Tag Archives: Chelmo

Viroshov/Wieruszow: A Jewish Community Destroyed

20 Jul

With the days quickly leading up to Tisha B’Av, I cannot get the destruction of my grandparent’s families out of my mind. After writing about Boleslawiec and its small Jewish community, I feel it is important to write about a town that lies six miles away.  The town where my great grandmother Sarah Manes grew up: Viroshov/Wieruszow.

When I realized there were so few Jewish citizens of Boleslawiec, I had to reconsider some of the stories my Grandma told me about growing up.  She always talked about all her cousins and spending time with them.  Then I remembered, she told me about spending time with her grandmother Klindell Manes, and that is where she saw her cousins, in the town of Viroshov.   It took me a while to figure out that Viroshov, was Yiddish for Wieruszow.

All those stories she told me were about her Manes cousins. Those were the cousins I had met in Israel so long ago.  (See blogs below.)

I was right.  And once again I am forced to forgive my 20-year-old self for not paying enough attention.  For not wanting to hear the horrible stories.  For tuning out, while trying to escape from the seemingly endless number of survivors who insisted on seeing Grandma during our month-long stay in Israel in 1976.

I have written about several of these survivors and what I discovered. (See blog below.). And I even wrote about my Grandma’s cousin Dora before.  But now I need to revisit Dora and tell more of her story.

I now understand why her daughter was so protective of her when she called to set up a meeting with my Grandma.  I now have rachmanes, in my mature years, that I did not have as much in my youth.  I tried to be as courteous as possible, but I truly did not understand the undercurrents of everything that occurred.

Grandma had survived the war by being in the USA. She had saved her father and her sister by bringing them out of Europe in 1936.  In fact, their family did not know that my great aunt had escaped, and had even added her to the Yitzkor book of the town!

My grandmother and her children were safe.  She did not need to remake her life.  But Dora and so many others had had a different reality.   I now know Dora’s reality.  And I feel, once again, the burden of knowing someone, but not really understanding and knowing what happened.

Dora was married before the war, in 1924, a few months before my grandparents.  She and her husband survived.  But her mother, who was my great grandmother’s sister, Mascha, did not survive.  Her father, Eliazer, did not survive.  Her brother, Wolf, and her sister Yocheved, did not survive.  In all 13 people with the last name Manes, and more related to the family,  from Wieruszow were murdered.

Before the war, in 1921, there were 2300 Jews in the community of Wieruszow, making up 36 percent of the population.  In 1939, before the Nazis invaded there were 2400.  That all changed.  The Jewish community was slowly decimated. By 1940 there were 1740 Jews.  In September 1941 a ghetto was opened where 1200 Jews were imprisoned.  Then between August 11 and 23 the ghetto was ‘liquidated.’ I hate that word.  Just say the Jews were killed and moved to Concentration Camps.  This time, Chelmo.   But before they were taken, the old and sick were shot.

In April 21, 1942, there was a mass murder of Jews and a mass grave for 86 people was dug in the Jewish cemetery.   But, of course, that did not survive because the Nazis also had to wipe out cemeteries to destroy the memories.  The tombstones were used for pavers. The cemetery was dismantled.  But 100 tombstones still remain.   I doubt I would find my great great grandparents and great grandparents gravesites.

However, that mass grave gave me another clue to my family.  A stone was laid on the mass grave by a man with the last name Majerowicz.   That sent a shock through me as well.  Because in Israel, I also knew a man with the last name Majerowicz.   He was also my Grandma’s first cousin.  But he was a bit different.  I wrote about him because his sister was Grandma’s first cousin and best friend. His mother and my grandmother’s mother were sisters.

In all there were 135 names in the Yad VaShem database with the last name Majerowicz, or some similar spelling that perished in Viroshov/Wieruszow.  I noticed that many were duplicates, so perhaps only 80 people were listed.  And although not all were related to me, once again I will claim them as being related. Because I feel I must.

Now there are over 8600 people live in Wieruszow.  In a town that was once 36 percent Jewish, there are no Jews.  The cemetery is destroyed.  The original mikveh, where many Jews were murdered by the Nazis is gone.  There is just a list, a yitzkor book and some memories.

Once again thank you to Virtual Shetl, the Yad Vashem Database, Jewish Gen, and the Viroshov Yitzkor book.

https://zicharonot.com/2014/04/28/speaking-yiddish-always-brings-me-holocaust-memories/

https://zicharonot.com/2015/11/03/who-are-you-these-photos-call-out-to-me/

https://zicharonot.com/2016/10/01/the-rosh-hashannah-card-has-a-story/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/07/the-sorrow-of-shalom-hollander/