YOM HASHOAH PROGRAM
WEDNESDAY, MAY 4, 2016
A Tale of Two Cousins
Michael Danziger, Marlboro Jewish Center member, will, for the first time, give a public presentation about the story of his forebears during the Holocaust and in its aftermath. His paternal grandfather, Solomon Lazar (“Zallie”) Dancygier, and his maternal grandfather, Alexander Kartus, were to be first cousins born within a few months of each other in the year before the turn of the century - and be anchored to the same town - Bedzin (Bendin), Poland. As they reach adulthood shortly after the end of the First World War, they make decisions which, in ways they could not have foreseen, will seal the fates of their families in the coming years.
Zallie, dreaming of a brighter future, sees many reasons to leave the large Jewish community of Bendin. So he leaves all that is familiar to find his better future in … Germany. His cousin, Alex, meanwhile comes to Bendin for love and a better life.
There are many ironies in the tale of the Dancygier and Kartus families, and the first is that Zallie chooses to escape anti-Semitism, as well as the “shtetl life” by going to Magdeburg Germany, a city where Jews were a small fraction of the city’s population. For some number of years, he enjoys the life of a German Jew, but the specter of the Nazis casts a shadow on his life and his children’s lives, including Michael’s father Arthur, who also was a member of MJC until he passed away.
Zallie, along with all German Jews, watch as metaphorical gallows are built and over years, the noose tightens. Beyond the daily nightmare that life is becoming and the stripping away of dignity, Zallie confronts soul-wrenching decisions about whether keeping his family together or separating will best insure their survival. As Zallie’s wife is arrested on the street by the Gestapo and deported to “no man’s land”, should Zallie retrieve her first and try to escape as a family? Should he first send one child on the Kindertransport to England? Which one? Should he send one or more children to Holland or Poland so it will be easier to be reunited with his wife?
Alex Kartus enjoys almost two decades of prosperity in Poland, becoming a respected, wealthy member of the Jewish community. But, in September of 1939, when the “trap” suddenly snaps shut around Polish Jewry with little opportunity for escape, the Jews of Bendin are among the last communities liquidated. Cruelly, Bendin was just 30 minutes from Auschwitz and arriving “escapees” looking for a place to hide are sharing horrible, nearly unbelievable stories about what fate awaited. Alex, with six children, including Jadwiga, Michael’s mother, and a large extended family, must calculate if there is any way to escape this trap. Can the late liquidation of the ghetto be a key to a better fate than awaits the bulk of Poland’s Jews? Should another way to escape be dared?
One of the cousins will wind up on the last boat of refugee Jews that will try and escape Nazi Germany, going down the Danube in 1940 trying to reach Palestine. Will they escape Europe from right under the Nazis noses and reach their goal? Can the barely buoyant wreck of a paddle wheel boat they are all squeezed onto make its way on the high seas without disaster?
Beyond the narrative of their dramatic stories, we are confronted with greater questions. What is the meaning of Yom HaShoah; how do we preserve memory in a world that will too soon have no survivors? How did the actions of neighbors impact the lives of survivors well beyond the years of the war and what meaning is there for us in that? What does the Holocaust ask of us today and tomorrow?
If you are interested in joining or obtaining more information about Second Generation, please call the synagogue office at 732-536-2300 or contact me at 732-972-0259.
President – Second Generation
Marlboro Jewish Center
103 School Road West, Marlboro, NJ 07746
Sponsor: Second Generation / Marlboro Jewish Center