Holocaust Memorial Day, Yom HaShoah, was celebrated on April 21 in 2020. I went to the Jewish cemetery in Brzesko on that day to light candles by the mass graves. Every spring we start cleaning the cemetery – collect garbage, cut overgrown bushes. However, this year, due to the epidemic, we could not invite people for such events. But since I was already at the cemetery, I decided to devote a few hours to cleaning works. I thought, it was the right way to commemorate Holocaust victims.
Cutting out bushes behind the ohels, I stepped on something solid. As there are many overturned matzevot at the cemetery, I thought it was also one of them and tried to clean it. After a while from under the layer of moss, grass and dirt, a tombstone appeared with only a partially preserved inscription in Polish:
This person survived the war, but perished a year later.
Next morning I decided to try to find at least some information about this man. After some search I came across Pinkas Cizer with the same dates of birth and death on geni.com website. I wrote to the man who added these data seven years ago, Eran Korelshtein. To be honest, I didn’t have very high expectations. I once tried to contact a descendant of Bresko Jews through geni.com, but it didn’t work. I was shocked when, after half an hour, Eran wrote back to me, and soon we were speaking with him and his wife, Varda Cizer-Korelshtein, who is the granddaughter of Pinkas Cizer. It turned out that they had been looking for this grave for over 10 years, but there was no indication that Pinkas could have been buried in Brzesko… Here’s what I’ve learnt after talking to the Cizer-Korelshtein family and researching vital records available online.
Pinkas Cizer was born in Dąbrowa Tarnowska on January 6, 1903 to tailor Mojżesz Cizer and Taube née Grzyb. Pinkas’s parents got married in Żabno in 1901; Pinkas was their oldest child; he had at least 3 younger siblings: Esther (1905), Chane (1907) and Ruchel Lea (1909).
Pinkas Cizer married Rozalia Lehrfeld. They lived in Dąbrowa Tarnowska, that’s where their son Josef was born.
During the war, Pinkas, his wife and son were hiding in Dąbrowa Tarnowska with Anna and Julia Gruchała:
“Anna Gruchała and her daughter-in-law Julia lived with two children in Dąbrowa Tarnowska. During the occupation, both women sheltered two Jewish families: Pinkas and Rozalia Cizer with their son, Szifra with her husband, two children and a sister.
In the summer of 1944, Germans were building fortifications on the Eastern Front. They used the local Polish population for work, although they usually met with resistance. So they began to pull people out of their homes. During one such action, they found a hiding place in Anna’s house. Cizer, his wife and son took advantage of the confusion and managed to escape. Other Jews and Anna Gruchała were shot. This took place on August 25, 1944.
The gendarmes arrested Julia Gruchała: they bound her hands with barbed wire and took her to custody. The woman was sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she died. Julia orphaned two children who were staying with neighbours at that time.” (http://pamiecitozsamosc.pl/il/anna-gruchala-i-jej-synowa-julia-z-dabrowy-tarnowskiej).
We do not know under what circumstances Pinkas Cizer perished in 1946. His wife and son did not talk about it. But there survived the photo of Rozalia and Josef by the tomb of Pinkas.
There is no doubt that this is the grave, which I discovered at the Brzesko Jewish cemetery. I can only guess that Pinkas Cizer was buried in Brzesko because the Jewish cemetery in Dąbrowa Tarnowska was devastated during the war, while the cemetery in Brzesko survived, and funerals took place there after the war.
Following the request of grandchildren of Pinkas Cizer, the tombstone was been renovated in May 2020. It is no longer a forgotten spot covered with grass and dirt.
May the memory of Pinkas Cizer be an eternal blessing.
© Anna Brzyska, 2020