Homage to Jews killed at the Chelm Death March

    *Blima Lorber
    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. 
The Speech Read by Blima at the Ceremony
Photos from the Ceremony