When, as a child, I would ask my paternal grandmother, Annie Rudner (née Mann) where she and my late grandfather had come from in Europe, she replied "Bitchutch" (in its Yiddish pronunciation). Challenged by curiosity and excited by geography, I looked through every atlas and map I could find but was unable to discover a place with that name. So, with the intellectual arrogance of the youthful, I concluded that my Bubby had got it wrong, and speculated that she and my grandfather must have come from some other place like perhaps Bacecea (Romania)...
It was much later in adult life that I came across the key references to Buczacz (Buchach). The breakthrough stemmed from a citation in the Bibliography of Eastern European Memorial Books appended to the anthology of Polish Jewish communities, From a Ruined Garden (Schoken, 1983). Further information became available in Martin Gilbert's acclaimed historical treatise, The Holocaust. The Jewish Tragedy (Fontana, 1986) and from his Atlas of the Holocaust (Pergamon, 1988), which referred to the destruction of Buczacz Jewry. These and other historical sources confirmed the efforts by my father to trace the Family Tree, and identified Buczacz as indeed the birthplace of my paternal grandparents. An antiquarian map of the Austro-Hungarian Empire helped situate Buczacz and certain other nearby towns in Eastern Galicia that were known to be associated with the Rudner family history.
Shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, CBC Newsworld televised a documentary story about a Winnipeg woman from Buczacz who had survived the Holocaust by hiding with a Ukrainian family, and who now made a return visit to Buczacz as well as a pilgrimage to the site of the notorious Belzec extermination camp. This documentary program provided me with the first visual images of Buczacz.
The Yizkor Buch (Memorial Book) on Buczacz Jewry published in Tel Aviv in 1956 never reached the family in Montreal, and is not now readily accessible. The history of the Jewish community of Buczacz has now become available thanks to the publication of the magnificent Pinkas Hakehilot, the Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, especially Vol. II pertaining to Eastern Galicia, which was published in Hebrew by the Yad Vashem Martyr's and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem. I am grateful to Martin Gilbert for referring me to this most valuable source, and 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 timing was uniquely propitious, in a unique historical sense. It happens that this year, 1993, marks precisely fifty years since the tragic destruction of the Jewish community of Buczacz by the Nazis and their accomplices. The blood has long ago soaked into the earth, the voices are long stilled; the legacy of Buczacz Jewry may have faded with the greying of time, but it is for us to Remember its heritage and its martyrs. This compilation of translated and edited source material is intended to offer the descendants of Buczacz Jewry a description of their historical legacy 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 account of Buczacz Origins 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.