In the beginning of July 2019, Jakob Reifen came to Poland for the first time from Israel. Jakob’s father, Majer Reifen, was born in Brzesko in 1903. He had 7 siblings; a sister and two brothers died as babies, and remaining 4 sisters were murdered in the Shoah. Majer was the only Holocaust survivor out of a big Reifen-Kleinhandler family. After the war he emigrated to Israel and got married to a Jewish girl from a small shtetl not far from Warsaw, who was also the only one from her family to have survived the war. Jakob is their only child.
knew practically nothing about his roots in Poland besides the fact that all
his relatives perished during the war. Parents never spoke about their life in
During the last year or so I managed to find many documents on Jakob’s ancestors – his grandparents, great-grandparents and even great-great-great-grandparents: Chaim and Malke Wolf lived in Brzesko at the end of the XVIII century.
It was the first visit of Brzesko for Mr Reifen, and I was deeply moved when accompanying him in this journey. We were walking along Brzesko streets and I spoke about the life in the town before the war (less than 2 weeks ago I listened to Dov Landau for good several hours and learnt about many things that I hadn’t been aware of.) When in the regional museum, we were looking at old photos of Brzesko and shared that Jakob’s father or somebody from his family might have been at those pictures. Jakob found the names of his murdered relatives in our Book of Remembrance. We met Janusz Mytkowicz who took us to the exhibition of his pictures, and it was also a very moving experience. And when at the Jewish cemetery, I showed Jakob the grave of his grandfather, Jakow Cwi Reifen, who had died in 1934. It was in his honor that Jakob Reifen was named. He lit the candle and remained by the grave for a long time speaking to his grandfather. Greeting him. Thanking for his father. Sharing about his own life.
I don’t know, how to express it in words. I was humbled and honored to wittness the only child of two Holocaust survivors, who’s never had any other family but his parents, to gain back his roots – grandparents, siblings of his father, more distant relatives… May the memory of all those murdered in the Holocaust be an eternal blessing.
Anna Brzyska, July 2019