ECHOES OF A VANISHED HERITAGE
Family origins always captivated and intrigued me. As a child, I would regularly ask my beloved maternal grandmother, Toba Hockenstein, née Genser, with whom I was very close, about her place of origin in Europe. She mentioned a small town, in Yiddish a shteitl, called "Kuty," in eastern Galicia. For some reason she seemed to be very reticent regarding Kuty (for a young boy this was inexplicable, since we otherwise enjoyed sharing long conversations together). My maternal grandfather was also born in Kuty, and they were married there in 1907; indeed, the marriage registration certificate signed by the town rabbi, Rabbi Chaim Gelernter, is the only document the family still possesses from its Kuty origins. My maternal grandfather, Max Hockenstein, died shortly before I was born, and in the Jewish tradition I was given his Hebrew name, Menashe.
My grandparents left Kuty for Canada prior to the First World War, when it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the inter-war period Kuty came under the sovereign rule of independent Poland. World War Two and the Holocaust marked the end of the family's connection with Kuty. There were no survivors, and Kuty afterwards disappeared "behind the Iron Curtain" (as it was known) with the re-absorption of eastern Galicia into the USSR as part of the Ukrainian SSR.
Because of its strategic location in southeastern Galicia, astride the border with Rumania, Kuty appeared on most maps of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and inter-war Poland. Post-war maps of the Ukrainian SSR continued to mark its location. During my years of growing up I made note of various references to Kuty in historical sources, and particular in military histories of the Second World War. Yet little information seemed to be available on Kuty itself, on its Jewish community, and on its ultimate destruction.
A Yizkor Buch (Memorial Book) for Kuty was published in New York in 1958, but copies did not reach the family in Montreal, to the best of my knowledge. Anyway, this volume is no longer readily accessible. I first found detailed information about the fate of Kitever Jewry in Martin Gilbert's important Atlas of the Holocaust (Pergamon, 1988). Dr Gilbert subsequently referred me to the Pinkas Hakehilot, the Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, especially Vol. II pertaining to Eastern Galicia, published by the Yad Vashem Martyr's and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem. Thanks to the publication of this magnificent volume, a detailed history of most of the Jewish communities of Eastern Galicia, including Kuty, has now become available to readers of Hebrew. I am grateful to my friends Rabbi and Mrs Azriel Fellner of Livingston, New Jersey, for their kindness in obtaining a copy for me, and carrying this heavy tome back from Jerusalem.
The year 1992 marked precisely fifty years since the final deportations and extermination of the Jewish community of Kuty by the Nazis and their accomplices. The blood has long ago soaked into the earth, the voices are long stilled; the legacy of Kitever Jewry has faded with the greying of time, but it is for us to Remember its past and its martyrs. This compilation of translated and edited source material is intended to offer the descendants of Kitever Jewry a description of their historical heritage from the earliest days until its bitter end. As the historian Yitschok Schipper remarked to Alexander Donat at Auschwitz, "Everything depends on who transmits our testament to future generations."
It is fitting that this modest outline of Kuty: Echoes of a Vanished Heritage be dedicated to a vanished Ir va'Em b'Yisrael, "A Town and a Mother of Israel" that is no longer, as a commemoration and as a remembrance.
The Norman Paterson School of International Affairs,
Carleton University, Ottawa.
PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION
The first edition of this booklet was very favourably received by members of my extended family, as well as by scholars and others interested in the history of Eastern European Jewry and the Holocaust. A second edition introduced some minor editorial amendments to the original text. This third edition includes a more extensive treatment of religious trends in Austrian Galicia, and some additional documentary material on the final deportation of Jews from Kuty during the Holocaust, reproduced from Christopher Browning's awesome study of a German death squad, Ordinary Men. Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (HaperCollins, 1992).
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