Friday, May 06, 2005

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A life in a post, the story of Nazi Prisoner #92740

Nazi Prisoner #92740 was a Jew born in Lithuania. He grew up with two brothers and a sister. He attended the Ponevetz yeshiva until it was shut down by the war, at which point he some how returned home. One brother had left a few years earlier for South Africa (avoiding the holocaust).

He was trapped with his family in the Kovno ghetto and avoided early deportation (to work camps for able bodied men) by living in a kitchen cabinet. His remaining brother was not so lucky, and he never saw him again. His mother and sister kept him fed (barely), while he sewed and cooked and hid. As the ghetto was gradually being liquidated, his sister escaped with a small group into the woods and joined the Jewish partisan's, fighting back against the Nazi's. He didn't see her again for 40 years (she survived but was trapped behind the Iron Curtain after the war, emigrating to Israel in the late 70's, but that's another story).

He was eventually deported from the Kovno ghetto to work camps, and then to the infamous concentration camp Dachau. How he survived almost a year in Dachau we don't know. We do know that he traded 2 weeks of food rations for tefillin, and while working in the kitchen somehow hid some children in the large 'coffee' pots, keeping them alive.

He was liberated by the 92nd Signal Battalion of the United States Army on April 29, 1945, having entered Dachau from the labor camps on August 22, 1944.

He spent 6 years in the Displaced Persons camp Feldafing, run by the U.S. provisional governing authority in Germany. During that time he assisted the numerous Jewish orphans and was instrumental in starting both the camp girls and boys schools. He also provided religious services and eventually became a camp staff member, a paid rabbinical post. (Prisoner #92740 was a young ordained rabbi from Ponevetz, as well as a trained schochet [ritual slaughterer]).

Having no home or family to return to, he worked to contact his brother in South Africa or family (an uncle) that had emigrated to the U.S. before the war. He was eventually successful in contacting his uncle in the U.S. and in obtaining sponsership both via his uncle and the Vaad Hatzala to come to the U.S.

He came to the U.S. and started life anew, such as he could. He eventually married, and had the honor of having 2 great rabbonim at his wedding. Rabbi Naftali Carlbach (the father of Reb Shlomo Carlbach) wrote the tenoyim (engagement contract).

Rabbi Yosef Kahanaman, zt"l, the Rav of the Ponevetz, the great rebuilder of the yeshiva in Israel, had only 4 students who survived the holocaust from the yeshiva in Lithuania. Prisoner #92740 was one of those 4 students. The Rav honored him by performing his marriage ceremony.

While Prisoner #92740 did his best to rebuild his life and live as normal as possible, his daughter speaks of his lifetime terrible fear of dogs, always sleeping in a tiny balled up position, and terrible fear of loud noises.

He worked in the U.S. as a Rabbi, shochet (ritual slaughterer), mashgiach (kosher supervisor) and cantor, and was known as a Torah scholar. As a cantor, he was in special demand for the high holy days, where his prayer's had a depth of feeling that we cannot comprehend.

His parents were murdered, as was one of his brothers. He didn't know the status of his sister for 40 years, after which she and her family emigrated from the USSR to Israel and contacted him. They were briefly reunited in the late 70's. He eventually made contact with his other brother in South Africa, but his brother past away before he could afford to visit.

He was buried, at his request, in the holy land, Israel, with a simple marker.

His Torah and Mesorah (tradition) live on, a link in the chain forged in the fires of hell, through his daugher and grandchildren, and through his oldest grandson (born after he past away) who carries his name.

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