The closing ceremony of the 4th edition of “We know your names” project dedicated to commemoration of the pre-war Jewish community of Brzesko and vicinity, took place in Brzesko on September 29, 2020. The project under the patronage of the Brzesko mayor Tomasz Latocha was co-organized by the Municipal Cultural Center and the Association “Memory and Dialogue. Common History”. During the ceremony, there were deeply moving moments, when the Mayor and Mr. Dariusz Popiela – the most outstanding athlete, initiator of the project “People, not numbers” – addressed the youth.
This year 38 students from 5 different schools participated in the project submitting 23 presentations.
Students amazed us with very mature approach to the subject and diversity of themes chosen for their work, so it was very difficult to select the winners. Finally we chose several presentations for special awards. But I would like to emphasize that all students participating in this project deserve the greatest recognition. All of them invested not only a lot of effort and time, but also their heart. Several presentations included author’s reflections, such as this one: “I got interested in this topic because it deals with the history of the city where I live. I was not aware of what the people of Jewish origin in Brzesko had experienced. Their history is really interesting and important. The history that touches me the most is life of Jews during World War II. I learned that 80 years ago life in my city which I seemed to know so well, was completely different. I am very happy because not every town or village can boast of such a colourful past.” That’s exactly why we’ve been organizing this project – to help students discover Jewish side of the history of their town that they are often not aware of.
The presentation “Life of Sidney Eichenholz.” describes in great detail the fate of Brzesko Eichenholz family, which exactly corresponds to the purpose of the project “We know your names” – to recreate the history of individual Jewish families who once lived in Brzesko and were almost completely exterminated during the war. The author managed to find non-obvious sources, mainly in English, and a detailed list of these sources indicates a very serious approach to the subject.
This presentation helps to feel the atmosphere of life in Brzesko before the war, it tells the story of not only Sidney Eichenholz, but also his relatives murdered during the war and his only surviving brother. The work has been carefully prepared and the presented data can certainly be used in schools during history lessons or educational hours.
The work “History of the Righteous from Brzesko and the Brzesko Poviat” presents the profiles of people who risked their lives to save their Jewish neighbours during the war. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that these people came from small villages: Borzęcin, Zaborów, Biskupice Melsztyńskie, Dobrótsz, Dąbrówka, Łachowa. The work is very reliable, uses little-known local sources. This presentation very honestly describes Polish-Jewish relations and also tells the story of those Jews who managed to survive the Holocaust. After reading this work, it becomes obvious that saving one Jew required joint efforts of many people. In some cases, it was the rescuers who became the victims of their neighbours’ denunciations.
This work helps to see the importance of not only declaring Christian values, but living them.
“Life of Brzesko Jews prior to World War II” is an exceptionally beautiful presentation. Introduction, devoted to the description of the basic Jewish religious traditions, allows to understand the community that had lived in Brzesko for several centuries. Significant part of the essay focuses on the most important figures in the Brzesko Jewish community: Lipszyc, Brandstaetter and Klapholz families.
Testimony of the former Brzesko resident Dov Landau deserves special attention, as he is one of the last living witnesses who remembers the pre-war Brzesko. The list of Jewish soldiers from Brzesko who had fought in World War I is also very interesting. This work combines a general outline of the history of Brzesko Jews and many specific details, which allows to recreate a wholesome image of this community.
Presentation “Love in Auschwitz. The story of Mala Zimetbaum and Edward Galiński” is dedicated to the unique story of life and death of Brzesko-born Mala Zimetbaum. There are many details of Mali’s and her family’s life, including archival photos; the story of Mala’s imprisonment in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, her romance with Edward Galiński, their escape and tragic death.
A few slides require a slight correction, however, it is obvious that working on this presentation took a lot of time and effort, and its theme is related to one of the most heroic characters born in Brzesko, who, however, is better known in Belgium, Israel and other countries, than in her home town. I can sincerely recommend this work for use during history lessons or educational hours in schools.
This beautiful album “The life of Brzesko Jews in the pre-war period – traditions, customs, coexistence of cultures, interesting family stories” is a work of art, suitable for a museum. It provides many details about little-known Jewish traditions and basic concepts of Judaism.
The second chapter is dedicated to the pre-war history of Brzesko and its Jewish community; it includes description of places important for Brzesko Jews: synagogues and cemeteries. The album also contains over 100 names of Jews from Brzesko and vicinity murdered during the war.
Presentation “The History of Forgotten Jews” is dedicated to Jews who used to live in Jadowniki. In the first part, we can learn basic facts about Jewish cemeteries, especially the symbolism of matzevot. The following slides tell about the Jews from Jadowniki who were buried at the Brzesko Jewish cemetery. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that not only photos of individual tombstones are presented, but also family trees of the deceased.
The presentation is unique because it is dedicated to Jewish families who used to live in Jadowniki, but have become practically forgotten. The work certainly required a lot of time and effort. The students not only looked for information in the internet, but also visited Brzesko Jewish cemetery and found several graves of Jews from Jadowniki.
My congratulations and gratitude go to all participants of this project. I hope that we will meet again at the next edition on the project “We know your names”.
All the pictures from the closing ceremony were made by Konrad Wójcik.
© Anna Brzyska, 2020