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Report on Yahad Poland Investigation
July 14th – 19th, 2018
Michael, aged 92, walked us through the streets of Radomsko. “Here”, he said, pointing at a
nondescript door, “Here is where I saw the cart full of Jewish bodies, all naked. They brought the bodies out of this building. It was strange because this building was not in the ghetto.”
As I walked the streets of this city with the Yahad team of investigators, I kept repeating to myself the line from the 23rd Psalm: “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death….” Throughout the streets, cemeteries and forests of Radomsko, Tomaszow, and Piotrkow Trybunalski, as we interviewed witnesses and walked the paths of death, this phrase stuck with me.
These are places which have rarely been visited before. To walk in these places, often with the witnesses who were 8-12 years old at the time, is to feel the full force of the Evil perpetrated by the Nazis and their collaborators against our people.
The killing sites were in Jewish cemeteries, and against the wall of a synagogue depicting the ten commandments, now a children’s library. The purpose of the murderers was to kill not just our bodies, but our very souls.
This they could not do.
In Poland, I was struck by the urgency of Yahad’s work. The witnesses are dying out. Many refuse to speak, fearful of the government and its new laws. Some are fearful of their neighbors. But the investigations must continue. There are still one million murdered souls yet to be found, and only Yahad will find them.
Most of these victims have not been counted. They lie in mass graves and are scattered
throughout the towns and villages. The Jews and Gypsies were shot in large numbers before, during and after the liquidation of the ghettos.
One witness, Janina, recalled seeing two Jewish girls shot on the street before her eyes. At the age of 90, this is a scene she will never forget. She then walked with us into the forest near her home and showed us the depression in the land where the Nazis brought the Jews by cart, at night, to their death.
I traveled with Dr. Bill Goldstein of Detroit. He came because he wants to tell the story to his own peers; his generation who live in the “bubble” of the protected and affluent American life. As we walked together, we could almost feel the hopelessness, the despair, the fear which gripped our people. There was no escape.
Why was this experience important? Because our future generations must know and remember what happened here. We cannot move forward with strength and determination unless we know our past.
And we must find the very last anonymous grave of those who were murdered here. We must consecrate and mark these holy places, lest we forget.
Throughout the investigation Bill and I were very impressed by the hard work and dedication of this team of interviewers, photographer, videographer, and drivers who drove us, endlessly it seemed, to every city and every site.
The team was led by a young man named Michal. He was always composed and spoke in a low voice, but he was incredibly serious and determined to do this work. He has already led 50 investigations.
These are the kind of people who work at Yahad. It was an honor for Bill and myself to be able to join them. I am grateful that I came to Poland on this investigation. I was shaken to my core, but I came away convinced of the importance of Yahad’s work throughout Eastern Europe: I came home with the knowledge that what we witnessed, and what is yet to be discovered, must always be a part of our collective Jewish memory.
July 30th 2018