August 5, 2007

A Visit With Those That Remember.

This past weekend I met with three survivors from Radziejow. Three honorable, successful Jews living in Canada. I shall not mention their names and the names of my hosts because I forgot to ask their permission to do so. We met at the house of the daughter of a now deceased former survivor of Radziejow. Both she and her husband graciously hosted myself and my wife as I interviewed the survivors.
All live with the memories of how their world was crushed by the Nazis. They remember the antisemitism they experienced in school, from their teachers and their classmates. They remember how the Poles of Radziejow stole the property of the Jews after the Jews were sent to be gassed. They spoke passionately of life in Radziejow. The shops, the people, the deli named the Flower, the town officials, the Rabbi, the history of the Shul, etc… . All three survived as result of G-d’s personal intervention. After the War, they returned to Radziejow. They shockingly found that they were not welcomed. They were informed that they could reclaim their property because all Jewish property was now the property of those that stole it.
I do not comprehend the logic in stealing other peoples property. Even if one does not like an individual or group, a moral person knows that this does not give a person license to steal someone’s property. I would hope that the Priest in charge of the Church, yes the church that can be viewed in the posted picture of Radziejow, that is only a block away from the Neumans’ building, would have told his flock that the property belongs to someone else and we must hold it in trust until the rightful owners reclaim the property. One would think that the Church leaders would have made this a priority, since they were either willing or unwilling accomplices in the gathering of Jews in that very house of worship for the transport of their townfolk to Chelmo, the extermination camp.
The survivors told me about my Grandfather, Shimon Neuman. They spoke in awe as they explained that he was a highly respected citizen in Radziejow. He was a pious man, revered by both the Jews and the Gentiles. He was the head of the Jewish Burial Society of Radziejow. He was the most honest Jew in town and therefore the Jewish Community Court would always choose him to hold all disputed monies until the Court resolved the case. My Grandfather, may he rest in peace, lived a Torah life twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. When the Jewish Congregation delegated a congregant to lead prayers during the most holy ceremony Nilah, the last chance prayers of Appeal for Jews to have G-d recind negative decrees for Jews in the coming year, on the most holy day, Yom Kippur, my Grandfather was honored with the responsibility.
Yes every citizen in Radziejow trusted my Grandfather as an honest merchant and a holy man. How can the citizens of Radziejow ever hope to be forgiven by G-d for their actions towards the Jews before, during and after the Holocaust, until they do what is right and return the Neuman’s property?

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