Up to the 1840’s, Boryslaw was a mountainous hamlet with a very small Jewish community. But after mineral wax was discovered within its boundaries, Boryslaw developed rapidly and the number of Jews increased yearly. Jews from Drohobycz used to come to Boryslaw to search for wax and oil. They dug pits forty to seventy meters deep without safety devices and brought out the wax by lowering men in large buckets into the pits to dig and bring up whatever they found. Everything was done in a primitive manner, without machinery or tools. The excavated rocks were then dispersed on the ground and poor people would extract wax from them. These [workers, who extracted wax from the stones] were called lepakys. The well owners were Jews from all over Galicia and so were the majority of the workers. A minority of the workers were Christian peasants from the Drohobycz area. In the first period, until 1880, some 2,500 Jewish male laborers and about 500 Jewish women were employed in this industry. The women extracted the wax from the discarded stones. The wax was then melted. The laborers who did this work were called shmeltzers. Production in this primitive fashion continued until about 1890. Jews came to Boryslaw from all over the area to earn their living in this industry and as a rule would return to their homes in Drohobycz, Bolechow and Skole for the Sabbath. Only a small number made their homes in Boryslaw. In 1860, only 1,000 Jews were living there. By 1869, there was already an established Jewish communitywith a synagogue and twelve Jewish schools.
Before the adoption of modern industrial machines operated by steam or electricity, there were four classes of Jewish laborers:
1. Workers on the surface
2. Workers inside the wells
4. Washers of the soil wax (veshers)
Between employers and employees stood an intermediator called a plustok; his exact duties and the nature of his work is unknown. He acted as both instructor and cashier and would also arrange accommodation, mainly for the rural laborers. In the first years the workers were paid in kind, with the produce of the mines.
The Jewish population increased from year to year. By 1890 it was 9,047 but then, in 1900, there were only 7,086 Jews out of a total population of 11,631. Despite their numbers, Jews did not occupy important jobs in the industrial part of oil production. Before the modernization of the industry, 3,000 Jews (500 of them women) extracted ozokerite from the rocks. Their daily wages were forty-eight kreutzer of which two kreutzer were paid to the cooperative to which they belonged. A digger (Hauer) received sixty to eighty kreutzers a day. The carriers and washers (Waeschers) were mostly Jews. The workers who turned the treadmill mechanisms (Kurbeldreher) were Ruthenian and Mazur peasants. But aside from them, the melting of ozokerite was only in Jewish hands. The 1890's brought major changes in the composition of the labor force. The Laender Bank of Vienna purchased large areas in Boryslaw and established vertical shafts (Schaechte) not in the old, primitive way, but with modern steam and electrical machinery. Both the Bank of Galicia and the Laender Bank which owned most of the oil wells, tried to push out the small producers. They accomplished this with the help of the National Office of Mining, which was formed in 1880, and the Bergbau-Polizei-Vorschriften,new laws which the process of excavation. These regulations put an end to previous mining processes. Modernization and mechanization of the mining process brought about increased production. Prior to 1914 there were 268 mining shafts [oil wells] and 22,876 cisterns.
The small and medium size producers began selling their wells and mines, thus creating, between the years 1896-1898, a crisis for the Jewish labor force, which was left without work or income. More than 2,500 Jewish families, about 6,000 people, who were thus excluded from the production process were on the verge of starvation. The banks which owned the wells employed only Christian laborers, claiming that Jewish labor was insufficiently trained. The Christian managers of the wells would openly reject Jews looking for work, telling them: “go look in Palestine”. Christian laborers would not allow Jews to be hired. Only 170 Jewish laborers found employment in the few Jewish firms and even then, not as trained workers, but as operators of water pumps, day laborers, coal shovelers, and other unskilled or ancillary jobs. Gentile workers, even those organized in the P.P.S. claimed that all the jobs were their monopoly. The Jewish community in Drohobycz and Boryslaw cried out to the Jewish world for help. Committees for the collection of funds were established. Organizations such as ICA,Alliance,and Galizische Hilfsvereincollected half a million gulden. The Jewish workers themselves turned to the Second Zionist Congress, which took place in Basel in August, 1898. The workers chose Dr. Herzl as the Boryslaw delegate to the Congress and for this purpose they collected shkalim. The Congress received a petition signed by 172 workers.  In one of the first meetings, Dr. Herzl acknowledged in public the receipt of the petition in which the workers' harsh situation was described. In a few words, Dr. Herzl described the Jewish role in the discovery and production of oil, the establishment of the industry, and the exclusion of the Jews after foreign interests had bought the wells. The Congress did not have the power to do anything concrete for the Jews. Dr. Herzl turned to the Viennese Alliance which promised financial help. The Alliance's representative, Dr. Friedlaender, travelled to Boryslaw and formed a committee of assistance [whose members were] Kornhaber, Pomerantz, Liechtenstein, Eher (the Jewish School principal) and two representatives of the workers. Mme Baroness Hirschcontributed 10,000 florins and with the help of the Alliance, 500 workers emigrated to America.
Dr. Abraham Saltz, who was at that time chairman of the Ahavath Zionin Tarnow and engaged in the establishment of a Galician Moshavain Palestine, saw these workers as suitable candidates for this settlement. Both he and Dr. Saul Rafael Landau looked to the Jewish aid organizations for help. In March 1899, Dr. Landau brought a delegation of workers to Vienna and presented them before Von Gutmann, one of the coal mine owners in Maharish Ostrau and efforts were made to employ them in the mines. Dr. Landau also helped Dr. Saltz in enlisting potential candidates for emigration and settlement in Palestine. The General Assembly of Ahavath Zion, held in Tarnow, April 25-26, 1899, debated plans for the emigration of 800 families of workers from Boryslaw. Two of the families' representatives, Haim Friedmann and Yaakov Streuser, described their desperate situation and harsh conditions and demanded that every effort should be made to help them emigrate to Palestine. The Assembly decided to send fifty workers promptly to the Moshava “Mahanaim” in Palestine to be employed in a variety of jobs. To this end the Board of Directors was instructed to collect funds from all the [Jewish] Austrian communities to cover the expenses.
Ahavath Zion sent an appeal to the Jewish communities in England, Germany and other countries concerning the workers of Boryslaw and demanding help [raising funds] to make their emigration to Palestine possible. Dr. Landau travelled to Germany to discuss the matter with the Bnai Brith Lodges. The fundraising succeeded and large sums were collected. However none of the emigration plans were carried out.
Among the workers not absorbed into the industrial process were two groups: the independent entrepreneurs and the daily wage-earners. The first group made a living through brokerage and the contracting of various services and ancillary jobs. Despite their independent status, their economic conditions were strained. Most of them were lebacy but only sixty of them “earned” their living. How did they earn it? The oil which formed in the shafts was stored in large containers near the mines. From there it was pumped by pressure pumps (Druckpumpe) through pipes to the railway station where giant containers, each 50,000 hectoliters in volume, stored the oil. In many instances the diameter of joining pipes was not exact or the pipe would burst and oil would spill to the streets. The lebacy, who would be on guard around the clock waiting for this opportunity, would rush to the spot with barrels, gather the oil and sell it at reduced prices. Often the mine guards would confiscate the oil. Eventually the mine owners drove the lebacy, who numbered more than sixty, out of business.
The other unemployed men became horse and cart drivers, night watchmen or small contractors for a variety of jobs. Their situation was dreadful and even those who managed to earn a wage lived in appalling dwellings in crowded conditions, while their Gentile co-workers were settled by the mine owners in comfortable, attractive buildings. The wealthy Jewish well owners (those who were still owners of independent operations) had to change their production techniques as well. They merged into companies and even established a Jewish bank to finance their industry. However it could not compete with the Laender Bank and the American, English and French companies that came at that time to exploit the oil wells. The strict rules and laws on production were also a factor in the closure of the small firms. By 1899, of the hundreds of original firms, only two remained in business. This, of course, was of utmost importance in the development of the crisis described earlier.
Boryslaw was not an independent kehilla. It was part of the Drohobycz kehilla and had only an economic committee with representatives in Drohobycz. Actually Jewish Boryslaw was dependent in all its matters on the decisions made for them in Drohobycz. Since the late 19th century, efforts had been made for an independent Boryslaw kehilla, but the Drohobycz kehilla was against it. Independence was finally obtained in 1928.
There was, however, a [Jewish] cemetery in Boryslaw founded in 1886 on a lot donated by David Lindenbaum and managed by the [local] Hevra Kadishauntil 1928. The cemetery was expanded in 1913. In addition, the Jews of Boryslaw had a bath house in a building of its own. In 1890, the Viennese Alliancefounded an elementary Jewish school with 353 pupils. The number of students rose to 403 in 1896 and 554 in 1901. Later the school was incorporated into Baron Hirsch's Educational Network.
n Kislev, 5647 (1887) the first Society of Hovevei Zion was founded in Boryslaw. It was similar to its sister societies active then in Russia. Its goals were:
1. “To lend an hand to the poorer Sons of Israel willing to find refuge in the Land of Israel, to live [there] from the labor of their hands, in the work of the field and the industry of their deeds.
2. To try to expand the idea of Erets Israel in our land of Galicia by a special periodical newsletter that our Society intends to publicize after G-d Almighty will expand our limitations and our expenses will be covered by donations from our learned friends and not from the Society's purse. And if this publication will bring harvest or fruits [earn money] let it all be part of our society's fund”.
This society was the only one in Galicia to publish the extent of its activities in Hamagid The rules of the society stated that:
1."... every man who lends his hand to our society shall give an advance payment of not less than fifty kreutzers and the rich will better [this sum] but the poor will not worsen it. And every month (there shall be a payment of] twenty kreutzers to the fund of our society not counting donations and the redemption of vows, every man according to the call of his heart..
2.The money gathered by the Society will be sent directly to Jaffa, to the head of Hovevei Zion there, since according to the laws of our country we cannot join forces with societies from countries abroad. The money will be sent once a year or twice a year according to the decision of those presiding over the society or otherwise if a majority of members decides thus in due place and due time.
3.The society will be governed by twelve delegates chosen from members of the general assembly by the majority of their peers in a written ballot once a year and by their decision, all the matters of the society will be determined. They will serve in office for one exact year and their name shall be called “Committee of the Chosen”.
4.Anybody recognized as Israeli [i.e. Jewish TN] may enter our society upon the approval of the majority of its members but for those known to be bad, vile or unscrupulous who might damage the society by their behavior.
5.The members of the presiding committee above mentioned will elect from them a “Head of the Society” and one deputy to fill his place in his absence and an agent in whose hands the society's fund will be entrusted, a scribe, a secretary to manage the protocol books in order and by the regulations and a bookkeeper and all of them together shall be called “The Leading Committee”.
6.The chosen will convene once a month to:
discuss the matters of the society and the arrangements needed for its benefit so it may endure
to call for general assemblies when needed
to appoint two of its members (rotationally every month) to collect the fees and monetary debts.
7.General assemblies will be held once a year in Hol Hamoed Sukkoth and at that time the Leading Committee will present its report on the activities during the year, and at other times [a General Assembly may be called] upon request by the majority of the chosen and the right has been given to the members to present their opinions anytime they wish to do so and to discuss new matters as well as annulling old [resolutions] made by members”
This society, which in a short while numbered 112 members, succeeded in its goals and even founded a special synagogue, the Hovevei Zion Society Temple.
But the Hassidim who were numerous, undermined the society's activities and compelled the Rabbi to dissolve the society. This [anti Zionism] lasted only for a short time.
Efforts to re-establish the society started in 1891 and at the beginning of 1892 a new society was formed, numbering fifty young Bnei Zion members, under the influence of the Hebrew author, Zvi Eleazar Thaler, who was serving at that time as a teacher in the Boryslaw school. They also founded a library and a reading hall. However, quarrels and the pursuit of personal fame contributed to the decline of the society. To try to resuscitate it, Dr. Friedmann, Michael Berkowicz and others visited [the town] on August, 23, 1894, and succeeded in establishing a committee headed by President L. Schutzman and consisting of: L. Kaufman (Secretary), Y. Moldauer (Treasurer), Kilhoffer (Scribe), Y. Waldmann, Wilhelm Rosenfeld, Y. Scheinfeld, M. Kreisberg, A. Szmer and R. Hauser. Indeed they returned the Zionist movement to life through lectures, balls and celebration of holidays. Almost immediately eighty new members (among them twenty women) joined. In due course the number of members rose to 300, a third of them women. In fact, a new society called Unity (Einigkeit) was formed and in its General Assembly the following were elected to the new committee: L. Schutzman (President), Gezehlt (Deputy), Leo Kaufman, Schpitzman, Nadel, Rosenfeld, Rothenberg, Z. Waldmann, Mendelssohn, Kalhoffer, Singer, Schpayer and Itshak Ewen.
Despite antagonism from the Hassidim, Itshak Ewen founded a Hebrew school in April, 1893 for those children attending the public schools [in the mornings] so that they might learn the Hebrew language in the afternoon.
Boryslaw was privileged to have two famous Yiddish and Hebrew literary figures active in the field of education: Itshak Ewen and Zvi Eleazar Thaler. Itshak Ewen was born in 1861 in Rozwadow. After his first wife died, he married a native of Boryslaw and lived there for many years. He was influenced by the intellectuals of Drohobycz, earned his wages from being a melamed and published articles in Holders of the Faithand other papers. From 1893 onwards he was a regular contributor in Hamagid where he published articles, translations and short stories. He played an active role in the public life of Boryslaw and was instrumental in educating a whole generation of young people who joined the National Movement. When the Hebrew school of Boryslaw was forced to close, he moved to Lwo’w in 1895, established a school called "Education for Youngsters" there and published four pamphlets on the history of Israel written according to the strictest orthodox tradition. Since he was well acquainted with the oil business of Boryslaw he began to work in this field in 1902 but lost all his fortune and in 1909, emigrated to the USA, where he settled in New York working as an assistant editor in the publication, Otsar Israel. He began writing in Yiddish in several papers as well, especially Hassidic stories which made a great impression on Yiddish readers. In 1914 he became a regular writer in the daily Der Tog. His Hassidic stories, published in 1917 in the book, Fun der Guter Yidisher Welt, describe the life and daily lives of the Hassidim. Later in 1922, he published Fun dem Rebns Hoyz:the first part, Zikhroynes un Mayselekh fun Gute Yidn: Rozin un Sadigure, and the second part, Tshortkov, Husyatin un dos Sandzer-Sadigure Makhloykes. This was published later in Hebrew. He fell ill in 1925 and traveled to Vienna seeking a cure but died there on 16 Adar, 5675 (March 12, 1925).
Zvi Eleazar Thaler was a completely different type of person. He was born on July 18, 1840 (17 Tamuz 5600), in Zloczo’w. He received a traditional education but was influenced by the Haskalathrough his elder brother, Israel Thaler (1835-1921). His brother, who was a Hebrew teacher for many years in Galicia, emigrated in 5657 (1897) to Eretz Israel (Palestine) and became a teacher in Rehovot until he died in 1921. Through his brother, Zvi Eleazar Thaler found employment as Hebrew teacher in Botosany from 1866 until 1886. In 1892 he came to Boryslaw as a teacher of Hebrew. Even as a young man he had published articles and poems in the Hebrew press. In 1878, during the Berlin Congress that dealt with the problem of the Jews in the Balkans, he published a book in Hebrew, Teudat Israel (Brody, 5638 - 1878) on equal rights for Jews. He translated Lessing's play, The Jews,  into Hebrew and published the following works: a collection of poems entitled, Siftei Renanot (Drohobycz, 1892); Kol Elohim,a philosophical treatise in ten parts (Drohobycz, 5657 ); Mistarim,a short story, (Drohobycz, 5657 ); Nahalat Avot, a short story, (Drohobycz, 5657 ); Shlomim,a short story, (Drohobycz, 5665 ); Osher Shamur,a short story, (Drohobycz, 5667 ); Icharti Lavo,a short story, (Lwo’w, 5665 ); Ziona, poems, (Drohobycz, 5672 ); Hed Ha-Am, poems, (Drohobycz, 5673 ). In Boryslaw he guided young people towards Jewish national ideals and centered around himself the cultural activities of the Jewish intelligentsia. From Boryslaw he moved to Pomorzany. He died there on the 19th Adar, 5690 (1920).
Another [famous] Boryslawian was the Hebrew writer, Dr. Michael Berkowicz. He was born on the 7 Shvat, 5625 (1865). He was educated in a traditional manner in Drohobycz and at the age of thirteen moved to Lwo’w, where he came under the influence of a circle of young intellectuals. He began learning [foreign] languages and science under the influence of Moshe Bernfeld, Dr. Shimon Bernfeld's brother, and Mayer Maimon, a pupil of Reb Nachman Krochmal. Severe economic hardship compelled him to work during the day as an apprentice in a commercial firm and study at night. He had already published articles and reports in the Hebrew press. In 1886 he decided to dedicate himself to study. He passed the matriculation exams with the help of his friends, Dr. Aaronprayz, Dr. Yehoshua Thon and Dr. Mordechai Broide, with whom he founded the first Zionist Society, “Zion” (a major Jewish nationalist influence on the youth). Together with Dr. Aaronprayz, he published works in Yiddish. In 1893 he entered the University of Vienna and the rabbinical beth midrash, where he excelled in the field of Semitic languages. When Dr. Herzl appeared in public, Dr. Berkowicz stood at his right hand; he translated Herzl’s book, The Jewish State,into Hebrew and was his secretary and liaison with the Hebrew-speaking world. Dr. Berkowicz was among the founders of the Yiddish weekly, Der Yud, in Krakow and among the assistants of the publication, Welt. After returning to Vienna he joined the editors of Monumenta Judaica and published [scientific] papers and a peirush to the Targum Oncolos. From 1906 onwards, he taught religion in the gymnasium (secondary school) in Bilicz. He translated into Hebrew the Zionist writings of Dr. Herzl and published the archives and writings of the Jewish socialist writer, Aaron Lieberman. He died on 18 Tamuz, 5695 (1935) in Bilicz.
Another native [of Boryslaw] was the Hebrew teacher and writer, Avigdor Mermelstein (AMES'H), born in Boryslaw in 1850, son of one of the pioneers in oil refinery, Reb Biniamin Mermelstein. He had both a religious and secular education. As a young man he showed a tendency towards Haskala but since there was no opportunity to pursue this [in Boryslaw], he moved to Przemysl. There, under the auspices of the intellectual circle headed by Isaac Shealtiel Greber (who was himself influenced by the theories of S. D. Luzatto), he became fond of the idea of settlement of Erets Israel and the renewal of the [Hebrew] language and literature. In 1875 he was among the founders (in Przemysl) of the First Galicianer Society for Settlement of Erets Israel and was very active in its development. Mermelstein was one of the leaders of the Zionist Movement in Galicia and for many years occupied important positions in its organizations. Not only did he found the Society for the Settlement of Erets Israel in his town but also did much to promote the idea of settlement in other Galician towns. Until 1876, he worked as a teacher in Przemysl and then suddenly, embarked upon a tour of the world, visiting India and, some say, even Japan. On his way back, he visited Erets Israel for a brief time. Interesting enough Mermelstein did not like to speak about his travels. In 1879 he returned to Galicia and settled once again in Przemysl. For two years he co-edited (with Isaac Shealtiel Greber) a Hebrew biweekly, called Haohev Amo Verets Moladetowritten from an assimilationist point of view and advocating outreach to the Polish people. The idea was "to awaken the love of our brother Jews towards the Poles, the masters of the land and our benefactors, teach our youngsters to speak the tongue of the people of the land, (i.e. Polish) so we will not be considered by them mutes who cannot open their mouths" (No. 12, p. 6). But his fervor for the Hebrew language brought him back to the National Movement, since Mermelstein could not agree with the idea of assimilation. Also at that time, news arrived from Russia regarding the pogroms, the awakening of the youth and the BILU movement. This reminded Mermelstein of his activities in 1875.
He joined the National Movement and served it faithfully until his death on September 14, 1925. From 1882 on, he was the living spirit in all activities regarding Jewish education, settlement of Erets Israel, and "national action". He was one of the first Hebrew teachers in Galicia who taught the "Hebrew by Hebrew" method. He also wrote political commentary in Hamagid and poems in the literary anthology, Otsar Hasifrut, edited by Gerber, and Sifrei Shaashuim, edited by Itshak Franhoff. He published Hebrew and Yiddish works in which he explained, in a simply stated style, the essence and goal of Zionism. Particularly popular were his articles entitled Der Tsionistisher Seyder,(1893), Khanuke likhter, (1897), A briev fun Tsion tsu alle ihre liebe kinder geshickt durkh ha-Tsiyoni oyf Tishe-bov shnas 1825 le-goluseynu (1894). Mermelstein ran the Hebrew school in Przemysl until he left in 1912. Afterwards he lived in Bilitz, where he was engaged in commerce.
1. Lipa Schutzman
2. Mark Mermelstein
3. Leopold Diamantstein
4. Lazer Lipa
5. Joachim Karpel
In technical matters, the prominent Jews were: Yehoshua Marcus Eisenstadt, Eng. Itshak (Isaac) Stiefel, Dr. Joachim Hausman, and Jozef Bloch, who published several of his investigations. As previously mentioned the Jews of Boryslaw made efforts to become an independent community (kehilla). This independence was achieved during Polish rule, mainly through the efforts of Leo Kaufman. On April 18, 1928, the Lwo’w Wojewo’dstwo permitted the Jews of Boryslaw to separate from the Drohobycz kehilla and establish an independent community. On December 10, 1928, the first Community Committee was formed; Leo Kaufman was elected Chairman of the Assembly and Leo Schutzman, Managing Director. After laying the foundations of an independent kehilla they called for general elections which were held on November 5, 1933. Due to the heated election campaign, the committee did not elect officers until August 7, 1934. Leo Schutzman was elected Chairman of the Managing Committee, Eliahu Klinghoffer as his deputy, and members: Rabbi Dr. Yaakov Avigdor, Abraham Abraham, Yehoshua Marcus Eisenstadt, Lipa Feuerberger, Mendel Freund, David Greber and Isaac Holzman. The following were elected to the General Assembly: Max Stern (Chairman), Abraham Garfunkel (Deputy), Melech Backenroth, Shmuel Bloch, Eng. Eleazar Lipa, Nahum Jolles, Moishe Lerman, Faivel Melzer, Nahum Roth, David Scheinfeld, Abraham Segal and Marcus Sternbach.
Before the war, these were the main Jewish [educational] institutions:
1. Talmud Tora Aleph, 200 pupils, headed by David Schreiber, Israel Lifshitz and Aharon Einstein.
2. The “Tarbut” Hebrew school, headed by Mrs. Freund, Mrs. Z. Goldstein and Eng. Stiefel.
3. Talmud Tora Beth, 100 pupils, headed by Mendel Freund and Isaac Wolf.
To maintain these institutions the kehilla had an annual budget of 5,000 golden Polish coins. The main welfare institutions were:
1. An orphanage run by Dr. Michael Maisel.
2. A day care for the children of the unemployed, founded by Mrs. Helena Pomerantz and Iza Schutzman.
3. Bnot Yesharim.
4. GMACH for prospective emigrants to Erets Israel.
The [religious] personnel was headed by Rabbi Dr. Avigdor Yaakov, Head of the Rabbinical Court of the Sacred City of Drohobycz, six dayanim (judges), six shochatim (ritual slaughterers), a secretary, and two clerks in the Community’s office. The yearly budget of the kehilla was 100,000 golden Polish coins.
The names of the towns in Galicia have changed according to their national status. In modern Ukraine and during the Soviet regime, the name of the town was and is spelled Borislav, while under Polish and Austrian rule it was spelled Boryslaw. Throughout the text we have used spellings which would have been familiar to the author. Thus the Polish Drohobycz is used instead of the Ukrainian spelling, Drohobich or the Russian, Drogobych; Lwo’w, as spelled in Polish, is used instead of the Ukrainian Lviv or the Austrian name, Lemberg. In this translation, if and when the name of the town appeared in Latin characters in the original text, we have used the spelling of Dr. Gelber.
To visualize the geography of the region use either a modern Ukrainian (see www.infoukes.com/ua-maps/oblasts/oblast02/page-c08.html) map or an old Galician map. (TN) According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center Multimedia Learning Center Online the presence of Jews in Boryslaw was recorded as early as the 17th century. The Jewish Cemetery Project (http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Cemetery/) quotes an unidentified source claiming “the earliest known Jewish community dates from 1404”, but it is not known if this information is accurate. TN. The Hebrew term used by Dr. Gelber is donag adama, a verbatim translation from the Polish wosk ziemny (soil wax). This natural hydrocarbon, known popularly as “natural wax” and scientifically as ozokerite, has been known to humanity since antiquity. According to Prof. Fahri Goodarzi, director of the Geological Survey of Canada, it was used in ancient Egypt for the embalming of mummies. A natural resource, it is found only in a few places on earth. The discovery of ozokerite in the Boryslaw/Drohobycz area was the main reason for the establishment of candle factories in the nineteenth century. TN The adjective “poor” is meant here to describe unskilled people of low socio-economic status. TN Lepak (Pol) is derived from the word lep which means fly-paper for catching flies. It was the name given to those who extracted the ozokerite from the discarded rocks. The wax was virtually glued to the rocks and the lepakys “unglued” the mineral from them. Like many other terms in this document, this is a hybrid word; lepak (singular) has been made plural in Yiddish to become lepakys . TN Shmelzer comes from the Yiddish verb shmelzn, to melt, fuse. TN The Jewish community in Boryslaw was represented in the “Day of the Congregations” in Lwo’w, 1878, by two representatives, A. H. Ringel and Leib Neta Grinbaum. AN The original Hebrew text is beth midrash (house of study) which usually means a religious, not a secular high school. TN. No one outside of Boryslaw seems to have used this word. No Polish dictionary mentions it and Dr. Gelber did not translate it. The only reference found is by Polish author, Stanislaw Giza, in his book On the Screen of Life (1972), who tries to explain the words kuczinierze (male) or kuczynierki (female) as of Ukrainian origin. In Ukrainian a kucha is a “hut” or “shack”. Girls who looked after the birds were called kuczynierki.. Therefore this term might allude either to the women picking up paraffin or rocks from the ground in a bird-like fashion or those dwelling in huts. Either way this is not translatable term. TN Veshers (Yid): washers. Dr. Gelber uses in the text both the Yiddish term (here) and further on the German equivalent. (Waeschers) TN Plustok (Pol): communicator. TN The text is not clear whether his duties were unknown to the workers or to the author. TN Ruthenian, like Rusin (Rusyn), is a name given to the Eastern Slav people who settled along the southern slopes of the Carpathian mountains then situated within the boundaries of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and now part of Ukraine, Slovakia, and Hungary. Within this group are the Lemko and Hutsul people. Mazurs are people from East Central Poland. TN Dr. S. R. Landau, “Unter Juedischen Proletarien”.Welt, 1898, Nr. 31. AN 1 Bergbau Polizei Vorschiften: regulations for mining which were enforced by the Imperial Mining Inspectorate. TN
 P.P.S.: Polska Partia Socjalistyczna, the Polish Socialist Party. TN An organization founded by Baron Edmond de Rothschild (1845-1934) (see http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/biography/rothschild.html) in 1882 and later divided into PICA, an office dealing with settlement in Palestine, and ICA, the charitable organization which operated throughout the Jewish World. Both agencies were tools for raising aid to Jewish communities in distress. These two offices were later amalgamated again and eventually ceased to exist in 1957. This organization should not be confused with ICA, the Jewish Colonization Agency established in 1891 by Baron Maurice de Hirsch (see footnote 36) to foster Jewish immigration from Russia to Argentina for agricultural resettlement. TN Alliance Juive: the Jewish Alliance in France, an organization for promoting education, charity works and fund raising. TN
 Galizische Hilfsverein: the Galician Charitable Committee. TN Shekel (Heb): Originally the common standard both of weight and value among the Hebrews in Biblical times, estimated at 220 English grains. The “shekel of the sanctuary” (Ex. 30:13; Num. 3:47; 2 Chr. 24:6) was the standard temple contribution, with which public sacrifices were bought. Therefore the term was chosen by the Zionist Movement to name the ticket that was both proof (receipt) of the payment and the legal ballot for its members in the elections held during the Zionist Congress. TN Protokoll des Zionistenkongresses ,1898, p. 48. AN 2 Mme Baroness Hirsch (nee Clara Bischoffsheim, 1833-1899), a wealthy woman in her own right (being the daughter of the principal partner of the International Bank of Bischoffsheim & Goldschmidt), was responsible for the personal philanthropic activities of the Hirsch family.TN "Love of Zion", one of the Zionist organizations later amalgamated into Hovevei Zion (footnote # 38). Moshava (Heb: settlement, a cooperative type of Jewish settlement in Palestine based on mutual aid, shared labor and resources, but private property. TN Maharish Ostrava: Maharish meansa basin or fields; Ostrau: the German name for Ostrava in Northern Moravia. Maharish Ostrava was the location of the Guttman brothers' coal mine and steel mill complexes in Ostrava. Velvel (Wolf) and Duvidl (David) Guttman, originally fromMoravia (today's Czech Republic), arrived in Vienna in the middle of 19th century. Initially their business was the delivery of coal to Jewish homes. They were lucky and soon became rich, so rich that together with Baron Salomon Meir Rothschild, they purchased a coal mine in Vitkovice (today an Ostrava suburb), and later the local metallurgical works. At the same time, brothers acquired the title of Ritter, and were known as Wilhelm Ritter Von Guttman and David Ritter Von Guttman. David Ritter Von Guttman received a letter from Jewish workers of Boryslaw in which they asked him to provide employment in his mines. The engineer sent by Guttman to Boryslaw to review the circumstances returned to Vienna with a report in which he stated that Jewish workers were not capable of doing heavy physical work and would certainly not work on Shabat. In the circles of Jewish intelligentsia in Vienna it was said that David Von Guttman himself was the author of the report.TN Mahanaim is situated north of the Sea of Galilee and 28 miles west of Haifa.TN
(see http://www.calle.com/info.cgi?lat=32.9833&long=35.5667&name=Mahnayim&cty=Israel&alt=1709)Dr. S. R. Landau. Sturm und Drang im Zionismus. Wien, 1937, p. 164-166. AN 3 Alexander Barakash, "Der galizisher Californie", Yidische Arbeter, 1907, No's. 5, 8, 29. AN 4Lebak (s), lebacy (Pol): the people who collected the crude oil, which had leaked from the pipelines into the nearby Tysmenica river, where they were able skim it from the water. TN In the original text, the Hebrew term baalei agala is used. It means owners of a horse and a cart. In Yiddish it is pronounced balegule and means a driver. TN The name of these is not mentioned in the original text and we have not been able to establish which were the two remaining Jewish companies. TN Kehilla, from the Hebrew word kahal, meaning congregation, is the term used for a community which has its own social and religious offices and officers: Rabbi, shochet, mohel, Hevra Kadisha, etc. TN Laurel White visited the cemetery on Oct. 28, 1999. See her report and others as described in DROGOBYCH II on the page http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Cemetery/ . TN Hevra Kadisha: holy society, the charitable association which looks after the care and burial of the dead. TN What Dr. Gelber probably meant was a mikve, or ritual bath house. TN Baron Maurice Hirsch (Baron Moritz von Hirsch auf Gereuth, 1831-1896) German- Jewish businessman and philanthropist, born in Munich, established a foundation under his own name to foster educational work among the Jews in Galicia and Bukovina. See http://www.britannica.com/bcom/eb/article/idxref/3/0,5716,26683,00.html. TNThe month of Kislev started that year on November, 28 and lasted until December 27, 1887. TN Hibat Zion (Affection for Zion) and its members, Hovevei Zion were the precursors of Zionism as we know it. Their goal was Jewish settlement in Palestine and they stood against the trends of Emancipation advocated by writers like Leon Pinsker. See http://www.britannica.com/bcom/eb/article/4/0,5716,61624+1,00.htmlTN One of the ironies of history is the fact that Imperial Russia was the cradle of Zionism. The Hibat Zion movement was founded there shortly after the rise in antisemitic feeling following the murder of Czar Alexander II in 1881.TN What follows is a verbatim translation of the archaic Hebrew used in the original and quoted by Dr. Gelber. TN Hamagid, the first modern Hebrew weekly newspaper, which began publication in Lyck, East Prussia in 1856, reached subscribers not only in Imperial Russia but also throughout the world. TN. This quote is from Hamagid, 648 (22.12.1887) No. 49, pp.388-389. AN 5The text is a paraphrase of the Biblical verses in Deuteronomy on the means the Torah allows for the collection of taxes from the people. The redemption of a vow by donating money or offering a gift to the cohanim is also Biblical in its origins. TN Probably someone to write down the minutes. TN The four or five days of a semi-holiday in the middle of the Sukhot festival (Feast of the Tabernacles) when only partial work is allowed. It falls in autumn. TN Printed by correspondence from Boryslaw in Hamagid, 5647 (1887) No. 2, p. 12. AN 6 Galicia was known as the cradle of the Hassidic movement. The BESH"T, founder of Hassidism, (see http://members.aol.com/LazerA/baalshemtov.html) lived in the cities of Brody and Tlost. Rabbi Yitschak of Drohobycz was one of his original sixty pupils and the founder of a Hassidic court, inherited by his son Rabbi Yechiel Michel of Zolochow. See http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/rzeszow/rze042.html. TN It is not clear from the text who this Rabbi was but it is safe to assume that the text refers to the Chief Rabbi of Drohobycz. TN Hamagid,1892, No. 17. AN 7 Hamagid,1892, No. 24. AN 8See Note 77. Hamagid,1892, No. 15. AN 9 Melamed (Heb): a private tutor to wealthier families. TN Makhzikei hadat,an orthodox monthly in the Hebrew language. TN Hinukh lanoar. TN Divrei Yemei Israel.TN Treasure of Israel. TN The Day. TN From the Good Jewish World. TN From the House of the Rabbi. TN Memories and Tales of Good Jews, Rozhin and Sadigura. TN Cherkov, Husiatin and the Debate between the [Rabbinical courts] of Sand and Sadigura. TN Haskala: education, a cultural movement founded in Germany that advocated the expansion of Jewish education to include secular (national and international) knowledge. TNRehovot was one of the first Moshavot in Palestine, south of Rishon Lezion and 7 km north-east of BenGurion airport. (See http://www.calle.com/info.cgi?lat=31.8969&long=34.8186&name=Rehovoth&cty=Israel&alt=68) TN A town in Romania, close to Iasi. TN German dramatist, critic, and writer on philosophy and aesthetics. His one-act comedy, Die Juden (The Jews) appeared in 1749. (See http://www.britannica.com/bcom/eb/article/2/0,5716,49052+1,00.html) TN Shimon Bernfeld, a famous Jewish author and historian. His most famous work was Sefer Hademaos (Book of Tears), Berlin, 1924, 3 vols. It was a historical work on the persecution of the Jews.TN Krochmal, another name for Nachman Cohen (1785-1840), the Jewish secular historian and writer who was born in Galicia. He was a leader of the Haskalah, or Jewish enlightenment and a founder of conservative Judaism. He was the author of More nevukhe ha-zman (Guide for the Perplexed for Our Time), a treatise in Hebrew on the philosophy of history and on Jewish history. This book had considerable influence. Krochmal's philosophical thought was centered on the notion of “spirit”, particularly the “national spirit”, the spirit that is proper to each people. TN This was the highest Rabbinical Institute which conferred upon its alumni Smichut, the title, status and honor of Rabbi. TN Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) by Theodor Herzl, a slim pamphlet issued in February, 1896, and sub-titled “An Attempt at a Modern Solution of the Jewish Question”, in which Herzl presented for the first time his innovative program to establish a state for the Jews. TN Peirush (Heb): meaning, an explanation and commentary to the Holy Scriptures (e.g. the Peirush Rashi (See http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1105rashi.html) TNTargum Onkolos. Targum is the distinctive designation for the Aramaic translations or paraphrases of the Pentateuch. Onkelos, a convert to Judaism in the second century A.D. was reputed to be a translator of the Bible into Aramaic. There is an historic confusion of his identity with Aquila, a translator of the Bible into Greek. TN Haohev amoverets moladeto (Heb): he who loves his people and his country. TN BILU, a name derived from the Hebrew abbreviation of Isaiah2:5 “O House of Jacob, come let us go” (Beit Yaakov lechu u(ve) nelecha). This was the acting group of Hovevei Zion that committed itself to the political-economic and spiritual-national revival of the Jewish people through settlement in Syria and Erets Israel. (See http://www.wzo.org.il/home/movement/bilu.htm.TN This term is difficult to translate. Literally it is “the national doing” or “nationalist action” and differs from the term “National Movement”, which encompasses groups devoted to political action. “Nationalist action” refers to all activities associated with the renewal of Judaism: the Zionist Movement, the revival of the Hebrew Language, the education of the masses towards socialism , the training of Jews for manual work, as well as many other ideas promoted by both the leaders of secular Judaism and the Zionist Movement in the late 1890's and first decades of the 20th century. TN A method of learning Hebrew without translating the meaning of words to foreign languages, developed by Eliezer Ben Yehuda (1858-1922), who “revived the Hebrew language”. (See http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/biography/ben_yehuda.html). TN The German name of the town Bielsko-Biala near Auschwitz-Oswiecim. TN Lipa Schutzman was probably the most colorful man in Boryslaw. He started as a wagon driver in an ozokerite mine, became an office clerk in the same mine and later the owner of an oil exploration company and other oil companies and refineries. He took an active part in the development of the oil industry between the years 1881-1919 and in organizing the producers at the national level. He was a member of the City Council between the years 1905-1918, Mayor of Boryslaw between 1906-1917 and President and Vice President of many industrial organizations and associations. He was also known as a philanthropist. Lipa survived World War II as a shoemaker in Russia and eventually settled in Gdansk, Poland where he died. TN Engineer Itshak (Isaac) Stiefel is the author of the article, “Boryslaw as a Center of Oil Production and the Role of Boryslaw Jews in this Industry”, pp. 177-184 in this yizkor book, Memorial to the Jews of Drohobycz, Boryslaw and Surrounding Towns. TN Wojewodstwo, (Pol): province. Lwo’w Wojewo’dstwo means the provincial authorities of Lwo’w. TN Published in: “Okolnik Woj.[ewo’dski] we Lwo’wie Z dnia, 10.4.1928, L.A.D, 6843". The decree added to the community of Boryslaw the villages of Popiele, Schodnica, Dolhe Podbuskie, Nowy Kropiwnik , Lastowki, Majdan, Opaka, Zalowiec AN 100 . Thus Greater Boryslaw was formed, which became, after Warszawa and Lo’dz, the third largest town in area in Poland. The reason behind the incorporation of so many villages in the county was the desire to centralize the management of the exploration of the oil fields and oil refining industries. After 1924, crude oil was no longer exported and only 40% of the refined product was sold abroad. TN
Translated by Miriam Dashkin Beckerman
Donated by Valerie Schatzker
Edited by Valerie Schatzker and Alexander Sharon
Approximately nine kilometres south of Drohobycz, we find the town of Borysław. It is a small town, no different than the majority of towns in Galicia, poor, with small houses, and dirty streets. Most of the inhabitants work in trade. A large number are office employees, yet in spite of this, Borysław was well known in the outside world. This was not because of any special rights that Poland gave to any Jewish places under its rule in those days. At that time, Borysław was still a small, unknown village surrounded by dense forests. It was because of these forests that the town got its name (bory slawne), which means famous forests in Polish. To this day, one can see the tops of the Carpathian Mountains, where the villages of Boćków and Cisów stand out. This chain of hills extends from Borysław to the south. At present, one also sees another forest, a forest of towers, from which thousands of electric lights shine far and wide at night, creating a beautiful view for the eye.
Borysław was especially endowed by nature with oil, gas, and wax. When we speak of Borysław, we usually include Tustanowice and Mrażnica, since they were previously separate places. It was only in 1933 that the town absorbed them to become one large town, Borysław.
The portrayal of Borysław in a memorial book would not be complete without a description of her natural resources and the Jews of Borysław, whose contribution to and development of these resources was well known.
Borysław is one of the few places in the world where earth wax is found. The extraction of this substance and its processing was done mainly by Jews, according to information found on this subject. Here, we want to present a chronological report about the above-mentioned natural resources.
Sources of oil and wax from the depths of the earth were known to the inhabitants of the area for a long time; however the industry became important only at the end of the eighteenth century, or more accurately, at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It was then that the first exploitation of this rich natural treasure became industrialized. This was achieved by Abraham Schreiner, a Jew from Borysław.
According to the chronicle of 1770, the farmers of the village and its surrounding area were already applying crude oil to the axels of their wagon wheels. It is recorded that when a well was dug in 1771, a fatty, brown coloured substance was drawn from it instead of water. The appearance of this substance in the search for water was frequent. The Jews gathered it in barrels and used it to lubricate their wagon wheels, when they sold the trees they had cut down to the peasants in the villages throughout Galicia. It is said that they extracted sizeable amounts of oil from these wells. For example, from the wells in Nahujowice , a small village north of Drohobycz, 6,000 litres were extracted in one year. The price of a litre was 5.25 kreuzer and the annual income from this product was 36,225 gulden.
The product found in wells belonging to different owners could vary in colour. Some extracted a yellow-grey, easily flowing liquid, which could be used for illumination without processing. Others found a light brown substance that emitted a great deal of smoke and an acrid smell when burned. This was tar, called smoła, while the former was called crude oil.
Between 1815 and 1816, the supply of oil became so great that all could not be used to grease wagon wheels. The price of the lubricant dropped so that it was no longer profitable to extract it. The Jews of Borysław started to produce oil for illumination. They succeeded in obtaining licenses to light the streets of Vienna and Prague with their product. Furthermore, the city councils required such amounts that the Jews of Borysław could not supply them. In 1817, the streets of Drohobycz began to be illuminated with oil. For this also, there was not a sufficient supply.
The process of making lubricant to grease wagon wheels was very primitive. The raw material would be put into a pot, usually made of copper, up to two thirds of its capacity. The pot would be covered in clay or a similar material, and boiled over a fire until it reached a specific temperature. It would then be left for three days, after which the lid would be lifted. Two fifths of the oil would be removed for use as lighting fuel, and three fifths of the thick, black residue would be used as grease for wheels. To this, a certain amount of sand would be added.
The production of oil and lubricants for wagon wheels was completely in the hands of Jews, not only the Jews of Borysław, but also Jews in other cities. For example, it said that some of the crude oil, which appeared in the area around Słoboda Rungurska, near Kołomyja, was extracted by a Jew called Yehuda Kołomyja. He marketed it for greasing wagon wheels.
From the wells in Borysław, a mineral wax (ozokerite) was often extracted instead of crude oil. No one paid any attention to this substance, because at that time no one knew what purpose it might serve. In 1860, this changed. A steadily increasing demand for this substance arose. Candles began to be manufactured from it. In 1865, there were already twenty-two factories in Drohobycz, which used more than 10,000 kilograms of ozokerite. These factories, owned by Jews, were not large.
Because of the chemical industry, the demand for ozokerite kept growing. The Jews of Drohobycz became important producers of wax and were very enthusiastic about this business. From this time, this substance was of primary importance. Because of the complications of government licensing, there were difficult problems for those who pursued this endeavour.
One of the chroniclers of that period wrote as follows: excavation beside excavation, shaft beside shaft. Every bit of ground in Borysław is full of holes and digging sites. Thousands of barrels and pails were in motion, night and day, non-stop. Like a camel train, movement continued ceaselessly everywhere. Thousands of labourers worked to extract this substance from the ground that was so much in demand.
In 1874, there were nearly 12,000 wells in the area between Borysław and Wolanka, 4,000 of which were operational, employing nearly 10,000 labourers, most of them from the surrounding villages. From this we can see how great the activity was. According to an inquiry that was made between 1897-1898, it is possible to know from official records and reports the locations of the mines, as well as the names of their owners. Ninety percent of them were Jews from Borysław and Drohobycz. Most of the wells were in the area called Nowy Świat, although there were quite a few between Borysław and Wolanka, in łoziny, Debra, and Moczary.
The wells were dug to a depth of four to five metres. The distance between one shaft and the next was six to seven metres. The sides of the shafts were made of boards to support the walls and minimize accidents, which caused death almost daily. Daily production from each well was between thirty and sixty kilograms. Gradually, production began to decrease, although there were some shafts where production remained quite high for a long time.
When oil was discovered in the wells, it was considered an unnecessary commodity. After everything was dug out of the well, the oil was buried in a hole, and once again they would dig for wax. Because grains of sand, as well as stones, would be found in the wax, it was necessary to clean it, since buyers demanded wax that was cleansed of foreign material. Purifying the wax became a separate task within the industry. In 1874, there were twenty-one factories dedicated to this process, the most important ones those of Mermelstein, Nuta Harz and Yekhezkel Hirsch.
After the cleansing process, the wax was used as paraffin for candles (kosher candles), not only for use in Borysław and Drohobycz, but also for export abroad. Large amounts of wax were extracted. According to the records of the trade office of Lwów, the amount of wax exported in 1865 was 150,000 kirtim. According to the same report, wax and oil produced in Borysław from 1855-1865 was worth fifteen million gulden.
This industry employed a large number of workers and supervisors. Many Jews worked in wax mining and processing. Only Jews were employed in processing. Those employed as kassierers (supervisors) were also Jews. They were so numerous that they built their own study house called the Kassierers' Study House, which lasted until the outbreak of the First World War. Among those from this group who died were: I.M. Eisenstein, who later became an oil producer and was murdered by Ukrainians, when the war broke out, Chune Bauer, and Moyshe Weitz, plus many other who died of natural causes, prior to the outbreak of the war.
Small refineries were also established in Borysław, such as Liebermann, Mermelstein, and Schutzmann and Partners, which operated until the outbreak of World War II. In Drohobycz, large refineries were established, such as the big factory of Moyshe Gartenberg; it was later taken over by Galicja, The refinery of Leiser Gartenberg, that afterward became the Nafta A.G. firm, then finally the government refinery, Polmin.
In various records for the year 1865, we see that on both sides of the Tyśmienica River between Borysław and Wolanka, there were 5,000 shafts. Among them were some large wells. The number of workers at that time was between 4,000 and 5,000 men, and the weekly production of wax was 6,000 centner. The annual production of oil was 90,000 centner and of wax, 25,200 centner. The price of the product varied according to demand.
Many people, looking for ways to make a living, streamed into Borysław. The manner of work was very primitive, disorderly, and clumsy. There was neither inspection nor planning with respect to geology.
In 1874, there were more than 800 projects. Most of them were not properly financed, and for that reason, were not viable. As examples of these large projects, it is worth mentioning that of Israel Liebermann, as well as one that was later called, Borysław A.G., whose shares were owned by the Jew Hartenstein. This company operated until the outbreak of World War II.
In order to organize these activities, particularly in dealing with the matter of the safety of the workplace, a government office was opened in Drohobycz to inspect wells and the operations in the region. The inspector Windakiewicz added up the number of all the oil wells in Galicia as follows: the area between Ratoczyna and Wolanka, including the 150 joch, in which there were 12,000 shafts, had 4,000 that were still in operation. The distance between one well and another was between 1.5 to 4 klafter. The depth of the shafts varied from 18 to 20 klafter. The average production in 1873 was 350,000 kwart of earth wax (3,500,000 gulden) and 220,000 kwart of crude oil (880,000 gulden). As far as working conditions and hygiene were concerned, he believed there was much to be done.
In 1886, new government regulations made improvements in the industry. Before sinking a shaft, permission was required from the office responsible for mining. These permits were granted under very strict conditions. The result of this change was that only proper wells, dug according to a rational plan, could continue to operate. As a result only 400 new shafts were registered in 1895. At the same time, codes of operation for the shafts were established.
The Jew Abraham Schreiner stands out at this time. Schreiner, like many Jews, made lubricant for wagons, using a copper pot with a lid made of clay. As was the custom, he made a small fire under the pot and left it to boil for three days, in order to get the required result. When he lifted the lid from the pot, he noticed drops of liquid on its inner side. When he collected these drops and tried to light them, he noticed that the liquid burned cleanly, without smoking. He made a second attempt, collected more drops, and took them to the pharmacist łukasiewicz in Lwów, who examined it and after several additional experiments, succeeded in creating a liquid, which when lit, burned with a pleasant flame. Thus, the production of oil began in Schreiner's town. The year 1853 marked the first production of naphtha. łukasiewicz received credit for the discovery, and in his memory, a monument was established in Krosno, the city of oil and gas in western Galicia, while Abraham Schreiner, who was really the true discoverer of the distillation process, was completely forgotten.
Abraham Schreiner's discovery was immediately utilised. In a very short time, refineries were established in Borysław, as well as Drohobycz. By 1855, refined oil was already used to light the trains and the hospital in Lwów. One hundred years have passed since the discovery of refined oil. Now we can see how greatly the oil industry has advanced throughout the world.
In 1885, the oil industry made a great step forward. Up until that date, people were interested only in extracting wax from the ground. After that time, they were interested only in oil. Laws governing the rights over hydrocarbons had great influence in the industry. By means of a law passed on 16 November 1869, the government assumed the mineral rights over oil, as it did for salt, etc. The Galician government vigorously opposed this law. Therefore, in 1862, a new law preserved the landowner's right to oil. For this purpose, there were new financial rules. A landowner could establish an oil mine on his property and could transfer the mineral rights to someone else with the provision that he retain twenty-five percent of the profit. This caused an increase in land sales, a business that was nearly always controlled by Jews. Schönholz's café in Drohobycz became the centre for land agents.
While it was still possible for a person of modest means to enter the wax industry, it became more and more necessary to have substantial capital. Partnerships were made but they were too weak to attract the necessary investment.
In 1886, new laws governing the oil and wax industries were passed. There was also a decline in the number of wells. At this time, deep drilling of wells began. The first well to be drilled was in 1865. Robert Doms, an industrialist from Lwów, did succeed in digging a well of forty klafter, but this was not drilled. At this opportunity, it should be stated that oil was first drilled in Wietze near Hanover, Germany. Shortly after, the first oil wells were sunk in Pennsylvania, U.S.A. In 1866, Albert Fauck dug an oil well using steam power to a depth of 250 metres. In 1884, the drilling system of the Canadian McGarvey was introduced to Borysław. It was brought to Borysław by the Canadian firm Bergheim. This system was used until around 1920. After it was introduced, it was possible to dig wells to a depth of 1,000 metres and the production of oil increased.
In 1895, drilling of the oil well Jakób in Schodnica, near Borysław reached depth of 302 metres, which produced enough oil to fill many cisterns. This advanced technology resulted in the development of Borysław. Also, refiners became interested in Schodnica; it was only when the supply in Schodnica diminished that Borysław once again became a major centre. The development of Borysław can be said to have begun in 1901. Wells of 1,000 metres depth and even deeper were dug that produced fifty one hundred cisterns of oil daily. Among these were the oil wells Albert (Potok) and Johanna 1 (Borysław), and many more. On June 13, 1908, the well in Tustanowice called Oil City was drilled to the depth of 1,016 metres. The chronicles of those days tell us the following:
No one expected this amount of gushing oil flowing from the well, and no one was prepared for it. In the first twenty-four hours, two wells could provide 140 cisterns. This was the approximate amount that came from the fields where there was a stream of oil flowing. The amount grew before the eyes of the onlookers. Eight pumps worked ceaselessly but were not able to keep up with the flow of oil. The oil ran into the Tyśmienica River and further on to the right; hundreds of cisterns flowed into the Stryj River. Hundreds of workers were engaged in filling the rivers of oil with sand in order to stop its flow.
Schodnica was a small town about eleven kilometres from Borysław, populated mainly by Jews, with many Jewish enterprises that played an important role in the oil industry. First there was the public company Rohag, whose name was later changed to Gazy Ziemne. Shares in this company were in the hands of the brothers Jacob and Gustav Goldmann and Imre Pirnitzer. They were Jews who had come from the management group. The enterprise, led by the engineer Joseph Bloch, was important in the oil industry. The next in rank of importance was the company called Urycka Spółka dla Przemysłu Naftowego, whose partners were the Gartenbergs, Schreiers, and Feuerstein. The founders of this company were the brothers Leiser and Moyshe Gartenberg. They came from the village Rybnik, near the right bank of the Stryj River, where their father had a small village inn. The eldest son Leiser had broad experience in business. In his younger years, he was active in the timber industry. When drilling for oil expanded, the need for lumber grew. Lazar Gartenberg established a small mill in Rybnik, operated by waterpower, and supplied lumber to Borysław. His business thrived.
The younger brother Moyshe was in the dairy business. He bought milk from the peasants and transported it to Schodnica and Borysław. He was famous and respected everywhere for his fair dealing. As time went on, he also expanded his business and did well. The brothers, driven by the business instinct, gave up their enterprises in 1895 and invested successfully in oil wells in Schodnica. Their success inspired them. They dug several wells and purchased a large tract of land in Borysław on which they rapidly dug the following shafts: Gartenberg, Jadwiga, Feuerstein 5, Schreier 1-5, Jacob, and others.
To process the oil, they bought a refinery and established the company Eliezer Hersch Sternbach and Goldhammer. After they enlarged it, it became known as the big factory. After a few years they sold the big factory together with the wells in Schodnica to the Nafta A.G. firm. Leiser Gartenberg established a large refinery in Drohobycz, under the name Galicia A.G., while his brother Moyshe built the refinery, Jasło.
In addition, the Gartenberg brothers purchased a tract of land of 400 joch in Urycz, next to Schodnica, from the nobleman Lubomirski. On this property they established a mine that was famous for its good construction and excellent management. Until the outbreak of the war, this mine was in the hands of the Gartenberg family. Under the technical direction of engineer Isaac Stiefel, it became a great enterprise and held a prestigious place in the oil industry. It had its own gasoline refinery and pipelines that led to the railway station in Borysław.
Moyshe Gartenberg moved to Drohobycz, and, at the beginning of the twentieth century, when he moved to Vienna, the newspaper Neue freie Presse announced that the oil king Gartenberg had come to live there. Among his five sons, Ignatz was well known in the oil industry. When speaking about Moyshe Gartenberg, his wife Chaya Ottylia must be mentioned. She was the daughter of Henich Reingewirtz of Kropiwnik Nowy. Her good deeds and aid to the poor, sick widows, and orphans were well known in the Drohobycz area. She founded the Jewish Hospital in Drohobycz and, most important, she founded the Jewish orphanage but did not live to see it built. Suffering from a serious illness, she was taken to Vienna, but before the doctors could treat her, she died. We record these facts in recognition of the esteem of one of the praiseworthy Jewish daughters of Drohobycz and Borysław. May this be a permanent memory to her soul.
Here we must make mention of the firm Urycka Spółka in the village of Urycz. It employed only Jewish workers as carpenters, etc. Because the firm built housing for the workers, Urycz became a settlement for Jewish labourers, with its own synagogue, ritual bath, kosher slaughterhouse, etc. In 1941 the Nazis, may their names be erased, destroyed everything in Urycz. A Dutchman, Menten, a former forester in Podhorodce, befriended the Nazis at the outbreak of the war. Because of revenge and hard feelings, there was a terrible bloodbath in July and August. Close to 150 Jews were killed in one slaughter on that day and were buried in a mass grave. These were the hard-working, diligent people, as well as wealthier ones, including women and children. We should cite the names of all of the martyrs but will mention only the pipeline experts, Schlomo Nordlicht and Seinwel Binder, the mechanics, Wolf Roth, Moyshe Heller and Avigdor Halperin. May these recorded words serve as a perpetual memory of the martyrs.
We must also mention the firm of Abraham Backenroth and Sara Rivke Backenroth, who established excellent business enterprises in Schodnica that existed until the outbreak of the war.
Meanwhile, oil production increased greatly, reaching 300 cisterns per day. Tustanowice, Borysław, and even Drohobycz sat on land that resembled a volcano. It was enough for one to speak to create fire and smoke all over Borysław. On 17 June 1908, two army regiments were brought in to bring production to full capacity. However, the excitement did not last. On 4 June 1908, lightening caused a fire and the oil well, scaffolding and all, burned to the ground. The fire was so great that the flames and smoke could be seen all the way to Sambor.
Onlookers described the fire as follows:
A sea of fire, thick clouds of smoke, flames appear through the smoke as oil suddenly catches fire. It can be seen as far away as Tustanowice and Borysław.
The conflagration lasted for about four weeks until it was finally extinguished by the Jews of Borysław, who succeeded in putting out the fire by laying sacks of sand on the flames, while dressed in asbestos clothing.
The well that was affected was re-established but never again reached its former level of production. In 1909, the amount of oil produced reached 2,905 cisterns but in 1913, only six cisterns.
There were enormous amounts of gas in the terrain around Borysław that were captured from the wells with the oil. For many years, no one paid attention to the gas. Large amounts escaped into the air without being put to use. Moreover, in many cases the gas was considered a hindrance during work and efforts were made to try to eliminate it. Between 1916 and 1937, the amount of gas reached 5,314,000 cubic metres. If we consider that until 1916, all the gas produced was not used at all, we can assume that during that time, the output of more than ten trillion cubic metres of gas in Borysław was wasted.
The discovery and use of the natural gas in Schodnica had an accidental beginning, around 1896-1897, in an abandoned oil well located near a mechanical shop. The well was sealed from the top with wooden boards, which left only a small, one-inch opening through which a small tube was inserted and connected to the workshop fire heater. In a primitive manner, the gas was used as fuel. The amount of gas that flowed from wells was negligible; it was considered a substance of little value. Because oil was available, there was little interest in gas, since one had to pay extra money for it. As a result, large tracts of land were wasted.
After some time, the gas that was found began to be exploited in Borysław-Tustanowice, in the same way that it was in Schodnica. Contractors were hired to install pipes linking the gas with various well sites. Hermann Dienstag and Motl Pomerantz worked in this field. The price of gas was not based on quantity supplied but on the volume of the heater. Gas was not measured until 1910, when the engineer Joachim Hausmann undertook to measure it. His methods were rudimentary and not exact. Hausmann used a manometer that indicated only orientation.
After a short time, it became apparent that the methods of producing gas interfered with the extraction of oil. The gas in the pipes retarded the flow of oil. By removing the wooden walls from the wells, not only did the operation of the wells improve, but the amount of gas that escaped into the air also increased. The large amounts of escaping gas interfered with the production of oil, since the decrease in the pressure in the ground did not propel the oil in the well. As many gas and oil projects opened in Tustanowice, the amount of gas escaping in to the air caused innumerable cases of poisoning among the workers.
Dr. Freund of Borysław controlled the sale of gasoline that was produced from gas. The pipe that delivered gas from his wells passed through the bottom hole of the barrel, which was sitting on the top of the storage tank. Cold water in the barrel transformed the gas into gasoline. Gasoline produced in this way ran through the pipe the cooling water inside the barrel. This primitive procedure made gasoline available for the future. In 1917, the engineer Warschtmann organized gas production in Tustanowice for Dembowski. This was a large enterprise that used the method described above. However, since gas produced in this way needed only a small amount of air, the high amount of air in gas produced in Borysław made it less effective. In 1920, the engineer Arthur Landes took out a patent on a more advanced method of production that was quickly adopted. It created the gasoline industry. Landes can be credited with the gasoline boom. Landes, who was born in Borysław, was murdered by the Nazis in 1941 in Drohobycz, together with his wife, née Heimberg. He created an industry that produced much wealth. One MME of gas produced 235 grams of gasoline. In Urycz, 600 grams were recovered from the same amount of gas
Jews played an important role in all the developments of the industry, as industrialists and as workers, both technical and administrative. Among the industrialists in Boyrslaw, we must mention the following: Moyshe Itzik Kornhaber, who founded the industry in Potok, and Lipa Schutzmann and his sons Moritz and Leon, who founded the firm Rela-Mela in the 1920s. During the war years, he was exiled to Siberia by the Russians and at the end of the war, he returned to Poland, a completely broken man. He died a lonely old man in Gdansk. His son Leon, who was the first president of the board of directors for the kehilla in Borysław, was also exiled to Siberia where he died.
Hermann Bloch was a high-ranking industrialist, who contributed greatly to the development of Mrażnica. David Fanto was the founder of a firm. In addition to these major industrialists, there were smaller Jewish entrepreneurs such as Mendelssohn, the Boryslaw factory Max Stern, and many others. Bergheim brought McGarvey from Canada and created the firm Bergheim-McGarvey. He is connected with the Canadian system of drilling. Among the technicians, we must mention I. Bloch, the engineers Lipa, Kessler, Landes, and Wolfstahl , all of whom were murdered by the Nazis.
Many Jews worked as supervisors at various wells. They were actually the overseers of the operations, even though, according to the government office responsible for the oil wells, others were officially appointed as managers. Jews were the main employees in the administration of the firms. As an example, one of the outstanding personalities was Dr. Moshe Freund, head of the largest firm, Małopolska Spółka Akcyjna. A large number of Jewish workers were employed in the Borysław oil industry; they worked in all aspects of operations. Jewish craftsmen supplied the tools and parts for drilling. Among them we should mention the metal working shop of Nadel and Katz, M. Ringler, Sh. Fliesser and others, who produced mining equipment of the highest quality.
Among the firms, we must mention Eifermann, Seeman, Eliahu Klinghoffer, and the firm D.T.H. whose owners were Spitzmann and Weiler. The agents Israel Horszowski and Josef Schechter looked after supplying drilling machinery. These Jews were also murdered by the Nazis at the time of the third Aktion in 1942.
Hermann Russ provided building materials, as did the brothers Kreisberg and Seinwel Reiter. Hermann Russ was also a construction agent. He was capable of erecting a derrick in twenty-four hours. Whenever a spark of fire began to grow, Russ was the first one to put it out, even though a new tower would have to be built if the fire were not extinguished.
There were tremendous quantities of oil in the wells; since it was impossible to collect all of it, it flowed into every stream and river. It was the Jews who changed this and made it possible to collect all the oil. A special category of people occupied themselves with collecting oil. They were called łepaks; the name derived from the Polish word łapac meaning to catch.
These collectors were a special breed in Borysław, recognizable from a distance. Usually they were elderly Jews. They would carry two pails on a yolk on their backs and gather oil up with a broom. That is how the collector would fill his pails. The oil was sold in small amounts after being cleansed by heating. Shmuel Garfinkel was one Jew who did this kind of work. These workers considered this kind of work a blessing since it enabled them to earn a generous livelihood.
In these industries there were many by-products and a great deal of waste, such as iron, for which there was no market. The industry had no use for such huge amounts of waste, and there was no way to store it. However, it provided worthwhile business opportunities. The scrap iron was collected by Jews and sold to scrap metal dealers. They best known among these entrepreneurs were Isaac Rotenberg, the machinist Melech, Josef Herschberger, and Bergman.
With the increase of the number of wells in Borysław, especially in Tustanowice, a new problem arose in Borysław. With such a glut of oil, there was no market for all of it. The existing refineries were not suitable and had not been built for such large amounts. There was also no storage for these great quantities.
A new firm called Petrolea was created, which built large facilities on land near the railway station. There were also the large companies, Karpaty Galicia, Uryczka Spółka Gaz Ziemnych, and others. There were storage facilities that could hold 1,000 cisterns and more of oil. Small businessmen stored the oil in exchange for payment in natura, that is for crude oil. A transport station was built that carried the oil through Petrolea's pipelines. This was a new method of transporting and delivering oil. In this aspect of the industry, Jews were also prominent.
The great amount of oil reserves caused the price to drop. The government had already started to use oil for producing steam power. Dr. Wasserberg, a lawyer from Lwów, appeared on the scene; he established the union of oil producers. The lawyer paid the producers of the crude oil five crowns for every centner of oil; this allow him to fill storage tanks to the full capacity. The government came to the aid of the producers by constructing a large storage facility called Polmin. These measures had a positive influence. The price of oil began to rise, and between 1910 to 1914, it reached 1,000 katrim for one centner. Both in Petrolia and Polmin, many Jews were employed. Some were managers.
It has been our intention here to give an account of the development of the oil industry in Borysław, to show the role that the Jews of Borysław played in this industry, and their lives and deaths in the course of several decades. It has not been possible to relate everything in great detail because ten years have passed since I left Borysław, and we have no documents in our hands. Our aim was to leave some kind of picture of Borysław. Whoever remained alive, who survived the terrible tragedy, will recall our Borysław, and then tears will certainly come to his or her eyes when reading these lines. May these lines serve as an eternal reminder of those Jews who lived and worked in Borysław. May their souls be bound up with those alive.
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.
Drogobych, Ukraine Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright © 1999-2013 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 30 May 2013 by LA