My parents were post Holocaust couple.
My father, Yisrael [Gringer], was born in Warsaw, Poland to Zionist parents. From his early age my father was a member of a “gang” who made its cause to protect persecuted Jews in the nearby and farther neighborhoods. And my father, unquestionably was a Zionist.
My mother, Rachel [Katz], was born in the shtetl Ivenitz, near the city Vilna (Vilnius), then White Russia, today Lithuania.
In the shtetl Ivenitz Jews worked hard from Saturday to Saturday and barely earned a living. Their wealth was their education, spiritualism and their love for the land of Israel. For the hundreds of Jewish families who lived in Ivenitz possessed deep and strong national awareness. And so my mother was a strong Zionist, a member of Ha’shomer Hatzier Zionist youth movement in her town.
Both parents are now residing in the heavens.
During WWII my father and my mother, each was on a different life track.
At 17 years old my father managed to escape Ghetto Warsaw, where his entire family, parents, sister and the three brothers were forced to move to from the comfort of their home in the city. Young “Mr. Brave” joined the Polish Army under the command of General Wadysaw Anders. In 1942, when Anders’ Army reached British mandatory Palestine/the land of Israel, about 4,000 Jewish soldiers left the army. While some deserted, others, obtained permission from Anders to depart their formations. Both groups joined the veteran Jewish settlements in the Mandate Palestine. My father was among the deserters. For the time being, his local Haganah connections obtained for him a new identity – Mr. Broshi – under which he hid for two years from the British authorities search for him.
Upon the British government’s call for duty to Jewish community in Palestine, my father answered the call; he joined the Jewish Brigade in the British Army and was assigned to an anti-aircraft unit. He was shipped to Europe and was stationed on the Belgium Coast, busy shooting down Nazi airplanes.
In parallel time, my mother, at that time eighteen years old (1940), with her parents and only sister, were rounded up and forced to move to live in Vilna (Vilnius) Ghetto. When the Nazis decided to take care of the Jewish problem in the Vilna Ghetto, during the “selection-Selektzia,” my grandparents were separated from their daughters. It is believed, but not for certain, that they were shot by the Nazis, along 100,000 other Jews, then were thrown into a large pit the Nazi dug in Vilna for the purpose of a mass grave for the Jews. The Katz two daughters managed to be inseparable, spent the next five years in several Nazi labor and concentration camps; they were liberated by the Soviet forces on May 9, 1945.
As the war officially ended, upon regaining some of her body strength, my mother headed back to Poland hoping to find surviving family members. She found none.
Speaking several languages, my mother was recruited to work in one of the centers, set up by Jewish organizations to assist survivors to find loved ones and help them, in any way possible, to return to normalcy of life.
Parallel, my father, still a soldier in the Jewish Brigade in the British Army, took a leave and made his way to Poland, in search for family survivors. Like my mother, he found none. In his search he stopped to get assistance at the rescue/information center where Ms. Katz was working. For Mr. Gringer and Miss Katz, now both, almost 24 years old, it was love at first sight. My father’s piercing blue eyes sunk with admiration into my mother’s sad and hazy blue eyes.
The couple departed from Poland to Paris, where Mr. Gringer bought his girlfriend a dress, the first dress she had since leaving all her possessions behind in the Vilna Ghetto. I recall my mother telling me, not once, that wearing a dress made her feel human again, a worthy person, a woman.
Yisrael and Rachel were already madly in love. Mr Gringer had to return to base to officially end his military service. Ironically, for being late to return from his leave he was punished and detained, while my mother remained in Paris waiting for him. Since my dad could not make it back to Paris, he sent his closest friend instead, to see to his fiance’s wellbeing.
Before his departure from Europe back to Palestine-Israel Yisrael arranged for Rachel a passage pass on the ship Biria, loaded with war surviving Jews and headed for Palestine-Israel.
Biria was the last vessel of Ma’apilim-Jewish immigrates to arrive and off load while breaking the British restrictive Jewish immigration White Paper decree. Upon arrival in Palestine the passengers were taken off the ship and were detained in the British internment camp, Atlit. The next lot of Jews who arrived to Palestine-Israel’s shores illegally, were denied entry and were sent to British internment camps set in Cyprus and other locations.
Yisrael was already a member of a core group due to build kibbutz Lehavot Ha’Bashan, near the Syrian border. Today, the kibbutz is located in Israel’s Upper Galilee. While the men, my father amongst them, were working to prepare the rocky ground so that buildings can be erected and fields can be cultivated, the women were living in a tent camp near the town Haderah by the Mediterranean shore.
Upon her release from the Atlit internment camp, Rachel joined Yisrael’s kibbutz core group.
Yisrael Gringer and Rachel Katz made a couple ripe for marriage. My mother left her sorrow of losing her family and boyfriend in the Shoah behind and saw in my father a pillar of strength, a partner to a better future.
My parents wanted to get married right away but the Kibbutz did not have the money to give then a proper wedding, not even as much as few Liras to buy the glass the groom breaks under the Chuppah. There were other couples waiting to get married. With six couples in line to be married, when some of the women, including my mother, already pregnant, the Kibbutz finally stepped to the task and arranged a six couples wedding ceremony.
Seven months after Rachel and Yisrael got married, I, the writer, was born. It was August 1947, eight months before Ben Gurion declared Israel as a sovereign state.
D-Day, started on Tuesday 6 June 1944; this year 2014 it will be 70 years to the beginning of the end of a blood bath war that murdered my grandparents, my uncles, my possible many more cousins I could have had. The end of WWII brought about the union of two very special people, Rachel Katz and Yisrael Gringer, my parents.
Sixty-six years later, the Gringer and the Katz Zionistic flame is deeply embedded in me, the writer. I carry their flame, I carry their memory, I carry the renewed future of the Jewish Nation they have begun paving in the independent Jewish State, Israel.
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