Jewish Families on the Brink of War

Suddenly the Skies Darkened

Invitation to a Wedding in Kielce

"The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride…. I thank God for the kindness He has bestowed on me, and for bringing me to this day, the marriage of my dear only son.... I ask my relatives and loved ones to honor me by taking part in my joyous event, and may we merit to witness the consolation of Zion and Jerusalem"

This text formed part of the invitation that Yeshajahu-David Goldglas from Warsaw sent to relatives in Eretz Israel (Mandatory Palestine) on the occasion of the wedding of his son Mordechai to Dobra-Rachel Feigenblatt on 25 June 1939.  The wedding took place in Kielce.  Within five years, the bride and groom, their parents and most family members had been murdered in the Holocaust.

Yeshajahu Goldglas, his wife Chana-Malka née Glickson and their five children – Mordechai, Tola, Guta, Sarah and Rivka – lived on Wolska Street in the Christian area of Warsaw, and led a traditional Jewish lifestyle.  Yeshajahu had a big trade and wood business, and the family lived comfortably.  The eldest son, Mordechai, went to "heder", and learned secular subjects in the afternoons with a private tutor.  The older daughters went to Havatzelet school, and the younger one went to Beit Yaakov school.  Each summer, the siblings went to a special children's holiday resort in Otwock, and their parents came to visit them every Sunday. 

In June 1939, Mordechai married Dobra-Rachel, a graduate of the teachers' college in Krakow.  The wedding took place in Kielce, the bride's hometown.  After the wedding, the couple moved to Warsaw and lived near the Goldglas family.  Yeshajahu established a small wood processing business for his son. 

On 1 September 1939, Nazi Germany attacked Poland, and within a few days, Warsaw was under siege.  Yeshajahu and his son Mordechai went into hiding, fearing that they would be seized for forced labor.  Raw materials for repairs were in high demand after the heavy bombardments in Warsaw, and Yeshajahu continued to trade in wood successfully after the advent of occupation.  They took in the wealthy Jewish Maroko family, a widow with a son (Yaakov) and daughter who had fled from Łódź. 

In October 1940, the Goldglas family was forced to move into the ghetto.  They managed to swap their home for a three-room apartment within the confines of the ghetto that belonged to a Polish acquaintance. Mordechai and Rachel were able to leave Warsaw and reach Rachel's parents' home in Kielce.  Their son Kalman was born there. Tola married Yaakov Maroko in the ghetto, and in February 1941, their son Michael-Binyamin was born. Yeshajahu continued to trade in wood inside the ghetto, but the family's financial situation deteriorated steadily, and they were forced to sell their belongings in order to survive.

In 1942, they received a letter from Mordechai, describing the young family's ordeal.  He wrote that the Germans tore baby Kalman from Rachel's arms, and when she tried to stop them, they cut off her earlobe.  He concluded the letter thus: "We are perpetually in tears." Mordechai was deported from the Kielce ghetto to the Skarżysko camp.

During the Aktions preceding the Great Deportation from the Warsaw ghetto in summer 1942, the Goldglas family moved to a fifth-floor apartment on 67 Mila Street. After the Aktions, they were the only ones left in the building.  Yeshajahu was caught at work and sent to the Umschlagplatz (assembly point for deportation).  His daughter Guta cut her hair and dressed in men's clothes, hoping to switch places with her father, but the police did not let her near the Umschlagplatz, and she returned home.  Yeshajahu managed to get a letter to his family, in which he wrote that he was being transferred to a labor camp.  He told his daughters: "If I don’t return, don't leave Mother alone. Loneliness is worse than death." That was the last they heard from him. 

Chana Goldglas, her four daughters, her grandson and son-in-law survived in the ghetto until the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.  Yaakov took Tola and their son to a different apartment.  When the Germans started to torch the ghetto houses one by one, Chana and her daughters managed to lower themselves down from the fifth floor using sheets, and crowded into one of the bunkers opposite their house.  Tola, Yaakov and Michael reported for deportation and were sent to Majdanek.

The bunker where Chana and her daughters were hiding was discovered in early May 1943.  Guta refused to leave.  Chana, Sarah and Rivka emerged from the bunker, and it was detonated.  Chana and her two daughters were taken to the Umschlagplatz and deported on cattle cars to Majdanek.  During the selection, Chana and Sarah were separated from young Rivka.  Chana could not bear to be parted from Rivka, and went to join her.  Sarah met her sister Tola and her son in the quarantine block at Majdanek. 

In July, Sarah was sent from Majdanek to the Skarżysko labor camp, where she was reunited with her brother Mordechai.  His skin had turned completely yellow due to Picric acid poisoning from working in the production of naval mines.  Mordechai brought Sarah a pair of shoes and a packet of butter, and told her that he had been beyond tears when they took his child away.  That was the last time they saw each other.  A year later, Sarah was sent to forced labor in Czestochowa, and on 17 January 1945, she was liberated by the Red Army.

After liberation, Sarah returned to Warsaw.  The only family member had who survived was her brother-in-law Yaakov Maroko.  She moved to Otwock, and after a few months, in May 1946, she immigrated illegally to Eretz Israel on the "Eliyahu Golomb" ship.

In 1957, Sarah Goldglas Berman-Lerner submitted Pages of Testimony to Yad Vashem in memory of her parents Yeshajahu and Chana, her brother Mordechai, her sisters Tola, Guta and Rivka, and her nephew Michael.  In 1992, Sarah submitted a Page of Testimony in memory of her nephew Kalman and other relatives.  Sadly, no Page of Testimony exists for Dobra-Rachel Goldglas née Feigenblatt. Her name and memory have been preserved thanks to the wedding invitation presented here, which Sarah donated in 2012 as part of the "Gathering the Fragments" national project.

In Their Own Words

Wedding in Kielce, Poland on the eve of World War II

Holocaust survivor Sarah Berman Lerner née Goldglas talks about the wedding of her brother Mordechai Goldglas and Dobra-Rachel Feigenblatt in Kielce, June 1939.

We Lost an Entire World

Holocaust survivor Sarah Berman Lerner, who lived in Warsaw, Poland before the war, talks about losing her family in the Holocaust.