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Last Thursday, Natan suddenly took ill. The doctors could do nothing about the fact that he was no longer able to care for his badly ailing wife Hela as he had been doing for the past few years. He blessed his family, said his farewells, and yesterday he passed away.

He no longer has to use the hooks attached to the ends of his arms, or his artificial eye, the aids that he had had for sixty years, since the end of the Arab-Israeli War, or his hearing aid – all the artifices that enabled him to overcome his weakness and age. Now he is with his beloved elder brother Zygmunt, who several times saved his life during the Holocaust, but was himself tortured to death in a German camp before Natan’s very eyes just a few weeks before the end of the war. He is with his mother, younger brothers and sisters, and other members of his family, who were deported from Wieliczka to their deaths in Bełżec. He is with his grandmother, whom they were forced to leave at home, where she was shot by the Germans, and with his father, who died before the war and was buried in Wieliczka’s Jewish cemetery. Natan is closer to the places where he was born and brought up, and where he lost so much. He is closer to “that garden where he played as a small boy”, as he said, and which his grandfather loved, “always mending the fence, pottering about amid the trees, and selling the grass for hay”.

His funeral was held at 10 o’clock this morning in a private cemetery just outside Tel Aviv.

He died as he had lived – his immense tenderness towards others underpinned by an iron will that, though bound inside his crippled body, was independent of everyone, even of the will of those closest to him.

Natan honoured me with his trust and friendship. We met, had several very emotional conversations, he answered my myriad questions, and wrote me many e-mails. In our books that contain texts written by him I have dedications written in the ball-pen he held in the shaking hook that served as the hand torn off by a mine. We stayed at each other’s houses, influenced each other’s lives, and became close friends. I am saying goodbye to a friend who went to the same Wieliczka primary school as my father, Zbigniew Żyznowski, two years above him, and who often reminded me of my father. Now they can both return to visit their school again.

 

Wiesław Żyznowski

Siercza, 22 September 2014.

PS. Natan Kleinberger features in many of the publications released by Wydawnictwo Żyznowski.

(translated by Jessica Taylor-Kucia)

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