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Homage to Jews killed at the Chelm Death March
*Blima Lorber
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It was a cold morning on September 14, 2010, when I arrived to a remote place at the road to Buśno, a town located between the cities of Chelm and Hrubieszów, in Poland. Deeply touched and sad, I was there on behalf of my father, David Lorber Rolnik z”l, for the unveiling of a Memorial as a tribute to 150 men killed at this site by the Nazis during the brutal Chelm Death March they carried out on 1st December, 1939.
I prayed and begged G-d to allow me being strong enough to step on the same soil where my father and the other men went through more than 70 years ago, running for their lives. The soil spotted with the blood of so many lives. At this isolated place the men were ordered to stop and among them 150 were chosen to die. The grave has been found recently by the Fundacja Pamiec, która trwa (Foundation for the Permanent Memory), which acts on support of perpetuating Poles’ and Jews’ shared reminiscences, tombstones preservation, unveiling memorials for graves from unidentified Jews killed during the Second World War, collecting testimonies, and other activities.
After a hearty hug from my friend and trip companion Marise Helene Horochovski, I got off the car in the company of Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, in order to unveil the Memorial and to give an account, with the help of an interpreter, of my father’s fate and how he miraculously survived this horrible March.
There were at least 200 people attending the ceremony: local authorities, people from neighboring towns, teachers, students, and representatives of the Foundation and of three religions. Zbigniew Nizinski, the Foundation’s president, began the ceremony glancing at heaven and asking for a prayer for the innocent victims. Uszynski Czeslaw, from Bialopole’s Pentecostal Church, delivered his speech as did Waldemar Joniec, Buśno’s Roman-Catholic priest, who pointed out the existence of a historical truth "which does not allow us to forget that little more than half century Jews lived and worked side by side with us and they were, above all, Poles.". Henry Maruszewski, Bialopole’s mayor spoke and then rabbi Schudrich mentioned it is almost an impossible task to discover and to erect memorials for all of the mass graves, but it is an obligation to find them. “It is a matter of conscience", he stressed.
Then it as my turn to speak, as special guest, telling my father's testimony, and together with Mr. Schudrich to unveil the Memorial, thereafter the prayer for the dead ones was said. The Memorial is in fact a matzeiva in honor to the martyrized men and it was a donation from Harley Lippman, an American Heritage Commission representative.
Students from the local school and Joseph Ciszewski read poems for the occasion and at the end of the ceremony candles were lit and stones were laid on the matzeiva, according to the Jewish tradition. Flowers were also placed by some persons.
I am sure it was a divine mission designated for me, as the Foundation was in search of my father when I was contacted. I accepted the invitation on his behalf because I am sure he would be there to honor his fellowmen, friends and relatives who were killed at this fateful Death March just for being Jews.
* Blima Lorber, journalist and the survivor’s daughter, was invited to take part at the ceremony in Poland.
Published at Visão Judaica, November 2010.

Speech: The Dead March My name is Blima. I am David’s daughter. I came all the way from Brazil to be here with you and give my father’s testimony of what happened. I am here by a miracle, a miracle from G-d. Thanks to this miracle my father dared to survive the most dreadful period of our contemporary history - The Holocaust. It is with deep emotion that I am walking through the same paths where nearly 71 years ago my father, then a teenager, had to run for his life. He and about two thousand men who lived in the nearby town of Chelm had to run for their lives.
It was a miracle that someone survived. It was a miracle that he survived. He himself did not understand how he made it through the atrocious Chelm Death March, which was carried out by the Nazis on December 1, 1939. My father was a young man and, like all of the other in this horrifying march, he had dreams, many dreams, a large family and very strong spiritual bonds. Everything gone.
This place where we step now is sad and sacred at the same time. Here, it was recently discovered, the blood of 150 men, blessed be their memories, was shed like water by the Nazis. Why? Just because they were Jews. They were chosen and taken away from the group to dig their own graves and then they were shot to death.
They are all heroes, real heroes and we are here to remember them, to honor them, anonymous brave men. This ceremony, with the unveiling of this Memorial, is how we show our respect for them and also for all men who were killed at the Death March.
My Dad was only a scared but courageous teenager when he was gathered with all the other men from the town’s main square to run for his life. First, in the direction of Hrubieszów, around 50 km from Chelm, in one single day. The survivors were then put together with Hrubieszów’s men to run to Sokal, in the Ukrainian border. And again the same terror and atrocities.
Here are some fragments from the chapter on David’s biography about the Chelm Death March: “The Germans ordered the Judenrat to enlist the largest possible number of men, from 12 up to 60 years old, who, according to them, would be taken to work.
By 1st December, all men should be at the town's main square early in the morning. I, David, was one of them.
The Nazis started to call us and took away everything we had; beating and killing who refused to obey. We were put in rows and the order was to walk out of the town and then run. If someone refused he was shot dead. Nobody could speak nor look back or try to look at the person at his side. The Germans told us if someone would violate this order he would be immediately killed. In some places we would stop and several men were chosen to dig their own graves. And we, the other men, horrified and in panic had to start running again.
We tried with all our strength to run.
Run for our lives always under the fire of Nazi weapons, which shot without mercy.
We were taken like cattle to the slaughterhouse.
If an exhausted man could not run, he was taken away from the row and then a shot coming from the back was heard. The men who could not follow the march had fallen dead.
Murdered.
Those dead ones did not have a grave. Their bodies were left behind, on the ground. And we had to go on.
It was December, cold, wet and there was so much mud it was so difficult to walk and impossible to run. Each step we tried to give we sank deeper into the mud, but we could not stop, because at the back the Nazis were shooting at us.
There were also Germans at the row sides shooting at anyone who would try to flee or stopped. The SS were competing and bragging about how many men each one of them killed.
And we arrived to Hrubieszów. We were frightened, exhausted, thirsty and hungry. Most of us were wounded, feeling cold, but nothing touched the Germans, who did not show any feelings for us. Hrubieszów’s men became part of the Death March. Soon they learned what it meant. They were victims of the same insane cruelty.
On 4th December we reached the border, the Bug River.
Of the two thousand Jewish men who left Chelm in this atrocious March, maybe, at the end, 200 of them survived”.
But other threats and dangers waited for them at the other side…
But David’s fate was to survive.
He had a mission to fulfill: to show the world how people were taken away from their daily activities, homes and families and then executed for being Jews, for having different political views and religions, for being different, for not submitting themselves to fanatismus and tyrannies, for struggling for freedom of thought, for respecting diversity.
And David did it every single day of his life.
My father passed away two years ago, at the age of 88. If he would be alive, you can be sure he would be here to ask you to use the education you are getting for good deeds for Mankind, not to let events like those that happened here take place again.
I want you to know that not only ordinary people followed Hitler. Learned and educate persons followed him, too. Engineers built the concentration and death camps; doctors, nurses and psychiatrists selected who was fit to work and to survive; chemists developed the zyklon B gas, teachers, professors, historians, philosophers, journalists, writers , filmmakers and many others were committed with the Nationalsozialismus.
So again, in my father’s behalf, I ask you to use your education to benefit Mankind and not as a tool for evil actions like the Nazis did in the Second World War, which took the lives of more than 50 million people, among them 6 million Jews.
Thank you.

 
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