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The History of Our Shtetl

by Moshe David Lutwak

Translated by Jerrold Landau from a draft by Isak Shteyn

Elementary school and the post office on the left.

 

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The End Came

The life of the shtetl is gone. The noise of the weekly bazaars, the tumult of the buying and selling in Rozniatow, the hubbub of the street vendors and peddlers near their stands with different merchandise has ceased forever. The roads and lanes are wasted and voided.

Kith and kin went their last way together.

Never again will the voices of the prayers from the Rozniatow synagogues rise to the heavens. The chant of the youngest students from the Cheders 1 and the tunes of the Yeshiva students will never be heard again. No one will tell of it until the era of the Messiah and the redemption.

Our shtetl is empty, vacant of its Jews, deprived of its Jewish character.

Only the silent walls of the houses lament the orphaned and bereaved cry of a well-rooted Jewish shtetl that lost its children and builders 2 .

All were strangled and immersed in blood.

The blood is still seething.

The Editors

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My Years in Rozniatow

I, a modest Rozniatower native close to seventy years old, will try to relate my recollections as a contribution to the Yizkor Book to be assembled in honor of our shtetl martyrs, those good and precious Jews who perished for the sanctification of G-d's name. Those memories will cover the time from my earliest childhood, since my senses started to function and I understood that I also belong to G-d's creation and can also have a say or simply talk at random; until August 1932, when I left Rozniatow on the way to the golden land of America. My brother Yeshaya and other natives, men who themselves experienced and miraculously outlived those difficult years, will report the subsequent events that occurred until the Hitlerian Holocaust.

The Beginning

Rozniatow is situated in Eastern Galicia not far from the Eastern Carpathian Mountains. It is a small remote town that is not even on the map, 7.5 km from the railroad station Rozniatow-Krechowice on the Stryj-Stanislawow 3 line. Two rivulets, the Czeczwa and the Duba, flow through the region.

There are two versions of the origin of the name “Rozniatow.”

One version asserts that many centuries ago, a huge massacre of the inhabitants of the town occurred. Why? Perhaps the enslaved peasants stirred up a rebellion against their oppressors – the magnates, knights, counts, etc., and therefore a massacre was perpetrated upon them. In Ukrainian the term for massacre is “resnya” which led to naming the town Rozniatow.

The second version also originates from the time when noblemen, who enslaved the peasants, reigned over the town and its environs. One of those noblemen was Count Rozniatow, and the town took the aristocrat's name, Rozniatow.

There is evidence that the rulers of Rozniatow and its environs waged war with their neighbors. The rivulet served as a defense line against an attack from other noblemen. The courthouse was constructed as a stronghold with a tower as an observation point. The hill upon which the court stands and the hill that leads to the forest demonstrate the same fortifications.

Austria-Hungary ruled over all of Galicia, which was given to her during the 1772-1793 partition of Poland among the great powers — Russia, Prussia and Austria. This partition is known in history as “Rozbior Polski”. In 1772 Austria obtained Western Galicia and in 1793 it also obtained Eastern Galicia. Contrary to the expansionist external policies of the Hapsburgs, which consisted of seizing and annexing foreign territories, their internal policy was liberal. The citizens enjoyed all the freedoms, with no differences between different races or nationalities. These liberal policies started in 1848 with the reign of Kaiser Franz Josef I, whom the Jews considered as a benevolent emperor and who was revered by all the citizens of the country.

The political status of the population of Eastern Galicia under Austria, the Jews included, experienced several metamorphoses. Under the reign of Kaiser Franz Josef I, the Jews enjoyed all civil rights and freedoms on an equal footing with all other citizens. Jews worked as government officials, and in all branches of commerce and industry. There were Jewish judges, teachers in elementary and middle schools as well as university professors. There were even Jewish officers of all ranks in the army. The Jews elected their own deputies to the parliament in Vienna.

The Jews of Eastern Galicia lived among Poles, Ukrainians and Germans. In Galicia there also lived Karaites 4 near Halicz, Armenians, Gypsies and Nomads. The Poles were in the majority in Galicia. The legal status of Galicia was autonomous self-administration under the control of the Austrian crown. Actually the Poles, who were notorious Jew haters, ruled in Galicia. The language of the country, mandatory in all government offices, was Polish. In the schools, Polish and Ukrainian were taught but German was also mandatory. The official language of the government was German. Government buildings carried Polish inscriptions as well. Nevertheless, the Jews carried on their daily life undisturbed. If an injustice were committed against a citizen, he could turn to a court with a complaint and have it adjudicated.

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The courthouse

 

Aside from the fact that it excelled in its architectural beauty and surrounding landscape, the courthouse building was of enormous importance to the town and made for closer relations with the surrounding community. Rozniatow had excellent Jewish attorneys who enjoyed solid respect in the court. Relations with the Christian population were proper.

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