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An Inferno of Explosions
“For God called up the slaughter and the spring together, the slayer slew, the blossom burst, and it was sunny weather!”
“Be’Ir ha-Haregah” (“The City of Slaughter”), H.N. Bialik
I will remember that particular day, September 5, 1939, as long as I live. I was a little boy. The non-stop German shelling of my native city, Pultusk, Poland, had been going on for days. I sat trembling in fear with my sisters, huddled under a blanket in a corner of the room in my parents’ home, trying to close my ears and shut my eyes to the noises and the flashes of the explosions. This is how we spent the entire day, with exploding bombs and the roar of planes in the background.
My parents’ and sisters’ eyes spoke volumes; they radiated fear and desperation. Shells went off one after another, shaking the walls of the house. The screams and cries of both children and adults came from every direction.
On September 7, 1939, I heard the tank tracks and engines of the Nazi occupying forces’ vehicles moving along the roads of Pultusk unimpeded. The Polish resistance collapsed and the Nazis took control of the whole city. No one guessed that the life of a vibrant Jewish community was about to be extinguished on that day. Within nineteen days, every trace of the existence of a city on the banks of the Narew River, steeped in green tranquility, was eradicated. One thousand years of Jewish life in Europe and the unique Jewish enterprise on that continent likewise ended.