Books of remembrance - “Sefer Zikkaron Lublin”
The books of remembrance dedicated to Jewish towns and people who lived in them are special publications commemorating the community destroyed by the Shoah. They were composed after the war, on the initiative of Jewish hometown societies active in Israel and in other countries of Jewish diaspora.
There are two memorial books about the Lublin Jews. The first one was published in Paris in 1952, the other one - “Sefer Zikkaron Lublin” - in Tel Aviv, in 1957. Below, we present a general characterization of the books of remembrance and the contents of the “Sefer Zikkaron Lublin”.
Books of remembrance - origin and characteristics
A book whose objective is to celebrate certain deceased people or non-extant places and prevent them from being forgotten is not a novelty in Jewish culture. Already in the early Middle Ages, in Rhineland, there was a widespread custom of reading out long lists of deceased members of Jewish communities or reminiscing the circumstances of pogroms. This custom was reinforced by the Memorbiicher books, frequently found in central Germany, Switzerland and Alsace, published since the Middle Ages until the 18th century. The tradition has not died. In the inter-war period, one such book was published after the Proskuriv pogrom in 1919, describing the events and naming the Jewish inhabitants murdered during the events.
After the tragedy of the Holocaust, a number of books of remembrance were published, commemorating the people and the world that had ceased to exist. Pinkas zikkaron or sefer zakkaron (in Hebrew, yizker bikher in Yiddish) always refer to a certain place that they are to commemorate. They consist mostly of accounts of witnesses of the Shoah, often written down for the first time for a specific book. The authors of more recent books use previously existing accounts deposited in various scientific institutions. The descriptions of the post-war periods are scanty. They are accounts of returns to home towns where silence and emptiness, in contrast with the pre-war bustle, clearly attests to the size of the tragedy of the Jewish people.
The book of remembrance publishing movement was born during World War II and remains alive today. It was initiated in the circles of the hometown societies uniting the former members of Jewish communities of Eastern Europe. The books refer to the territories occupied by Nazi Germany. There were usually very few copies of these books, printed in small print shops.
Books of remembrance editing process
Publication of a memorial book is one of the most important activities of a Jewish hometown society. A special publishing committee would be established, comprising former inhabitants of the described locality. Whenever there was no appropriate candidate for the function of the editor, a person with experience in this matter was invited to cooperate. As a result, the profession of books of remembrance editor emerged in the 1960s. Therefore, frequently, the name of a single editor appears in various books. An important characteristic of these books is that the author of each article or chapter was always an inhabitant of the shtetl described in the book.
Apart from studies on history of a given Jewish community, every book contains reports and memoirs. Some of the books also include poems, mostly dealing with the Shoah period. A separate category of content consists of documents. These include private letters, newspaper clippings, statutes and lists of members of different social and political organizations, photographs and drawings. An account of events related with the Holocaust is an important part of every book of remembrance. It mentions the date and the circumstances in which the ghetto was established in the described locality, the restrictions imposed by the occupant and the tragic end of the community. People who survived Shoah are always named, together with the circumstances of their escape and hiding.
These characteristics could suggest that the books of remembrance are historical monographs of respective localities. Nonetheless, neither do they meet the requirements of the genre, nor are they memoirs. Still, they may be of interest for a cultural anthropologist. Their example allows to study two cultural phenomena - mythologization of the past and unconscious creation of the myth of shtetl.
The authors left their hometowns in tragic circumstances, related with experiences that allow no possibility of a balanced attitude towards the described events and a critical look on the past. This is the reason why they idealize past, create the myth of a serene life in a town where brotherly love and respect towards the basic rules of coexistence reign. The same reasons lead to overestimating the role of social and cultural organizations. Their activities where not as important and lively as some books suggest. At the same time, the authors tend to diminish the role of religious movements and organizations in shaping the everyday life.
This phenomenon can be explained either by the pro-Zionist and pro-Jewish Bund traditions in the families of most members of the publishing committees, or by the rebel attitudes of those of them who came from religious families and joined Zionist or leftist parties.
Such was the background of the members of the editorial committee of the Lublin book of remembrance - “Sefer Zikkaron Lublin”: A. Keszerman (Israel), M. Cukerman (Israel), D. Sztokfisz (Israel), M. Grosman (New York), C. Paper (Paris) and J. Grizolt (Israel). Nachman Blumental and Meir Korzeń took up the editors’ duties. The book was published in Tel Aviv in April 1957, thanks to the efforts of Irgun Iotzei Lublin - the Lublin hometown society in Israel, France and the United States.
Table of contents of “Sefer Zikkaron Lublin”
The 814-page “Sefer Zikkaron Lublin” was divided into ten chapters:
I. On the trail of generations
II. City and its streets
- The alley (dos Gesl)
- Ruska Street
- Children in the municipal garden
- The “Spółdom” social house
- The Czechów and the Wola suburbs
- The Piaski suburb
III. Memoirs and lists
IV. Self-government authority
V. Parties and political currents
VI. Youth movements
VII. Economic life and trade unions
VIII. Education, culture and other institutions
X. Lublin Jews around the world
- Lublin hometown society in Paris
- Society of Jews in Montreal
- Lublin hometown society in California
Text by Sylwia Bojczuk, Emilia Kalwińska
Translated by Jarosław Kobyłko
Adamczyk-Garbowska M., Macewy ze słów- księgi pamięci gmin żydowskich, "kultura enter" http://www.kulturaenter.pl/07sn01.html, dostęp 09.06.2009.
Bojczuk S., Dziedzictwo kulturowe Żydów lubelskich w świetle „Sefer Zikkaron Lublin" („Księga Pamięci Lublina') Tel Awiw 1957,wstęp do pracy magisterskiej napisanej pod kierunkiem dc Romana Marcinkowskiego, Uniwersytet Warszawski, Instytut Orientalistyczny, Zakład Hebraistyki.