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The History of Our Shtetl (Cont'd)

{294}

Surprising Events

It was after Purim and the Jews prepared themselves for the traditional Passover holiday. All went smoothly without any disturbances. Matzos were baked, and wine was made from raisins, because real wine was impossible to obtain on account of the strict ban on sale of alcoholic beverages. Various vegetables needed for Passover were also procured. The Jewish soldiers stationed in the city were quartered in Jewish homes and supplied with matzos and vegetables.

Thus, the Passover holiday was celebrated in 1915 in Rozniatow.

With the arrival of the summer, the mood of the Jews became more hopeful thanks to some good news from the frontlines. It was not long before the Austrian-German offensive began. The front was broken through at Gorlica in the Western Carpathian Mountains, compelling the Russians to withdraw almost without any resistance from Western and Eastern Galicia and from the Eastern Carpathians as well. The Russians, laden with their battle gear, retreated from the Carpathians through Rozniatow and other ways, back toward the east from where they came.

In June 1915, on a Friday morning, an Austrian patrol of five or six soldiers arrived and, after a short encounter, chased a Russian patrol from the Motszar hill. Shortly afterwards the city was full of different Austrian military formations. People greeted the soldiers and some cried out of joy and were in high spirits. Every soldier was a hero in everybody's eyes. The soldiers were well outfitted and well armed and the wagons were fully loaded with provisions for them. Russian prisoners were carried off. The honey weeks passed quickly and the usual weekdays started again. All became normal again. The government services opened and were functioning again except for the school, which began in September after the summer vacations. The government officials and the families of the mobilized reservists received their pay for the whole time of the Russian invasion until the return of the Austrian army. Civilian passengers were accepted by the railroad, if places were available, for they were always full of military servicemen and businessmen, who began again to travel out of the city. People who fled Rozniatow came back — Dr. Wassermann, Dr. Feuer, Dr. Sapier, Dr. Barth, Mishel Orthmann, Shaya Frisch — all returned to their former occupations. Even those deported to Russia — Yaakov Yehuda Kleinbrod and Zusye Arye Kupferberg. Tzvi Fassberg — returned just after the war.

Surprises now came one after another. The first one was the conscription of all men from 18-50 years to military service, after they were checked by a medical commission in Dolina and classified as serviceable.

Ration cards were introduced for bread, flour, sugar, salt, petroleum, and other necessities of life. These articles were not available on the free market. These cards were called “maximal cards” because every family had a limit on what it could buy determined by the number of family members; so much and no more. Soon the maximum cards became minimum cards and since this was not enough to live on, people were compelled to turn to the black market where everything was available at inflated prices.

Whereas the majority of the husbands were in the military service, the women and the girls set about to trade with fervor. They used to go by train and to transport little sacks with flour and tobacco in their girdles under their skirts. It is easy to imagine how the tobacco burned their skin like mustard did on hot summer days. In this way, merchandise was smuggled in and — in difficult cases — the guards were bribed. Besides that, some articles were brought in with horse drawn wagons via roundabout ways to avoid military controls. The prices rose from day to day. The appetites also rose and the black market blossomed. A barter market evolved as well. The peasants exchanged their produce for sugar, salt, petroleum, and other articles.

The longer the war lasted, the worse was the supply of goods for the civilian population in the country. In addition to that the quality of the necessities of life worsened as well. Bread, which was baked with cornmeal, ground small beans, oatmeal, and sweet beet roots, was impossible to eat. There was even bread mingled with straw. I saw such bread with my own eyes. I personally tasted it, but I could not eat it under any circumstances.

The shortages of the necessities of life became more acute day by day. Traveling people carried bread with them because restaurants did not serve it. There were tearooms that opened, which served sweet baker's wares made from yellow cornmeal. The yellow loaves were called “ersatz broyt” 78. The gentiles began to plant tobacco. The green tobacco leaves were cut and dried out and became a kind of “ersatz tobacco.” Certainly, real tobacco could not be obtained. The critical economic situation in the country strengthened the hand of the anti-Semites who accused Jews of increasing the prices, speculating, profiteering, and other such things.

In 1917, the Russian army undertook an offensive on the eastern front under general Brosilov, which pushed the Austrians back to Stanislawow where they stopped. In this way, the entire Rozniatow region became included in the theater of war.

The events of November 1918 were unexpected in Rozniatow. After the revolution and civil war broke out in Russia, rumors were heard that something unusual was occurring at the front. On a Saturday morning in November 1918, an elderly Austrian soldier, belonging to the unit stationed near the Russian Church, loaded wagon provisions and other military objects, hitched two oxen to the wagon, left the city via the old town on the way to Hungary. Several hours later, some Rozniatower non-Jews who had dodged military service captured him. They brought him back to Rozniatow with the wagon, the oxen, and all the goodies.

The next day, on Sunday, it became noisy in the city. Other hidden soldiers crept out from their holes and a lively movement began. Stefan Lapianecki, the murderer of the coachman Nachman Rosenmann, commit robberies and acts of violence with his younger brother Jerzy and other helpers. Every soldier on his way home to his village, was stopped, his bag taken away, and if he struggled he was beaten severely. The cries and calls for help resounded over the whole city. This situation lasted almost a whole week. Terror broke out the same day the gendarme patrol was disarmed and the troublemakers patrolled the city.

Everything was in confusion. The Jews were afraid to travel in order obtain in the necessities of life, because no city was willing to permit the export of provisions.

The wheel of history turned farther and a new era began. The political status changed. The entire area of eastern Galicia became Ukrainian and together with the Ukraine on the Dniester, which earlier belonged to Russia. A new state was born — Ukraine — which became a socialist republic.

All the Ukrainians, from large to small, with the exception of some intelligentsia, were inveterate anti-Semites breathing hatred and enmity for Jews. The city administration of Rozniatow came into Ukrainian hands without any difficulties. Fedorenko, who lived on the other side of the river, near Moczar, was appointed mayor. He was the son of Michany Borodaty Fedorenko, a man with a long white beard, who was respected as an honest person. He was a specialist of letting blood from animals who got inflated after grazing green oats. He was called in on such cases and he rescued many animals from sure death.

{298}

The Jewish National Council

The administration of the “Judische Kultusgemeinde” in Rozniatow passed to the Zionists. The elections to the community, which was called “The Jewish National Council”, took place during the intermediate days of Passover 1919. Dr. Wassermann was elected its president. The Zionist Association revived as well and its office was in the old house of Mordechai Gross.

Shalom Rechtschaffen, inspired by the “Poalei Zion” movement, was one of the founders of the “Poalei Zion” association in Rozniatow. Its president was Yankel Diamond, a craftsman like most of the members. There was not much unity in the association. It did not last a long time and soon dissolved. But, during its existence, the association managed to perform the drama of Jacob Gordon “Chassya the Orphan Girl”. The following members took part in the performance: Shalom Rechtschaffen in the main role, Motye Streichel, Tintzye Berger, Chantshe Turteltaub, her brother Miliasi, Yaakov Erber, Chatzye Diamond, who later married Yitzchak Schuster Katzmann, a brother of Yankel Laufer. My modest contribution was as the prompter.

Disturbances occurred in different cities and villages where single Jews lived. It was quiet in Rozniatow. One incident happened when a group of young Ukrainian tricky fellows beat up the policeman with the sideburns, Wojtko, first when he was dry. Then they threw him in the river Mlinowka, took him out from the water, and beat him up when he was wet. I do not know for what “good deeds” they did this.

The Jews of Eastern Galicia were neutral in the Ukrainian-Polish struggle. Eastern Galicia was isolated with no ties to foreign countries. Trade with the outside world ceased. The economic situation in Rozniatow worsened from day to day. The supply for the city was very insufficient. There was a great shortage in food and in articles of prime necessity. The ration cards for food and other articles were insufficient to satisfy the needs of the inhabitants and people were compelled to turn to the black market, where the prices got higher from day to day. There was no way to earn a cent.

In those days a committee was created, led by Dr. Wassermann, which distributed the necessities of life to poor Jewish families. Jewish merchants were threatened with expulsion for price gouging. To avoid this, they refused to sell provisions, maintaining that they had none and that they had to import flour, etc. Only those who voluntarily paid prices higher than the maximal could buy some food clandestinely.

The situation with garments and shoes was very bad. People who came home from the military service wore pieces of their uniform and military shoes that they brought home, although it was prohibited and should have been returned for the needs of the new army.

In May 1919, the Polish Army began its offensive. Ukrainian military formations passed through Rozniatow on their withdrawal march and several days later a Polish military unit went through the city singing anti-Semitic songs.

The third stage of the metamorphosis began: the Rozniatower inhabitants became Polish citizens with fresh troubles and new calamities. Nevertheless the merchants dared to leave the city to buy and bring in merchandise, despite the danger of harassment and of having their beards cut off by the hooligan soldiers.

The police arrested the leaders of the Ukrainian civic administration. They were let go after an inquiry. The brothers Lapianecki hid themselves. Jerzy, the youngest was shot to death, when he was discovered and tried to escape. After that, the older brother Stefan (the murderer of the coachman Nachman Rosenmann) who was hiding in the cemetery, surrendered voluntarily to the Polish government which released him several days after his inquiry.

In those days the gendarme commander Braianowski, a Rozniatower Pole, became notorious by ordering his policemen hooligans to bring in Jewish girls to wash the floors and to do other kinds of housework in their office. This was strictly accomplished.

The government offices started to function again, and the former officials got back their positions, without any national discrimination. The tax office was moved to Dolina and the post office settled down in the vacated tax office premises. The administration of the city passed into Christian hands. Zecharya David Liebermann took over the functions of the president of the Jewish Community.

It was still difficult to earn a livelihood. Help came in from America in the form of food packages for the population. In the middle schools, the students got a warm meal, a soup or hot chocolate, and a piece of bread. The help of some American Jews to their relatives in terms of money and even used garments was significant.

Only a few Communist adherents or sympathizers have been in Rozniatow, but no Communist propaganda was propagated.

The first bus transportation company in Rozniatow was Maciazinski & Co. run by the postmaster Denenfeld and the judge Dr. Maiakowsky and called in short “Maciazinski.” After its collapse, Melech Landmann and Aharon Zimmermann, both former coachmen, took over but they were unable to pay off their debts. Then Philip Fuerst took over the bus company, because he guaranteed to pay his dues regularly to the bus owners. In this way Philip Fuerst remained a “coachman” for his whole life.

This same destiny befell Mane Nadlers' bus from Perehinsko, which shuttled between Perehinsko and Stanislawow. There were different reasons for the bad business environment for the transportation companies. First of all, the Polish roads were unfit for motorized travel; they were muddy and contained potholes after a rain. To maintain the roads in good shape some kind of sandy soil was spread out, but it contained small pointed stones, which made holes in the tires of the vehicles. Repairs were necessary after almost every trip and sometimes a tire burst on the road and it had to be replaced immediately. If the auto owners were themselves the drivers and had some mechanical experience, they could avoid significant expenses. Drivers were paid 100 zlotys a week; their expenses exceeded their incomes.

Meanwhile, life was going on as usual. The political parties, left and right, carried on their activities. The Zionist organization expanded its activity creating the “Chalutzim” (Pioneering) movement, which prepared the Jewish young boys and girls for the “Aliya” emigration to Eretz Israel (then Palestine).

In the twenties there came a lull in the Zionist movement of Rozniatow. The only activity was to collect money for the National Fund and Manye Mintz occupied himself with that for a long time. The grown-up young people were passive. Even the progressive Jewish scholars in the Kloiz, who studied secular disciplines as well, although they felt themselves as national Jews, did nothing for the Zionist movement. Part of the fault for this situation is ascribed to the Zionist Center in Lemberg as well, because they rarely sent their delegates to Rozniatow to revive the Zionist movement. They were satisfied with the money collected for “Keren Hayesod” 79 that was sent to them.

The Communist propaganda began to penetrate into Rozniatow as well. Several Rozniatower young intellectuals became persuaded by Communist ideas and clandestinely promoted Communist propaganda. Punye Kanner was convicted for Communism.

Through a denouncement, Philip Fuerst was arrested by the district Court of Stryj for alleged Communism. He had an inquiry and, because of lack of evidence, he was released. It was a real mockery; Philip Fuerst was as much a Communist as the Rabbi of the city.

No progress occurred in the field of culture in Rozniatow. The “fathers” of the Rozniatower Community were not at all concerned about Jewish education. For a long time there was no “Talmud Torah” 80 in Rozniatow. It was not even possible to discuss the acquisition of a modest subsidy to maintain the Hebrew School, which survived on a very weak support. Nevertheless, the Hebrew School existed in Rozniatow for many years with serious difficulties. After a short interruption, a committee of interested parents led by Dr. Diamond was created and provided for the further maintenance of the Hebrew School and hired a Hebrew teacher, whose name was Kamarowski.

At the beginning all went smoothly, later on the School began to limp. Then they played Yiddish theater and the income was given to the Hebrew School. In this way several pieces were played and the income was dedicated to the School. Every semester the salary of the Hebrew teacher was reduced. Having no choice, the teacher led the school for some time on his own. After a while he packed his belongings and left Rozniatow.

The city was without a Hebrew School for a long time. It coincided with a period of general bad economic times for the Polish Jews. Middle class Jews, craftsmen, peddlers and other Jews with small income simply could not pay for their children's tuition in the Hebrew School.

A group of sportsmen
A group of Jewish sportsmen from the club “Hashmonaim”
in Rozniatow where our youth practiced various kinds of sport and
physical activity, from gymnastics to serious competitions with other groups

 


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Cheders were private Jewish traditional elementary schools. Back
  2. The Hebrew words used here for children (baneyha) and builders (boneyha) form a play on words. Back
  3. Stanislawow is today called Ivano-Frankivsk. Back
  4. The Karaites are a sect of Jews who do not accept the oral Torah rabbinic tradition but strive to live their lives according to the Hebrew Bible alone. Back
  5. A cupping glass is a glass cup placed on the skin. A vacuum applied to the cup raises the underlying tissue. This therapeutic technique was thought to be efficacious for a variety of ailments. Back
  6. Until the late 19th century, leeches were used for medicinal purposes. The leeches were placed on the skin where they would suck blood from the patient. Back
  7. “House of Study”. It is a place whose primary function is for the study of Torah, but also serves as a synagogue – generally more informal than a regular synagogue. Back
  8. For this and the following expressions, I have used the Polish version of spelling. The phrase “Bij Zyda” is repeated twice in the text, once with the pronunciation “Bei Zhida”, and the second time with the pronunciation “Bei Zheda”. I suspect that this is the difference between the Polish and Ukrainian pronunciation. I only included one version in the translation, as the Polish rendition is equivalent. This expression means “hit the Jew”. Back
  9. Jew thief. Back
  10. A person who is an outcast and does not belong to the community. It could describe someone of bad appearance. Back
  11. “A Jew comes from heaven so he does not need to pray.” The two phrases of this adage, divided before 'to', rhyme with each other. Back
  12. A “shire” is a “song” in Hebrew, but it is not clear if that is the origin of this word. Back
  13. When a possessive name is added to a name, it would mean the name of the father – i.e. this name is Adela Geller, Leizer's daughter (This type of name structure is frequently used in this article, and will not be footnoted each time). Back
  14. I could not find the meaning of this term. Back
  15. This is a reference to miracle of the Red Sea following Exodus from Egypt. Back
  16. Goose skin fried in fat. Back
  17. The Hassidic movement was founded in the 18th century in present day Ukraine by Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, who became known as the Ba'al Shem Tov. His teachings emphasized bringing G-d into all aspects of one's life, particularly through intense prayer and joyous singing. Back
  18. The maskilim were proponents of modern, secular education for Jews. Back
  19. A pelisse is a sleeveless cape that is lined or trimmed with fur. Back
  20. A streimel is a cap edged with fur. Back
  21. “Chovevei Zion” means “Lovers of Zion.” This movement predated the formal Zionist movement. Back
  22. “Keren Kayemet LeYisrael” is the “Jewish National Fund.” Back
  23. Sukkot is the 9 day major festival that occurs five days after Yom Kippur. The five middle days are not full fledged festival days, and are known as the Intermediate Days, or Chol Hamoed. During the days of Sukkot, one eats meals in the Sukka (Tabernacle) in accordance with the biblical command. Passover also has Chol Hamoed days between the first two and last two full festival days. Back
  24. “LeDavid Mizmor” means “A song of David”. It is the first words of several of the Psalms. Back
  25. A Sofer is a scribe who writes Torah scrolls. Thus, 'Sofer' here is not the surname, but rather the title. Back
  26. “Die Judische Kultusgemeinde” means “the Jewish Community Organization.” Back
  27. “Starostowa” was the government of a province. Back
  28. “Hekdesch” means “the filthy place”. It literally means “the holy place”, but it is a negative euphemism. Back
  29. A Kloiz is a small, informal, Hassidic prayer hall. Back
  30. The last day of Sukkot. Back
  31. This refers to the latter portion of the Sabbath and Festival Morning Prayer. Back
  32. Kiddush is the blessing recited prior to the night and day meals of Sabbaths and festivals. Here it refers to the refreshments served in the morning after reciting the Kiddush blessing. Back
  33. The head of the province – i.e., the head of the starostowa. Back
  34. Bürgermeister ” means “mayor.” Burmistrz is the Polish term for mayor. Back
  35. “Dayan” means “judge”. Back
  36. “Aliya” (plural “Aliyot”) is the honor of being called to the reading of the Torah during a service. Various numbers of people are called up for an Aliya when the Torah is read. The person called to the Torah is often expected to make a monetary contribution, especially on the High Holy Days. Back
  37. The literal term here is the “killing” – probably referring to people who would be left bereft of their livelihood due to poverty, after paying such a tax. Back
  38. “Ulica Boznica” means “G-d's street.” Back
  39. “Minyan” refers to a quorum of at least ten men required for public worship. Back
  40. A “Shulchel” is the diminutive of “shul” and is a small synagogue used for services on weekdays. Back
  41. “Gabaim” are the “trustees.” Back
  42. “Mincha” is the afternoon service. Back
  43. Groszy are coins of small denominations. It is the Polish equivalent of 'cent'. Back
  44. “Malkot” or “malkes” refers to the punishment of 39 lashes for some sins during the time of the Temple. Here it refers to a symbolic enactment of this beating that is administered on the eve of Yom Kippur in order to inspire repentance. Back
  45. A reference to brandy. Back
  46. “Mitzvah” is a religious commandment. On Purim, it is a mitzvah to get drunk, but this is generally not observed literally. Here the term is used rather loosely – i.e., where it is 'traditional' to drink a great deal. Back
  47. A reference to “Tikkun Chatzot”, an optional midnight service, generally recited only by the most pious. Back
  48. “Ketuba” is a marriage contract. Back
  49. “Chupa” is canopy used in a wedding ceremony. Back
  50. “Shacharit” is the morning service. Back
  51. “Schwindler” means “swindler” in German. Back
  52. There are two main prayer rites in Judaism: the Sephardic prayer rite of the Spanish, North African, and Middle Eastern communities, and the Ashkenazic prayer rite of the European communities. When the Hassidic movement arose, the prayer rite of Rabbi Yosef Luria, a precursor of Hassidism, was adopted. Given that Rabbi Luria was from Safed in Israel, this prayer rite was similar to the Sephardic prayer rite. It later became adopted in many communities that were heavily influenced by Hassidism, and is known as 'Nusach Sephard', i.e. the Sephardic rite, as opposed to true Sephard. In reality, it is a blend between the Ashkenazic and Sephardic rites. Back
  53. In the traditional Jewish bathhouse, water was poured on burning hot stones to produce steam. People sweated in the steam and fanned themselves with bundles of oak or willow leaves called “besoms.” Some enthusiasts used two besoms. Back
  54. Etrog is a citron. On Sukkot, it is a biblical commandment to take the 'four species' in the hand, consisting of a palm frond (lulav), Etrog, myrtle branches (hadas), and willow branches (arava). Back
  55. Yahrzeit is the anniversary of a relative's death. Back
  56. Enlightened. Back
  57. Giving loans without interest. Back
  58. Neila is the closing service of Yom Kippur. Back
  59. “Kvitlech” are notes with requests, where Hassidim ask their rebbe to intercede with G-d on their behalf. These notes are often accompanied by a monetary donation. Back
  60. A mikva is a ritual bath. Back
  61. The change in name from Melech to Mordechai here may be a textual error. Back
  62. “Joint” refers to the Joint Distribution Committee, which collected donations from American Jews and distributed them to the needy Jews in other countries. Back
  63. Achashverosh is the silly King of Persia, one of the main characters in the Book of Esther, which is the story of the holiday of Purim. Back
  64. A “hedge lawyer” is a person without legal education who would write applications, affidavits, and other documents for modest remuneration. Back
  65. The grandmother. Back
  66. An “accoucheuse” is an educated midwife. Back
  67. “Yad Charutzim” means “organization of the diligent.” Back
  68. Presumably this occurred on Purim and Simchat Torah, or perhaps at weddings and other festive occasions. Back
  69. They prayed in their socks, as it is forbidden to wear leather footwear on Yom Kippur. Back
  70. “Pany” means “Lords.” Back
  71. “Poalei Zion” means “Zionist workers.” Back
  72. “Folks Schule” means “elementary school.” Back
  73. A kollel is an advanced Talmudic seminary. Back
  74. “Ata Hareita” refers to the prayer recited responsively prior to the seven processions with the Torah Scrolls on Simchat Torah. Back
  75. Leading the women in elegies and lamentation. Back
  76. “Folks-Schulen” are elementary schools. Back
  77. “Tisha B'Av” occurs on the 9th of Av and is the anniversary of the destruction of both temples and is a day of mourning. If the 8th of Av occurs on the Sabbath, the observance itself is postponed until Saturday night and Sunday, the 10th of Av. Back
  78. “Ersatz broyt” is “substitute bread.” Back
  79. “Keren Hayesod” refers to a “National Fund.” Back
  80. “Talmud Torah “ is a Jewish elementary school. Back

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