During the Period Between Both World Wars[1*]
by Dr. Zvi Heller, Tel Aviv
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
When I speak about Kolomea, I mean the environs that were called the political electoral district of Kolomea that was geographically known under the name Pokutia. Everything that took place in Kolomea had an effect on the shtetlekh [towns] and villages with large Jewish settlements in the mountainous vicinity.
Kolomea had its own Jewish representative in the state parliament, then the Austrian Reich's Council in Vienna, for many years before the First World War. The election district in Austria consisted of three cities in one: Kolomea (Kolomyya), Snityn (Sniatyn) and Beczucz (Buczacz [Buchach]).
The Kolomea Jewish deputies before the First World War were members of the Polish Club (Kolo Polskja).
After the First World War, the Kolomea election district in the newly revived Poland was represented in
the Sejm by a deputy from the United Zionist list number 17, on which the general Zionist, Dr. Henrik Rozmaryn, Dr. Zvi Heller, the representative of Histadrut, the representative of Mizrakhi [religious Zionists], Dr. Shimeon Federbush were candidates. The other Jewish lists, from the Bund, Agudas Yisroel [anti-Zionist religious party], and Paolei Zion [Marxist Zionists] were incapable of carrying through their candidates.
The democratic elections to the Jewish National Council that were dominated by the assimilated [Jews] to the Jewish National Council that in the time of transition immediately after the war took the place of the earlier small kehile [organized Jewish community] houses of prayer provided a strong push to national-political organizing by the Kolomea Jews.
Contributing to the [Jewish] national turmoil was Hashomer Hatzair [the Youth Guard Social Zionists], the Zionist youth movement that arose during the First World War in Vienna and then was transplanted to Galicia by the returning refugees, young men and girls. A group of Hashomer Hatzair was also founded in Kolomea that had its hakhshara [agricultural training for potential emigrants to Eretz-Yisroel] location in the area of the village Slobudka Lesna.
Immediately after the war, Kopl Gugik and his wife [reopened] the Hebrew school, Safa Brura [clear language a movement to encourage the use of the Hebrew language] and organized classes for the young and courses for the adults.
In the large meeting hall of the Zionist party, Beit Yisroel [House of Israel], which had existed since 1903, would gather veterans of the local Zionist movement of the past such as the old Dr. Shlomo Rozenhek, the commendable Efroim Klarman, Dr. Marek Laks, Shlomo Scher and Yona Ashkenazi; also there were the younger leaders and the halutz [pioneer] youth, among whom, in a place of honor, were representatives of Hitachdut: Chaim Ringelblum, Kopl Gugik, Moshe Schneberger, Mikhal Hazelkorn, Lev Grebler, Yitzhak Teitelbaum, Meir Laks, Yakov Bender, Nakhman Palik, Shlomo Rares, Dov Sternberg, Etl Ramler, Yakov Schikler, Dr. Meir Etinger, Nety Eiferman and others.
The mentioned Hitachdut comrades headed by Mikhal Hazelkorn led the Keren Kayemeth [National Fund] commission in the city and in the area.
Hitachdut created a professional artisan's school that was led by Mrs. Gusya Horovitz.
The Herzl Library, at the head of which stood the famous Zionist activist Yakov Byter and his wife, Gitl Perminger Byter,
was very beloved in the city. It possessed thousands of books in Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish and German.
A drama section [of the Zionists] was started with Dr. Marek Knap, Pinkhas Scheierman, Zindl Neiman, Hersh Neiman, Leibele Wolfberg and Neti Eiferman at the head. The drama group carried the name Halevi.
The lectures were begun again as before the war in the Jewish Toynbee Hall. Of the local people, Dr. Shlomo Rozenhak, Chaim Ringelblum, Kopl Gugik and Dr. Kramer often would appear with lectures. Dr. Meir Geyer, Senator Dr. Mikhal Ringel, Professor Binshtok, Dr. Zilberstein, Dr. Naftali Schwartz, Dr. Kopl Schwartz, Fishl Werber, Dr. Fishl Rotenstreich, Zalman Hering and Dr. Zvi Heller would come from Lemberg to lecture. Hundreds of Jews from various circles listened to these lectures.
There was a chess club with a considerable number of members in the Baron Hirsch Hall. Pinkhas Scheierman and Dovid Schreiber led the club.
Lively work went on and with it good success for the Keren Hayesod [the Foundation Fund] in Kolomea and in the surrounding area. The success mainly was thanks to the emissaries from Eretz-Yisroel, Natan Bistricki and Sura Berger. The Hitachdut worker, Lev Grebler traveled to the surrounding cities and villages with the delegation from Eretz-Yisroel.
There were often clashes with Agudas Yisroel in the small Vizhnitz, Ziditshov, Boyan, and Otynia synagogues. Agudas had its fortresses of anti-Zionist struggle in every Hasidic synagogue.
The first halutzim [pioneers] left Kolomea for Eretz-Yisroel in 1920. Among them Yehuda Grunverg-Hurin, the current leader of Jachin [Prepare] and of Merkaz Hahaklai [Agricultural Center] at Hahistadrut in Eretz-Yisroel, Yosef Kuperman, Dov Sternberg, Sholom Laks and others.
There was a large hakhshara [training site to prepare emigrants for life in Eretz-Yisroel] settlement with the name Klasov that consisted of comrades from the Kresy [Borderlands formerly territory in the eastern part of Poland], from Volyn, from Polesia, Podlasie and from the Vilna area.
Among the first comrades that Hitachdut sent to hakhshara to the landowner, Engineer Ayzyk Berlet in Gody-Turka, were Chaim Laks, Yakov Grin, Etl Ramler, Levi Grebler, Yakov Hamer and others. Most of this group emigrated to Eretz-Yisroel during the month of July 1925.
The Hitachdut Central [office] in Lemberg strongly supported the Kolomea hahalutz movement through special cultural envoys. Among the Lemberg delegates were Engineer Reizer (today a high official in the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem), Dov Stok (today Dov Soren, professor of Yiddish at Jerusalem University), Menakhem Gelerter, Fishl Werber, Dr. Nusan Melcer, and the former Sejm [lower house of Polish parliament] deputies, Dr. Kopl Schwartz and Dr. Zvi Heller. The General Secretary, Minister Zigmund Herring, and the regular delegate from the Halutz Central [office], Lionek Braunstein (today in Kibbutz [communal settlement] Hulda), also helped with the cultural work.
The general Zionists, Mizrakhi and Revisionists [non-religious Zionist group founded by Ze'ev Jabotinsky], had their youth and halutz groups in the city.
Yehuda Kreps, Henekh Schecter, Yona Ashkenazi, the Rabbi, Reb Chaim Zvi Taumim, Hersh Rozenbaum, Efroim Klarman and others stood at the head of the Mizrakhi Party. At the initiative of the Hebrew writer, Reuven Fahn, delegates from Kolomea Mizrakhi (Hocher and Zinreich) traveled to Eretz-Yisroel to buy land.
Dr. Hesl, the lawyer, Yakov Heger and others, led the Revisionist group. They created a Betar [Revisionist Zionist youth group] group, as well as a group of Kayil Lemui [National Force] in the city.
The main workers from the leftist Poalei-Zion were: Shlomo Schmoys, Mendl Marksheid, Dutsia Landman, Krauthamer and others.
The Agudas Yisroel was a small group in Kolomea, as it was in all of eastern Galicia. However, it had several capable leaders and the most capable among them were Reb Yosef Lau and the lawyer, Dr. Ben-Tzion Fesler. However, Agudas was completely weakened and lost its influence after Dr. Yosef Lau was chosen as the local rabbi, at the initiative of the Mizrakhi social worker, Reb Yona Ashkenazi (Gedelia Biter's son-in-law and Yekl Biter's brother-in-law). But it still had a group of respected businessmen in its leadership, such as Dovid Zeidman, Lipe and Shlomo Heller, Lipe Ungar, Leibtsie Libman, Shmuel Ber Hener, Leibush Krys and Mendl Hirsh.
Kolomea had its own two Zionist newspapers, Nas Glos [Our Voice] in Polish from the general Zionists and Undzer Shtime [Our Voice] [in Yiddish] from Hitachdut.
The visit of Yosef Sprinzak, the present speaker of the Knesset [Israeli parliament], was an important event in the history of Kolomea Zionists.
Yosef Sprinzak came to Kolomea in 1935 to carry out the
unification of Hitachdut and Poalei-Zion. Some from Hitachdut with Chaim Ringelblum, Moshe Schneberger, Lewi Grebler and Dr. Marek Knop were stubborn and would not embrace the unification with Poalei-Zion that had been carried out on a worldwide scale.
After greater efforts and more intensive theoretical doctrinal work on the part of the special messengers from Ikhud [Union], Dr. Naftali Schwartz and Yitzhak Fagenbaum and finally, Yosef Sprincak, the Ringelblum group as well as Kopl Gunik's group united with Poalei-Zion. The previously mentioned leaders of Hitachdut, Chaim Ringelblum, Kopl Gunik and Moshe Schneberger and the Poalei-Zion workers, Dr. Wagman, Shlomo Badler, Dr. Schnebalg and Shlomo Eizner, were at the head of the united party.
In 1934, Lewi Grebler created a hakhshara settlement of the Hitachdut comrades under the name Vitkinia. The group became a part of Hitachdut halutz in eastern Galicia. The economy of Vitkinia consisted of four gardens near the Prut [River] and a house on Dzieduszycki Street. During the summer the group worked in the field. However, during the winter, the group was hired to do laundry in private houses. The group members were woodcutters during the winter.
It was very typical that the halutzim had to carry on a struggle for the right to work. The woodcutters organized by P.P.S. [Polish Socialist Party] often attacked the halutzim and did not allow them to work. The municipality helped to secure for the halutzim their right to work thanks to the councilmen Chaim Ringelblum and Moshe Schneberger.
Hitachdut and the women's organization, WIZO [Women's International Zionist Organization], created a people's kitchen in the city. Members of Hitachdut founded a credit bank for artisans and retailers, again with the help of Sejm-deputy, Dr. Avraham Zilberstein, who was the leader of the Jewish cooperative movement in Poland and with the help of the Joint [Joint Distribution Committee] representative, Yitzhak Niterman. The old communal worker Dugye Vizelberg stood at the head of the bank.
Yad haRutzim, the artisans' union that was under the influence of the P.P.S., split after the death of the well-known P.P.S. leader, Dr. Samuel Lazarcz Schor. A Zionist group emerged from the union and the comrade from the
Hitachdut, Yitzak Teitelbaum, succeeded in organizing 15 young locksmiths for emigration to Eretz-Yisroel.
Most of the artisans reorganized under the leadership of the jewelry traders and the government-friendly city politician, Yehuda Borukh Feuerstein, in a union, under the name Rzemieslnik (the Artisan).
The Hitachdut under the chairmanship of councilman Moshe Schneberger created a separate union for artisans and retail traders. A Union of Private Employees that joined Lemberg Central was founded under the chairmanship of Chaim Ringelblum. The Hitachdut also created Jewish produce cooperatives in large villages surrounding Kolomea under the name Hema (butter) with the help of Dr. Avraham Zilberstein. These cooperatives were in contact with the cooperatives Tnuva [fruit] and Mashbir [to sell food] in Eretz-Yisroel.
Members of the Local Committee of Hitachdut Tseiri-Zion [Young Men of Zion] in Kolomea
Sitting from right to left: Munya Schumer, Wolf Weisbrat, Dr. Marek Knopf, Chaim Ringelblum, Levi Grebler, Moshe Schneberger, Dovid Hilzenrat;
Standing under them: Zini Thau, Moshe Schikler, Dr. Zev Haber, Yitzhak Kern, Shama Tindel (Teicher), Itsye Danker, Naftali Thau;
In the last row: Yosef Reich, Yosef Ramler, Munya Bank, ..?, Bank.)
by Levi Grebler
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
Three days before the voting, on a Shabbos [Sabbath], the Z.P.S. [Zydowska Partia Socjalno Demokratyczna Jewish Social Democratic Party] under the leadership of Dr. Schorr, together with the P.P.S. called a mass meeting in Lyeblyk Room on the Sobiejski Street to question why the city council was not carrying out the [recent] Austrian law requiring that three weeks before the election, the city council was to distribute a stamped voting card to each citizen so that he could take part in the election.
This was to be the first, general, secret, direct and proportional election that was battled out with great effort in the Reichsrat [Austrian Parliament in Vienna]. However, the municipal authorities in Kolomea deliberately and consciously neglected their duties and three days before the election, the citizens still had not received their voting cards. The crowd was very agitated by this action on the part of the city managing committee and everyone came as one to the protest meeting. Kolomea had not seen such a gathering until then! Artisans, merchants and workers came from all strata to demand that the municipal authorities treat them as the law demanded as free Austrian citizens.
Dr. Schorr gave an inspired speech. He proposed his program to the large assembled crowd, which he intended to carry out in the Reichsrat [Austrian Parliament] as the representative of the working masses. At the close of his speech, he enjoined those assembled to march in closed ranks to the city hall. The crowd responded to his speech with strong applause. The several thousand assembled immediately formed rows and, singing the Czerwony Sztandar [Red Banner], they marched with the red flag, carried by Anshel Weitz.
Yosl Glazer, Fishl Thau, Haber, Dr. and Mrs. Schorr with a Ruthenian female teacher and Dr. Oster walked in the first row. Fuks, Ciper, Ehreman, Mikeitin, Bialas, Korski, Simcha Weitz and his wife, Leib Biger, Mordekhai Leibowitz, Borten, the younger Thau, the shoemaker's son, Shaul Freier, Gabrial Ziegenlaub, Naftaler Kesten, Haker the shoemaker, Hilzenrat the weaver. The enthusiastic masses called out various slogans: Niekh zywo, Dr. Schorr, hoorah! Precz z kliki magistrackiej! Hanba! Wstyd! Tchórzak! The Ruthenians sang: and Hei tam na hori Sich ide [There upon the mountain Sich marches, a Cossack song] and so on.[1*]
New people constantly joined this marching mass, Jews in their Shabbos [Sabbath] clothing, in long, coarse coats and shtreimlekh [fur hats worn by members of some Hasidic sects]. These were the Jewish weavers, mostly pious Hasidic Jews. All were ready to fight.
When the demonstrators reached the city hall with the cry, We demand our voting cards! the Jewish vice mayor, Funkenstein, gave an order to the firemen to close the gate and he telephoned the military. Meanwhile, still more people joined in. The crowd became larger and larger. The clique in the city hall also quickly called a meeting of its people to decide what to do in such a tense mood. Meanwhile, several demonstrators noticed that the officials from the city hall on the second floor were standing near the window and laughing. There was shouting: Look up, they are laughing at us! The masses started for the city hall and began to storm the gate. Some threw stones and broke the windowpanes of the windows of the city hall. Dr. Radecki arrived during this. When he had to pass the Hotel Grand, the masses threw rotten, stinking eggs and began to beat him. However, Herer came to his aid and pushed him into the gate of the hotel. After everything, the masses stormed the gate of the city hall until they broke in and several hundred people entered inside. The military came immediately, a company from the 24th infantry regiment with the Lieutenant Colonel Count Czukowski at the head. They
called out the 24th regiment, not the landwehr [militia], because there were many Jews and city bourgeoisie in the landwehr and they knew that the landwehr would not dare to shoot at the masses.
The company commandant demanded that the demonstrators disperse, if not he would be forced to order shooting. Dr. Schorr and his wife left immediately, but the demonstrators did not move from the spot. Even the doctor's bodyguard remained in place with a firm decision to present the demands of the masses. At the commandant's second demand to disperse, the masses slowly withdrew from the city hall and stopped near the gymnasium [secondary school]. The lieutenant colonel demanded for the last time that the masses disperse and threatened that he would give the order to shoot. As the masses still did not leave, he did give an order to the military: Attention, load the weapons! Secure the bayonets! And the trumpeter began to blow with such power that a fear fell on everyone. The crowd began to draw back in the direction of the Ring Platz. They ran in all directions in the greatest confusion. Hundreds of brave people remained standing in the Platz. Here, some kind of miracle took place: at the moment when the company commander made a gesture to the soldiers to open fire, we heard a strong whistle and we saw our dear Field Commandant of the city of Kolomea, Colonel Sir von Pfeifer, come running with all his power. (It could be that the Colonel von Pfeifer was a Jew and, perhaps, not. We cannot know. But it is certain that he was a very liberal person.)
Meanwhile some cried: Shoot! And tore open their shirts and stood unbuttoned at the chest ready to perish for their rights. There was a great tumult. People pushed and were pressed so closely together that it was impossible to move from the Platz. Even I, an onlooker, could not free myself from the vice. The people did not consider what kind of danger to life hovered over them, standing against the armed soldiers who were ready to shoot at any second.
The Colonel von Pfeifer was seen running out of the restaurant that was in Moshe Breyer's house. He was a good looking,
tall man, so he could be seen among the entire mass of people. When the top lieutenant Czukowski, who was ready to give the order to shoot, saw the Colonel von Pfeifer running with his sword in his right hand, he was puzzled. The colonel came and called out to the company: Attention! Weapons to the feet! Back three steps! Halt! And he called to the company commander: Who gave the order to shoot at unarmed people? The company commander could not answer. He was pale as a wall. The colonel gave the soldiers an order to turn around and withdraw. He told the company commander to take over the command to call the soldiers back to their barracks in full order. And this all lasted only several seconds. The soldiers withdrew and marched away.
When the people noticed this, some began to gather again. However, the colonel remained standing on the stairs of the gymnasium with his sword in his outstretched hands. The crowd began to come out of its hiding places and again began to shout slogans: Niekh zywo, Dr. Schorr! Precz z kliki. Hanba! Wstyd! Tchórzakomi![2*]
The colonel gave a sign to the crowd to calm down. He wanted to say something. As soon as it became quiet, he began: My men! I ask you, tell me, what pains you and why have you gathered here? Everyone shouted out an answer to his question at once: Voting ballots! And a great tumult began again. The colonel shouted at this: My men, I do not understand any words. Let two or three of you approach, lay out your complaint; I will see what I can do for you. However, be calm! Three respected middleclass citizens appeared. They were: Yosl Glazer, Naftali Kesten and Hersh Eisenthal, an iron merchant who had his business at Bitman, near the canal. He came from Bukovina, an intelligent man who spoke German well. He was the spokesperson.
Eizental called out as follows: Respected Sir Colonel! Our majesty, the Kaiser, for the first time in history, had permitted us, as Austrian citizens, according to the decision of the
Reichsrat universal, secret and direct voting rights. The elections will take place on Tuesday. According to the order of the Reichsrat, the city hall has to distribute a stamped voting card to each citizen three weeks before the voting and now it already is three days before the voting and we have not received our voting cards! Therefore, we gathered to demand that the clique in the city hall carry out its duty. When the leaders in the city hall saw us coming, they locked themselves in and would not even listen to us. And because of that [there] is great agitation! To the colonel's question of who was responsible for not carrying out the order, came a shout from the masses: The clique, the propinatarski-clique! The straw mats! Down! Disgrace! And so on.
The colonel shouted: My men! Calm yourselves. I do not understand a word you are saying. I will have to leave if you do not calm yourselves. It immediately became quiet. And Eisenthal called: Sir Colonel, you want to know who is responsible? The vice mayor, Josef Funkenstein! The colonel answered this: Let several of you go with me to the mayor and you will present your complaints in my presence. I assure you that I will strongly demand of the mayor that he carry out his duties.
They immediately elected a delegation of five people: Dr. Oster, Yosef Glazer, Herer, Hersh Eisenthal and Haber (an official at the Export Bank). The colonel walked in front and the delegation after him. The firemen, seeing the colonel, moved aside and opened the gate of the city hall. The delegation and the colonel immediately went up to the mayor on the first floor.
While the delegation lingered in the city hall, the crowd outside again began to sing fight songs and called out slogans. When the delegation and the colonel came back out, they went up to the balcony of the Hotel Grand. They asked that it be quiet because they had something to report. It became quiet. And Dr. Oster and Herer reported that the Colonel Sir Pfeifer had demanded strongly of Vice Mayor Funkenstein that he carry out his duty unconditionally and provide every citizen with a voter card. If not, a military managing committee would take over the city hall and itself carry out everything. The rights of citizens cannot be violated! The colonel also warned the mayor
that he would hold him responsible for calm and order in the city.
The crowd accepted the report with a shout of hurrah and great ovations for the colonel. The colonel saluted and left.
The Jews of Kolomea have the Colonel Sir Pfeifer, to thank for the prevention of a blood bath before the Reichsrat voting in the summer of 1907. He appeared as an angel of the people and a miracle for the Jews of Kolomea happened through him. Who does not remember what happened in Drohobych on the same Shabbos when in a similar case, under mayor Feuerstein, 21 Jews fell dead and many were wounded! However, thanks to the Colonel, Sir Pfeifer, area commandant of the city of Kolomea and commandant of the 36th landwehr [militia] infantry regiment, the Polish top lieutenant, Count Czukowsk, could not carry out his murderous intentions and destroy hundreds of families.
Later, when the colonel parted with the assembled, Dr. Oster, in the name of the mayor, reported that every citizen should go up to meeting room of the city hall where he would receive his voting card. He, Dr. Oster, asked the crowd to stay calm, not to disturb the work of the city council.
Those authorized to vote left for the city hall in closed ranks and everyone received their voter card, stamped for the voting. When a thousand Jewish citizens had received their voter cards, the secretary said that from now on only the Christian voters would receive their voter cards at the city hall. The Jewish voters would have to go to the Jewish community council for their voter cards. The Jewish voters left for the [offices of the] kehile [organized Jewish community] en masse. It was closed because of Shabbos. They saw this was a new trick by the community leaders and they again went to the city hall en masse.
It appears that in the further course of events, the following occurred:
When the clique saw that it had lost, they turned for help to the district chief, Dr. Poblikowski He again made contact with Count Potocki, the governor. When Count Potocki heard the report from the district chief about the situation in the city and what had occurred
with the Colonel Sir Pfeifer, he communicated with the corps commandant of the 11th Corps in Lemberg, General Sir Kolossváry von Kolosvár (of Hungary) and he pulled strings in such a manner that the kehile would accomplish its goal. The following occurred:
When the Jewish demonstrators again returned to the city hall, they were told that the voter cards were being given out at the kehile and they should go there. When they arrived for the second time, they met the well-known kehile shamas [sexton] [and] informer, Shlomo Dovid, standing in a shtreiml [fur hat worn by some Hasidim], before the Jewish community building gate. He shouted in Deitsch-merish [Germanized Yiddish] to the demonstrators: Komen zi morgen. Heite ist Shabbos! [Come tomorrow. Observe the Sabbath now.] When they heard this, they understood and the humble Jews again raised their heads; they had been turned away again. They again left for city hall singing songs and calling out their slogans. Some shouted: Long live Dr. Schorr! Others shouted: Long live Dr. Thon!
Meanwhile, evening fell. At around eight o'clock, when they approached the gate of the city hall, the gate was closed and no one was permitted to approach. The police did not get involved and remained neutral because this was the municipal police. However, the firemen and the gendarmes did take part, protecting the city hall from the outside and the inside because they were working in the villages and employed by the Kolomea district. The well-known lawyer, Dr. Havrilo Trilovsky, leader of the Ukrainian Social Democrats and also the leader of the Rutenian Radical Party, Ivan Lobruk, campaigned there. The gendarmes had enough work in the villages.
Two squadrons of dragoons with drawn sabers suddenly came running when the demonstrators before the city hall demanded their rights and they stormed the demonstrators from the right and the left and demanded that they disperse.
There was a great tumult and a wild stampede. Shtreimlekh and caps were mixed up on the ground along with pieces of kaftans and sticks. However, thank God, no victims fell. This also was thanks to Colonel Feifer because although he had to carry out the order of the corps commander, he probably ordered the dragoons to be careful that no human victims fell. In addition, the 14th Dragoon regiment consisted for the most part of Czechs and a small number of Germans. To our good luck, not
Hungarians, as had happened in Czernowitz [Chernivtsi] at the election of Lucien Bruner.
After the crowd dispersed, the Ring Platz looked as if there had been a battle. However, we had pulled through well.
The clique won a great victory. They sent entire wagons, loaded with beer, whiskey and sausages to the Christian streets. Meanwhile, the German anti-Semites banged on Jewish skulls on the Menechevka.
Thus ended the first public election demonstration of Jewish workers, artisans and citizens, after the first large election meeting that was called by the Socialist candidate, Dr. Schorr. He was beloved by all workers and toilers. However, because of the machinations of the clique in Kolomea, he was never elected to the Reichstag.
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