The Brief War of An Only Son: PFC Jochanan Tartakower, May 3, 1925 – September 29, 1944


PFC Jochanan Tartakower
32999991
315th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division
United States Army

“….for the past few years I have been preparing myself mentally for that event,
and now I feel that the hour is coming when I,
in my small way,
will avenge the crimes committed.

And I think in my place, being an infantryman,
I will get my best chance.

I think a lot about the movement and about Aretz;
it is curious how war can influence your thinking,
and being in the army and fighting even more.”

May 3, 1925 (Lodz Poland) – September 29, 1944 (France)
– .ת.נ.צ.ב.ה. –

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On January 10, 1945, the New York Times published a Casualty List covering the New York Metropolitan area, Northern New Jersey, and Connecticut, which – though by no means the largest Casualty List that appeared in the Times during the war – was staggering in terms of its nominal visual impact, let alone the number of names appearing within it.

The List was extracted from a nationwide Casualty List comprised of 6,178 names, specifically being limited to members of the Army killed and wounded in the European Theater of War.  Like other Casualty Lists that appeared in wartime newspapers, the presentation of information was simple, stark, and straightforward:

Entries were limited to the soldier’s surname, his given (first and middle) names, the name of his next-of-kin (mother; father; wife; friend; aunt; uncle), specific residential address (for soldiers who resided in the five boroughs of New York), while for soldiers from New Jersey or Connecticut, the “address” was limited to his city or town of residence.

Each name on the list represented a person – a world – that extended well beyond the nominal confines of a name, rank, serial number, and military unit.  Each name on the list embodied a past, a brief present, and future that would not be.  Each name on the embodied and symbolized told a unique story.

One of the names on the list was – like many names on the list – for a simple Private First Class.  His name?  Jochanan Tartakower.  His story was markedly – if not dramatically – different from most.

He was born in Poland in 1925, the only child of Dr. Arieh and Malwina Tartakower. 

Dr. Tartakower, a graduate of the University of Vienna with specializations in demography and sociology, had a lifelong involvement in a variety of leadership and academic research positions in Jewish affairs, particularly in the realms of Labor Zionism, aid and assistance for Jewish refugees, and ultimately as Chairman of the Department of Sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  His life was one of idealism, action, and academic research, the last exemplified through the publication of numerous articles and books, the titles of some of the latter being listed in his Jewish Virtual Library and Wikipedia entries.  Born in Poland in 1897, he died in Jerusalem in November of 1982.

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Dr. Arieh Tartakower, from his Wikipedia entry.

Strikingly, however, neither of the above references, nor his obituary at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency mention his son, Jochanan, the course of whose life – dictated by other forces – took a very different course.

Born in Lodz in 1925, Jochanan reached the United States in 1941, where his father had been residing after the 1939 World Zionist Congress in Geneva.  (The accounts of their journeys differ between The American Hebrew and Aufbau.  Both are presented below – with the latter probably being more accurate.)  Malwina had a far more arduous journey, reaching America only after traveling through the Soviet Union, the Yishuv, and possibly Japan, probably reaching her husband and son in 1943. 

Once in America, Jochanan, who listed his home address as 129 West 85th Street in Manhattan, enrolled in City College, where he studied engineering.

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The first notice of Jochanan’s death was penned by Max Beer and published in Aufbau on October 27, 1944.  The article and my (approximate!) translation are presented below:

Aufbau

Friday, October 27, 1944

Dr. A. Tartakower – Mitglied der Exekutive des Jüdischen Weltkongresses – und seine Gattin Malwina wurden in diesen Tagen durch das War Department davon verstangt, dass ihr einziger Sohn, der neunzehnjährige Pfc. Jochanan am 29. September in Frankreich “in action” den Tod gefunden hat.  Mit den Eltern trauern alle ihre Freunde um den hochbegabten liebenswerten jungen Mann, der mit Begeisterung in den Krieg zog, als Amerikaner und als Jude.

Jochanan Tartakower, geboren am 3. Mai 1925 in Lodz, war nach einer abenteurlichen Flucht Polen im Jahre 1941 in Amerika eingetroffen, wo sein Vater weilte, nachdem ihn die Invasion Polens im September 1939 auf dem Genfer Zionistkongress uberrascht hatte.  Der Mutter, die der Krieg ebenfalls von ihrem Sohn getrennt hatte, gelang es erst nach vier Jahren, in mühseliger Wanderung uber Russland und Palastina, die Ihren in Amerika wiederzufinden.

Aber die Familie sollte nocht lange vereitn bleiben.  Jochanan, der am City College Ingenieurwissenschaft mit glanzendem Erfolg studierte.  Prasident der Habonim und, wie die Eltern, tif mit hebráischem und judischen Wissen vertraut war, tockte kurze Zeit nach der Ankunft der Mutter in das Heer ein und ging nach Frankreich.

Alle, die den prächtigen, vornehmen jungen Mann gekannt haben, liebten ihn ung sagten im eine glänzende Freunde von Arieh und Malwina Tartakower, die das unermüdliche Wirken des Ehepaares für die Sache des Judentums und der Menschheit kenne, wissen, dass die trotz der schweren Prüfung, die ihnen auferlegt wurde, mit ganzer Seele und mit allen Kräften weiter den Kampf für die grosse Sache führen werden, der ihr Sohn seine Jugend und sein Leben gab.

Max Beer.

Dr. A. Tartakower, a member of the Executive Committee of the World Jewish Congress, and his wife Malwina, were advised by the War Department that their only son, nineteen-year-old Pfc. Jochanan was killed on September 29 in France “in action”.  With the parents, all their friends mourn for the high-spirited, loving young man, who was enthusiastically drawn to war, as an American and a Jew.

Jochanan Tartakower, born May 3, 1925 in Lodz, arrived in America in 1941 – where his father had been staying with the 1939 Geneva Zionist Congress, after the invasion of Poland in September – after an adventurous flight from Poland.  The mother, whom the war had also separated from her son, succeeded only four years later, through toilsome wandering over Russia and Palestine, to find him again in America.

But the family should stay a long time.  Jochanan, who studied engineering sciences at City College with brilliant success.  He was President of Habonim, and acquainted with Hebrew and Jewish knowledge like the parents, a short time after the arrival of the mother, entered the army and went to France.

All those who have known the splendid, distinguished young man loved him, said a brilliant friend of Arieh and Malwina Tartakower, who knew the tireless work of the couple for the cause of Judaism and mankind, that despite the heavy trial which was imposed upon them, will continue the struggle for the great cause, for which her son gave his youth and his life.

Max Beer

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The next appearance of Jochanan’s name was in The Jewish Chronicle (and Jewish News, of Detroit) on November 3, 1944.  On that day, the Chronicle published a casualty list which included Jochanan’s name, an exception to the Chronicle’s practice of limiting military casualty (and award) lists to names of servicemen specifically in the armed forces of the British Commonwealth.  Jochanan’s name, which appears near the end of the list, was probably included due to his father’s prominence in Jewish affairs.

Information about some of the men in the above list appears below….

Died of Wounds
– .ת.נ.צ.ב.ה. –

Chenovitch, Barnet, Pte., 6150664, Somerset Light Infantry, Suffolk Regiment, 2nd Battalion
Died of Wounds June 7, 1944, Imphal-Kohima, Burma
Mr. and Mrs. Solomon and Yetta Chenovitch (parents), 1 Eastdown House, Amhurst Road, Hackney, London, E8, England
Born 1921
The Jewish Chronicle 11/3/44, We Will Remember Them I – p. 70
Imphal War Cemetery, India – 1, B, 10

Dubinsky, William Henry, Pvt., H/200121, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps, Calgary Highlanders
Died of Wounds 8/13/44
Mr. and Mrs. Shiyah and Eva (Weinman) Dubinsky (parents), 282 Selkirk Ave. / 222 Pritchard Ave., Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Born in Russia 6/26/14
The Jewish Chronicle 11/3/44, Canadian Jews in World War Two II – p. 20
Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery, Calvados, France – XII, H, 9

Schwartz, William, Gunner, B/138564, Royal Canadian Artillery, 3rd Field Regiment
Died of Wounds 9/4/44
Mr. Sam Schwartz (father), Room 1104, Ford Hotel, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
The Jewish Chronicle 11/3/44, Canadian Jews in World War Two II – p. 20
Montecchio War Cemetery, Italy – III, B, 16

Trocki, Adolf, 2 Lt., 05336, Polish Army West, Cavalry, 1 Polska Dywizja Pancerna, 10 Brygada Kawalerii Pancernej, 24 Pułk Ułanów im.
Killed in Action 8/16/44
France, Calvados, Jort
Born in Vilno, Poland, 3/24/15
The Jewish Chronicle 11/3/44; Jewish Military Casualties in the Polish Armies in World War Two – p. 121
Platoon commander, killed in tank.; Engineer; Information from SGA “Sepultures de Guerre” web site.  Not in SGA “Seconde guerre mondiale” database.; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1st_Armoured_Division_%28Poland%29
http://home.concepts.nl/~avalphen/lari/lan.t.htm#2566
Cimetiere militaire “Langannerie”, Grainville-Langannerie, Calvados, France – Tombe individuelle, Carre Plot V, Rang A, No. 3 (Initially buried at M.R. 7F/4 246406)

Wounded

Abramovitz, Hymie, Pte., B/155273, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps, The Black Watch
Wounded 7/24/44
Mr. Samuel Abramovitz (father), Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The Jewish Chronicle 9/29/44, 11/3/44; Canadian Jews in World War Two – p. 85

Besserman, Irvin, Pte., B/142219, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps, The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment)
Wounded 8/27/44
Mr. and Mrs. Nathan and Bessie Besserman (parents), 64 Montrose Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The Jewish Chronicle 11/3/44; Canadian Jews in World War Two – pp. 10, 86

Blustein, Philip, Pte., D/86038, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps, Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment
Wounded three times: @ 8/15/43 (Sicily), @ 7/15/44 (Italy), and @ 9/15/44 (Italy)
Mrs. Yetta Blustein (mother), 2195 Wilson Ave., Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Born 1920
The Jewish Chronicle 11/19/43, 11/3/44; Canadian Jews in World War Two – p. 88

Bogo, Maurice, Gunner, B/21909, Royal Canadian Artillery
Wounded 9/8/44
(Wife), 41 Essex St., Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The Jewish Chronicle 11/3/44; Canadian Jews in World War Two – p. 88

Prisoner of War

Greenblatt, Chanan David, CQMS, B/46386, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps, Argyle and Southern Highlanders
Captured 8/27/44; Interned at Stalag 357
Miss S. Greenblatt (sister), 3327 Dundas St., West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Born in Toronto
The Jewish Chronicle 11/3/44; Canadian Jews in World War Two II – p. 124

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Some other Jewish military casualties on September 29, 1944 – when Jochanan was killed in action – include…

Killed
– .ת.נ.צ.ב.ה. –

Adler, Sheldon L., 2 Lt., 0-820188, Co-Pilot, Air Medal, Purple Heart
Mr. and Mrs. Louis and Minerva Adler (parents), Doris Adler (sister), 38 Fort Washington St., New York, N.Y.
Born 1925
Casualty List 1/25/45; New York Times Obituary section 10/29/44
American Jews in World War Two – p. 264

Dragoon, Samuel, T/Sgt., 12041050, Flight Engineer, Air Medal, Purple Heart
Mrs. Frances R. Dragoon (wife), c/o S. Jaffe, 2000 Vyse Ave., New York, N.Y.
Mrs. Rose Dragoon (mother); T/Sgt. Max Dragoon (brother), 1326 Washington Ave., Bronx, N.Y.
Casualty List 12/15/44; Jewish Criterion (Pittsburgh) 9/20/46
American Jews in World War Two – p. 298

(Sergeant Dragoon’s brother, T/Sgt. Max Dragoon, a member of the 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, was killed in action 26 days earlier: On September 3, 1944.  His name appeared in Casualty Lists released on October 8 and November 11, 1944.  Awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart with one Oak Leaf Cluster, he is buried at the American Cemetery, in Epinal, France – (Plot A, Row 15, Grave 33).)

Sheldon Adler and Samuel Dragoon were crewmen aboard B-24H Liberator 41-29439, “GALLOPIN GHOST” (“6L * K”); of the 787th Bomb Squadron, 466th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, the loss of which is covered in MACR 15774.  The plane was piloted by 1 Lt. Marshall K. Lewis, and crashed near Lyancourt, France, while returning to its base from a trucking mission to Saint Dizier, France.  According to the MACR, the crash was caused by the simultaneous failure of all four engines: “reason unknown”.  There were no survivors among the aircraft’s six crewmen.  The entire crew – Lt. Adler, T/Sgt. Dragoon, Sgt. Wilbur R. Hain (Observer – from Goodspring, Pa.), 1 Lt. Marshall K. Lewis (Pilot – from Forth Worth, Tx.), T/Sgt. Paul E. Miller (Radio Operator – from San Bernardino, Ca.), and 2 Lt. Herbert F. Minard (Navigator – from Wichita, Ks.) – was buried in a collective plot (Section 82, Grave 125) at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, in Saint Louis, Missouri, on October 3, 1949.

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This excellent image (UPL 7610) of the Ghost’s nose art, from the American Air Museum website, shows the crew of pilot Lt. Dorsey L. Baker (standing at left), who completed 32 missions, 30 with the 784th Bomb Squadron.  (The Ghost was assigned to the 784th (as “T9 * K“) before being allocated to the 787th Bomb Squadron.)

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This image, also from the American Air Museum website (UPL22744; contributed by Eric Foster), shows four of the airmen who were lost when the Ghost crashed in France on September 29, 1944, as well as other crewmen not aboard the plane on that mission.

Standing, left to right: S/Sgt. Owen Killborn, 2 Lt. Sheldon Adler (co-pilot; KIA 9/29), Lt. Caulk, T/Sgt. Paul E. Miller (radio operator; KIA 9/29), T/Sgt. Samuel Dragoon (flight engineer; KIA 9/29;), 1 Lt. Marshall K. Lewis (pilot; KIA 9/29).  Front row: S/Sgt. Dwight O. Foster, 2 Lt. Herbert F. Minard (navigator; KIA 9/29), S/Sgt. Thomasett, S/Sgt. Albert Spencer.

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Bloom, Rubin, PFC, 12014488, United States Army, Purple Heart, 1 Oak Leaf Cluster
9th Infantry Division, 39th Infantry Regiment
(Wounded previously – @ 8/27/44)
Mrs. Rose Bloom (mother), 1746 Bathgate Ave., Bronx, N.Y.
Born 1918
Casualty Lists 10/27/44, 1/10/45
Montefiore Cemetery, Springfield, Queens, N.Y.
American Jews in World War Two – 280

Bondas, Lazar Yakovlevich [Бондас, Лазар Яковлевич], Captain [Капитан], Assistant Commander (Headquarters) [Помощник Начальника Штаба]
U.S.S.R. [C.C.C.Р.], Red Army [РККА (Рабоче-крестьянская Красная армия)]
39th Tank Brigade [39 Танковой Бригады]
Wounded [ранен] 9/29/44; Died of wounds [умер от ран] 12/24/44 at 1141st Evacuation Hospital [1141 Звакуационный Госпиталь]

Born 1913, Ryazan, Ryazan Oblast [г. Рязань, Рязанская область]
Aron Yakovlevich Bondas (brother) [Арон Яковлевич Бондас (брат)]
Memorial Book of Jewish Soldiers Who Died in Battles Against Nazism – 1941-1945 – Not Listed [Книги Памяти евреев-воинов, павших в боях с нацизхмом в 1941-1945гг – нет в списке]

Cravetz, Paul P., T/4, 32132780, United States Army, Purple Heart
4th Armored Division, 25th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mechanized)
Mr. Benjamin Cravetz (father), 312 Seneca St., Fulton, N.Y.
Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France – Plot C, Row 8, Grave 45
Daily Sentinel (Rome, N.Y.) 1/25/45; Syracuse Herald-Journal 1/28/42; American Jews in World War Two – 294

Glickerman, Sam Jack, PFC, 36643868, United States Army, Purple Heart
36th Infantry Division, 142nd Infantry Regiment, C Company
Mr. and Mrs. Efrom and Rose Glickerman (parents), 1403 S. Tripp St., Chicago, Il.
Born 2/22/22
Cemetery location unknown
American Jews in World War Two – 100; http://www.jewishgen.org/Yizkor/Czestochowa1/czea008.html

Goldsmith, Sidney W., Pvt., 32988824, United States Army, Purple Heart
91st Infantry Division, 363rd Infantry Regiment
Mrs. Anna Goldsmith (wife), 1171 Morrison Ave., Bronx, N.Y.
Born 1/13/18
Casualty List 12/15/44
Workmen’s Circle #281 Cemetery, Glen Wild, N.Y.
American Jews in World War Two – 327

Greenberger, Marvin H., Pvt., 42079049, United States Army, Purple Heart
4th Armored Division, 51st Armored Infantry Battalion
Mrs. Sadie G. Greenberger (mother), 2825 Grand Concourse, Bronx, N.Y.
Casualty List 1/10/45
Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France – Plot C, Row 6, Grave 45
American Jews in World War Two – 335

Hora, Raymond E., PFC, 16177224, United States Army, Purple Heart, 1 OLC
36th Infantry Division, 141st Infantry Regiment, B Company
Mrs. Lillian Hora (mother), 18667 Cherrylawn St., Detroit, Mi.
Born 1919
Epinal American Cemetery, Epinal, France – Plot A, Row 8, Grave 39
American Jews in World War Two – 191

Kantor
, Lev (Leonid) Moiseevich (Mikhaylovich) [Кантор, (Лев (Леонид) Моисеевич (Михайлович)]
Junior Lieutenant [Младший Лейтенант]
Order of the Red Star (Орден Красной Звезды)
Order of the Patriotic War 1st Class (Posthumous) [Орден Отечественной войны I степени (Посмертно)]
Aerial Gunner – Bombardier [Воздушный Стрелок-Бомбардир]
U.S.S.R. [C.C.C.Р.], Military Air Forces – VVS [Военно-воздушные cилы России – ВВС]
561st Autonomous Army Aviation Squadron [561 Отдельной Армейской Авиационной Эскадрильи]
53 missions; Aircraft unknown – p r o b a b l y U-2 , Po-2, Pe-2, or Il-4 [В е р о я т н о… У-2, По-2, Пе-2, или Ил-4]
Born 1912
Memorial Book of Jewish Soldiers Who Died in Battles Against Nazism – 1941-1945 – Not Listed [Книги Памяти евреев-воинов, павших в боях с нацизхмом в 1941-1945гг – нет в списке]

Szwarfurter, Pinchas, Pvt., Polish People’s Army, at Poland, Warsaw-Brodno
6th Infantry Regiment
Mr. Szymcha Szwarfuter (father)
Born Slovakia, Zilinda, Konska; 1919
Powazkowska Street, Warsaw-Zoliborz, Mazowieckie, Poland
Jewish Military Casualties in the Polish Armies in World War 2 – Volume I – 069

Wounded in Action

Kelner, Irving, Cpl., B/40965, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps
Lincoln and Welland Regiment
Mr. and Mrs. Israel and Molly Kelner (parents); Norman, David, Morris, and Ruth (siblings), 410 Parliament St., Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The Jewish Chronicle 1/12/45; Casualty List (USA) 11/29/44; Canadian Jews in World War Two, Volume II – 42, 102

Silverman, Leo, Cpl., K/57228, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps
Canadian Scottish Regiment
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
(mother) 2033 Bennings Road, Washington, D.C.; (cousin), 1307 S. McBride St., Syracuse, N.Y.
The Jewish Chronicle 12/1/44; Canadian Jews in World War Two, Volume II – 115

Vosberg
, Mickey Herman, Gunner, D/138332, Royal Canadian Artillery

(parents), 5587 Esplanade Ave., Montreal, Quebec, Canada
The Jewish Chronicle 12/1/44; Canadian Jews in World War Two, Volume II – 117

Weinstein, Samuel H., 1 Lt., United States Army, Wounded by shrapnel in leg (Germany)
Mrs. Esther Weinstein (mother), George and Meyer (brothers), 68-33 76th St., Middle Village, N.Y.
Born 1910
Long Island Daily Press 12/2/44; Casualty List 12/3/44; American Jews in World War Two – Not listed

Woolner, Jack, PFC, United States Army (France)
Mr. Harry Woolner (father), 1907 E. Firth St., Philadelphia, Pa.
Born 1921
Philadelphia Record 11/12/44; American Jews in World War Two – Not listed

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Then, news about Jochanan appeared in the November 10 issue of The American Hebrew…

American Hebrew – November 10, 1944

Jews in Uniform

Unhappy Ending.

Jochanan Tartakower, born in 1925, in Lodz, Poland, escaped from Poland in 1939.  Alone he traveled to Russia and the Orient, arriving in New York from Japan several years later, to be re-united with his father, Dr. Arieh Tartakower, head of the Relief Department of the World Jewish Congress, who, being one of the leaders of the Polish Jewish Community, was well known to the Nazis and was on the Gestapo list for early capture.  Dr. Tartakower had been able to elude the Nazis at the outset of hostilities and had succeeded in reaching the United States, without his family.  Mrs. Tartakower, Jochanan’s mother, was detained and only succeeded in rejoining her family long after Jochanan’s arrival in America.  The happy re-united family were enjoying life here in New York.  Jochanan, the only child of the Tartakowers, attended C.C.N.Y. School of Engineering, where he was an honor student.  He was active as President of Habonim, a Zionist youth group in New York, and had a host of friends.  He joined Uncle Sam’s fighting forces at the age of 18 and was assigned to the infantry.  He was sent to the European theatre of operations to meet his old enemies, the Nazis, this time on more equal terms, as a well equipped fighting man.

Dr. Tartakower recently received a telegram from the War Department:  “We regret to advise you that your son, Private First Class Jochanan Tartakower, A.U.S., has been killed in action on September 29, 1944.”

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Fittingly; appropriately; movingly, Arieh memorialized his son in his next book:  The Jewish Refugee, which was published by the Institute of Jewish Affairs of the AJC (American Jewish Congress) and WJC (World Jewish Congress).  The title and dedicatory pages of The Jewish Refugee are shown below:

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In 1947, Jochanan’s name appeared in Volume II – the state-by-state directory of casualties and award recipients – of the two-volume American Jews in World War II.  (The reference work has been cited in many of my prior posts, and will be mentioned wherever pertinent for future blog entries.)  Here is the cover…

…while Jochanan’s name appears on page 459, appropriately under “New York”.  This page is representative of the presentation of names in American Jews in World War II:  Likely due to the sheer number of entries – 38,888 – based on information recorded by the National Jewish Welfare Board (NJWB) – information is limited to names, ranks, military awards, city or town of residence, and casualty status (killed in action, or killed – non-battle).  Though the NJWB index cards typically include names of next of kin, home addresses, and sometimes serial numbers, military theater of action, and date when a serviceman was a casualty, none of this latter (invaluable) information was ever published.

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The following essay appeared in a publication entitled Furrows, a publication of Ichud Habonim (the Labor-Zionist youth movement), in November of 1944.  Its very title – F u r r o w s – visually connoted farming; plowing; soil; land – while “kvutza” denoted “communal settlement” prior to Israel’s 1948 re-establishment.  Furrows was published in New York City between 1942 and 1964. 

ADVENTURE IN PIONEERING
JOHANAN TARTAKOWER

“Johanan Tartakower was killed in action in the European Theater of Operations on September 29th, 1944. He was one of our best haverim.’’

He was my friend, too – that is why these words are meaningless to me.  I cannot transform and reduce this intangible thing into pitifully inadequate sentences.  I can only wonder at the empty space that is left in my life and try to fill it with memories of Johanan and of the days we spent at Kvutza, of the work we did when he was my rosh mahaneh, of the dreams we had together of Eretz Yisrael and “our” kibbutz.

And I can say with a determination which I have never felt, before that we must not let the chain of halutzim be broken.  We must fill the gap.  We must believe in the things Johanan died for and fight for them.  Freedom and peace are meaningless if we are not conscious of their worth and do not accept their responsibilities – and freedom and peace must prevail lest future Johanans shall die, lest the Jewish people never find their future.

I shall endeavor to do what my friend Johanan wanted to do – I will try to realize his dreams.  That is the best tribute I can give him, and I call to all those others who believe as Johanan did to rouse themselves, to accept the task of the halutz, so that the vision of which Johanan was symbolic shall find new strength and fervor.

Harry Brumberger
Furrows, November, 1944

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In September of 1985, a Conference Room named in Yochanan’s honor was opened at Kibbutz Kfar Blum, in northern Israel.  The images show the ribbon cutting (by Jochanan’s mother, Malwina?), Arieh affixing a commemorative plaque upon the Conference Room’s entrance, the Conference Room itself (where Jochanan’s photographic portrait – the image atop this post – is displayed), music played at the ceremony – with Dr. Tartakower contemplatively resting his head upon his hand – and next, presenting a speech, while Malwina watches from the audience.

 

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It is ironic, considering the scope of Arieh’s academic and literary oeuvre, that history gave Jochanan so very little opportunity and time to record his own thoughts, and eventually, perhaps, arrive at his own understanding of “the world”. 

Still, two short fragments of his writing, apparently preserved and incorporated by a friend – “B.K.” – within correspondence or a newsletter of the Labor Zionist movement, are still extant, and are presented (in italics) below.  Given that these were penned while Jochanan was no more than nineteen years old, they reveal a man wise beyond his very few years; intellectually and morally conscious of the nature of the era in which he was living, as a Jew, an American soldier, and a hopeful pioneer in the re-establishment of a Jewish state. 

Perhaps his others correspondence – V-mail? – hand-written letters? – still exists, somewhere.   If and until they are discovered, let these small passages speak for him:

It was a great blow to us when we learned that Yochanan was killed in action in France.  Indeed, those of us who knew him well, who worked and lived with him in Habonim, found it very difficult to force ourselves to realise that Yochanan was no longer with us, would not be on the chava with us, and would never live and work together with us as chalutzim in our kibbutz in Aretz,

To say that Yochanan was one of the best chavorim in New York and also one of the finest and most sincere chalutzim in the movement would be superfluous.  To those of us who knew him, however, these words have real significance in our memories. We remember that summer in Killingworth shortly after he came to this country, memories of putting up ohalim together, moving the tent platforms up to the Bonim Kikar, siphoning gasoline from one vehicle to another, singing around the Medura.  We remember him working more actively than most of us in the New York Galil and especially in the Manhattan Machaneh of which he was a driving force, though not a very loquacious one.  Especially we remember him as part of our present K.A. group which meant so much to him.  We see him sitting at K.A. meetings in the office or in some cafeteria, where long-winded debates on chalutziut were often held.  During these debates, he was usually silent, but when he did speak it was apparent that he, more than the rest of us knew what chalutziut means.  To him it had for a long time been his whole life.

It just does not seem fair that Yochanan should have been killed.  He had gone through so much.  His family was separated during the occupation of Poland.  His father, Aryeh Tartakower, a prominent Zionist leader, came to America first.  It was only in 1942 that Yochanan managed to reach the United States after a long and dangerous journey.  His mother finally arrived here shortly before he went into the Army.  To Yochanan, therefore, this war was very real and very important, not only because he was more deeply aware of the issues and the character of the enemy, but also because he saw things through the eyes of a chalutz.  It was only after his death that we learned that he could have been withdrawn to a desk job because of his knowledge of languages but that he refused the offer because, as ho told his commanding officer, he came to Europe to fight.  In a letter from England he wrote:

“….for the past few years I have been preparing myself mentally for that event, and now I feel that the hour is coming when I, in my small way, will avenge the crimes committed.  And I think in my place, being an infantryman, I will get my best chance.  I think a lot about the movement and about Aretz; it is curious how war can influence your thinking, and being in the army and fighting even more.”

Yes, he thought a lot about the movement and about Aretz.  To be a chalutz in Aretz was his goal in life.  Sometimes he would be sad because of the thought that he might never achieve this goal.  But throughout the time that he was in the Service, he always thought about K.A., was writing constantly to chaverim, demanding news on how the K.A. was developing, and making the problems of the K.A. his problems no matter how far away and isolated he was.

In a letter written just a few days before his death, after having gone through the thick of all the fighting in France, he wrote:

“I have thought of it constantly and as far as I am concerned all the hardships and risks I have gone through made me only a better chalutz, and above all more conscious of my immediate future.  So, my theory is that ex-servicemen, after the war is over, will make a hell of a lot better chalutzim than anybody else, for the simple reason that they have changed their mode of living once already and are not afraid to do it again.”

It is with tears in our eyes that we bid farewell to Yochanan, our chaver.  We will try to live up to his standards of chalutzic character, to his devotion and self-sacrifice.  We promise to avenge Yocbanan in the way he would have liked it, with a larger aliyah from our movement to Aretz, with fields which we shall reclaim and cultivate in his memory, and with houses and farm buildings which we shall build on our soil.  Though he is gone, we know that Yochanan will be with us always as an inspiration during the difficult times that lie ahead in accomplishing the great task which was to him life itself. – B.K

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Jochanan’s matzeva at Long Island National Cemetery in Suffolk County, New York, photographed by FindAGrave contributor Glenn.

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An aerial view of Kfar Blum – photographed by Ofir Ben Tov – in Israel’s Upper Galilee.  The view looks south, with the tree-lined Jordan River winding between the Kibbutz and the two center-pivot irrigation circles to its east.  The Sea of Galilee lies in the distance.

The land is furrowed.  The land, is green.

Acknowledgements

I would like to extend my sincere and grateful appreciation to Annette Fine and Yonatan Porat, of Kibbutz Kfar Blum, for their generosity in sharing material – particularly photographs – pertaining to Jochanan and his parents.  Without their assistance, “this” post would not have been possible.  

References

Aryeh Tartakower (at Wikipedia)

Arieh Tartakower (at Jewish Virtual Library)

Aryeh Tartakower Dead at 85 (at Jewish Telegraphic Agency)

Furrows (New York Public Library catalog record)

Kfar Blum Volunteers (at Goalweb.com)

Pastoral Hotel – Kfar Blum (at KfarBlum-Hotel.co.il.)

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