I, Fayga Tusk-Lehrer, née Harcsztark, was born in the city of Tomoshov (Lubelsky), Poland. Tomoshov had a large shul and many shtieblach; a Gerrer shtieblel, a Belzer shtiebel, a Rhizoner shtiebel and a Chechinover shtiebel, just to name a few. There was a very large beis medrash which was always full of men learning. Tomoshov had a beautiful marketplace in the Jewish section of town, yet most of its customers were gentiles.
Although I don’t have clear memories of them, my maternal grandparents, along with my mother’s brother and sister, lived in our town. My father’s uncle was a Rabbi in a close neighboring town and we were in close touch with him.
What memories can you share with us about your family?
We were a family of five children; two boys and three girls. I was the youngest child. We were not considered to be a well-to-do family; rather, we were simpler.
My father, Dovid Harcsztark, was a descendant of the Yid Hakadosh and the Noda B’Yehudah. He was the gabbai of the Sadigura Rebbe in the city of Pshemesh; most of the time he was not home. In 1937–38, right before the war began, the Rebbe moved to Eretz Yisrael and my father returned home to us.
My parents owned a store in the Jewish neighborhood where we lived. However, it did not service the Jewish community for it was in the marketplace where the gentiles came on market day. Market day was quite busy; however, the rest of the week, business was much slower. My sisters helped my mother run the business. In addition, my parents ran a beer bottling company.
What kind of education did you receive?
I attended a public school for there weren’t any Jewish schools. By the time I was in the sixth or seventh grade, two teachers sent by Sara Schenirer came to our town. They taught us for two hours three times a week, in the afternoons. It was a nice experience and very beneficial; however, it didn’t last too long.
My oldest brother, Shimon Leib, went to the local cheder and then he continued on to yeshivah in Lemberg. He remained there even after the war started. The younger of the two boys, Shlomo, remained in yeshivah in Tomoshov. Then he traveled to Warsaw. After the war, Shlomo immigrated to Eretz Yisrael before eventually settling in the United States.
While growing up, did you feel anti-Semitism in the town?
Anti-Semitism in Tomoshov was terrible. Already a year before the war began, walking the streets was very scary. In the marketplace, the gentiles would hold signs and shout, “Don’t buy from the Jews! Don’t buy from the Jews! Hit the Jews, beat the Jews!”
When did you begin to feel the pressures of impending war?
I was not at home when I heard the first round of bombs falling and war planes flying overhead. I immediately began running home. The streets were lined with electric wires that had fallen down; there were fires burning in the city, but far from our house. Many houses were destroyed. We grabbed whatever we could carry and left our house behind. We ran to the home of an uncle who also lived in Tomoshov.
Can you describe the scene once the Germans invaded your town?
When the Germans made their entrance with army tanks, we ran to hide. During the night we camped out in the fields and during the day we hid behind mountains of straw. From our hiding place we saw the German tanks passing back and forth.
Fires from the bombs spread from house to house. I recall that we found an empty apartment and we stayed behind locked doors. It was very scary.
The Germans made an agreement with the Russians regarding boundaries, and the Germans left the city. The Russians took charge and we felt a little more at ease. At that point we were able to find out some information about what was happening in other cities and other parts of Europe.
to be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.