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[Page 11]

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by Rafal Mahler

Translated by Renee Miller

The idea of publishing a Yizkor Book of the annihilated kehile [Jewish community] was a natural impulse that arose as early as the last years of World War II, as soon as the first news of the annihilation of the Jews of Sandz together with the entire Polish Jewry. Carrying it out was delayed many years, not only because of the usual difficulties that are connected with publishing a Yizkor Book: the effort of gathering of materials and producing of required finances. The extraordinary difficulty consisted of a separate problem that the editor and the publisher of the Book had concerning the contents and the character of the work. Appreciating in full measure the earnings of the tens of Yizkor Books that were published as monuments of reverence for the martyrs of the particular communities, we must surely moyde zayn [admit] that as a rule, they were originally appropriate only for the landslayt [countrymen] of their own city, and as a matter of course, they do not call forth interest outside of that group of readers. Moreover, the chapters on the destruction and violent death, that put together alpi rov [for the most part] valuable material for the study of the bloody epoch in general, contain the Yizkor Books' memories and writings that chiefly have a local sentimental value. In order for a Yizkor Book to rise above the narrow frame of local significance, it is necessary either to select from the material or, according to scholarly requirements for adaptation from the sources, so that the publication follows the requirements of an historic monograph.

We thought about the Sefer Sandz according to these principles and the task [avade] certainly was not an easy one. In as much as the printed sources of the history of Jews in Sandz, were very few, in general, just like with other communities in Poland, we had no choice but to carry out research in the melukhe-arkhivn [state archives] in Krakow and in Vrotslav.[1] We had to spend many years on this historical research, and the end of our toil and work is the history of Jews in Sandz, which takes up the greatest part of the Yizkor Book.

As for the latest epoch, it is unnecessary to note that we held as a self-evident duty to include in Sefer Sandz all communal and political directions that had an impact on the town, independent of their

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size or their influence. If the proportions of the various articles do not reflect the power struggle between the various directions, or if certain groupings are in general not represented, it is the result of the available number of authors, of their attitude and of their inclination to write.


In praise, we must now mention the organizations of Sandzer landslayt organization in Israel, Belgium, Brazil (San Paolo), a group of landslayt in London and above all the Sandzer landsmanshaft [countrymen] in New York, that, thanks to their efforts, resources were procured, so that this Sefer Sandz could glimpse the likhtike shayn [the light of day]. Special credit goes to the landsmanshaftn in Israel and New York, because they did not spare any effort to put in order and assemble articles about political parties and personalities in Sandz, and the gevies-eydes [witnesses] of the era of the destruction. The responsible task of linking the Sandzer landsmanshaftn on every continent and bring to a conclusion the publication of the book, was accomplished perfectly by the Publication Committee of the Sandzer landsmanshaftn and made up of khaverim [friends] Kalman Lustbader, Szmuel Lustgarten [Shmuel Lustgarten], Kalman Mahler and Baruk Szpiro [Barukh Shpiro]. The reward for all the landslayt and organizations for their devoted work is the Sefer Sandz in its contents and scope.

Rafal Mahler
Editor


[Page 13]

Introduction

by Rafal Mahler

Translated by Renee Miller

Jewish life in former Poland, and also to a large extent later, until the mass destruction, was concentrated in separate Jewish communities; the way the communal and political life of the Greeks of the past had been organized into “polis” [city-state] [2]. However, in the study of the history of Polish Jewry, as a rule the significance of the history of Jews in each separate community was not appreciated. The history of Jews in Sandz until the last third of the 19th century is, as much as we were able to discover, is surely a new confirmation of that rule. Not only the professional historian, but also every reader who has a lot of knowledge of history will grasp the contribution of our monograph to the history of Jews in all of Poland. While only large kehiles [Jewish communities] in former Poland such as Krakow, Lemberg [Lwow], Brod [Brody], Prshemishl [Przemysl], Warsaw, Vilna [Vilnius], Poyzn [Poznan] have, until today, been deemed worthy to be written about in historical monographs, the historical chapters about Jews in Sandz cover the first history of Jews in a community of middle or small size. It is sufficient to point out several new aspects of the history of Jews in Poland, in general, that are reflected for us within the frame of the mirror of such a modest community as Sandz:

In the realm of the economic history of the Jews in former Poland, how problems at that time, like Jewish credit and business and Jewish leasing in the light of contracts, are clearly demonstrated. Regarding the occupational and social structure of a large part of the Jewish population in a Galitsianer [of Galicia] town in the 1860's, we possess official statistics based on a list of names of those with the right to vote for the Galitsianer Sejm [Parliament]. In many details, the legal situation of the Jews in Sandz in the time of former Poland is an example of a mid-size royal town, which was in many ways peculiar to a pritsisher's [landowner's] town: quite instructive, mamesh [literally] sensational is the fact that in such a royal town, on the doorstep of the 18th century, the Jewish overseer of the powerful staroste [administrator] Duke Lubomirski took part in the voting for mayor. On the other hand, the history of Jews in Sandz provides a new bloody chapter in the martyrology of the Jews in Poland in the era of the fanatical clerical reaction under the reign of Saxony kings [3].

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It turns out that the dreadful gzeyre [evil edict] of allies-da-am [accusations of ritual murder] in Baal Shem Tov's [4] time, spread from Volyn and Podolia like a mageyfe [plague] all over Poland, and guiltless blood flowed like rivers not only as far as Prshemishl, but even to Biecz, Sandz and Bobov in the very western part of the kingdom. The same dark era in the history of Jews in Poland reveals a chapter of mesires-nefesh [heroic self-sacrifice], of daring obstinacy in the fight for their own rights. For example, the building of the Sandzer shul [synagogue] took a long period: a full quarter of a century until the time of Austria, on account of the bitter hatred of the priests and the city council.

At the level of general historical significance, the Jews of Sandz appear in the realm of community organization and cultural aspirations. The fight of simple folk against the oligarchy in the community was also conducted by a selected “peoples' tribune”, just as in the large communities of Krakow, Lesh, and Vilna. In the first half of the 19th century, the gangs of likhtpakhter [candle tax collectors {the right to collect taxes was sold on a lease}] and kosher meat tax collectors controlled the Jewish community. This is accurately reflected in the official results of the community elections. And it is certainly superfluous to emphasize that if Sandz became one of the most important centers of Khsides [the movement of the Hasidim], thanks to the “Divrei Chaim”, both the chapter about their personality and shite [school of thought, doctrine] and the chapter on the Sandz-Sadigura makhloyke [feud] belongs to the history of the Hasidic movement in general.

The history of Jews in Sandz demonstrates for us, just as the history of Jews in Poland in general, how the great drama of a people always brought forth new inexhaustible strengths for the building of its own ethnic life in conflict with the alien, and to a great extent, in a hostile social environment. Furthermore, this outward fight for existence was accompanied by internal contradiction and conflict over generations: democratic opposition to the powerful members of the kehile [Jewish community]; Hasidim and Misnagdim [5]; Maskilim [6] and Orthodoxy [7]; Zionism and aspirations of assimilation; socialism in contrast to capitalism and the split of socialism into various camps.

And akhren akhren khovev [last but not least] . . .the last act of the history of Jews in Sandz, as in all of Poland, the thousand year old drama was illuminated like one bizarre tragedy in their gehenim-fayer [hell-fire]. Also in that last chapter of blood and tears, we were equal to the task of learning from the events in Sandz important inferences concerning the destruction in general. Whereas, apart from personal testimony, we had in our possession documents from the headquarters for Jewish Self-Help in Krakow, we had the opportunity to deal in detail with such problems as the situation in the workers' camps, and the constantly dropping nutrition in the ghetto, that are still not illuminated in the history of the destruction.

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Besides the great importance of contribution to the history of Jews in all of Poland, we also have to take into consideration that every Jewish community had its own individual features that were a poyel-yoytse [consequence] of its geographic situation and of the distinct historical conditions of its development. Therefore, an historical monograph can also only completely guess at its task when it brings forth the specific image of a given kehile on the basis of an historical clarification.

The geographic position of the kehile Sandz was characterized koydem kol [first of all] by its nearness to the former Hungarian, later Slovakian border. Not for nothing were Slovakian “drotshiazshes” (potter) and Hungarian gypsy the characteristic types that symbolized the decree of the doomed kehile in “The Song About Sandz in Podolia” from the sincere writer Mendl Neugroshel z”l [may his memory be blessed]. This very situation had, to a large extent, defined not only the character of Jewish commerce in Sandz (import of Hungarian wine, grain, brinze [kind of whey cheese] and so on) but also the itinerary of the Sandzers who used to travel to markets, dragging themselves on little wagons for many nights all the way to Kezmark. [8] to the yaridn [fairs]. Close family relationships also tied the Jewish Sandz to the nearby Slovakia, in as much as many Sandzers, as early as the 19th century would have settle in Slovakian shtetlekh [small towns] across the Carpathian Mountains. On the other hand, the Sandzer kehile was linked with the towns in West Galicia, Krakow and Wishnitz by its origins, from whence had come the first Jewish toyshoim [residents] when the city opened its gates to Jews at the end of the 17th century for the first time.

However, Krakow was too far away for that growing local center of modern Jewish culture to be able to exert a significant hashpoe [influence] over the Sandzer kehile. In this same regard it was even a great distance to Tarnow; all the more so since it was not until the seventies before the stretch of train line Tarnow – Orlo was built. In any case, this explains the fact that the Haskole [Haskalah, enlightenment] movement that was quite weak in Western Galicia, had not laid down any roots in the distant kehile in the Carpathian Mountains. The kehile Sandz, despite its medium size, became one of the most important centers of Khsides [the movement of the Hasidim] in Galicia, since in Middle Galicia and Western Galicia Rabbinical courts were located only in little towns and villages. The predominance of Khsides in Sandz, which had a large domain in the hinterland of nearby Slovakia, was strengthened over generations, thanks to the great influence of the “Divrei Chaim” [Rabbi Chaim of Sanz (1793-1876)]. The glory of the founder of a new school of thought in Khsides (Toyre and Tfile Yakhdev) [Torah and Prayer Together] had literally imposed its stamp on the spiritual life of the Jews in town up to the 20th century.

Only on the threshold of the 20th century did Sandz begin to reconcile with the other kehiles of the

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same size in Galicia in the realm of modern cultural development, and there, in the two new principal endeavors in Jewish life, Zionism and Socialism, they were not behind compared to entire country. But one can point out a specific feature of Jewish political and communal life until after the First World War: it was the extraordinary great liveliness and ebullient activity of the Poalei-Zion that stood in synthesis between Zionism and Socialism. Here also, one cannot exclude the personal factor of the decisive leadership.


We do not speak ill of those in the earth. The constructive and creative people on their own earth in Medines Israel [State of Israel], is the continuation and the redress for the annihilated kehiles among which kehile Sandz also occupies its deserved place.

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The Marketplace with the Town Hall

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Footnotes:

  1. Wroclaw; Breslau under German rule until 1945; thereafter, Wroclaw, a part of Poland. Return
  2. Polis, Greek for “city,” in ancient Greece, a city-state or the political and social center of many of the larger Greek communities. Return
  3. Early in the 18th century the Russian Empire opened a systematic offensive against declining Poland. Supplementing military force with bribery and intrigue, the Russian rulers gradually reduced neighboring Poland to impotence. Widespread political corruption among the Polish nobility accelerated the drift toward national catastrophe. Through shameless bribery of a faction of the Sejm and armed Russian intervention, Frederick Augustus II, elector of Saxony, was placed on the throne of Poland in 1733 as Augustus III. “Poland”: Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2004 http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2004 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved. Return
  4. Israel Ben Eliezer born c. 1700, Ba'al Shem Tov (Hebrew: “Master of the Good Name”); acronym: Besht; charismatic leader (c. 1750) of Hasidism, a Jewish spiritual movement characterized by mysticism and opposition to secular studies and Jewish rationalism. He aroused controversy by mixing with ordinary people, renouncing mortification of the flesh, and insisting on the holiness of ordinary bodily existence. Died 1760, Medzhibozh. Encyclopedia Britannica article. Return
  5. The opponents of Hasidism came to be known as “Misnagdim” (Hebrew for “opponents.”) Return
  6. Haskalah Hebrew term for the Enlightenment movement and ideology that began within Jewish society in the 1770s. An adherent of Haskalah became known as a maskil (pl. maskilim). Return
  7. Orthodoxy considers the halakhah, in its traditional form, to be absolutely binding; halakhah a generic term for the whole legal system of Judaism, embracing all the detailed laws and observances. Return
  8. Kezmark or Kezmarok is in eastern Slovakia. Return

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