A Sad but Meaningful Encounter: Mr. Henryk Prajs (z''l)
Last week, I came to Poland with my Berkeley, California synagogue and happened upon the funeral of Mr. Henryk Prajs (zichron l'bracha). By coincidence, and with sad poetry, we were scheduled to visit the Okopowa Street Jewish Cemetery at the same time that the procession commenced at the synagogue entrance to bury this interesting man with military honors.
Mr. Prajs was almost 102 years old, and the last of his generation. He fought in September 1939 at the time of the Nazi invasion of Poland. He later was moved to the ghetto of his town, then escaped the ghetto and went into hiding, helped by many non-Jewish Poles. He returned to (and became a prominent fixture in) his hometown of Gora Kalwaria, and there was an impressive military contingent present at this burial ceremony, including a riderless horse draped in black and a bugle band. There was also a prominent contingent of his home town's city officials, carrying his town's coat-of-arms.
Mr. Prajs represented the end of a generation to his diverse community. Jews and non-Jews, family and acquaintances, people representing the Jewish and civic communities came to pay their respects - to the last Jew of his town - the last Jewish soldier of his kind. We were impressed by the respect that the Polish civil and military authorities showed this Jewish man.
May his soul be bound in the bond of eternal life.
May his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion.