. After WW II with the original drawings in hand the area was built exactly how it looked hundreds of years ago. One would never know that the buildings were not the original ones and looked hundred of years old...
... we took off by buying a 3 day bus ticket which cost about $1.50. The first time you get on the bus you insert it into a machine and voila you needn't punch it again for the next three days...We rode busses and walked a lot to various sites including the Jewish cemetery which is very old, the Warsaw Ghetto monument, the Umschlagplatz where the Jews were taken from the Ghetto and put on trains to the concentration camps, a jail where the Germans kept Jewish prisoners but were freed by the Polish Army. The weather was warm and humid in Poland in June and no air conditioning...
In the evening we ate at one of the outdoor cafes, which was in the square near our apartment. People eat late there and maybe because of the heat there were many people walking around.
Each morning we'd have our toast and tea and take off for the day. I don't know why I took along tea bags which came in handy. Today, we decided to go to the Jewish Institute. I was hoping to do some research on our family. Once inside we were directed to the Lauder Foundation. There we met Yale J. Reisner and Anna Przybyszewska-Drozd. Although they were not able to help us with our research we spent an hour with them discussing various Jewish subjects. They are employed by the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation-Genealogy Project They inquired about our families, entered the family names into their data base and would contact us if they received any further information on the Aaron family. We were given two pictures of Dynow taken prior to WW II. We also looked at the current exhibit being held in the building. There were pictures and a video of the Jewish community of Warsaw prior to WW II. The pictures were very sad to look at. They showed the people who were forced out of their homes and made to live in a ghetto where people and especially children died from hunger and diseases. The exhibit was highly emotional....
After lunch we walked to the Warsaw Archives. I was hoping to do research but unfortunately, it was closed...
This morning we walked to the main campus of the Warsaw University to tour the Chopin Museum. It was formerly the Czapski Palace now home of the Academy of Fine Arts. The building was the last home of Chopin before he went into exile. The second floor has period lithographs and furniture recreating the Chopin Family Salon.
We than took a bus to Lazienki Park....It was once a hunting ground on the outskirts of the city. In the 1760's King Stanislaw bought the property and turned it into an English style park. A few years later he built a summer palace on the grounds. There are many sculptures and buildings on the grounds. The Nazis destroyed many of the buildings and sculptures but they were all restored after the war. There is also a large monument dedicated to Chopin. which the Nazis also destroyed.. Every where we turned on this particular day (Saturday) there were brides, grooms and wedding parties taking pictures. I could understand why they wanted to take their pictures at the park. It was truly a beautiful place for picture taking. The park is well taken care of. There are many beautiful flowers planted everywhere and the park is extremely clean. (No garbage or paper anywhere). The paths leading into the park were sloped downward and of course the paths leading out of the park were upward but there were many benches to stop and rest. One of the prettiest sights to behold in the park, besides the beautiful edifices, were the peacocks. They seemed to be performing for the visitors, spreading their wings, walking and turning around to show off their plumage...
June 19, 2006-WARSAW-We proceeded to the "Blinkie" Bakery. It is the oldest bakery in Warsaw opening in 1869. We had been told that the baked goods were the best and we were not disappointed ordering cheese Danish and coffee. From there we hopped on a bus and rode it to the end of the line which was quite a ways out of the city. It was here that we were able to view the grandiose palace of King Stanislaw.
We stopped at a "Traditional Polish" restaurant for a bite to eat. Jerry ordered borscht and I had crepes. The food was very good, just like our mother's cooking. We headed back to the apartment to await Sharon's arrival. The weather was great today, a slight breeze and NO humidity...
June 20, 2006-Warsaw to Krakow - Poland is primarily an agricultural country. Looking out of the train window, we passed many farms. The trip from Warsaw to Krakow was approximately 2 1/2 hours. Upon arriving in Krakow, Sharon called Henrik Migocki, whom we hired for the next four days to be our driver/guide and translator...
Hotel Polski was an elegant hotel prior to WW II. Our room was straight out of an old movie. Upon entering there was a large vestibule with an armoir and large mirror. The bathroom was to the right, tiled, with a very large tub just like the one in our Warsaw apartment. In order to take a shower, you sat on a cut out seat in the tub and washed with the hand shower. The room itself had high ceilings, windows from ceiling to floor and no air conditioning. The hotel did have internet which was free in the lobby. We all took advantage of it.
Shortly after checking into the hotel, we were off to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the concentration camps. It was about an hours drive from Krakow. The car was a Mercedes, comfortable but no air conditioning. Henrik entertained us with singing "If I WERE A RICH MAN" and playing a cassette with Hebrew songs driving like a maniac, FAST. I was glad to be sitting in the back seat...
Upon arriving at Auschwitz, we passed under an iron gate which read in German, "Arbit mache der frie" (Work makes you free). Having seen this scenario many times in print and video made me uncomfortable. I felt like I was walking into an abyss. But I had made up my mind before coming to Poland that I was going to visit the camps. Auschwitz originally housed Polish prisoners. Later it became a working camp.it was made up of row upon row of brick buildings. Each building was now a museum... Needless to say, it was a highly emotional experience...
At 9:00 AM sharp Henrik arrived and off we went to tour the Jewish quarter of Krakow. For whatever reason, the Nazis did not destroy the city. Our first stop was the Galicia Museum. The permanent exhibit at the museum is "Traces of Memory". It is a photographic tribute to a vanished world and a powerful acknowledgement of Poland's Jewish Heritage dating over a thousand years. The exhibit aimed to show how and where Jews lived, where they were murdered and how they are remembered. Besides the souvenir shop, café, kosher shop, bookshop, concerts educational lectures and cultural events are held here nearly every night...
Believe it or not there were two Jewish kosher restaurants in the square. One was the former mikvah and now called the Klezmer Hois. I think they have Klezmer music there also. Jerry, Henrik and I ordered gefilite fish which was delicious-just like my mother use to make...After leaving the restaurant we proceeded to Schindler's factory.
Henrik pick us up at 9:00 AM. On our drive out of Krakow, we stopped at a site which had been the former Plaszow concentration camp. It is located in the suburbs of Krakow. When the Ghetto was liquated in Krakow the people were sent to this camp It was a slave labor camp and very few people survived including many women and children. The commandant and his staff were extremely cruel to the Jewish people which can be seen in the film Schindler's List. It was here that Oscar Schindler saved 1000 Jews...
The roads were two lanes and much construction was going on widening the roads. The drive, except for being scared out of our wits by the way Henrik was driving, was beautiful passing many farms and small towns. After a few hours we saw a sign *DYNOW. I can't begin to tell you how excited we were upon seeing it...
We finally arrived in Dynow on a two lane road which kept curving around. Upon entering the shtetl the first thing we saw was a farmer on a horse and wagon. Wow, this looks like it did when our family lived there but changed as we entered the town, there were many cars. The first stop was the cemetery. The cemetery was surrounded by an iron and brick fence. Perhaps, sewer pipes were being installed but there was an open ditch surrounding the cemetery. We looked at the gate, which was locked, started walking around to find out how we were going to get into the cemetery, when a woman came running across the road with a key and opened the gate. She than directed us to follow her. The grounds were overgrown with weeds several feet high. No gravestones were to be seen as the Germans had ground the gravestones up for roads. Prior to WW II Dynow had only dirt roads. We followed the woman, who only spoke Polish. Due to the fact that there were no paths, we walked through high weeds about two to three feet high with the ground being uneven.
We followed her to a concrete building which held four gravestones. Above the gravestones were plaques in Hebrew and pieces of paper with lists of Dynow people who had been killed in the holocaust. All of this was reconstructed after WW II. Sharon and Jerry proceeded to the other building which had another gravestone. It was sad to think that we had come to our ancestors cemetery and not able to pay homage to them. Fortunately, I have a picture of my grandmother, Feige Aaron's (Aron, Arm) gravestone.
We rode to the main square. It, too, was under construction. Henrik parked the car and we walked around the square taking pictures. There was a little kiosk where I was able to buy postcards. In looking back at old pictures of Dynow, the kiosk looked like it had once housed a Jewish store. The buildings around the square were once occupied by Jewish business men. It was noontime. Young people were sitting in the Square and children were practicing which looked like cheerleading but could have been a dance on a high platform. My mother use to tell me that there was a well in the middle of the square where she would go for water. All we saw was a statue of a small brown bear with water shooting out of it. Perhaps this is where the well had been. It was hot and we were thirsty so Sharon and I went into the small grocery store and bought bottles of water. In front of the store was a white plastic table and two white plastic chairs. (Just like the ones in the United States). As we started drinking out of the bottles, the grocery man came out of the store with plastic cups. I thought that was a nice gesture or maybe Polish people do not drink water directly out of bottles. After cooling off, Sharon and I walked over to the bibliotheca, which formerly was one of the synagogues in Dynow. It housed a torah in a glass case. Looking at it, Sharon immediately noticed that it was upside down and had the librarian open the case to turn it around. In the meantime, Jerry was walking around videotaping the town. I wish we had more time to spend there but we had appointments in Dubiecko and had to leave. Once again, as drove along we began to see signs DUBIECKO and of course we were excited nearing another shtetl of our ancestors. We were finally going to visit the shtetl of the Frands.
Dynow and Dubiecko were known as sister shtetls. The drive was about a half hour away. I don't know why they were known as such perhaps, many people from each shtetl had relatives. Arriving at Dubiecko we went to pick up a key to the cemetery gate. This cemetery had also been destroyed by the Nazis for the same purpose as in Dynow. The wall here was also new. Money was raised for it by Dubietzkers.
It was a concrete wall, unlike the iron and brick
wall surrounding the cemetery in Dynow.
The photograph on the right shows Henrik, our driver, standing at the gate to the Dubiecko Cemetery june 2006"
Again the weeds were two-three feet high. In the middle of the
cemetery there were two large trees several hundred
feet apart. We were told that the Nazis had taken 700
Jewish people from Dubiecko and shot them between
these two trees. They were buried in a mass grave.
The photographs below show the Dubiecko's Cemetery and the remains of cemetery wall, post World War II
We were also told that someone in town had a list of
the victims. We were anxious to see the list. My
father's brother had been killed in Dubiecko during WW II and we were hoping that his name was listed. At least we would have known what happen to him even though he was buried in a a mass grave. We never could find the list.
Our next stop was the shtetl itself. We had a picture of my grandmother, Tillie, taken with two of her sons, Milton and Schmuel, (he was the one killed in the holocaust) and a daughter, Elaine, in front of an elementary school. We asked a policeman where the school was. We were directed to a school which did not look like the one in the picture.
Prior to coming to Dubiecko, Sharon had been
in contact with Professor Norman
Bertram, from New York and Richard Tomer, from Israel.
These two gentlemen had
made appointments for us to visit two families in the
shtetl...We were invited to a lovely couple's home
Mr.and Mrs. Szybiak. He was an anthropologist, did
not speak English, and she was a high school English
teacher. They had many interesting artifacts in their
home. They were very hospital and gracious. A
registration book of children registered in the third
grade from 1925 to 1932 was shown to us. Knowing that
we were coming, they had asked for our family name and
gone through the book and clipped all the pages of the
Frands. It was very exciting seeing our family names
written in this book.
...This couple, with several other interested
people in town (Pop. 1000), had converted an abandoned
]Russian Orthodox Church into a cultural center [at left].
They were still in the process of cleaning it but had already had exhibits, lectures and concerts. The purpose was to inform the community and anyone else who was interested in other cultures besides their own. Several months prior to us coming to Dubiecko they had an exhibit on the Dubiecko Jewish community...
Jerry and I set out to find the elementary school which we had a picture of. Jerzy's son followed us on his bicycle directing us to the school. The elementary school was now a pre-school... Eventually Sharon caught up with us. We took a number of pictures of the school ...
My father use to tell me of the nobleman and his family who came to Dubiecko for the summers. He would hire my great grandfather and his klezmer band to play for them on weekends when they had company. The band was composed of all his children including my grandfather, who played the violin.
Henrik had made reservations for us at the
Castle Krasiczyn which had been converted into a
hotel. It was located between Dubiecko and Przemysl
which was to be our last trip before heading home. ... I decided to stroll around the grounds
before going into the dining room for a lavish buffet
breakfast. I felt like I was in fairyland. The
castle had large towers on each corner and a moat. It
was like a picture one would see in your history books or Disneyland.
After checking out, once again we were on the road, our last stop, in Poland. It took us no time at all and there we were in Przemysl. I immediately wanted to go to the Przemysl Archives to do research. Prior to WW II, Przemysl was the county seat of the district Lwow from which our ancestors came from. Many of the districts were consolidated after WW II and now the district is called Podkarpackie. All births, deaths and marriages were documented at the archives in Przemysl. I had found information on the internet which I wanted to research. ...I had to leave without doing any research. I will now have to send to the archives hoping they can find what I am looking for...
The San River runs through Dynow and Dubiecko. It is not a very wide river. Our families used to wash clothes and go swimming or perhaps bathe in the river...I was amazed at how clear the water was..
Our plane (Jerry & I) was scheduled to leave at 1:00 PM. We wanted to get to the airport by 10:00 to avoid the long lines. Warsaw terminal is small so everywhere you turn there are long lines with people checking in...
As much as I had talked about and wanting to
go to the shtetls of my ancestors, I went with much trepidation knowing what had taken
place during WW II to the Jewish people. Prior to WW II, Poland had the largest
concentration of Jewish people. Jerry and I came home
talking about how glad we had made the trip. Given the opportunity again, we would like to go back for a week to the shtetls and to the Przemysl Archives.
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July 2006- My cousins, Bernice Bernstein and Jerry Liboff return to the town of our parents, siblings all – Dubiecko. My cousin Bernice wrote already about that then. Could anything have changed from then until now in terms of the Jewish presence in Dubiecko? Well- yes and no.
No Jews have returned to Dubiecko to live. The cemetery perimeter wall which replaced the missing original one thanks to the efforts of Professor Norman Bertram remains in place and has even had recent damages repaired. No stones are in the cemetery, however, two partial stones from the Jewish cemetery are, in fact, in Dubiecko, at the home of the local historians, Agnieska and Robert Sziviak. The tall grass and overgrowth that were present last year were still there, but are no longer. I have made arrangements with the cemetery groundskeeper to support the cemetery; I am working on a way to coordinate this through Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland. if you are interested in participating, please contact me.
Prior to my leaving for Poland last year, Professor Bertram had a woman who was also a survivor of Dubiecko, Frieda Steiglitz, get in touch with me to give me her insights. She, as it turns out, was related to a family which is one of my family’s very close friends. She has alerted me that there was a “little Torah from Dubiecko in a museum in Dynow.” Well- there is no museum in Dynow, but a small display area in the town library which was, at one time, one of the towns synagogues. There was, in fact, a Torah on display in a somewhat crude, but adequate glass and wooden case. Displayed by clearly well-intentioned, but non-knowledgeable individuals, it was place upside down in the case. A section of parchment had been cut out of either this, or another scroll, by someone who clearly did know something, as it was the verses containing the Shema. After some researching this past time in Poland, we have arrived at the solution to where the Torah came from. It was witnessed and known that all the Torah scrolls in the B’tai Midrash of both Dynow and Dubiecko were burned. There was, however, a small “kloyz” or prayer hall, which was unmarked externally as a synagogue and escaped destruction in the same manner. It appears that someone removed the Torah from the kloyz and possibly took it with him to Dynow when the Germans invaded in September 1939. The good news for Jews from Dubiecko, however, is that the Torah is coming out of the library in Dynow. It is being brought to the United States by Rabbi Michael Schudrich and I will be having it inspected by a sofer and possible repaired. My father will be able to reconnect with this piece of his past. My students will have the opportunity to learn about the community and the Torah that once nourished it. Then, I will be bringing it back to Poland to Rabbi Schudrich to be reconnected with a living Jewish community again in Poland. I will try to keep you all alerted to the Travels of the Torah as the plans evolve.
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I am working on a project I hope of interest to the Dubiecko site readers.
I have recently made hand-written musical transcripts of the Dubiecko Klezmorim. My new mission
is being supported by the National Yiddish Archives in Massachusetts, the chief rabbi
of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, other musical recording people and Yad VaShem. But, I need the voices and names of the remnants of Dubiecko's Jews from prior to 1939. I know of only 4- my dad, Milton Frant, my cousin Binyamin Eichner, Frieda Steiglitz of Brooklyn, and the great uncle of Tomer Bruner in Israel - Mr. Raps.
The mission is to honor the memories and accomplishments of the Jewish community of Dubiecko, Poland 72 years after their demise at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators, through the re-creation of their original music, marking the sites where they performed, worshipped, and perished, and through the creation of an audio-visual record of these events.
I hope you readers can assist me in the following ways:
I hope you feel as I do that these are the days that we must seize
to get the world to remember as these remnants of the Lost
communities are rapidly disappearing from our lives.
Thanks for your anticipated help with this effort. It is moving quickly with such credible peole like Hankus Netsky of the Klezmer Conservatory Band and musicologist of the National Yiddish Archives, Sam Glaser- international Jewish music performer and recording artist, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, and Avi Markovitz from Yad VaShem on board. But the linch-pin to me are the people, and I am hoping you can assist me with that piece of the puzzle.
Sharon Frant(d) Brooks (click on Sharon’s name to email her directly)
A remarkable event is going to happen in Dubiecko, Poland that all community members as well as the descendents of Dubiecko Jews will want to know about and plan on attending. On June 24th, 2010 under the auspices of the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, the Jewish cemetery in Dubiecko will be re-dedicated. The Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland will be taking over maintenance of the cemetery and has a dedicated fund for grounds maintenance into the future! The date selected is not by chance. On June 24, 1943, the first of three major mass execution of the few remaining Jews of Dubiecko who had returned from exile in Russia or the Przemysl ghetto took place. A marker will be placed in the cemetery to commemorate that sad occasion as well as those that both preceded and followed it later. A plaque is also going to be placed by ceremony in the town center to acknowledge the Jewish historic presence in Dubiecko as well as the sad demise of that once vibrant community. A museum exhibit of large format reproductions of historic photos and artifacts of the Jewish community of Dubiecko will be on display. We are attempting to have a program of other cultural activities, including the local klezmer music from Dubiecko’s Jewish community if the arrangements can be made.
For those interested in attending, there are rooms that can be booked right in Dubiecko at the Krasicki Castle (its new!) that has lovely suites, restaurants, and bars. I will be meeting during the week of the event with community leaders, school administrators and teachers, and religious leaders to develop a scholarship fund for local Dubiecko youth who study about the pre-war Jewish community in Dubiecko and create an essay or piece of artwork about Jewish life in Dubiecko, righteous gentiles who saved Jews in the town, or do commemorative work.
Please feel free to communicate with me if you have any questions or want to know more about these commemoration events,
Sharon Frant(d) Brooks (click on Sharon’s name to email her directly)
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