by Munio Wurman
As the Jewish community of Tlumacz grew, a Jewish residential quarter came into being. Although this quarter was not set apart by a wall, it developed a quality of life all its own.
In the heart of this quarter, named Mexic, were the shul, the Bet Hamidrash and the kloiz. Aside from their role as houses of worship, they also served as schools. Here were the cheders, which continued down to our own days, although in different forms. The children learned reading and humash and the Rashi commentary, and as they grew older they studied Talmud.
During the reign of Kaiser Josef II a turning point came in the education of the Jewish children in the town. In 1785 the Kaiser issued a decree calling for the establishment of schools for Jewish children in Galicia. In 1788 the first such school was founded in Stanislawow; the one in Tlumacz came a few years later. These schools, called Judische Normalschule, eventually grew to 162 in number. The teachers were Jewish, trained for the profession in the Lemberg Academy.
In the 1880's, when the Jews in Russia were suffering pogroms and persecution, Baron de Hirsch was ready to come to their aid, but the Czarist government barred his way The Baron thereupon directed his efforts for the benefit of the Austro-Hungarian Jewry. Together with Rabbi Dr. Jellinek, the Chief Rabbi of Vienna, Baron de Hirsch drew up a plan to help the Jews of Galicia and Bucovina. This help included the founding of a primary school network, complete with playgrounds and sports fields. He also intended opening commercial schools and academies for agriculture and technical subjects, as well as supplying books and teaching materials, meals and other assistance. The Baron de Hirsch school in Tlumacz was built exactly one hundred years after the Judische Normalschule.
Christian children attended the parochial schools of the Catholic Church until 1772, when Poland was divided and municipal schools were established. One of the early schools remained standing near the church in Tlumacz, and was turned into a branch of the high school.
Late in the 18th century, the town fathers decided to build a public school, in view of the town's rapid growth. In 1904 a large house was given to the school, accommodating its seven grades in large, airy rooms, connected with wide corridors. The two-story building had two wings, one for boys and the other for girls. The school existed up to the first
World War. It had few Jewish students; the majority attended the de Hirsch school. The proportion changed after the war, when the de Hirsch school, constituting more than 40% of the enrollment numbered about 1,000.
The first Hebrew school in Tlumacz came in the wake of the enlightenment and national movement. At first the teaching was done by Shalom Streit and Yaacov Inzlicht under the auspices of the Tikvat Tziyon Association. Later a newwork of 23 such schools was founded in Galicia. The Tlumacz school had 80 pupils. After it became part of the network, the school was taught by Shalom Kleiman. It was supported mainly by the men active in the Tlumacz Zionist Organization, among them Meshulam Stern and the Inzlicht brothers.
The first World War caused the closing down of the school since many of the town's Jewish inhabitants fled. Quickly, however (in 1919), as the Jews began to return, teaching was resumed, encouraged by the youth movement for aliya. The school was formally reopened through the efforts of the Zionist Committee, headed by Dr. Max Halpern, Yehoshua Redner and Yaacov Streit, particularly Redner. The Committee and the representatives of the youth movements were together able to expand the courses. The enrollment climbed to 150 boys and girls. A Hebrew drama circle was formed. The Hebrew School was taught by Schulman, Rosenthal, Stolar and Goldwagen; the school moved into a building of its own during Goldwagen's tenure.
The Bund also attempted to maintain courses for young people in Yiddish. For a time the governmental high school maintained a course in Hebrew, even though the principal, at the time, was the known anti-semite Mendrala.
The public high school contributed a great deal to the rise in the cultural level of the population, particularly in the Jewish community. The first high school grade was opened on September 5, 1910, according to a report made on the occasion of its 25th anniversary. The principal of Lemberg's High School No. 4, Voichech Gzhegozhewics, wrote that the rooms in the building assigned to the high school were small, unplastered, not even broom-cleaned. He inaugurated the school and welcomed its 85 pupils. The teacher was Chihotzki.
Regular instruction in the high school began when it had a faculty of three (Dr. Benedikt Felinski was provided by the Council for Education). In December, teachers of religion of the two Christian denominations were appointed. The teacher of Judaism was the principal of the de Hirsch
Primary school, Mr. Urman. Local teachers Josef Harapkowicz and Wilhelm Naumberg completed the faculty.
The school building was further damaged in the course of the first World War. The library, laboratory and other equipment disintegrated along with the Austro-Hungarian Empire. When the Ukrainian forces took the town, the school was converted by their priest into a Ukrainian high school. He even opened a preparatory class for retarded children in order to enable them to get into the high school. It was only when the Polish army came into the town that the school was rehabilitated. The pupils raised funds to buy books for the library, and the Jewish pupils were especially active in the drive.
Funds coming from America, after the World War, paid for a kitchen which served hot meals and supplementary nutrition.
As the school grew, four classes were transferred to the building next to the church, as a branch of the high school. Because of the space shortage, both the Greek-Catholic and the Jewish religious studies were held in the school's library and conference rooms. Fo a time, the courses in Judaism were given in the de Hirsch school.
There was a high percentage of Jews among both the teachers and the students. The curriculum was classical: Latin from grade I and Greek from Grade III. The Jewish students were active in the various circles in the school and in its orchestras, and were outstanding in scholarship and diligence.
The Jewish members of the faculty were: Fabian Urman, religion; Wilhelm Naumberg, mathematics (until 1914); Maurici Rosenbaum, German (transferred in 1923 to Stanislawow); Dr. Samuel Eile, history and geography (transferred in 1928 to Jawozhno); Dr. Leon Hausner, German and English (as of 1928); Emma Schreiber, history and German; Carol Ardel, ethics; Zilberschlag, German; Moshe Papirman.
Prominent in extra-curricular activities were the following Jewish students:
Julius Mahler, Favek Reiter wind instruments orchestra.
Rotenstreich, Haber, Schwarzbard, Haliczer (now Prof. Lewittus), Yaacov Schweffelgeist, Y. White, Winterfeld, Izio Knol, Riczer string orchestra.
Tzank, Julik Mandel Philology Circle.
Artur Sternfeld, Leon Spund History Circle; its members wer Zilberherz, Favek Reiter, Jampoloer, Bildner, Haliczer, Miss Inzlicht, Mandel, Rosenkranz.
Haliczer and Hirschel Epstein were active in the Nature Study Circle.
Rotenstreich, Habe, Wurman, Mandel and Tzank were active in the library.
Haliczer and Miss Inzlicht led the Mutual Aid group.
The Parents' Association workers were Mrs. Bloch, Hartenstein and Schechter.
The Jewish teachers took part in guiding these circles. Dr. Rosenbaum was the counselor of the Nature Study and Geographical Collections circles; Dr. Hausner was in charge of the Faculty Library and the German Library; Dr. Eile and Emma Schreiber took care of the Historical Library.
The Jews were also active in the military physical fitness programs. Heading the track team were Jampoler, Hamburger, Sternhal, Zilberhercz.
From the school year of 191718 to 1938-39, 158 Jewish students were graduated from the Tlumacz High School 35.6% of all the graduates. Of these, 23 students came from out of town. In 1923, the school expelled, for belonging to Hashomer Hatzair, Josef Korn, Fischer, Mandel, Lunek, Wurman and Kraushar. Three of the finished high school elsewhere and one went to Palestine, after a period of training. Several Jewish students dropped out, for a variety of reasons.
Relations between the Jewish youths and their fellow students (Poles, Ukrainians, Armenians) were good, although here and there cases of incitement were known. One of the teachers, Waligora, used to deride the Jews and their customs, as part of the course he was teaching. Another teacher, Michalski, was of the same stripe; after a few months in Tlumacz he was transferred to Buczacz. A third, Mendrala, took another tack; he aroused the jealousy of the Polish students by harping on the good work of their Jewish classmates. As he checked the students for personal hygiene, he would pass his finger along the collars of the other students, feeling for lice, but he didn't do this with the Jews. Later, as principal of the high school, he tried to make it difficult for Jews to enroll. He once tried to expel young Schwarzbard on the grounds of information given by a Catholic classmate; Schwarzbard had allegedly spit on the icon of the Holy Virgin. However, Schwarzbard's firm stand compelled Mandrala to nullify the charge. There was also the matter of Jewish students being trailed to see if they belongs to any Jewish youth organization.
The intensification of anti-Semitism in the West worsened the relations in the high school. Most of the Jewish students were nationalistically inclined and belongs to Zionist organizations. There were only a few cases of leftist influence, particularly in higher grades.
The Jewish high school graduates tried to continue their studies in higher institutions of education, but the universities were by and large
closed to them. The first graduates found it easier to select th e departments they wished, but later some of the faculties (medicine, polytechnic) introduced the numerous clausus quota, and many high school graduates had to go abroad for their university training. Tlumacz students went to Austria, Czechoslovakia, Italy, France and even Jerusalem. Graduates without the necessary means for studying abroad, went into law or philosophy in the Warsaw, Cracow and Lemberg universities or into the Lemberg Polytech.
Some of the foreign university graduates had difficulty in obtaining work permits, on their return, from the Polish authorities. They began working only when the Russians came in.
In addition to the governmental high school in Tlumacz there was also a Women Teachers' Academy, maintained by the convent sisters. Jewish girls were rarely accepted here. The school, located in the Hof (site of the barracks before the First World War), occupied one floor in the three-story structure. None of the Jewish girls ever obtained a teaching post there, until the Soviet authorities took over.
Even before the war, the community workers in Tlumacz were able to raise funds for a vocational school. Located in the end of Slowacki Street, this fine building housed machining, carpentry and construction departments. Not too many Jews attended this school, since the Jews of the early 20th Century didn't regard manual labor and the crafts as proper occupations for their progeny. The youth organizations and their demand for the encouragement of productivity among Jewish youth had as yet not come to Tlumacz. Nor did the people who established this school show much desire to enroll Jewish students. The same group also put up a school for home economics, but no Jewish girls attended it; the school lasted from 1911 to 1913.
Tlumacz had no yeshiva for Talmud study, but about a dozen young men went to yeshivot out of town, then returned to Tlumacz. Among them were Yehosua Shapiro, Yehuda Beard, Kopel Baron and Zisio Baron, Moshe and Yeizhak Katz (Hoz), and even Shmuel Glass, who later turned to Communism.
by Prof. A. Feuerman
To tell the truth, not all maps of Poland show the location of Tlumacz. The town was some distance away from a major crossroads. This caused me to founder a bit whenever I was asked where I was born: Do you know where Stanislawow is located? It's near Lemberg, and Tlumacz is near Stanislawow. Its narrow gage railroad traveled all of the seven kilometers between Tlumacz and Palahicze. The station was near The Hill, and there the world ended.
Despite all its shortcomings, our town deserves to have its good qualities mentioned. These qualities have remained in my memory as the milieu of the most beautiful days in my life, of my youth in my town, in the home of my parents.
We used to stroll alongside the railroad tracks, in groups or in couples. Surrounded by a hedge, beyond the tracks, was the reservoir. On summer days we used to boat in it, and in winter it was our ice-skating rink. And is there another town in the world that had such a wonderful park? I never saw one like it in all the days of my life. At its entrance were elm trees, lawns with flower beds, water fountains and, the most attractive, the dim lovers' lanes.
Our high school building was next to the park, and we used to play there during recess, in the tennis courts and soccer field.
The high school (classical at first, neo-classical eventually) maintained a high level of scholarship. The faculty members were also highly cultured. No wonder that the Tlumacz high school produced famous persons in arts and sciences. I am citing a few of them: Eduard Kozykowski, secretary of the Poland Literary Association; the famous lyrical and satirical poet, Thadeus Holender. Many of us still remember Izio Reis, later known as Sidor Raya, author of the book Kropinwinki Womarscho; Raya belongs to the Predmiesce literary group, which numbered among its members Leon Kruczowski, Jezy Konarski, Wanda Wasilewska. I, too, tried to follow in their footsteps, in the days when Jezy Pogorzelski was publishing his lyrical works in various Polish publishing houses, Poprosto among them. Later I served as secretary to the editorial board of Przelom, the Polish-language organ of Poale Zion, but I left it to devote myself to medicine. Certainly our educators in the high school had something to do with the course I chose.
Mention must be made primarily of the teacher Mezwinski, the admirer of Mickiewicz, whose writings he knew thoroughly, or the Jewish teacher Pairman, an adherent to the Pilsudski camp (B.B.W.R.). Papirman was a frequent visitor in our home, where he chatted with my father on political matters. Later the faculty was joined by Dr. Jackek Jedlinski, an authority on literature, a converted Jew and a leftist. As a young student I was filled with pride when I heard (in 1931) the name of Jedlinski mentioned over the radio.
Mention should also be made of Madam Sandhaus of Stanislawow. Her department was Classical Philology. As a college student she was a pet of the Lemberg Professor Richard Gnescynicz, the noted philologist.
However, the teachers sent to us were not all Pilsudski people. Dr. Michael Kendzor came to us as a political exile from the antisemetic Endek Party. He was a tremendous scholar. From him I obtained most of my knowledge of Polish literature. I had a run-in with him. When I was in charge of the student reading room, I came across an article in the Catholic Tencza, Sne Lydri, Be Silent, Jews!, a diatribe against the Jews. The article aroused my wrath. I asked Dr. Kendzor to stop the subscription to this magazine and to have it removed from the reading room. He was slightly embarrassed and tried to soothe me with that notorious Endek remark, Don't be so sensitive. The students later picked up this expression in the universities.
For the sake of truth, I should add that the author of that worthless article, Jan Sztandiger, later (after the war) proved to be fair and reasonable in his attitude toward the Jews far more than were the so-called progressive writers.
I had another run-in, with the elderly teacher of Polish literature, Dr. Olga Skybyniewska (she was a lush). One day she had us write a composition about the bravery of nationalistic Spain. This was in the days of the Spanish Civil War. I wrote a major piece in which I argued that the term nationalistic was not the monopoly of the right-wingers, and that the heroes were not necessarily the minions of General Franco and his mercenaries. I waited impatiently for her reaction, but nothing happened. Only in my notebook I found her comment, in red ink, Certain versions show a difference in the author's opinions from mine, but the composition is very well written. I wonder whether a teacher in contemporary Poland would react in this manner to the words of a student who believes the opposite.
I certainly cannot ignore Bernard-Bronec Mandel, the Polish language expert, himself a graduate of the Tlumacz high school. For some time he
Taught in the Hebrew High School in Pinsk (one of its graduates is the Israeli author and journalist, Yehoshua Gilboa). Speaking about Mandel, the following anecdote is worth repeating: On his birth certificate he was registered Ber as the family name. It seems that the registrar of the birth certificates, Jejkil Seidman, was writing his name in the register, on the last line of the page, and his given name, Ber (Bernard), was the last word in the lone and that's how Jejkil left it! Branc was one of the few survivors of the occupation; he changed his name to Buzhanski and was one of the few Jewish officers in the Armia Krajowa. When the war was over he became the secretary of the Ichud (General Zionists) in Poland. Mandel is related to the Yiddish author Rahel Auerbach.
Tlumacz had other literary figures, not connected with the high school. Dr. Jampoler's two articles Pay Attention Gentlemen and I Don't Understand It, dealing with matters of jurisprudence and written with aggressive fervor, won praise from Antoni Slonimski.
Our town was also the residence of Maria Rashchinska, the wife of a police commissioner who was transferred from Lemberg to Tlumacz and had his rank lowered after a photograph showed him in a brothel. His wife, now a Polish exile in London, is an outstanding poetess. Incidentally, during the Nazi occupation Rashchinski was named to the main police command in all of occupied Poland. His collaboration with the Germans led to his death sentence and execution by the Armia Krajowa. His wife became separated from him earlier and lived a blameless life.
Ephraim Schreier also launched his literary career in Tlumacz, having first turned to painting. His book on the famous actress Irena Eichler appeared in 1939. On returning from the Soviet Union, after the war, he became the editor of the Poale Zion publications in German Neuewelt and Der Morgen. His works Problems of Artistic Creativity, Theatre and Art, Likeness and Mask, appeared also in Israel, in Hebrew. He is still writing articles of critique and on current affairs.
Let us return to our high school teachers. Roter, a mathematics teacher from Stanislawow, was rotund and a hunchback, loved strong drink and often came to class quite inebriated, yet he was an excellent mathematician. He was succeeded by Ardel, a rather queer figure; Ardel was the name of a shoe polish. We also called him Zygush, the name of his retarded son. In due course he converted. He always wanted his students to serve him, and used to ask every man he met for a cigarette.
Julian Masler, teacher of mathematics and physics, though generous of spirit, couldn't control his class; as soon as he entered the classroom, there was unceasing tumult until the bell rang. When Masler refused to
convert, he was dismissed. Being a member of a poor family, he had to go to Lemberg, where he became a peddler, selling medications. He certainly found it unpleasant when a customer turned out to be a former student.
Stanislaw Dombek, teacher of Latin and Greek, was also a man with a noble soul.
Valerian Ehrlich, teacher of mathematics, came to us from Dolomeia. He, too, was of Jewish extraction. Tall and formidable of paunch, he and his crony, history teacher Kazimierz Zamianski, were steady patrons of Rosenzweig's tavern. The mathematics teacher drowned his sorrows in alcohol; his young and pretty wife game him no end of trouble. He had spent many years in Siberian exile, and his students exploited his weakness recounting tales from his years in exile so as to avoid being called to the blackboard. I have to thank him for whatever affection I have for mathematics.
A true intellectual was the historian Eile, a quiet and at times confused philosopher. He was also a target of the students' pranks. Once as he appeared in the classroom doorway, they whispered in a chorus, Professor, sir!
What happened? he asked.
One of your buttons isn't buttoned, Professor, sir!
The Professor left the room ashamedly to check his buttons, and the students enjoyed a brief period of idleness. Eile also converted to Christianity in order to keep his post, when the school decided to reduce the number of teachers on the faculty.
Emma Schreiber, the teacher of history, was our favorite. She was the niece of the Jewish Senator Schreiber. We used to call her by first name, and to many a lad amongst us she was the object of puppy-love. She got to Israel and died there.
I hardly recall the teacher of German, Silberschlag, but I well remember his successor, Dr. Leon Hauser, the son-in-law of Motya Dicker. He taught us German from the first grade to the eighth. He was an outstanding example of a Jew who gets places by his own bootstraps. From a student of Talmud he went on to become a Doctor of Philosophy. He was a man of extensive erudition. He was sickly all his life, and died shortly before the Second World War.
Our teacher in Jewish religion and history was Fabian Urman, former principal of the Baron de Hirsch School and later a community representative. He was likable and cordial. He, too, had a problem with the mischievous students, but he never tried to get back at them. He was nicknamed Maccabeus because he loved to retell the story of the heroic
Maccabees. I remember as a child that Urman used to come to talk with my father. If I happened to be listening, he said to me, Boy, if you listen to our conversation, you will have to repeat it, word by word. His son, Dr. A. Urman, a well-known gynecologist, lives in Tel Aviv.
Jewish students accepted by the Tlumacz governmental high school studied without reservations, yet in later years their number dwindled, due to the impoverishment of the Jewish community. I still recall: there were twenty students in the second grade, ten of them Jews. Of the ten, five attained matriculation, and of the five, three were graduated with honors: Motl Epstein-Eilat, now living in Rehovot, Izia Kramer, who perished in the ghetto, and I.
by Dr. Markus Hoffman
An American Sunday afternoon. No office hours. Outside a cold and humid December day, ideal for staying home, particularly when the house is warm and cozy. Tired of reading, I set about arranging my books, notes, letters and pictures my treasure. While going through the photographs I found a picture of the members of Kadimah, a flood of memories rushed in.
Kadimah was a Zionist club of the university graduates in our midst, founded, if I am not mistaken, in 1920. I was one of its privileged founders. Our aim was to educate ourselves, exchange views and share the knowledge we had acquired abroad. Each member had to prepare two papers on world problems (one in Yiddish and the other in Polish), for possible publication or delivery at some conference. We tried to be active in Jewish-Zionist affairs. I don't remember what I ate yesterday, but I do recall that, on one Khof Tammuz campaign for the Keren Kayemeth, we collected 600 zlotys; previous collections had brought in about 200. Why was this one so successful? I don't really know. Perhaps our elders wanted to encourage the representatives of the so-called cream of the Jewish youth in Tlumacz.
Everyone in Tlumacz was proud of our success in our studies. I remember one homecoming, at the end of the school year. Although the schools closed on the previous Thursday or Friday, we arrived on Sunday
Rather than Saturday, as a matter of respect for our parents. Everybody was at the station. The small local train (named The Samovar) brought us from Palahicze. Each of us received a broad Sholom-Aleichem or boruch habbo and a warm handshake.
Our little town of Tlumacz was not different from many other small towns in Poland. Its Jews worked hard, paid taxes and interest on interest, always in arrears, always in debt. Despite all the trouble and hardships and the sacrifices, our parents did everything humanly possible to give their children a good education. Getting into the high school was no easy matter; higher education was practically out of the question. Few Jews were given the opportunity to study medicine, pharmacy or engineering, in their native Poland. And in addition to our inability to get into a Polish university, we had trouble obtaining a passbook for study abroad. One can write books about our problems. We weren't strong enough to be policemen, too flat-footed to be mailmen. We couldn't teach Polish; I recall a saying: If you hear anyone speaking correct Polish, he is an educated Jew. The Jewish judges and university professors you could count on your fingers. Our great-great-grandparents worked and died for Poland, and in return the only right we had was to be humiliated and to pay taxes, able or not able. The only wish our parents had was that their children should have an easier life than theirs, and therefore they sacrificed everything for the sake of educating us.
I had a tutor, J.M., may he rest in peace. The scale for pay for tutors wasn't very high. One afternoon, as I was working with my tutor, a well-dressed, tall gentleman came in. He was from Obertyn. My tutor was also tutoring his only son, and the father wanted to know about his son's progress. The tutor began by telling the visitor all about the subjects of study Latin, history, geography. But all the father was interested to know was how his son's handwriting was coming along. This dates back to the time when anyone who knew how to read and write was already a somebody, particularly if he could read a bletl (newspaper); this made him an authority on world affairs.
We youngsters had our fun, at times playing pranks on people in the synagogue. On Rosh Hashana we took over the town, on the way to tashlich, marching along the streets, chanting hymns, we were joined by Jews coming from other synagogues. Then at the banks of the river, we got rid of our sins by emptying our pockets and praying for the peace of the world. On Simchas-Torah we would make the rounds of the synagogues to watch the elders dance with the Torah scrolls. We kissed the scrolls as they went by, and we sang all the melodies, old and new. Between
Processions we were allowed to hold the scrolls, the Holy Scriptures which we gave the world, gladly and proudly, and even to carry them a bit and sing ozer dalim like our fathers. Yes, they danced and sang, as if they wouldn't have to struggle on borrowed money right after the holiday, as they did every week, from Sunday to Friday.
The children of course had to have the best. On Passover we used to strut to the synagogue, like princes and princesses, in our new suits and dresses and shoes. On Saturdays we would stroll along the main street, eating sunflower and pumpkin seeds. These we bought a penny's worth ' from Srul Horbach, as he was known (the family name was Gleiss). He and his wife, together with a married son and his wife, and an unmarried son, lived in a two-room apartment, on the way to the meat markets.
We had to deal with spiritual matters, too. I clearly recall the small old shul behind our house. As it was about to crumble, my father, may he rest in peace, and other neighbors tore it down and began building a new sanctuary for the Torah. The work was halted by the First World War and was completed years later. When my father came back to Tlumacz from the United States, in 1922, the first place he visited was this Beth-Hamidrash. His dream had come true. When he died, we went there for kaddish, my brother and I. It was a beautiful house of prayer, and modern; while we were saying kaddish, the telephone rang: a mother was inquiring about the well-being of her child, at that hour attending the cheder in the building.
Thus I reminisced and remembered things long gone, on the other side of the world, across the ocean, the little town of Tlumacz, with its hills and river, where our beloved lived and worked and thanked God for the little they had. Then came the tragedy which wiped out all of them, leaving us the memories and the commemorations. Yet these bind us together, me and my classmates, one now in Australia, another in Chile, the third in Alaska, the fourth here in New Jersey and another in Israel. We grieve and we pray that the death of our townspeople was not in vain, that their blood would in time purify the world which shed it.
by Munio Wurman
The young people in Tlumacz used to go often on trips as part of the school program, but the Jewish youths preferred going on trips under
the guidance of the movements' counselors, where they felt like members of one family.
The trips usually took place on Saturdays, to the forests of Kahawa or Yatzkowka, and the afternoons were spent in scouting and games. At times we would remain there until nightfall, sit around the campfire and sing Hebrew songs. We also went out on night hikes.
There were longer trips along the Dniester a 30-40 kilometer march on foot. On occasions we would cross the Dniester and were made welcome in the Kupferman home. We ate broiled fish that we prepared in the field kitchen. At times we went to Horigladi to the cave hewn out of the rock, the home of a hermit. We would lower ourselves down into it by rope to a depth of 30 meters without hitting the bottom.
The Weitz and Heman families lived on the other side of the Dniester, too, and Tlumacz residents always found there a warm welcome.
We also hiked or took the train to Nizniew in 1927. Suddenly there was a cloudburst. The Dniester overflowed its banks and its waters inundated an area three kilometers wide. The bridges were in danger of being washed away and the train movement was halted. The passengers crossed the bridge on foot and boarded a train in the direction of Czortkow. The waters reached Nizniew, flooding the houses to almost half their height.
Another flood hit the area in 1941. Afloat on the Dniester were houses, barns, stables, with the domestic animals and work tools still in them. People called for help from atop the roofs of the floating houses. The peasants believed that this was divine retribution for the death of the Jews who had been bound with barbed wire and cast into the river.
One of the popular spots before the war was Koroluwka, known for its large peat bogs. The peat was dug up and put into rectangular molds. The peasants used it for fuel. We took short hikes to the forests of Palahicze and the Lokutki cave. Out of this cave came a small stream of cold water. Penetration into the cave was difficult, even with the aid of candlelight or lantern. The cave contained stalactites and stalagmites which gave it the appearance of an enchanted castle.
To Stanislawow or Lemberg we would go for youth movement conventions, to listen to addresses by Zionist leaders and to attend art and culture performances.
We also made excursions to the eastern Carpathians. After a trip by train and cable car we climbed the peaks of Howerla (7,000 feet) and Doboshanka (6,200 feet), and the lower mountains. Here and there we
would come to wooden bridges, thrown across the chasms by the Austrian army during the First World War. The bridges were rickety and dangerous because of the rotted wood.
We slept out in the open, taking turns to watch the campfire. We prepared our meals in the field kitchen, and at times lodged in the Tatar camps in the Carpathians. We used compasses and followed the road signs put up by the Tatars.
Only a few of the young people attended the summer camps run by the youth movements.
|The Hebrew Teacher Goldwarg|
by Dr. Israel Zvi Kanner
The Days of Youth
Each man has his town, and did I have mine. There I spent my youth and molded my future. As the youngest in the family, I was always dressed in hand-me-down clothes inherited from my seniors.
I was taught the krishmeh (bedtime prayer) not by my father or my mother but by the Christian housemaid. She saw to it that I recited the prayer every night before I went to bed. The Selichot services impressed me deeply. At two past midnight, the shamash used to knock on every door and shutter, three times, and called out, Arise and serve the Creator. If he knocked only twice, it meant that someone had died and worshippers were sought for the minyan.
In welcoming the Sabbath, Mother used to light as many candles as there were members of the family six, instead of two; the larger the family, the brighter the light. Mother gave me my first look into Jewish history and Zion. Our parlor was graced with two gobelins, one of Rothschild and the other of Herzl. Mother told me that Herzl was the Redeemer; he would establish a Jewish State. About Rothschild she said that he helped every Jewish child. During the Holocaust I was imprisoned together with the Viennese Rothschild. I wanted to do something for him because of what the Rothschild family had done for the Jewish people. One day, as we were taking our walk in the prison yard, I came up to him and slipped into his hand the slice of bread I had saved from breakfast. I am thus the only Jew who can claim that he supported a Rothschild.
Father had a store in the center of town. If there were no customers, he would bend over a tome of the Talmud. The Torah he knew practically
by heart. The customer making a purchase was sure to get a word of Torah besides, so that he was doubly rewarded.
Once I found a rubber ball in the street and played with it. Father came up from behind and gave me a ringing whack. Aren't you ashamed? Instead of studying Torah, you are playing like a shaygetz! The accusation and comparison to an uncircumsized country bumpkin hurt more than the blow.
Every Sabbath, Father would bring with him a guest from the synagogue, a beggar or a traveler. In order not to make the destitute person feel uncomfortable, Father always said that any beggar might be one of the Lammed-vav Tzaddikim (the thirty-six righteous men on whom the world rests), in disguise.
Even though Mother was famous for her cooking, Father did not trust her with preparing horseradish. He would send me, glass jar in hand, to David Riesel, an expert in making the sharp condiment.
Every now and then Father would take us to a cabinet in the corner of the parlor and show us a rare treasure: the family pedigree, all the way back to Aaron the Priest.
I really like the cheder. I began attending it at the age of four. I loved it even more on winter nights, when we walked home with our lanterns. But I was afraid to pass the storeroom in the Main Synagogue. It was said that the dead gathered there every night for prayers, and if they were short of their own for a minyan they would go and grab the first person they saw.
The cheder was in session all year around. Except for the Passover and High Holy Days vacations, the only free day was Lag Baomer. Our melamed prepared for this event weeks in advance. Each pupil was given a bow and arrows. The boys were divided into two camps, the warriors of Bar Kochba and the Roman legions. I still remember how I cried when it fell to my lot to be a Roman.
Tlumacz had a Jewish quarter inhabited by the poor. It was named Mexic, not by the townspeople, however. It seems that a townsman re-
turning from America had his wallet stolen in this quarter. Beaten by the man he suspected of the theft, he yelled, This is just like Mexic!
On the Sabbath, after prayers, we took a walk up to the town limits. Nearby was the museum. In its vestibule stood a human skeleton. That was how we learned about a human being in the hereafter. Near the museum was the subterranean jail. We could see through the grated windows how the prisoners lived.
Our town was often visited by gypsies. Mother used to threaten me in her own pedagogical manner that if I misbehaved she would hand me over to the gypsies who would in turn sell me to the circus, which also came to our town at frequent intervals. In the circus they would make me a cripple so that I would draw the sympathy of the crowd. I told her that I wasn't afraid. During the performance I would cry out, Jews, rescue me! I am the son of Shya Kanner.
The First World War broke out on the Ninth of Ab which, in 1914, came on a Sabbath (the fast was postponed, as prescribed, to Sunday). On Saturday night everyone gathered in the synagogue. The men bade tearful farewells to their wives, not knowing when they would return. Rumor had it that the war wouldn't last more than four months; no one imagined that it would continue for four years. We fled to Austria by way of Hungary and Bohemia. At the end of the war I applied to the Tlumacz Town Hall for a copy of my birth certificate. When it arrived, I saw that my name appeared therein as Yisroel. I went to the counselor of the (Christian) high school I was attending and asked him to add Zvi to Yisroel. He refused, saying that no one had two names. I replied, Kaiser Franz Josef has. The counselor gave in.
by Ephraim Schreier
Throughout Galicia, every shtetl had its interesting personalities, and Tlumacz was no exception.
All of us recall Meir Soifer. A small town did not need many Scrolls of the Torah, but mezzuzot and tephilin were in great demand. Meir Soifer kept to himself in Tlumacz. Even as he walked in the street, he kept close to the walls of the hoses, as if seeking support, lest his frail body be blown away by the wind. His face, almost as yellow as the parchment on which he wrote, had a sparse beard. His tired and lusterless eyes had a depressed look in them. His son Zorach didn't add to his peace of mind, either. Some of the people in town also claimed that Meir was not careful about bathing each time before writing down the name of God.
Shmuel Patchke was a shoemaker-cobbler in his youth. We remember him as active in the Burial Society and later as selling fruit and guarding orchards. His small head protruded from the worn collar of his black jacket, and on his head he wore a bowler hat. His face, resembling a wrinkled pear, was adorned with a sparse beard. His sharp glance was awesome, especially because one eye had a cataract. Between mincha and maariv he would be surrounded by a group of youngsters eagerly listening to his strange tales about the dead. In some cases, Shmuel would tell them, the dead person refuses to close his eyes, God forbid. This meant that he wasn't given proper respect. In such instances, he, Shmuel, would himself induce the dead person to lower his lids, just by looking at him with his penetrating eyes. Then he would take out of his pocket an old yellowing notebook, and say, in sepulchral tone, Here are the secrets of the Burial Society. These tales caused us nightmares.
Reuven the Tailor devoted his last years to the mitzvah of sewing shrouds. His large heavy head sat firmly on his sloping shoulders. A needle used for sewing shrouds, already threaded, was stuck into his cap. Reuven walked with small, heavy steps, looking straight ahead. Everyone he met would be startled by the sight of the shroud needle in his cap.
Shlomo Tambor, the father of Zelda the Hunchback, lived opposite
the Main Synagogue. He was stocky, with a cheerful face and a prodigious beard. He was called Tambor because he once served in the army and was the drummer of his regiment. We remember his as the shamash of the Melech Synagogue, replacing Shimon the Shamash. He was also an orchard guard. One day so said his grandson Mendl, Zelda's son Shlomo came home, looking fit as a fiddle. He asked for a post card and proceeded to write a short note to his sons in America. Then he asked for straw to be spread on the floor and candles lit. His children tried to dissuade him, unsuccessfully. Shlomo lay down on the floor, closed his eyes and died.
Eliyohu Friedalys was a living register of the departed. He knew the dates of all the death anniversaries (yahrzeits), especially those of the rabbis and sages. He made his living from the recitation of mi sheberach and el moleh rahamim; on market days he added a bit to his income by selling grain. The manner in which he recited the el moleh rahamim invariably indicated whether the deceased was rich or poor. Eliyohu also liked a bit of firewater, particularly at the Third Sabbath Meal gatherings in Rabbi Zissele's synagogue. This encouraged his fertile imagination to tell his listeners wondrous tales about Reb Ber and his travels and his stopovers in the inns, and the demons who tried to bar his way by frightening the horses and upsetting the wagon. As he talked, his face would grow ruddy and his thin nose would turn blue. In his fervor, he would go on to sing melodies of all kinds, late into the night.
Zalman the husband of Beile (Hochman) was also an unforgettable character. He was impoverished but dignified. He and his wife lived in a small garret. His livelihood came from giving private lessons. He taught writing in Gothic letters. He also taught the beginning of the aleph-bet and penmanship. Aside from this, he also taught his pupils good habits and manners. He was always lost in thought, and spoke quietly and in a friendly tone. His Yiddish had a German cast, and his phrases were veined with quotations from Goethe and Schiller. He always wore the same threadbare yellowing suit, three-quarters his height, but it was without a speck or a stain. His beard was just a wisp of yellow hair on his rather feminine face. One eye was covered by a large white cataract. Unintentionally his look was frightening; it seemed as if the impaired eye was looking at you. Zalman and Beile lived out their years in contentment, despite their poverty.
It is not impossible, that when a town is left without a rabbi or a dayyan, a woman should take over the interpretation of the law. It happened in our town. Until Notte-Shmuel Eisner, the dayyan, returned
from his flight to Hungary, the task was undertaken by Israel Heller's mother. I remember her well. She was a shrunken woman, with tightly-pressed lips, her kerchief off to one side and her spectacles resting on the tip of her nose; actually one of the frames was empty and the other had only half a lens. She did her job well and was probably sorry to give up the rabbinical position.
Like every other town, Tlumacz had a ladies' auxiliary. The guiding spirit of the social welfare work was the elderly Zisia Hirsch's, that is, the wife of Hirsch, the carpenter. Her painful legs hardly dragged her about. She was big of frame and broad of beam, and her face pleaded fervently for compassion. In the heat of the sun as in the rain, Zisia slowly plodded from house to house, basket in hand. She collected loaves of bread, onions, cookies and the like, as much as the donor wanted to give, for distribution to the needy who would not expose their want to the public eye. She did this for many years, and the entire town respected her for it.
Often we would encounter in our town a thin woman with a pallid face, weak, but with a noble soul, modest and friendly. Old and young greeted her as she went by. Meeting a child, she would ask for the name of his parents; meeting parents, she would want to know how their children were. She knew everyone in the town, like a mother. She was (Buby) Fruma, the midwife of Tlumacz. All the children in this town are mine first and their mothers' later. When Fruma died all the children walked behind her coffin. The whole town.
A few well-deserved words about Shloimeh Hazan, the old cantor of the Main Synagogue. He was not so much a cantor as a good baal tefillah. His beard was as white as snow. I remember how people used to praise him, There aren't many Jews like Shloimeh Hazan.
He died, like Jews of great piety, on Yom Kippur, and was brought to burial at the end of the holy day. Everyone tried to be among the pallbearers.
by Ephraim Schreier
The incursion of the Red Army and the establishment of civil Soviet rule changed social conditions as well as the political climate.
Those segments of the population which had expected a change for the better under the socialist regime were badly disappointed. On the other hand, those who were afraid of severe measures were pleasantly surprised. For everyone, the Soviet presence eased the pressure created by the fighting within the occupied territory.
Most surprising was the change in social life, between Jews on the one hand and Ukrainians and Poles on the other, just as there was change within Jewish society, as well, in its classes and class distinctions.
The barriers separating the Jews from the rest of the populace came down. The isolation was uprooted. Closer contact was established with the Ukrainians, and even friendships were formed, at least so it seemed on the surface. Both the Jew and the Ukrainians labored under certain misconceptions. The Jews accepted the Ukrainians as the new masters of the land, while the Ukrainians regarded the Jews as being specially privileged, the pets of the Communist order. In time both groups recognized their error, and their attitude toward the regime became one and the same.
The class distinctions among the Jews relaxed, and people related to each other differently; those who had hardly exchanged greetings were now friends and brothers, a promise of messianic times.
However, this was a passing fancy. In time the same distinctions reappeared and life went on as always. The worst hit were the old time Communists; some of them concealed the fact that they had ever been party members. In town it was believed that the best posts were being given to former Revisionists, since they were not among the disillusioned with Communism.
Life became dull, mundane, uninteresting. The folklore peculiar to each ethnic group vanished. Traditions fell apart. No music was heard in the Jewish quarter, neither sad nor joyous. Political life was non-existent. Trade and commerce passed out of the picture. The stores were closed
Dwon. Most of the people felt perhaps it was wishful thinking that the Soviets were not going to stay and that everything was temporary. Some hoped for the return of Polish rule. But everyone wanted change, even for the worse.
A chapter in itself was the situation of the refugees from Congress Poland, the area acquired by Poland as a result of the Congress of Vienna agreements. The refugees refused to accept Soviet passports and were ready to suffer the consequences, even exile to Siberia. Some families were exiled, among them Hershl Berger's son, Haim Kreindler (the son of the dayyan) and his family, the Hofrichter family, and others. Some, among them Yossl Shmerler, the watch repairman, simply vanished.
At first the Russians tolerated the privately owned workshops. The stores were self-liquidated. The new masters didn't loot, not did they order the businesses to be closed. They bought up all the commodities, legally. In some cases, they came into the establishment, closed the shutters, asked that everything in the place be packed up, paid for it, and bade the owner farewell and see you again. The Jews quickly understood what was happening, and some of them were able to hide some of their stock. The former storekeepers now had to look for work. They formed labor groups and cooperatives, as a means of earning a livelihood. Many Jews went to work on the railroad, and took all kinds of menial jobs.
At first the regulations were not felt, but everyone was fearful about the future. The first transports of deportees to areas deep in Russia included peasants from the surrounding villages, farmers (kulaks), and nationalists. The Jewish community was saddened by the sight of the wagon trains in summer and the sleighs in winter carrying the farmers and their families away. The transports were taken under NKVD guard to the railway station and put into boxcars for the long trip into the Soviet Union. These actions always took place on Friday nights. No one knew if he would find himself in the morning in a bed that was still his own.
Rumors began coming from Stanislawow about deportation of merchants accused of speculation. One group of prominent merchants was sentenced to ten years in exile. Pinia Dolberg received such a sentence. Later a new group of criminals was added former officers and their families. One night Julka Winterfeld was taken away because of her husband, Dr. Alexander Schwarzbard, recruited by the Polish army, had left with his unit for Rumania. Polish families were also exiled: the wife of Mayor Zeidler, the half-witted Romek Stupnicki, and Tuzinkiewicz, Skowronski and Kaczerowski families.
There were no political trials, in those days. The authorities and the NKVD began probing into everyone's political past, class status, family history (whether the family had any of its members residing abroad).
The lists were drawn up. Everything was planned according to order. Political affiliation, nationalistic activities and other such criteria determined each man's fate and his prospects for being exiled. How can we explain the tension and feelings of those days, when each of us wondered whether he would survive the Friday night raids? Each one was careful of what he said to his neighbor or act in any way which might arouse the suspicions of the NKVD. People stopped thinking. Small wonder that people suffered nervous breakdowns and all sorts of psychological complexes. Still, in restricted circles, among friends, some safety valve had to exist; people made fun of the boorish rulers, told anecdotes about them, and derided the crudeness of the kolhoz emissaries, instructors and party commisars sent to teach the community culture and good traits.
Hope for change kept waning. Some short-sighted Jews whispered that, with the help of the Almighty, the Germans would come and deal the foniye (Russian) an overwhelming blow. Unfortunately, that day came. The disaster spared no one. Once the Soviets left, Tlumacz was subjected to calamities which led to its destruction.
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