I am eager to hear your reaction to this website. Please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
. Thanks, Louis
From Harry Rappaport, Ramat-Hasharon, Israel
The website is an important documentation of an underreported facet of the holocaust, the Siberian deportations of a large number of eastern Polish Jews that had fled the Nazis only to be caught up in the Stalinist gulag. The first-hand transcription of Mechel and Tsivye Beck’s experiences is a touching resurrection of a way of life that is no longer with us. More so, it is a tribute to human courage and resilience. The often posed question of why one out of many survived is illuminated: Elements of blind luck combined with a burning desire to live despite all obstacles. In recounting the travails of an individual family, the story illuminates how human spirit can overcome adversity. Its conclusion in Israel parallels the equally unlikely macro story of the phoenix-like rebirth of the Jewish nation. Congratulations on an important and exemplary presented addition to the collective memory and understanding of our shared past. In friendship
From Marek Motylewski, Swiecie, Poland
My first knowledge about history came from primary and secondary school during the Communist time. I like history very much, and even while finishing secondary papermaking school, I took another diploma in the history of Poland (how Poland was created during the early medieval period). To the best of my understanding at the time, the knowledge we received was quite good. There was also a lot of material about the Holocaust, but only with positive aspects related to Poles. This means that at this time I thought that we were only helping Jews. This same thing was taught about the period between WW1 and WW2; there was nothing about strong anti-Semitism during 1918-1939.
Later, when I started to visit Israel, and got knowledge to the contrary, this began to be a kind of problem for me. Of course we know that there never are only 2 colors – black and white – but as well always a lot between (shadows). After 1980 I got deeper knowledge including the things mentioned earlier (anti-Semitism 1918 – 1939 and very bad things that happened during and after the Second War). I also learned more details about September 1939 when on the 17th the Russians came to us from the east based on Ribbentrop – Molotov agreement. Together with your parents, ca. 800000 Poles were moved to Siberia as well. Just now we may consider what was better – to be under Stalin or Hitler?
Last year thanks to a book written by Jan Gross we got more details about our behavior during and shortly after WWII. These lectures were really shocking for me. After spending time quietly thinking about it, I came to a conclusion which gives me consolation, and that is that we are touching such stories because a history is history and we may not change it; but we must try to use history as a basis on which to try to create a better future . My historical knowledge did really change by almost 180 degrees in the last 30 years.
Now I would like to share with you my actual thinking about relations between our two nations: on the overall balance, it makes me proud! Why? First, the fact that Poland contained such a big population of Jews before WWII was, according to my understanding and knowledge, the result of Poland being a tolerant country, already from early medieval times (this can be read in the history of Poland by Norman Davies, “ God’s Playground “ ). As always I’m trying to find positives! When I was younger, I was proud of achievements of Polish writers, artists, scientists etc. Now I know that 50% or more of these writers, artists, and scientists were Jews or had Jewish roots … and? I’M EVEN MORE PROUD OF THAT WHICH WAS CREATED DURING PREVIOUS GENERATIONS BY BOTH NATIONS IN POLAND.
With tolerance regards
From DW, Munich, Germany
I just spend the morning reading you family history and feel as I just come back from Siberia. Sitting comfortable in my garden reading your account, I cannot imagine how we could have survived for even a day the ordeals our parents went through for years.
Thank you for sharing. I have found no specific proof that our families knew each other, but there were many occasions they very well could have: My family were fervent followers of the rabbi of Bobov. At the time your family passed through that village, my family was burying all their silverware in the garden of the rabbi, assuming it will be safe there till after the war.
My family was taken to Siberia from Przemysl on a similar train ride as your parents described. Maybe my family went earlier, since they were dropped off in the middle of a forest and had to build their own huts, although they had come as a family.
Finally: The town my parents went to after the camp my mother always referred to as "near Novosibirsk". But your mentioning of "Semipalatinsk" rang a bell in my memory and I think on rare occasions she referred to this name as their place of stay. They also went back to Poland at the time of your return and it is quite possible that they were on the same train. In any case they had similar hopes to return to their old lives and dismayed at what they found and relieved at what they were spared of.
From Asher Barber, Long Island, NY, USA
Our hard life in Russia was due to their political system. No individual need mattered. The Communist state determined your fate. It provided your meager sustenance and planned your work load to get the most labor where they deemed it was needed. You had no freedom of choice and Siberia was the largest lumber camp imaginable. Because they needed so much labor, it became a perfect place to sned fleeing Jews. This had nothing to do with state secrets or any other trumped-up excuse.
Grandfather's funeral: I was present at my grandfather's funeral. He was buried within eyesight of a major road. I remember the fire burning the permafrost so they could dig a grave. The existing cemetery was basically mixed, with a section for Jews. This would not be in keeping with th religious convictions of our family. Your father probably created a cemetery for refugees. If there was a marker, it was probably wood that would have disintegrated.
Gradmother Pesche spent the war years with her daughter Ratse and her family in Yakutsk.
My borther who was killed on Tsom Gedalia was named Yosef. He was sixteen and a half years old.
Everyone was aware of the bread ration. However, the baker was supposed to yield one and a half pounds for a pound of flour. He cheated and people were short-changed even though this bread was life-sustaining. Schemes were used by everone and anyone.
Dora (Beno's sister) secured a job as a maid. The authorities wanted her to stand in the freezing water moving jammed logs that got stuck on the embankment. She had no protective gear. She wasn't to start her job as a maid for a day. Not working for one day was punishable by four months in prison (certain death). She bribed the judge biut the family had to move to another camp.
From Yefim Kogan, born in Kishinev, Moldova
I have read your Trip to Siberia story with great interest. I am involved in Jewish Genealogy for a while and I did not hear anything from these areas. I do have in my family people who were send to KOMI region in the 1940, when Russian invaded Bessarabia. This is the region my family was from. My grandfather was transcript during the war to work in a coal mine in Siberia, near Kemerovo, died there, and I never knew where he was buried.
From Suzanna Eibuszyc
I would like to share with you a book I am working on.
My mother lived six years in Soviet Russia, places like Saratov and Uzbekistan. Her brother was arrested and sent to Siberia. After two years he was released to join Anders Army to fight Germany.
My mother too was forced to accept Russian citizenship, all the refuges refused, but arrests followed and in the end they had to sing a paper, a promise to become a Russian citizen. This was about the time when the war ended and then the Russians installed a Communist government in Poland and finally almost a year later they allowed the refugees go home to Poland.
My mother Roma Talasiewicz-Eibuszyc wrote a memoir, Keep Pace With the Sun, in 1979, and I translated it in 2006. I was born in Poland and immigrated to the United States as a teenager. I earned an MA from UCLA and a BA from City College of New York. During the past five years I have published excerpts from the book, and received numerous reviews and of the early manuscript. Information and links to articles about the book can be found at http://keeppacewiththesun.blogspot.com.
From Anthony Finkelstein, London UK
Adolf Finkelstein was a Polish Citizen born 6 October 1890 in Lwow. He owned and operated in Lwow a successful steel stockholding and agricultural materials business ‘Finkelstein i Fehl’. He was a Town Councillor and officer of the Polish Army Reserve. He was resident at property 12 Herburtów Street with his wife Amalia Finkelstein (nee Diamantstein) and his only child Ludwik Finkelstein.
On 10th April 1940, while a serving officer of the 2nd Quartermaster Corps of the Polish Army Reserve in Lwow, he was arrested and subsequently imprisoned in Kiev, Kharkov and Starobelsk, where he was sentenced to eight years imprisonment and hard labour as a ‘socially dangerous element’. This to be served in Komi, Siberia, in the settlement of Chibyu (now Ukhta).
Immediately on the announcement of the Amnesty in September 1941, as a soldier and patriot, he joined the Polish Armed Forces USSR under the command of General Władysław Anders at Totskoye, Russia. He was subsequently posted to the army staff at Yangi Yul, Uzbekistan, and to the 1st Regiment of Signals at Velikaya Alekseevskaya, Russia.
He was transferred in 1942 to Iran, then briefly to Iraq, returning to Tehran, Iran, where he was assigned to an Allied Military Government for Occupied Territories (AMGOT) staff course in Tel Aviv, Palestine. On completion of this course he was posted as an interrogator to the 3rd Polish Army Corps in the Canal Zone, Egypt. He served also in the Polish Lines of Communication Palestine and as a liaison officer to the British Army at HQ Tel Aviv and Kfar Bilu.
In September 1947 he was transferred with the Polish Army to the United Kingdom and posted to Ely, Cambridgeshire, where he was commissioned in the Polish Resettlement Corps. He was demobilised in 1949/1950.
Ludwik Finkelstein was born 6th December 1929 in Lwow, a Polish Citizen. His mother Amalia Finkelstein, a Polish Citizen, was born 19th December 1899 in Laka Szlachecka, near Lwow.
Both Ludwik Finkelstein and Amalia Finkelstein were deported from Lwow on 13th April 1940 and taken to Baskurmelte, Semy Palatinsk, Kazakhstan. They rejoined Adolf Finkelstein in Yangi Yul, Uzbekistan, leaving the USSR with Polish Forces in 1942. They then remained with Adolf Finkelstein coming to the United Kingdom in 1947.
From Jack Mandel, Edison, NJ, USA
I just spent the last several days reading your complete account of what went on during those years. I find it absolutely astounding: the incredible will and strength to survive that your family had. I cannot believe mans' inhumanity to man, as it continues today in various parts of the world, and as it has always been present, since the beginning of time. Truly this important story must never be forgotten.
From Noberto Zylberberg, Austin TX, USA
I’m in the works with a documentary of my father’s life (Jacobo), born in Zamosc in 1924, that also was to Taiga from 1941, but till 1944. Then, after being in different Kolkhoz (collective farms) in Uzbekistan and Kazaghstan, went to Berlin in 1946, 1947 in Munich, and then emigrated to Argentina.
I was greatly surprised on the info I saw in your website, and you encouraged me to not only to edit the documentary but to built a more complete story in a website.
He passed away in Buenos Aires in August 2009, but his spirit remains with all the surviving family.