I learned in time that, of the Jews of Pruzhany, about one hundred had survived up to the final days of the war. Several died shortly before liberation or soon after, including SIOMA (the son of AVRAHAM) SELETZKI, OSIA (son of HILLEL) ZALENTZKI, Dr. HABOVETZKI and MOSHE ZUSKOVITZ. Of the Judenrat members, only two survived: ABRAHAM BRESKI and ZAVEL SEGAL. Of the town's physicians, Dr. OLIA GOLDFEIN alone lived on. Of the lawyers, the teachers, the religious functionaries and the political figures - all perished. Of the town's children under the age of 16 - they numbered over two thousand scarcely any survived.
I knew that one of my fellow-townsmen, ELIYAHU ROGOTNER, resided in Palestine, having emigrated there as a pioneer (chalutz) while I was a child. I managed to make contact with him, and through him, with ABRAHAM BRESKI, who emigrated immediately after war's end (he recited an immigration certificate by dint of being a veteran Zionist and an eminent public figure). From time to time, they would send me parcels containing cigarettes - a scarce commodity in Czechoslovakia at that time.
When the international festival of Socialist youth was held in Czechoslovakia in 1947, I met the son of a former Pruzhany resident, REUVEN VINOGRAD, who had emigrated to Palestine, where he was director of the Tnuva dairy. His son was a member of the delegation from Palestine.
All the same, links with former times did not constitute a clinging to the past. My interest lay in the individuals who had helped me, not in the broader subject of the Holocaust. When Auschwitz survivor ERICH KULKA worked at Yad Vashem on his research about the camp, I consented to testify about my own experience there. On one occasion, I was interviewed for an I.D.F. radio program for Holocaust Day. When former residents of Pruzhany decided to publish a commemorative volume about the township, I lent a hand, contributing a few pages. The editor, FRIEDLANDER, a former Pruzhany resident, now retired after being employed in public relations for the Electric Corporation, compiled material about the township from two earlier publications, one published in Yiddlsh in Pruzhany in the early thirties, the other appearing in Argentina many years after the war. Eliciting material about the trials of Nazi war criminals from the relevant department of the Israel police, I published the sections relation to Pruzhany - in particular, about the transports from the township to Auschwitz - in the book. Earlier, I had given ABRAHAM BRESKI photographs I had discovered in the possessions of war criminals held in the Czech camp where I had briefly served as a guard immediately after the war.
None of the above had any bearing on my everyday life at home with my family. We are an ordinary Israeli family, with nothing of the air of "an ember plucked from the flames". My conversations with my wife, and the upbringing of our children, did not have the Holocaust as a central motif. We did not speak of the past, whether in the everyday or on Holocaust Day. In hindsight, I know that my children made no connection between having grandparents on one side only (that of my wife) and the fact that I am a Holocaust survivor. There are other children whose families are incomplete, for a variety of reasons. Since my family did not preoccupy itself with "seeking its roots" - a subject pursued in some Israeli schools - our children did not request particulars about their family tree.
Our circa of friends, likewise, was not confined to Holocaust survivors, and the children were accordingly not brought into close contact with the subject, even obliquely.
Asked recently when he first became aware of being the son of a Holocaust survivor, my elder son replied: "When we began studying the subject in school, Mother told me that she and Father are Holocaust survivors." He admitted that ever since learning of this, he had been intrigued to see how his father conducted himself on Holocaust Day, but noted no significant change. Our children never requested assistance when their studies touched upon the Holocaust. From conversations arising out of the composition of this book, I am now aware that our children were curious to learn how their parents had survived. But since the subject was not discussed at home, they asked no direct questions, merely picking up scrap,, of information from my wife's account to our daughter, and from my radio interview.
On one occasion only did 1 take my children to a movie with any connection to the Holocaust: "The Boys from Brazil". Neither before seeing the movie, nor subsequently, did we discuss its theme.
When our visit to Auschwitz carne up, the boys got a kind of psychological preparation, to enable them to comprehend the subject. What they were about to see at the "death factory" was quite unlike their studies at school, and the things they saw in the movies and on television.
1 did not follow up the visit to Auschwitz with a visit to Pruzhany. But my wife subsequently visited the township in the company of Dvora Parker, a member of Kibbutz Sha'ar Hagolan and the wife of a fellow townsman. I received her written impressions of her visit. Among other things, she wrote:
"On the outskirts of Pruzhany, we entered a house a passerby had pointed out: "They can tell you about the Jews in this area." On a low stool sat a man repairing machine parts. On the walls were pictures of grandparents and children. I saw candlesticks. "A Yid?" we asked, and he grew agitated. "Jews from Israel?" His name is LEIBEL MEISTER. He speaks Yiddish and a few words of Hebrew. He showed us the decorations and honors he had received in Pruzhany, as well as a cutting from a Soviet newspaper about the town's liberation day, with a picture of himself and his grandson. During the war years, he had fought in Byelorussia as a partisan. He corresponds with GITL RIVNIK, now in Israel, formerly owner of a Pruzhany pharmacy, and with YITZCHAK SHERSHEWSKI. LEIBEL'S wife, FEIGEL (née NIEBOSHCHIK), was a children's nurse. The couple have grandchildren in Pruzhany.
There are traffic lights instilled on Pruzhany's main street. On Scherschev Street, the houses are small and attractive - Jewish houses. The old street and the new street as far as Scherschev - that was the ghetto street. Brisk Street is intact. The building of the "Tarbut" gymnasia is standing. It is neglected. The upper story houses a tailors' cooperative. Below, there is a bakery and a cobbler's. The yard is derelict.
There are a number of Jews still living in Pruzhany: YUDEL NITZBERG, HERSCHEL FRIEDMAN, STEMMER, LEIBEL MEISTER and DVORA LINKOVSKI. A woman says she knew BRESKI, GOLUBOVITCH and LUBOSCHITZ. That then is present-day Pruzhany."
These impressions from the visit of Dvora Parker and my wife reinforced my conviction that there is no longer anything for me to find in my childhood town.