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[Page 142]

From My Memories

by Dr. Zvi Heller

Translated by Jessica Cohen


The situation of the Jews in the town and the surrounding areas was harsh, as it was in all the small and medium sized places in Eastern Galicia. This was because there was no industry there and the area farmers and Christian citizens were poor – and the few wealthy Jews handled mid-sized export business of agricultural produce.

Among the educated, the landlords and the common people, there were many who were courageous, independent, and willing to provide civil and political defense, throughout all the periods of enslavement to the Starosta (the district governor) and his servants in the community and the town, in the taxation and municipal tax offices.

In all the local elections, there were representatives of the opposition to the community and town rulers, although the famous electoral system in Galicia, and particularly in Buczacz, prevented any hope of victory. But in the elections for the parliament in Vienna, too, Buczacz was united with the town of Kolomei, one of the “Jewish” districts, because there was a slight hope for Jewish victory there.

It is worth noting that while in Kolomei, the national Jewish factors and the independent citizens had to wage their war for the Austrian parliament against powerful organizations of merchants and artisans, Chassidim and intelligentsia, who supported assimilation and the regime, in Buczacz the “mushkim” and their followers only existed thanks to the support of the district governor, with most of the Jewish population in town opposing them.

And this is why the Jews in this district were successful even decades earlier, when the reactionary electoral system was prevalent, in electing a Jewish representative, despite the severe pressure from the authorities in Israel and in the district.

The well-known Rabbi Moshe Sofer (Shriever) of Krakow was elected as the Jewish representative of the Buczacz Kolomei district in the Viennese parliament. After he resigned from this office, Dr. Josef Bloch, a famous national activist among Austrian Jews ran in the bi-elections. Dr. Bloch was the editor of the newspaper “Jüdisches Wochenblatt” [The Jewish Weekly] in Vienna, and he served as a rabbi in the town of Baden near Vienna. He was originally from the town of Sanz in Western Galicia. The opponents of the national candidate, Dr. Bloch, were the known assimilators Dr. Bik and Meisel, whose traitorous role was to break the unity of the Jews and thus enable the victory of the Polish Szlachta representative, Dr. Starzinski.

The Jews fought tirelessly against threats, coercion and persecution by the authorities, and Dr. Bloch was elected to parliament as the representative of the Jews of Kolomei and Buczacz, among whom were many notables, such as Yankel Farnhof and others.

This victory also strengthened national awareness and the fighting spirit of the Jewish masses in Buczacz, which lead to the re-election of Dr. Bloch as their representative again in the following elections, against Dr. Starzinski, whose influence among the authorities in Galicia and Vienna was powerful. When Dr. Bloch ran as the Jewish candidate for the third time, the authorities realized that it was not likely that the Jews of Buczacz and Kolomei would betray a Jewish national candidate in favor of a Polish Christian, and they ran a Jewish assimilator against Dr. Bloch – Dr. Trachtenberg of Kolomei who was, incidentally, a fine man and had excelled in his position as mayor, in the many good deeds he did for the area Jews. After the authorities increased their pressure on the Jews and endangered their economic status, Dr. Bloch decided to withdraw his candidacy, in protest.

The Jews of Buczacz did not lose their spirit, and in 1906 many townspeople joined the Jewish students and the Zionist intelligentsia, along with socialist and radical groups among the Poles and the Ukrainians, in a campaign for democratization of the electoral system. The elections for the Austrian parliament were therefore held in 1907 based on the new democratic law. But the Galician Poles artificially installed an electoral map system, in order to achieve mandates in Eastern Galicia, at the expense of the Jews and the Ukrainians. They had united under a joint protection pact, which gave the Zionists, with the help of the Ukrainians, two mandates from villages and small towns (from the Buczacz area, Dr. Gevel, an attorney and Zionist activist from Lvov, and from the Czortkow area, Professor Mahler, a scientist and Zionist activist from Prague). Together with the head of the Galician Zionists (Adolf Stand, who was elected in the Brody district) and Dr. Straucher, the Jewish leader of Bukowina, they created the National Jewish Club in the Viennese Parliament.

The Buczacz Jews in 1907 took upon themselves the difficult task of achieving victory in Buczacz for the national candidate, Dr. Nathan Birenbaum of Vienna (a different Matityahu), the well-known author and formerly the first secretary of Dr. Herzl.

In these elections, the Poles selected as Dr. Birenbaum's opponent the wealthy landowner from Wisa, and they attached the towns of Zaleszczyki, Sniatyn, Borszczow and Tlumacz to Buczacz, and they added many villages to this municipal district, in order to weaken the Jewish majority in the district.

In the picture in this book we see the enthusiasm of the masses, among them Jewish students and farmers, including Ukrainians. Next Dr. Birenbaum stands Leon Weksler, the political activist and longtime Zionist in Buczacz and Lvov (secretary of the central election committee) and secretary of the Jewish Club in the Austrian parliament in Vienna, as well as secretary of the national club of Eastern Galician Jews in the Diaspora. Leon Weksler, who passed away in Jerusalem roughly a year ago, was leader of the activity in Buczacz at the time.

The pressure applied on the voters from the municipality and the Starosti, the Gendarmerie and the tax offices, was harsh. In the elections, they used both physical force and the military: in Drohowitz the army attacked the Jewish voters, and over the bodies of three Jewish victims, the assimilator Dr. Lewenstein entered the parliament instead of the Zionist candidate Dr. Gershon Ziper. This happened in Buczacz as well. Army troops took control of the main bridge over the Stripa river, which leads to the municipal offices where the elections were held, to close off the route to the Jewish voters. In the town hall offices and the nearby firehouse, they gathered two-hundred people, mostly rabble, who drank brandy and ate sausage all day, and went in and out of the voting booth every five minutes and voted in place of other voters, who were detained by the bridge. They also voted in place of hundreds of deceased voters, who the mayor had placed on the voting list. And we recall Jakob Grosfeld's call in the city hall courtyard: “Cohens, come out, for the dead are coming.” Many Jews dared to defy the army and forced their way over the bridge.

Dr. Birenbaum sent telegraphs to the interior ministers and the army in Vienna, protesting the fraud and the army units, but Galicia was abandoned to the Polish rulers, and Dr. Birenbaum received most of the votes, but was left out of the parliament. The protestations presented by Buczacz Jews to the parliamentary election committee were never reviewed. But in the second area of the Buczacz district, the election activity was run by the Zionist youth from Buczacz, including the author of these lines. With the help of the Jews in the towns and the village Ukrainians, we managed to elect a Zionist representative, Dr. Gavel. We also assisted the district of nearby Czortkow to elect Professor Mahler, as stated previously.

This situation engendered an increase in anti-Semitism among Polish teachers and students in the public gimnazjum. The students created a “club” with an explicit anti-Jewish agenda, and began to inform on their Jewish classmates' Zionist activities and on the distribution of Zionist newspapers and pamphlets in the school, as well as on their active participation in the elections. The gimnazjum administration organized disciplinary action against the heads of the Zionist Jewish youth, who happened to be our classmates – such as Zvi Heller, Laiser Gottfried, Haim Kriegel and others. The school administration received a Jewish informant's report from Jaslowicz, whereby the gimnazjum student Heller had given a speech there in the Beit Midrash during the elections, against the authorities and supporting immigration to Eretz Yisrael. The Jewish students went into defensive mode, and obtained the protocol book from a Christian student, a member of the “club” who opposed anti-Semitism and demanded that the educational authorities in Lvov prosecute the anti-Semitists. This counter-attack managed to weaken the anti-Semites' boldness, and the trial against the Jews ended with one student being expelled to a different gimnazjum, and light punishments for three others, even though it was known that the Zionist student organizations were located right across from the gimnazjum. During World War I, when I was on the Russian front, I met my acquaintance from Jaslowicz, who confessed to me, being as no one knew what the next day would bring on the front, that he had informed on me to the gimnazjum headmaster, because he was afraid that my Eretz Yisrael propaganda would “damage his livelihood” as an agent for tickets to America. In the town and the vicinity, we continued our political campaigns and national education, and in 1910, when the national census was held – my friends in Buczacz and I campaigned in support of registering Yiddish and Hebrew as our languages, in contradiction to the authorities' requirement that the Jews should record “Polish”. Although our activity was illegal, because one was permitted to record only one of the official languages, the Jewish speechmakers and the citizens performed their national duty and received administrative penalties, detentions and fines. Together with my friend Haim Avner, an attorney and a leader of the movement in Czortkow, I once traveled late at night in December 1910 to the distant towns of Wisnjowczik and Zlotnik, between Buczacz and Podhajce, and we got stuck in a frozen lake and only reached the town at midnight. All the local Jews were waiting for us anxiously, and when we arrived we went straight to the synagogue, where we lectured to all the town residents. In the gimnazjum, too, during that period, the Jewish students wrote in their declarations that Hebrew and Yiddish were their languages, despite the coercion and threats against the students and their parents, and despite the risk of expulsion from school or the danger of losing a year of study. There was also, of course, pressure on the part of the authorities, by means of influential Jews. Thus, for example, the Jewish mayor contacted Moshe Weisser, who was not involved in political activism at all, but was a decent and educated Jew and could serve as an example for others – and informed him that he had been elected, with his assistance, to the city council and that he would have to declare that his language was Polish. Moshe Weisser refused, of course, and did not receive the mandate offered by the squire.

In such an atmosphere of national tension, the year 1911 arrived, the year of the parliamentary elections. In order to prevent the claim of the Poles, that the Zionists are “traitors and enemies of Poland,” who bring German candidates from Vienna, the Zionist center in Lvov decided to run only Galician candidates this time. Dr. Birenbaum and Dr. Raphael Landau, both from Vienna, who had left the Zionist movement and become “unaffiliated” activists, arrived in our district without permission from the Zionist center, but they were turned away. The center set as candidates for our three districts: 1) the Buczacz town district (comprised of five towns, including Sniatyn, Zaleszczyki, Borszczow and Tlumacz), the central Zionist activist Dr. Michael Ringel, who was then a young lawyer in Lvov; 2) the district of Buczacz and the vicinity – Dr. Saltz, the longtime Zionist lawyer in Tarnow, who was a Hovevei Zion leader and founder of the first Galician settlement in Eretz Yisrael, Machanayim in the Upper Galilee; 3) the district of Czortkow and the vicinity – Dr. Shmuel Rapoport, a religious Zionist activist, religious scholar and philosopher.

I was responsible for coordinating the affairs in the three districts and this was not easy, because of the scope and the amount of locations, but also because of financial reasons. Apart from the Czortkow district, where the candidate himself covered his own expenses, being a wealthy landowner, and apart form the final weeks in the Buczacz district, when the expenses were taken over by Dr. Ringel, who owned a “fresh” dowry – I had to raise large loans and bear this cost too. It is interesting that after a few weeks of activity, the chairman of the center, Dr. Gershon Ziper, came to Buczacz to prepare the declaration of candidacy for Dr. Ringel, who was completing his law exams at the time. When I came as the head of a delegation of the town elders and notables, to welcome Dr. Ziper at the train station, he was amazed that this Heller, with whom he had been corresponding for several weeks, as the coordinator of the three districts, where he was also obtaining large loans and using the Hebrew name of Zvi – was not, as he had thought, an elderly educated man and a wealthy merchant, but rather no more than a “studentil” of roughly 21 years of age.

Since Dr. Ringel happened to be related to the “ruling” family in Jewish Buczacz – the government was afraid that it would lose the family's traditional support and they had to run the head of the family against him, the mayor of Buczacz. And although he was not considered a serious or threatening opponent, he was an old expert at electoral matters of the known type. The army did not interfere this time, but local coercion gangs were formed, mercenaries and thugs and “protection men”, whose job was to create an atmosphere of pressure and terror against the Jewish and Christian population. They used to pickpocket the voting certificates from the voters, without which they could not vote. We had to organize defense groups and attack forces against these gangs, from among the youth and the people. Groups of students from academic societies in Czernowicz and Tarnow were sent to help us. One of them, Dr. Eliyahu Tish, is now in Jerusalem. Another person who came to assist Buczacz was the old representative Ernst Briter, a liberal and radical Pole, who was a friend of Israel, who received the mandate in Lvov with the help of the Jews. He brought with him his entourage, which was known from the “popular” electoral war in Lvov. He was not afraid to barge into the offices of the authorities and the voting booth locations, and object to the many forgeries. He set up his headquarters in the restaurant belonging to our townsman Leib Roll, now in Israel.

We managed to gather most of the voting cards, but before our voters reached the voting booths, the gang members voted by means of forgeries of these same cards. And when my late father, Alter Heller (Haim Yehoshua) objected forcefully to these forgeries, as the representative of the Zionist party in the voting booth – the representative of the authorities threatened him, telling him that there was to be no shouting there and that if he personally knew the people who were repeatedly voting under false names, he should write down the facts and the objection in the protocol, and this would serve as the basis for an appeal.

The central regime, Count Bowzinski, was still afraid of the election results, and especially wanted to prevent a Zionist Ukrainian alignment in Easter Galicia, and Jewish voting against the government candidates in Western Galicia. He therefore made an agreement with the Zionist center and promised it 4 or 5 mandates, including one for Dr. Ringel in the Buczacz district and also for the candidates Adolf Stand, Dr. Reich, Dr. Ziper and Dr. Tohn. But the Count simply cheated the Zionist center, and after the Zionists did not receive the Ukrainians' assistance in Eastern Galicia and cancelled their separate parties in Western Galicia – the noble Count violated the agreement, betrayed the Zionist center, and by means of force, forgeries and threats, the Poles caused the Jewish candidates to fail, including Dr. Ringel, by appointing Berysz Stern as the Buczacz representative to the parliament. He did not do anything and continued to fulfill this honorary role for a short while in independent Poland, because in Eastern Galicia, which was not yet an official part of Poland, election manipulation was not permitted and the government asked the Polish representatives from Galicia to participate in the first Sejm as a founding meeting.

In 1922 the first democratic elections restored the Jewish national representative to the Buczacz district (which was called the district of Tarnopol, Czortkow, Buczacz).

It is worth noting two characteristic details. When the Zionist parties in Galicia united with the economic unions and the professional unions with a Zionist affiliation, into one list and divided the districts between them, only the Buczacz district candidate asked to appear in his own town. Incidentally, he was the representative of the Zionist labor party – “Hitachdut haPoel haZair – Ze'irei Zion ”. It is interesting that the ruling family accepted the fact that during that period only a Zionist could be a candidate, and they did not object to their townsman being the candidate. However, their dynastic approach led them to claim that their family also included Zionists. Most of this family voted, as Jews and good Zionists, for the official candidate for their town – and only a few could not overcome their tendencies and during the first months after the elections they regarded their chosen representative coldly. But gradually, all the circles of the town and the district, including the representatives of the authorities, got used to their representative, the young Zvi Heller.

The Buczacz Landsmannschaft in Vienna also reached a decision to congratulate their town, which had achieved a national representative. They sent a congratulatory letter to their townsman and the friend of their youth, for his election as parliamentary representative of his community and the district.

In 1927 there were elections in Poland again, this time under the reign of the Sanacja people, who had decided to obtain a majority in the elections, at the expense of the Polish opposition parties and the national minorities – including the Jews.

The Jewish club at the Polish Sejm, which comprised 34 representatives and 12 senators, decreased its presence significantly under this electoral system, and in Eastern Galicia the Jews “were left with” only 4 districts: Lvov, Stanislaw-Kolomei, Tarnopol-Buczacz, and Zaloczow-Brody.

However, since the author of these lines, as the candidate for Tarnopol-Buczacz, was known as an opponent of the “ugodah” (compromise) with the Grabski government, and as the oppositional representative against the Andke government and the Sanacja, there was a plan in the government to lead to his downfall and to appease the general Zionists in another district. However, after notice reached all the towns and villages in our district from the local and district authorities, “that this could cause riots, because all the circles and activists from the moderate parties and the opponent parties support Heller,” – they were forced to abandon this plan, and the result was that the candidate in the Tarnopol district received more votes than any of the Jewish candidates, namely, over 30 thousand votes. A Zionist was elected in Krakow with 15 thousand votes, in Stanislaw with 25 thousand, and in Zloczow with 20 thousand. When the government counted the votes, they determined that the Tarnopol-Buczacz candidate had received all the Jewish votes, and in addition some 3,000 votes from Christians in various locations. This was proven by the excess of votes which the Jewish list received in the same places, which was more than the total number of Jewish voters. The Christians voted for the Jewish list as invalids, retirees, laborers, artisans, government and private clerks, and so forth, all of whom benefited from representative Heller's proposals and his parliamentary fight for their basic interests.

At the end of this term I did not run again, and the district of Tarnopol-Buczacz was left without a Jewish representative the whole time. World War II broke out and the town and vicinity were occupied by the Nazi forces and later annexed to the Ukraine as part of Soviet Russia.


The Zionist Movement in the Town

During the Hovevei Zion period as well, Buczacz was one of the first places in Galicia where the movement found support both in circles of the elderly, the Chassidim and the educated, and among the youth and the intelligentsia. During this period, a Zionist union was created, with two purposes: to assist the Yishuv in Eretz Yisrael, for which purpose it was in contact with the center in Tarnow under the direction of Dr. Saltz, and it also had a social cultural purpose. The establishment of the society created a sort of revolution in the town. Apart from Zionists such as Shmuel Teller, Yitzhak Hirsch Weisser, Hirsch Stern and his sons, Yakov Leib Alfenbein, Yisrael Shlomo Stern and others, the society was also joined by young intelligentsia, some of whom remained Zionists their whole lives, such as Dr. Sigmund Goldsteub (son of Israel Ber) who lived and was active in Sniatyn and his brother Leon (who is in Haifa), Dr. Farnhof, who was a representative at the First Zionist Congress and even young men such as Anshel Mosler and Dr. Rosenbaum, who did not have an ideological affiliation with Zionism, joined the first society in the town, and like Dr. Diamant Herman in Lvov, who later moved to the P.P.S. Dr. Mosler moved from the P.P.S to the Z.P.S as the founder of this movement, which was later succeeded in Galicia by the Bund. In this society there were lectures on Eretz Yisrael subjects and on general cultural affairs. It was located in a private apartment in the “Rink” and was abolished in 1902. After two or three years the Zionist society opened again, under the name of “Zion.” Following the great shock of the Kishinev pogroms, there was another great national awakening in the public. There was a mourning and protest gathering in the synagogue, the students sung “Eli Zion ve'Eria”. During the gathering organized by the community in the synagogue in 1905, in honor of the Polish holiday on May 3, the Zionist youth stood by the gates and did not let the people inside. With calls of “all those who believe in Adonai, go home,” the youth entered the synagogue, led by the student Sigman (now named Menatseach) and dispersed the audience, and Yosef Tischler (now an engineer in Jerusalem) and others collected contributions for the pogrom victims. The new Zionist society opened on Koljowa St., opposite Meir Torton's house. They had a Zionist minyan, including Ansel Friedman (whose son is in Eretz Yisrael) as a volunteer cantor, and on the Sabbaths and the high holidays, some of the Zionist landlords and the Zionist youth prayed there. Libusch Freid was chosen as the society chairman. He later lived in Vienna, and died on his way to Eretz Yisrael in 1939, on the shores of Haifa onboard a ship that was expelled to Mauritius.

The society was inaugurated with Libusch Freid's lecture on the Rambam. Local and guest lecturers came to the society, among whom was Dr. Avraham Silberstein, who was later an important activist and assistant chairman of the Zionist Congress tribunal. He died two years ago in Geneva, where he was active throughout the war years in assisting Hitler's victims in the occupied countries, as well as Jewish refugees. He came home often from Lvov. The lecturers also included many local students. Dr. Hillel Susman was sent to lecture by the local committee in Stanislaw, and he was received by a large audience in the house of Avraham Shomer. The anti-Zionists from the P.P.S society made demonstrative appearances at the gatherings, led by Dr. Ansel Mosler and Gotwald. Chairman Loser Eisenberg was chosen as president (whose wife is now on Kibbutz Mishmar Ha'Emek), and his assistant was the tailor Hofinger. After Dr. Susman referred to the Kishinev pogroms in his lecture, Mosler and others shouted “a worker was killed there.” In all the commotion, the P.P.S people tried to disrupt the gathering and their deputy began to conduct the meeting. The student Matityahu Weinrab (later a lawyer in Snook) objected to this profusely, explaining that as long as there was a chairman, the deputy had no right to conduct a meeting. Eventually, the Zionists moved the lecture to the “Zion” society auditorium. During this period there were also many lecturers at the time of the World Zionist polemic in support of and against “Uganda.” And of course, the vast majority of Buczacz Zionists objected to the Uganda program. One special event should be noted. An anti-Zionist by the name of Speigel, who was a Hebrew teacher in the area villages, together with his friend B. Sigman-Rodes (father of Dr. Menatzeach), came to the society. Speigel had immigrated to America and became one of the Reform rabbis there, who were anti-Zionists at the time. Several years later he came to Buczacz as a guest and gave a lecture at the society, where he spoke of the need to “disseminate the Jews” and of “the destiny of Judaism among the Gentiles.” The well-known preacher Avramson (father of the poet Avramson from America) also came to Buczacz as a guest and Zionist lecturer.

And another odd occurrence: in the village of Osowcza, near Buczacz, lived a wealthy Jew by the name of Fikholz, who had an educated daughter who married a young yeshiva student, a great prodigy. One of his classmates at the Beit Midrash was originally from Buczacz, and was later to become the Professor of Semitic studies in Vienna, Dr. Heinrich Miller. Fikholz's son-in-law suddenly left his wife and ran away. Many years later it was learned that he came to Rome, where he converted to Christianity, and some say he was known in the Catholic church as Houston Bramen. According to this rumor, in the infamous trial of Dr. Bloch against the anti-Semite Rohling, he provided our enemies with Talmudic material against the Jews.

The Zion society was also active in supporting Eretz Yisrael, and its activists bought and sold shares of the Colonial Bank in London. The youth, led by student Naftali Ben Dov (now Menatseach) collected contributions for the JNF. And thus we find in the Zionist newspaper Wschod, from 1905/6, lists of fund-raisers, donors and donations which were collected from individuals in the Zion society and in the Klois and from the JNF blue boxes.

The society was also active in cultural endeavors and in disseminating the Hebrew language, as well as in political areas, both local and national. According to the instructions from the central committee in Lvov and the regional committee in Stanislaw, protest gatherings were called for in Buczacz and in Oscjia Zialona (where the “Hatikva” society operated), to protest the conspiracies of Dr. Bik against Zionism. They sent the prime minister, Baron Geutsch and the Zionist leader Dr. Shalit in Vienna, resolutions calling for democratization of the parliament elections and for the assignment of an autonomous borough for the Jewish voters, in order to assure the Jews full representation and to prevent them from having to become involved in the national strife in Austria between the Poles and the Ukrainians, and between the Germans and other Slavs. It is worth noting that at the congress of Jewish official delegates in Lvov, even Berysz Stern, the mayor, objected to Dr. Bik's offense against the honor of the Zionist movement, even though he was usually a supporter of the regime.

In around 1907, the Zion society moved to its new premises in Yosef Bergman's house (next to the Polish church), under the direction of Loser Eisenberg, who was later removed from office because he propagandized for his relative, the chairman, in the city hall, and in the 1907 elections he came out against the national candidate. All the Jews who were disloyal to the Zionists' political war also left the society at that time. The society began Zionist activities and acted under the direction of Leibusch Freid. They organized many lectures and assisted the youth in learning Hebrew. They also had guest lecturers such as Dr. Silberstein, Rosenman and others who studied outside of Buczacz. After the 1907 elections, the rabbi from Stanislaw and the Zionist leader Dr. Mordechai Broide (who later moved to Lodz and died recently in Jerusalem), came to lecture at the Hanukah ball in the Ukrainian “Besside” hall. When he gave details of his fight against the assimilators, who laid obstacles for our political fight, he hinted at the presence of the government representative, with regards to the role of the traitors in Stanislaw and in Buczacz in the Austrian parliament elections. He said that as far back as the Hellenization period, anti-Jewish actions had occurred not only under the duress of Antiochus Epiphanes, but first and foremost under the initiative of the Jewish assimilators, the traitors and the sycophants.

The Zion society also met at Wolf Horn's house, and at the time of the victory of the “Young Turks” party, they held lively arguments about the effect of this Turkish revolution on the Zionist aspirations for a Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael. Dr. A. Dretler (later an attorney in Lvov) lectured on this subject.

The Zion society then moved to the Sternberg house (in the Anderman Hotel). During this period the society chairmen were Bezalel Herzas, Zalman Hoenig (whose son is on Kibbutz Gan-Shmuel) and my father Haim Yehoshua Heller (Alter), who continued his position until the beginning of World War I and the escape to Vienna. A group of youngsters was very active at that time, including Hirsch Balin, who was known as Gospodarz, because he took care of the society's economy. Paul Eidelstein (now in Haifa) and Shalom Weinstock (who now lives with his family on the moshav “Beit-Shearim” near Nahallal, and whose name is now Yosef Heller) and Yakov Halpern. The latter planned his aliya together with myself. This pioneering plan came to us not only under the influence of my father, of blessed memory, and the Eretz Yisrael newspaper, “Hapoel Hatzair”, but also probably from the fact that there were three of our townspeople in Merchavia, in Eretz Yisrael, at the agricultural cooperative which was conducted according to Dr. Openheimer's system. The farm manager was Shlomo Dik (who came back to Israel after Hitler and worked as an expert on large agricultural plans, and died in Paris), and two graduates of the agricultural school in Slowodka in our area. They were sent to Israel by the Baron Hirsch fund. Their names were: Fritz and Moirer, and I do not know what became of them.

In 1912/13, appointed by the Buczacz district committee, we collected a large sum of money which was enough to obtain two seats in the Tenth Zionist Congress, which was held in Vienna in 1913. We gave one of the seats to Shlomo Schiller, the well-known writer and teacher who was at that time in Eretz Yisrael. My participation in this congress in 1913 in Vienna and in the conference of Russian Zionists which was held there – as a very young man – suddenly introduced me to the world Zionist movement and its activists, and to the labor movement representatives from Eretz Yisrael. From there, I went directly to the military service in an officers' training school in Czernowitz.


Jewish Youth Movement

At the same time, there developed in our town a Jewish youth movement, whose founders and pioneers were from the youth who studied at the gimnazjum. During those years, the members of the Polish socialist movement, the P.P.S. – Promien – were very active in the Polish gimnazjum in Buczacz, and they published a newsletter named “Latarnia”. This movement was led by the student Chlebek, whose father was the Latin teacher, a very popular and knowledgeable man. It was characteristic of him to reach an exchange agreement with his friend Munisch Boyer, also an “unusual” person: he taught him Latin while Boyer taught him Hebrew.

When a Galician minister (Namiestnik) once came to Buczacz, young Chlebek and his friends organized a political demonstration against him outside the district council building. The demonstration was dispersed by the police, and Chlebek was expelled from the gimnazjum. Prominent among the Ukrainian youth, was Nazaruk (son of a furrier), who later became a minister in the Ukrainian government. Together with Dr. A. Mosler, he organized the first agricultural workers' strike in the entire area, and they published the newspaper “Sluzba Dworska” and even caused severe welfare riots. Austrian army troops were then sent in to oppress the “revolution” and save the Polish landowners, the “Paritz”.

However, at the end of that year, in which the Jewish members of the “Promien” organization graduated from high school, a great turning point occurred among the Jews. There was a national, Zionist awakening among the Noar HaLomed, which began to organize Zionist clubs for education and independent studying of Jewish affairs and Hebrew. The student Matityahu Weinraub, who was knowledgeable in Hebrew from his father Haim Weinraub, a great scholar, was active in Buczacz in this area. Our townsman Dr. Avraham Silberstein often came from Lvov, where he was active in the youth movement “ Zeirei Zion”, and he imparted to the youth of Buczacz knowledge of Hebrew and Jewish history, which he had written himself but not published, because the manuscripts had been destroyed during the Russian occupation and the First World War. Silberstein also lectured on various Jewish and Zionist subjects. Sigman-Menatseach, who inherited the Hebrew spirit from his father, the learned teacher, organized a group of friends, including Bleukopf, Smeterling (today an attorney in Jerusalem), and the students Schitzer and Schecter, who came to Buczacz from the village of Strosow as a “hospitant” in the gimnazjum. The youngsters would meet in Tischler's private room. Later they met the student Katz, who had moved from Zloczow to his relatives in Buczacz, and with his help they expanded the club, whose chairman was Tischler and his deputy was Manio Pohorile (today a government clerk in Jerusalem). Matityahu Weinraub organized different clubs for adults in Munisch Heller's apartment, and a club for youngsters, including Gottfried Laiser, Zvi Heller and their friends from the intermediate classes. Our meetings were held in the storage cellar of Y. A. Gottfried in the Ashkenazi house next to the Weksler Hotel. The third club was led by Yonah Heller from Bozanow, who was a prominent member of the orchestra in the gimnazjum, run by Professor Geziov. Heller, Tischler, Menatseach and Gottfried later moved to the gimnazjum in Brzezany, which for some reason became the destination for expelled Buczacz students. Silberstein administered courses in Hebrew, Tanach and history, in the apartment of the Pohorile brothers, Emmanuel and David (now Dr. Pohorile, an attorney in Tel Aviv and chairman of the Buczacz Landsmannschaft in Israel). There was also a club for self education with lectures and discussions on various scientific topics. A student named Tau came to Buczacz from Kolomei, he was a learned man and organized a club for lectures and sing-alongs. Young people who knew Hebrew, such as Tischler, Menatseach, Halfon, Zvi Malex (now a rabbi in America), Yosef Shneor and others visited the Ivria club on Shabbat, where they spoke only Hebrew for one hour with the adults, or taught Hebrew in the community soup kitchen. After all the difficult beginnings during the stormy period, the Zionist youth movement shifted to organized action in twelve clubs, eight for gimnazjum students according to age and class, and four clubs for young girls. The movement was directed by a local committee, whose chairman was Zvi Heller. Haim Avner was the deputy and Yitzhak Shneor was secretary. The movement was affiliated with the Zionist organization of the Noar Ha'Oved in Lvov, “Tzeirei Zion”, and some of us would participate in the movement's national conferences in Lvov, which were called wiecy and which were a sort of seminar for ideological and practical studies for the counselors. Most of the Zionist leadership in all the parties in Galicia and Vienna stemmed from this circle, because these conferences were also the arena for the first signs of the ideological differentiation in Zionism. Our twelve clubs in Buczacz conducted extremely broad organizational and cultural work. The members were required to learn Hebrew and to read the newspapers “HaShachar” and “Moriah” and to study from the textbooks on Zionism written by Czaczkes-Kirton (now named Dr. Kosta, a physician in Herzliya), the book “The National Existence of the Jews” (Byt narodowy Zydow) by Shlomo Schiller, the history of the Jews and Eretz Yisrael issues, and the literature of Jews. The students of the upper classes also read “Wschod”, “Welt”, “HaOlam” and “Hamitzpeh”. The members were examined on all this material by a member committee, and this was a condition for acceptance into higher clubs. Throughout the year there was also systematic organizational activity, in order to introduce the students from the lower divisions into the movement.

The movement concentrated its activity in the rooms of the Hebrew school “Safah Brura”, which was located at first in the house of Freid and Eisenberg in Garbarnia, and then in the Kaner house, which also served the Zionists as an election office because of its proximity to the city hall. And finally it was in the rear house of Abish Dik near the Stripa river and opposite the public gimnazjum. Every Shabbat all the members of the movement congregated there and heard different lectures and interesting debates, which demonstrated the level of education and progress of the participants. The youth leaders and various Zionist activists came from here. The movement also operated a large library in different languages for different ages, and once a week the young boys and girls exchanged their books, and by means of pop-quizzes we tested whether they had read and understood the books. In the soup-kitchen there were Hanukah parties, beautiful plays and literary balls.

When we graduated from the gimnazjum, we founded an academic society named “Hashmonaim”, which was affiliated with the “Hasmonea” society in Lvov. Our society took upon itself a large part of the Zionist work in town, and developed lovely social and cultural life. In the “Hashmonaim” society we created a large scientific library, which helped members, friends and supporters to deepen their knowledge of Judaism and Zionism, knowledge of Eretz Yisrael, Hebrew and Yiddish literature, and general sciences. The society parties gathered all the circles of town and the intelligentsia from near and far towns. I recall the grand Eretz Yisrael ball in the halls of the Ukrainian club, with the presence of famous Zionist economist David Treisch, who developed the special system for settlement and agriculture in Eretz Yisrael. The society members – the youths Miller and Heller-Anderman, who died in World War I; Dr. Yeshayahu Hecht, head of the Hitachdut party and its representative in the Buczacz community and city hall; Dr. Eliyahu Nacht, an attorney and Zionist leader in Drohowitz; Dr. Yosef Somerstein (a doctor in Vienna); Hindes, Nussbaum, Attorney Isio Spirer, Judge Cook and others – were killed during Hitler's time. Yitzhak Tischler and attorney Poldzie Marangel and our friend the activist in Buczacz, Haim Sinzia Frankel, died before the war. The well-known activist in Buczacz, Lvov and Vienna, Leon Weksler, died in Jerusalem. Dr. Avraham Silberstein, a delegate to the Sejm and deputy-chief of the congressional court, died in Switzerland. Dr. Avraham Halfon, the old Hebrew, a founder of “Hathiya” in Vienna, died in Hadera, after having managed to live in Israel for a short while, as a survivor.

If we are discussing the academic youth in our town, we should mention an amusing fact: since the Austrian system of law studies meant that the students of that division were only examined once every two years, some 100 law students in Buczacz also spent most of their time in Buczacz. In order to overcome their boredom, they created a club named “Ha'alaburda”, whose members would gather in the evenings at Pyotrowicz's confectionary in Dr. Alter's house. The club, which ran for two or three years, was led by Waksler, Reiss, Frankel and others. The “Ha'alaburda” was organized on the foundations of a state: a government, with a royal court and a Chancellor at the head of the government; courts and legislation; university and examinations, in which “exam fees” were paid with confectionary cakes. In the exams, which had an amusing scientific nature, questions on legal problems were presented humorously. They were very interesting and attracted a large audience. But we finally recognized that this club did not have a positive influence on the academic youth and was distracting them from Zionist and cultural activities and from studying for serious exams. With the help of our Zionist society “Hashmonaim” and under its influence, we stopped the activity of the “Ha'alaburda” and its existence, even though most of its members were not party-affiliated and did not want to give up this social occasion.

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