"My darling children, forgive us for the pain and suffering that we have caused you by leaving you orphaned at such a young age."
Shimshon Holcblatt wrote these words to his children Miriam and Mordechai from the Rejowiec ghetto. The letter, placed inside a bottle and buried in the garden by their house, was found after the war. Shimshon and Henia (Kraft) Holcblatt lived in Lublin, where their two children, Miriam and Mordechai were born. After the death of Henia's father in a train accident, the family moved to the town of Rejowiec in the Lublin district to be with Henia's mother. Shimshon and Henia opened a textile store and Shimshon became a Zionist activist. Miriam and Mordechai studied in neighboring Chelm. Mordechai completed his studies at the technical high school, and in the summer before the war broke out, he received private lessons and took his matriculation exams. He was not awarded his matriculation certificate due to the outbreak of the war.
After the war broke out, Jewish refugees reached Rejowiec from western Poland and reported that the Germans were attacking and abusing Jewish men. As a result, Shimshon and Henia decided that Mordechai should leave Rejowiec, and he fled eastward with his uncle, Henia's brother. A month later, Miriam left too. She implored her parents to join her, but to no avail.
In his last letter from the Rejowiec ghetto, Shimshon writes:
"I see you in front of me, Miriamele, my darling daughter, standing with tears in your eyes and asking us to do as you did, and to consider your request."
Mordechai and Miriam spent the war years wandering throughout the Soviet Union. After the war they returned to Rejowiec, where they were told that their parents had been murdered. They left Poland and reached the DP camps in Germany. In 1948, they immigrated to Israel. Miriam married Shmuel Horowitz, and they made their home in Kibbutz Afek. Mordechai married Holocaust survivor Yona-Toby Kaufman, and they settled in Tel Aviv.
In 1956, Mordechai Lahat (Holcblatt) submitted Pages of Testimony in memory of his parents, Shimshon and Henia. In 2000, Miriam's husband Shmuel Horowitz donated Shimshon Holcblatt's last letter to Yad Vashem.
To my beloved children, Miriamele and Motale, from your parents, with an overflowing heart. We belong to the small part of Polish Jewry that is still alive. Those whose death sentence has not yet been carried out, and who want to see if they can still save themselves in the last minute, and to bid you farewell.
Unless a miracle suddenly occurs, our letter will reach you when we are no longer alive. We will be together with our tormented sister, brothers and parents.
My darling children, forgive us for the pain and suffering that we have caused you by leaving you orphaned at such a young age. You bear no guilt here, only we do. For not listening to you. I see you in front of me, Miriamele, my darling daughter, standing with tears in your eyes and asking us to do as you did, and to consider your request.
My darling children, if we could see you now, at this moment, it would be so much easier for us to die. You are not responsible for our last three years of inhumanity and suffering. The hope that we may still see you is the only thing giving us strength to hold on.
This is our fault, and we are now paying dearly for it.
We do not lament the decades that have passed, but only the life we could have still lived.
In a world of so much cruelty, with people whom we lived amongst and were friendly with for years, people who always smiled and now are willing to betray us – it is not worth living in such a world. I am unconcerned by the death that awaits us. Who would have believed that they would have already reduced us to this? We are not afraid of anything anymore, and do not mourn anything in this ugly life.
My children, I have only one request: accept our fate with equanimity, because your sorrow will disturb our eternal rest in the grave. If you manage to find out where our resting place is (which we doubt), come and tell us that your are alive and happy, like we used to be. That is our request. Be proud, happy Jews. Live your lives like we hoped to. If there is life where we are going, we don't want you to change, so that we will still be able to recognize you.
In these last moments of our lives, we embrace you with all our heart. If we could hug you, you would be crushed by us…
We repeat another hundred times: be healthy and happy. We kiss you warmly dozens of times, without stopping, until the last minute, as long as our lips and eyes aren't closed forever. We part from you and embrace…. embrace… embrace…
Your father, Shimshon