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1. From its Beginnings Until 1919
A. From its founding until 1772
Brody was established in 1584 by an overlord, the Nobleman Stanislav Zolkiewski, and in that same year the king gave it the status of a city. After a while, the city became known as Lyubeshov. Until the separation of Poland in 1772, it changed ownership among several different noble families, and in 1682 even belonged to the heir-apparent Jakub Ludwig Sobieski. He subsequently sold it to a representative of the Potocki family in 1704.
Important stages in the economic development of Brody were, among others, in 1633, the granting of the right of emporium by the king (the mandatory overnight storage of items in-transit, and preferential right of purchase for the inhabitants of the city); the building of a castle and fortifications around the city in 1630-1635; and the construction of a factory to weave silk and woolen fabrics, for which purpose Scots, Armenians and Greeks were brought to settle in the city. However, Brody's development was impeded by the Cossack siege in 1648 and the plague which followed it; by the great fires of 1696 and 1742, which burned down whole quarters of the city; and by the invasions of the Russian and Tartar armies in the early years of the 18th century. Nonetheless, the city's geographically advantageous position and its continuous improvement by the overlords who were among the most important families of the Polish nobility, made it one of the region's most important and best developed cities at the time both in population and economy.
The Jews settled in Brody from its establishment as a city, and documents from 1588 list its first Jewish inhabitants. In the 1590's, the Street of the Jews is already mentioned as well as the name of Abraham, the son of Brody's Rabbi. In their concern for the development of the city, Brody's overlords granted the Jews rights almost on a par with those granted other settlers (Poles, Ruthenians, Armenians, and even Scots) and, as a result, the number of Jewish settlers increased. Many of the Jews in the town fell victim to the plague of 1648, and its survivors were again harmed in the Tartar invasion of 1651. The number of Jewish settlers increased again during the 1670's as a result of the influx of Jewish refugees flowing from neighboring Podolia in the wake of the war with the Turks, and from areas in the Ukraine which were given over to the Cossacks. The tenuous stability was again rocked by Turkish invasions in 1696, and by a fire in the same year which consumed in its path dozens of Jewish houses. Lost in the devastation was also the Community Council Building with its archives in which were the charters attesting to the rights and privileges granted the Jews until that time.
Responding to their request, in 1699 the city's then-overlord presented the Jewish community with a new charter which reiterated both older and more recent rights granted pertaining to various areas. This charter was authorized by the city's overlords from then on until the partition of Poland in 1772. According to the charter, the Jews were permitted to live, buy or build homes and open businesses in all parts of the city, as well as to deal in any type of business - on condition that these ventures did not violate the privileges that had been granted to the Christian guilds. The Jews were exempted from surcharges exacted on behalf of the city and fortress, except those related to fire-fighting or against enemy attack. They were obligated to pay a third of the city's expenses as well as Royal Treasury taxes including head-tax. Brody's Jews were permitted to vote for city officers; knowledge and consent of community representatives was required both for taxation by the city and for selection of officials responsible for supervising the marketplace and the weights and measures. The privileges noted above also included rights regarding freedom of religion, the autonomy of the Jewish religious courts, etc., and over all, ranked Brody's Jewry about equally with the rest of the population in legal matters. This was a phenomenon rare during this period, compared to the majority of Jewish communities in other cities whether privately-owned (by overlords) or part of the royal jurisdiction.
However, the Jews of Brody were not allowed to live in peace. At the beginning of the 18th century they were sorely hurt by the invasions of the Tartar and Russian armies and by the general anarchy that reigned in all of Poland at the time, to the extent that a number of Jewish families were forced to uproot and move to Germany. Attacks on Jews also increased, the most notorious occurring during the mass riots of 1718.
An expression of the Catholic reaction that was widespread in Poland was the attempt of the Bishop of Lutsk, Bishop Kobielski, to create souls for the Church in Brody as well as in other cities. In 1743, a religious disputation a la Middle Ages was forced upon the community leaders. The definitive answer was given on questions about the coming of the Savior and other such topics by the rabbis and community leaders. [Something in the original was apparently omitted here.] The replies were apparently drafted by the doctor of the community, Dr. Abraham Uziel, a Talmudist and scholar. The Bishop produced other missionizing pastoral letters, aided by a similar letter of 1751 by the Pope. But when it became apparent that this missionary attempt was in vain, the Bishop then influenced the overlord of the city, Potocki, who jailed Brody's community leaders and even those of other Polish towns who had convened to offer whatever assistance [was] possible during this difficult period. The prisoners were released only after a large ransom was paid to the overlords of the city. (This event was like a foreshadowing of the storm that ravaged Reisen on the heels of the Frankist scandal.)
However, the status of the Jews of Brody was not diminished, and on the eve of the partition the Jewish community of Brody numbered the largest in all of Poland.
At the beginning of their settlement in Brody, the Jews supported themselves mostly by lending money (with interest and against security) to local merchants and manual laborers (not necessarily Jewish), and from real estate leasing and purchase for resale. In 1620-1633 alone, the number of home purchases within the city proper reached 30 in number, with 13 resales. In addition, the Jews also sold and built homes in the outlying areas and within the estates of the nobility of the surrounding area. In documents of this period, the Jews are mentioned as major money-lenders and leasers (of taxes, manors, forests, breweries). Generally, and particularly in the days of the anti-Jewish decrees of 1648-49, most Jews supported themselves through trade and the crafts. After their major competitors left the city the Scots in 1648 and the Armenians in the 1740's their chances for success really improved. In the latter half of the 17th century, Jews were counted among the city's manual laborers, as tailors, furriers, and butchers but also as metal smiths, Turkish belt makers, fabric dyers, saddlers, and pharmacists.
From the beginning of the 18th century, great changes took place in the financial structure of the Jewish community of Brody. First and foremost, Brody's concentration on foreign trade increased. Jewish merchants from Brody were among the regular visitors at the fairs of Leipzig and Breslau. After the conflagrations of 1742 and 1748, the overlord Potocki shored up the Jews of Brody by allowing them considerable credit and giving them partial exemption from tax payments, thus allowing them to rehabilitate themselves and even advance their economic position. The overlords guaranteed the supply of their goods, did not adhere stringently to the road taxes and protected them from the oppression of the nobility. Wielding the power of their authority as lords of vast manors, and even using the aid of mercenaries, they were able to force other merchants within their manors to visit the trade fairs of Brody on their way to Lvov. For the most part, the Jews were the leasing agents and business managers of the many manors of members of the Potocki family. Many merchants, wholesalers, shopkeepers and laborers found their livelihood under the auspices of the leasing agents. Toward the end of the Polish sovereignty, unlike any other Jewish community in the Reisen region, the Jewish position in Brody was based on solid economic underpinnings.
In Brody proper and in its 14 dependent settlements there were, in 1765, 15 leasing agents, 3 distillery owners, 4 taverners. Of 737 providers (50% heads-of-households, the remainder apparently were sons-in-laws living with their in-laws, elderly or unskilled people), 147 were in trade, with a hand in practically every branch of business in Brody at that time (such as marketing, wines and liquors, grain and flour, iron, furs, horses and cattle, fabrics, spices, books and more), 5 in industry (of whom 4 manufactured soap, and one candles); in crafts 326, represented in every kind of craft.
The standing of the 136 tailors in town was special in that there was not a non-Jew among them. The Tailors' Union that was started in Brody at the beginning of the 18th century wielded great influence in the community; they appointed their own rabbi, who was highly respected within the Rabbinic circle. Decorators and jewelers were organized into guilds, the only ones of their kind in the city. The flour merchants also banded together into a merchant fellowship, and they too had their own rabbi.
Throughout the region, the reputation of Jewish cordmakers and construction workers created a demand for their work. Eighty-nine people found their employment as workers and assistants, and 18 wagon-drivers served the transport needs in town and inter-city. Others in service professions included 15 classified as sundry professionals (including musicians, waiters for religious celebrations, general waiters and others). Testimony to the solidarity of the financial standing of the Brody community is the fact that it was able to support 163 working men or independent professionals: 5 rabbis one for the city and 4 who served other townships but lived in Brody, 27 City Council clerks; 3 community scribes; 9 cantors; 2 ba'alei tefillah (prayer leaders), 7 teachers and their assistants, 2 maggidim (popular preachers), 6 Torah scribes, 11 medical specialists, 12 healers and barbers, 19 pharmacists, and 1 tax collector.
The latter part of the 16th century, the period of the earliest Jewish settlement in Brody, saw the start of its Jewish community organization. In 1599 we already find mention of a synagogue, cemetery and mikveh (ritual bath), and not long thereafter, the remaining institutions of the Jewish community were established. In 1612 the overlords gave the Jewish community financial support to develop these institutions. The first synagogue went up in flames in 1742 and, in its place, a fortress-style mansion was built that stood until the Second World War. [The 1742 date may represent an error introduced in translating or type-setting Gelber's original. The Encyclopedia Judaica refers to the fortress-style synagogue as a 17th-century structure.] Beside the synagogue, a bait midrash (house of study) was erected which was apparently rebuilt in 1801 and called the New Synagogue. The hekdesh (community shelter) is already mentioned in 1699 as the Jewish Hospital. The earliest headstones in the old cemetery, used by the Jews until 1831, date from the start of the 17th century. The Hevra Kadisha (Jewish Burial Society) was founded in the 1680's. The Bikkur Holim (Society for Visiting the Sick) maintained its own doctor who was known as the Bikkur Holim doctor. At the same time other charitable organizations and educational institutions were founded, e.g., Talmud Torah Society, Mishna Society, Azdatha Society, and others.
At the beginning, the community was headed by four parnassim (an honorary title given to community leaders). In the second half of the 17th century, we know their names: Yechiel b. (son of) Moses Isaac, Abraham Hirsch from Preislav, Ziskind b. Obadiah Lechwitzer, and Yeruham b. Yehuda-Leib. They were counted among the Regional Councilmen in Lvov.
As the strength of [the] Brody community grew, so did its influence in the Council of the State of Reisen as well as the Council of the Four Lands. Brody was one of nine independent communities that belonged to the Lvov Region. After the anti-Jewish decrees of 1648 and 1649, when the prestige of Lvov had waned, the Brody community (together with a few other communities) came out against Lvov, the chief community, with the aim of limiting its status. From then on, the importance of the Brody community increased on the Reisen State Council.
In 1677 Menachem-Mendel b. Nathan of Brody participated in the meeting of the Council of the Four Lands in Poland, and in 1700 he was still a member of the Lvov Regional Council.
In the beginning of the 18th century, the role of Jacob Abraham b. Isaac is outstanding among the parnassim, serving as head of the Lvov Council in 1717-18.
Mordecai ABaD of Brody fulfills an important role on the Council of the Four Lands as a trustee in 1724. Among other responsibilities, it falls upon him to distribute the quotas of the head tax to the Jewish communities in all of Poland.
In the Regional Council of 1740 held in Brze zany (Buchach), the permanent make-up of the Council was set at 13 members, of whom 4 were representatives of the Brody community.
As a major Jewish center, Brody was also home to some of the generation's greatest rabbis. We have no records of the earliest rabbis of the community. The first rabbi known to us was Rabbi Saul Katzenellenbogen b. Rabbi Moses b. Meir, the rabbi of Chelm. Rabbi Katzenellenbogen was appointed rabbi for the community in 1664, and retained the position until the late 70's. From Brody he went to officiate in Chelm, and left there for Pinchev (Pinczow) in 1784.
Of the rabbis who followed him, the majority of whom served as Heads of the Rabbinical Court of Brody and the region, the best known are:
Rabbi Isaac b. Issachar-Berish, who was known as Cracower (after his birthplace), a leader of the Council of the Four Lands and the grandson of Rabbi Heschel of Cracow, Rabbi Isaac headed the Brody community in the years 1690-1704. As a mark of respect and esteem, his children were known as children of the 'ABaD,' the Av Bait Din (Head of the Rabbinic Court), or 'BABaD' (B'nai' Av' Bait Din); and in Polish documentation Rabinovitz, that is, son of the Rabbi. (The Babad family attained great importance in the life of the Brody community and achieved similar standing in the autonomous Jewish institutions throughout Poland.)
Two years later. Rabbi Abraham Cahana b. Rabbi Shalom Shachna, a parnas of the Cracow community, was elected. He presided in Brody until 1718 when he was called to preside over Ostrog (Ostraha). However, he was forced to leave when an overlord of the city coveted his daughter. Rabbi Abraham returned temporarily to Brody, and in 1725 he was invited to serve as Rabbi in Dubno, where he died in 1731.
The position then passed to Rabbi Eliezer Rokeach, who had previously (1714-1718) served as a judge in Brody. Rabbi Eliezer was known as a staunch opponent of Shabbateanism (among other measures, he agreed to the banning of the books of Rabbi Moses Hayyim Luzzatto, who was suspected of Shabbateanism). In 1735, Rabbi Eliezer was invited to preside over the Ashkenazi community in Amsterdam. Because of strife in the city, he subsequenty left and emigrated to Eretz Israel in 1740. He died there in 1745.
Some of Rabbi Eliezer's published writings are: Ma'asei Rokeach on the Mishnayol, Ma'asei Rokeach on the Torah; Arba'ah Turei Even including 24 responsa, and a commentary on the Haggadah of Passover.
Rabbi Jacob-Jokel Horowitz headed the Rabbinate of Brody for 11 years starting in 1736. Due to the rabbi's verdict against the daughter of an important family, who had been charged with adultery before a civil court, Rabbi Jacob was forced to leave Brody and moved to Glogau, where he served as rabbi from 1747.
Thereafter, Rabbi Nathan-Note b. Rabbi Arieh, the rabbi of Slutsk, served. Luck also did not shine upon him, and after initiating the Rabbinical Congress of 1756 in Brody, at which the excommunication order against Jacob Frank and his followers was imposed, he was compelled by the authorities to renounce his post. He did not take a rabbinical appointment in any other Jewish community, but rather continued to live in Brody supported by the community.
In 1760, the son of Rabbi Jacob-Jokel, Rabbi Isaac Ha-Levi Horowitz, nicknamed Hamburger, was appointed as rabbi. After five years, following the death of Rabbi Jonathan Eybeschuetz, he was appointed Rabbi of the Hamburg communities ('AH W' Altona, Hamburg, Wandsbeck).
Rabbi Joseph Shatzkes, who was vice-president of the Lvov Region, was appointed after him.
After Shatzkes's death in 1771, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch b. Rabbi Benjamin Buska was appointed as Head of the Rabbinical Court in Brody. He continued in that position until 1785, when he moved to Glogau (where he also ran a Yeshiva for advanced students). In 1801 he was accepted as Rabbi of the Hamburg community, serving there until his death in 1806.
In addition to the above-mentioned rabbis, who for the most part held the position of ABa''D for Brody and the region, there were in Brody in the 18th century 4 groups of rabbinical judges led by the Heads of the Rabbinical Court. Along with the judges there were outstanding scholars, who were famous not only in Brody but throughout Poland and beyond. Rabbi Ezekiel Landau, author of the Noda bi- Yehudah, and Rabbi Meir Margoliouth, author of the Meir Netivim, were among those who served as judges.
Brody was also renowned for its maggidim. Among the more noted were: Rabbis Meyer of Oskol, Moses Osterer, Menachem-Mendel Zholkever, Peretz b. Moses, Eliezer-Fishel of Chishinau (Kishinev), and Shiomo Kluger. Many of them had their drashot (teaching lectures) put into written form, and they were quite well-known in their time.
One of the more interesting chapters, both in the history of the community of Brody and of the scholars and scholarship in all of Poland at the time, is that of the Wise Men of the Kloiz of the Holy Community of Brody.
Over a period of almost 80 years (from the 1730's to the end of the 18th century) the learned of Brody, or rabbis and scholars from the towns of the area, sat learning steadily, from Sabbath to Sabbath, in the large bait midrash called a kloiz: (a smaller, more informal house of worship and study), near the old synagogue. These scholars enhanced the honor of the Torah through their writings and by dint of study, debate, and exchange of opinions with the greatest Torah scholars in the world of their time. Among the scholars were those who knew Kabbalah, and they had their own shtibl (small house of prayer) near the kloiz. The community of Brody took care of the material needs of the scholars of the kloiz, establishing a fund for this purpose from contributions by the rich men of Brody. Of the dozens of scholars of the kloiz, we will note but a few. Rabbi Hayyim b. Menahem Zanzer (1720-1783), whose knowledge of the revealed and the hidden surpassed the rabbis of Brody and the surrounding area. In matters of religious law, he was among the most stringent. In the Emden-Eybeschuetz argument he sided with Rabbi Jacob Emden, and was one of the organizers of the Rabbinical Congress of Brody in 1752, that banned the Koach Ha-Kameiot and other Eybeschuetz writings. Some of Rabbi Hayyim's many writings: Neder Bar Kodesh about the Ethics of our Fathers; Hod Tehilla on Hanukkah topics, were published posthumously.
Rabbi Nathan b. Levi, a famous Hasid, was known as a vigorous opponent of Shabbateanism and Frankism. It was his opinions that shifted the balance against the writings of Rabbi Jonathan Eybeschuetz in 1752, having them declared absolute heresy.
Rabbi Ezekiel Landau, author of the Nuda bi-Yehudah, settled and studied in Brody for a few years. He differed with most of the scholars of the kloiz concerning Rabbi Eybeschuetz, and attempted to prevent the banning of his works.
At about the same time, Rabbi Abraham Gershon Kitover, the Ba'al Shem Tov's brother in-law, came from his native town of Dubno to live in Brody and be part of the kloiz. Kitover served for many years as substitute rabbi to Moses Osterer b. Hillel of Zamosc. He achieved fame with his book Arugot Ha-Bosem. Rabbi Kitover emigrated from Brody to Eretz Israel in 1747 and died in 1784.
The brother of Rabbi Nathan b. Levi (noted above), Rabbi Naftali b. Levi, author of Bait Levi and Ateret Shlomo, was also outstanding among the scholars of the kloiz in Brody.
(Also in Brody was the bait midrash, a kind of small kloiz, founded by parnas Rabbi Jacob Babad, where scholars of Brody and learned men from the surrounding cities also immersed themselves in Torah study.)
Brody was a community which blended both a large economically stable Jewish population, influential in the region and country, and Torah. (The generation's greatest scholars settled in Brody or streamed to it.) Is it any wonder, then, that its parnassim, rabbis and the best of its scholars would respond to every attempt to breach the walls of what was acceptable in thought and deed within the Polish Jewish community of that time?
In Brody on June 13, 1756, an excommunication and curse was pronounced on The Sinners (the members of the Jacob Frank cult) as well as upon their families and those who followed or protected them. The excommunication notice was distributed throughout the Jewish communities, and was repeated a year later at the Four Lands Council in Konstantynow, thus it received general acceptance and compliance throughout Poland. The Frankists had no following in Brody before their conversion, and also afterwards none was recorded in this community.
The character of the Brody community did not help Hasidism strike roots, from the first Hasidism at the time of the Ba'al Shem Tov or immediately following. Even Rabbi Gershon Kitover and Rabbi Mechi of Zlochev did not succeed in gaining adherents for this new movement, even though they lived in Brody for some time. As a result of the excommunication of the Hasidim in 1772 by the Vilna (Vilnius) community, the Jews of Brody also excommunicated them that same year. Unlike Vilna, however, the Brody community did not go to extremes. The Jews of Brody did not declare the sect of the Hasidim as outside of the community of Israel, but limited their rights and their expansion. And yet, in spite of Hasidism's gains in many communities from the end of the 18th to the beginning of the 19th centuries, it did not take hold in Brody.
B. The Period of the Austrian Conquest
When Brody entered its Austrian period, the majority of its residents were Jews and its economy was unique to the region because of its diversified economic ties with the East (as far as Persia, Russian Siberia and China); the West (Breslau, Leipzig, Frankfort-am-Main and am-Oder, and England); the North (Danzig); and the South (the lands of the Austrian Empire). In spite of the chaos of armies passing through the city in 1771-1772 and in the Kosciuszko rebellion of 1794, and in the period of the Napoleonic Wars until the Viennese Congress in 1815, the residents knew how to cope with difficulties and even continue with their businessses, crafts and development of the city.
The Austrian authorities, who knew the importance of the city, did come to their aid, established the regional government there, and in 1779 declared it an Open City. Still, as was done in the other cities of Galicia, so also in Brody, Empress Maria Theresa's policy toward the Jews and the Edict of Toleration of Tsar Josef the Second were put into effect as an expression of the official Europeanization of the Jews and to increase their efficiency. The truth is that heavy special taxes were levied on the Jews, the authority of their autonomous institutions was revoked, and even their natural procreation was restricted.
The city's overlord, Count Potocki, also attempted to force the Jews from the manufacture and sale of beverages, and also refused to cancel the taxes he had till then levied on the Jewish settlers of the city as its overlord, even though the Austrian Constitution did not recognize the rights that stemmed from the private ownership of cities. When the Jews refused to pay these taxes, the overlord resorted to harsh measures. He impounded their properties and even ordered the imprisonment of those who refused to pay.
The municipality as well saw this as an opportune time to harm the Jews, who were a thorn in the side of a part of the new Austrian administration. In 1780, the representatives of the Jewish community presented a complaint to the authorities in Vienna and requested of them a letter of protection in order to defend their long-standing rights. However, it was not the kindness of the authorities but the Jews' standing in the economy of the city that enabled them to overcome the obstacles put in their way.
In 1799, the number of Jews in Brody increased to 14,105, representing 86% of the city's population. In 1784, the volume of trade of the city increased to 4,226,000 florins with the Jews having played a decisive role. Of the city's 79 wholesalers doing high-volume business in the years 1795-1797, there were three Christians; the rest were Jews. The Jewish agents of Brodian commerce worked out of Warsaw, Vienna and other places. At the same time, the standing of the Brody's Jewish manual laborers improved. As a result of the contacts between the Jews of Brody and the outside world, there arose within the Jewish community in Brody a number of worldly-wise people, and even truly enlightened ones, and they were the ones who found their way to the civil courts, and defended the rights of the entire Jewish settlement.
At that time, the Jewish community of Brody gained its reputation as the Jewish Amsterdam of the East. In fact, in 1820, there were 1,134 Jewish merchants, a large majority of the city's merchants, among whom there were 113 grain and food merchants, 137 haberdashers, 110 lingerie dealers, 41 spice merchants, 9 textile dealers, 8 fur merchants, 7 preservatives manufacturers, 7 taverners, 214 wholesalers and 343 store keepers and peddlers. Dealing in credit and money-changing at that time there were 9 bankers and 36 money-changers. In Brody that same year, there were 393 Jewish crafts-men (this number does not include repairmen of various sorts, but only those with workshops), and they represented practically all the professions. They included 110 tailors, 14 cordmakers, 47 gold and silver smiths, 5 watchmakers, 9 cabinet makers, 20 construction carpenters, 4 tinsmiths, 11 glaziers, 4 engravers, 13 strapmakers, 7 toolers of brass, 4 painters, 2 artists, 1 gold-designer, 30 butchers, 9 sundry professionals and 118 furriers. In the ensuing years the number of furriers grew even more when Brody became a world center for the trade of furs, imported to Brody from the Ural Mountains and Siberia by way of Odessa and then reexported to the fairs at Leipzig the world fur trading center from then on up to the Second World War.
Among the pioneers on a global scale in this trade was the Jewish Hermelein family of Brody, especially Jacob Hermelein who, in 1825, established a large trading house in Leipzig and a fur factory in Brody. In 1830, his son Mordecai was named as chief agent of the fur fair in Leipzig. Both the trading house and factory that they established in Brody survived until the end of the 1870's, while the trading house in Leipzig was in operation until the Nazis came to power in 1933.
In the 1820's, the number of Jews from Brody settling in Odessa increased, and their presence contributed significantly to the rise of that city as a commercial center. They established a school in 1826 where, in addition to Hebrew, Russian and German were also taught, and in its opening year about 200 students were enrolled. At the same time, a number of families from Brody also settled in Vienna, in spite of the prohibition against Galician Jews settling there.
The financial prosperity of the Jewish settlement in Brody continued until the end of the 1880's. In 1879, the status of Brody as an open city was canceled, among other things due to the building of the rail line to Russia via Podolsk, thus changing the status of Brody to a transit station for goods imported from and exported to Russia. From then on Brody declined until it became just another of the poor cities on the northern border of Galicia. The number of wholesalers dwindled and, perforce, the situation of the various brokers, money-changers, clerks and hired help also declined, along with that of the craftsmen who earned their income through their association with the big businessmen. The vast transit traffic became, occasionally, ventures in smuggling. Then a mass out-migration of the Jews began, especially of the merchants, to Lvov and even overseas.
The crises that marked the beginning of the 20th century made the financial plight of the Jews of Brody even worse. Such employment as was available was in plants that had been originally established by Jewish entrepreneurs: the flour mill, the rice mill, a ceramics painting factory, two sawmills and a plant for producing liqueurs and whiskeys. The hundreds of the most impoverished then found a meager livelihood plucking feathers and processing them at home.
In the first half of the 19th century there was some improvement in the political status of the Jews of Brody. This found expression in the altitude of the municipality and the local Jews. Meir Kalir, who headed the enlightened circles and was known as a community activist, was elected member of the City Council in 1834 and did much for the development of the city. In 1843, the authorities also elected him to the Court of Trade and Contracts, and here, too, he advanced the development of business in Brody.
The Jews of Brody reacted enthusiastically to the events of the revolution of 1848 by increasing their lobbying not just for themselves but for the whole of Galician Jewry. In a memo presented to the Emperor already in 1847, they requested the abolition of the restrictions placed upon Jews, and primarily the special tax. In the revolutionary period, the Poles showed friendship to their Jewish compatriots, as in the rest of Galicia, out of their desire to win the Jews as allies in their own struggle to broaden their rights in an autonomous Galicia.
However, quickly enough Jewish hopes for equal rights were quashed; the special taxes were not repeated, and in recognition of the community's growth, a decree came through of conscription to the army. This last was enforced with much cruelty: when the Jews resisted the recruitment notice, military units came into the city, with soldiers dragging some 300 Jewish men to the recruitment office by force, regardless of whether or not they were recruitable.
After a number of years, the Jews of Brody finally made their peace with the decree, and a sizable number of Brody's Jews even became career officers in the Austrian army. A National Guard was established in the city, most of whose members were Jewish, a fact which roused the anger of municipal officials.
For the first Galician Sejm, which was announced in April 1848, the only delegate elected to represent Brody, receiving both Jewish and Christian votes, was Meir Kalir.
In their fight for equal rights, which continued until 1868, the Jews of Brody, particularly the intellectuals, adopted a pro-German centralist orientation of the Shomer Yisrael organization, in contrast to the pro-Polish orientation which gained strength among the Jews in other cities, such as Lvov and Cracow. The Jewish representatives of Brody to the Galician Sejm generally joined the Constitutional Party.
In the elections for the Viennese Parliament, most of the Jews of Brody supported candidates representing the German Centralist position, therefore to the Poles and to the pro-Polish assimilating Jews Brody was considered a nest of Germanization in Galicia. It may be that this aided the Jews of Brody in overcoming the municipal election by-laws of 1867, according to which Jews in all the cities were allotted a maximum of a third of the elected municipal positions. In March of 1867 the Kaiser approved the Galician Sejm's decision granting the Jews of Brody permission to receive not a third but as much as half of the City Council positions.
With its annexation to Austria, the Jewish community of Brody continued its important role in the lives of the Jewish public in Galicia. Appointed as Chief Rabbi to oversee Jewish affairs in Galicia was Rabbi Arieh Leib Bernstein of Brody, although from the outset, his personality and the nature of his position which basically served as a vehicle through which the authorities could implement governmental mandates stirred up great opposition among the Jews of Brody and in Galicia itself. The man himself was known for his corruption and the exploitation of his position for his own personal benefit (the imposition of taxes as he saw fit, exploiting leasing contracts, etc.). Under the pressure of the Community Councils and in consideration of the unrest that had been created, the authorities eliminated the position in 1786.
The Kehillah of Brody wrestled with difficult problems such as removing the Community debts that had accumulated over the years, army recruitment or the ransoming of draftees with Community funds, and the settlement of Jewish families in the village according to the government plan of 1785 for the productivization of the Jews. The quota placed upon the Jews of Brody was 128 families for agricultural settlement. Until 1803, the Brody Community managed to fill its quota and settle the entire 128 families on the land. However, over the years only a few of the governmentally-motivated settlers continued to farm, and the rest went back to live and earn their livings in the cities.
At that time, opponents of the Community Council from among the tenant-farmers clashed with it, and every now and then there was even informing to the authorities. With the rise of the influence of the Maskilim (the Enlightened) in the 30's of the 19th century, they gained control of the Community Council in Brody and their rule was uncontested, even though the Ultra-Orthodox and the Hasidim from time to time ventured to seize the reins of leadership (especially in the 80's of that century), but only with the growing strength of the Zionist Movement at the beginning of the 20th century did changes occur in the composition of the Community Council. In 1912, 4 Zionist representatives were elected to the Council, and in the First World War years the Zionist writer Nachman Gelber headed the Council, which had an absolute Zionist majority.
The seat of the Rabbinate in Brody, as stated, was held by well-known Rabbis. After Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Bushka left Brody for Glogau, there were two candidates:
Rabbi Ya'akovke Landau (son of the Noda Bi-Yehudah, a community worker and intercessor who more than once represented the Brody community belore the authorities in Lvov and in the capital, Vienna.
Rabbi Meir Kristianpoller b. Rabbi Moses, the Rabad in Lvov, was the rival candidate. The latter was chosen as Rabbi and served in his post from 1785 until his death in 1815.
Chosen to succeed him was Rabbi Aryeh Leib Teomim, the grandson of the Noda Bi-Yehudah and author of Ayyelet Ahavim and the Ya'alat Chen. He served until 1831.
During his tenure, Rabbi Moses Kluger, a well-known scholar, was engaged as Rabad.
Along with Rabbi Aryeh Leib Teomim, Rabbi Eliezer Landau also served, but he did not live long and died of the cholera plague in 1831.
He was succeeded in the Rabbinate by the son of Rabbi Meir Kristianpoller, Rabbi Yechiel Mechl Benzion, who held the post until 1863.
After his death, the post was occupied for a prolonged period in Brody by a team of dayyanim (rabbis who served as religious court judges).
(From 1867-1903 Rabbi Menahem Mendel Schor, author of Torat Mena-hem, was added).
In 1894, Rabbi Yitzhak Hayyot,son of Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Hayyot, was appointed.
In 1908 Rabbi Abraham Mendel Ha-Levi Steinberg was chosen and continued in that post until 1928.
In the first quarter of the 19th century a concerted effort was made to improve the condition of the Community and its institutions. The New Synagogue was built in 1801; study conditions were improved in the Talmud Torah (religious elementary school) that existed since 1762; a curriculum was firmed up that included, in addition to religious studies, the study of writing and arithmetic. An organized Jewish hospital, well-equipped for its time, was built in 1815. At approximately the same time, a Poor House was erected where the indigent coming from outside the city could have food and lodging, and supplies for the road when they left.
All the aforementioned institutions were maintained by the Community and private contributors; well-known among them were the Nathanson and Kalir families. Especially prominent was Meir Kalir (died in 1875), who was one of the first to take the initiative to establish welfare institutions in Brody, and with his funding these institutions were set up and maintained. In addition to the hospital, through his initiative the Old Age Home, the Free Loan Society, and the community Soup Kitchen were established. In the 50's of the century, he established a Fund for scholarships for students of the general Jewish school to continue their education and training in various trades, and a Society for the Clothing of School Children and for providing them with school books free of charge.
In the 40's, a Society for Dealing with Poor Orphans was set up. Their number had grown especially after the cholera epidemic of 1830. After a while, an orphanage for boys and girls was established. In 1860, a charitable organization to support the ill, Hesed Ve Emet (Loving-kindness and Truth) was established, and in 1871 the Tomchei Almanot (Society for the Support of Widows).
In 1867 a great fire broke out in the city; about 800 homes went up in smoke, mostly Jewish, and there is no need to say that many of the burned out needed immediate support from the Community. The Public Kitchen was erected in 1878 and provided free meals to the city's indigent.
From the 80's till the end of the period the Brody Community bore a heavy burden bound up with caring for the Russian refugees. Brody was a transit station on the journey overseas, even a stopping-off place for a number of years. This was a matter of hundreds and thousands of refugees who were in need of shelter and life-sustaining basics, and in these years the sources of livelihood for the people of Brody themselves had lessened and even many of them needed help. Eight hundred fifteen [people] borrowed from it [?].
The unique status of Jewish Brody among the communities of the region was also shaped by its having been the center of Jewish scholars and Torah greats in the 18th century, and the center of the Enlightenment and the Maskilim in the 19th century. Already in the 18th century, the Jews of Brody were the first among the Jews of Galicia to be attracted to general education and what it could offer. The pioneers of Europeanization came from the ranks of the large merchants, their children and their functionaries who came in touch with the outside world and needed to know its wisdom and its foreign languages as well as from the physicians, graduates of European colleges who settled in Brody.
Israel from Zamoshtz, Moses Mendelssohn's teacher, lived in Brody (1752-1772), as did Mendel Lapin Satanover (at the start of the 19th century), Isaac Ber Levinsohn (1817-1820), Jacob Samuel Bick (1770-1831), Isaac Erter (1818-1825), Nachman Krochmal, S. I. Rapaport and others, who were considered the pillars of the Enlightenment in their generation. In the mid-19th century there lived in Brody the well-known Maskilim Dov-Ber Blumenfeld and Yehoshua Heschel Schorr, in 1852-1899 the owner and publisher of Hechalutz, a Zionist periodical. Many of the Brody Maskilim were among the pioneers of Hebrew and Yiddish literature in Galicia.
Brody was the cradle of the first Yiddish theater groups. The Brody Singers groups were the world pioneers of the Yiddish theater. In 1862, the Society for the Seekers of the Hebrew Language was established in Brody (with an affiliated social club), its purpose being to develop Hebrew literature and the Hebrew language as a living, spoken tongue. In addition to Y. H. Schorr's Hechalutz, Baruch Werber, in 1865, established the Hebrew weekly Ivri Anokhi (I am a Hebrew), which appeared with brief interruptions until 1890.
Many of Brody's Maskilim were the disseminators of Enlightenment throughout Galicia, and even beyond it, after they left the city of their birth and settled in other places. Many born in Brody were active in the realms of non-Jewish science and literature, such as: the Orientalist Dr. Marcus Landau; Prof. Jacob Goldenthal; the writers Leo Hertzberg-Fraenkel and his son, Prof. Sigmund Hertzberg-Fraenkel (historian, and in 1905-1906 Rector of Chernowitz University), Hermann Menkes, Dr. Mark Wischnitzer and others. Among them, Prof. Dov Sadan, author and research scholar, should be noted.
The Zionist idea came up in the circles of the Hebrew language enthusiasts and grew particularly strong under the influence of the Russian refugees who reached Brody in the 80's. In 1890 the Zionist Organization was established in Brody and, in the course of time, was known to have had a decided influence upon the youth. It began its activity by organizing lectures and lessons in the Hebrew language. In 1899 the Organization had about 200 active members.
In 1903, the first Zionist group of high school graduates and practitioners of the free trades, Techiyyah, was organized, and it continued to exist until the outbreak of World War II. That same year, a branch of the Po'alei Zion (Zionist Workers) was organized in Brody and, in 1908, an organization of pioneer workers. This last group had been proceeded by the Halutzei Zion (Pioneers of Zion) organization (established in 1905-1906), under the leadership of the teacher and writer Yoseph Aharonovitch. Most of the organization's members immigrated to the Land of Israel with Aharonovitch or after him. In 1908 the lvriah Society was established in Brody, one of the first in Galicia, and in 1909 the Center (Bait Ha'am) built by the Zionist Organization was dedicated with festivity.
Through the influence of the student members of Techiyyah, the Ha-Shah-ar organization was established. Its purpose was to infect the students of the batei midrashim (the religious-studies schools) with the Zionist Idea and organize them to study the Hebrew language and general sciences. Within the framework of the Zionist Organization in Brody there were active Zionist Women's and Youth groups. In 1911, a youth group called Tze'irei Tzion was established. In those years, the activity and influence of the Zionists continued to grow and their movement became a mass endeavor. The Brody Zionists faced strong competition from the assimilationist-enlightened with a tradition of scores of years of influence upon the Jewish institutions and an uncontested right as the Jewish representation in the municipal institutions and the Galician Sejm.
In 1907, Adolf Stand, the Zionist leader in Galicia, was elected to the Galician Sejm from Brody. In 1912, 3 Zionists were elected to the City Council and 4 to the Jewish Community Council. In 1910-1914, the Jewish Community head was the Zionist activist and author, Nachman Gelber. Also active in Brody at that time were Agudat Ha-Poalim, a branch of the Polish Socialist Party (P.P.S.), and a branch of the Jewish Socialist Party (Z.P.S.), but the number of their members was very small and their influence on the life of the Jewish community was minimal.
The assimilationist Jewish intelligentsia centered around the Kidmah club, founded in the early 90's of the 19th century, but because of the decline of the general assimilationist status at that time, its functions had been curtailed.
The Ultra-Orthodox Machzikei Ha-Dat faced opposition from the radical Ultra-Orthodox on the one hand, and from the Zionists and the Labor Parties on the other. Its main political activity was during the elections for the Community or City Councils, through joint electoral machinations with the assimilationists.
Among the important merchants the influence of the Enlightenment since the 18th century was evidenced, among other things, in the tendency to provide their children with a general education. Since there was no school in Brody to provide it, they turned to private teachers. Even in Brody, an H. Homberg school that had been set up there failed, as it had elsewhere in Galicia, and the school was closed in 1806. In 1818, after many attempts, the Maskilim in Brody succeeded in receiving a permit from the authorities to establish a Jewish general studies (academic) school (a high school with two classes). The Ultra-Orthodox opposed the establishment of this school and set up a Yeshiva, but this was closed by order of the authorities after the Maskilim informed against the school's principal, Rabbi Zvi Hirsh Ha-Levi, and he was expelled from Brody. The aforementioned school wrestled with budgetary difficulties for years and had but a small number of students. Its condition was also not improved by the establishment, in 1823, of a kind of pre-high school (also of two classes), intended to prepare its students to enter the general studies school.
In 1854, a Jewish public school for boys and girls was opened following the program of the school set up by Joseph Perl in Tarnopol. Hirsh Reitman, a former teacher in Perl's school in Tarnopol, was put in charge. In 1855 the school had 416 children (248 boys and 168 girls), and in 1905 1,132 children (543 boys and 589 girls). From 1910 on, a pro-Polish assimilationist headed the school and a Poland first tendency came to dominate this institution. The school existed until World War II and was a major source of upset to the Ultra-Orthodox, who continued to send their children to the traditional institutions of learning only. In 1894, in Brody there were 14 heders (traditional elementary schools), ten teachers, and 413 pupils; and in 1905 24 heders, 48 teachers and 574 pupils. As was the practice in Galicia, the pupils of these elementary schools continued their studies in the many batei midrashim and kloizen, about 30 in number, under the supervision of the dayyanim or regular teachers.
In 1905, a Hebrew supplementary school in which the language of instruction was Hebrew was established, called Safah Hayyah (Living Language), and had some tens of students. Instruction in the Hebrew language for the children and the teenagers, however, was for the most part via Hebrew lessons at the Zionist parties and their clubhouses.
That also was the case with other activities of a cultural nature. In 1904, a Toynbee-Halle club was established in Brody in which many different sorts of activities to disseminate popular science took place, for the most part conducted by the Zionist intelligentsia. Libraries, groups, and clubs for enthusiasts of drama, literature, and other interests also existed at the Jewish Socialist parties, at the craftsmen's organization Arm of the Diligent and in the Jewish Vendors' Association. In 1907, the music group Ha-Zamir was established. In 1904, in Brody, a Jewish sports organization was set up and, in 1912, a branch of the Dror exercise association of Lvov.
C. World War I
Two weeks after the outbreak of World War I, on the 14th of August, 1914, the Russian forces took Brody. Upon entering the city, the Cossacks began to run wild, looting and plundering Jewish possessions, and there were many instances of women raped. A libel was circulated that the daughter of the owner of the Hotel Harash shot a Cossack. On this pretext the daughter was murdered and the Cossacks set fire to the Jewish Quarter. Many homes went up in smoke and the large synagogue was severely damaged. Almost all the Jews of substance left the city, and only the poor remained.
The Community Council, headed by Nachman Gelber, was faced with the difficult task of providing assistance to those in need. With the help of the Va'ad Ha-Hatzalah Ha-Yehudi (the Jewish Rescue Committee) of Kiev a public kitchen was set up to assist with food and clothing, mainly for the children. At that time, tens of thousands of Austrian prisoners of war, Jews among them, passed through Brody. The residents came to their aid with food and clothing and sometimes even succeeded in hiding them from the Russians until the danger passed, in spite of what could be expected from the police and the army if detected. When the Russians held the city, many of its Jews were deported to the interior of Russia.
In July 1915, the Austrian Army entered the city, but the situation of the local Jews was little improved because of the nearby battlefront which prevented normal living conditions. Nevertheless, even under these circumstances, the political parties resumed their activity, though on a limited scale of course. Among the rest, the Tze'irei Tzion Youth, which served as the basis for Ha-Shomer Ha-Tza'ir after the war, resumed its activity.
After the collapse of the Austrian regime, from the beginning of November 1918 until the end of June 1919, Brody was part of the Western Ukrainian Republic. The National Jewish Committee, headed by the Zionist leader, Dr. Abraham Glasberg, was set up there. The Ukrainian District Governor, the retired Judge Harassimovitz, was an out and out antisemite. In spite of the Ukrainian government's recognition of the National Jewish Committee, he refused to acknowledge it, schemed against the Jews at every opportunity, and even threatened them with riots.
In the face of the many needs of the impoverished Jewish community, the Committee was helpless and unable to worry about the many unemployed and the many with no means of support, and could not even provide any support whatever to the social institutions such as the orphanage, hospital, old-age home and community kitchen. In April 1919 many Jews and Poles were recruited for labor battalions.
At that same time, attacks on traveling Jews by Ukrainian soldiers were common. Four Jews were murdered, many beaten, and there were instances of rape. Jewish homes and stores were looted. In June 1919, 22 Jews were imprisoned, most of them respected members of the community, including Committee Chairman Glasberg. They were put in a railroad car to be transported to the East, but after intervention with the Chief of Police, and apparently a considerable ransom paid, the prisoners were released.
It should be noted that the Jews of Brody, even though they themselves were in distress, helped their Polish fellow citizens whose condition was also difficult. At that lime, some social and cultural activity was evidenced by the Zionist parties in Brody, mainly by the Po'alei Zion and the Ha-Shomer Hatza'ir. In August 1920, Brody was temporarily captured by the Red Army. After three days had passed relatively quietly, goods in the stores and even in private homes began to be confiscated. It should be noted that when the Polish priest was incarcerated, the Jews interceded for his release with the Soviet authorities and actually achieved it.
With the stabilization of the Polish regime in August 1920, the city quieted down and its inhabitants started rebuilding its financial and public life. But if in the 1880's there were already signs of the city's decline which continued till the outbreak of World War I, now in wartime the decline became even sharper and, by World War II, Brody had not yet fully recovered. The Jewish population (as did the city's general population) declined some 40% compared to its number in 1910.
The economic plight of the Jews was serious. The wholesale transfer of goods almost came to a halt because the city was cut off from the markets of Russia, Germany, and the vast Austrian Empire which had crumbled. Brody completely lost its standing as a commercial city situated on an important east-west and north-south crossroad. The extent of the local trade dwindled because of the decreasing population, the economic decline that affected all of Poland (the inflation and the crises), and the constant decline in the prices of the agricultural products which were the mainstay of the livelihood of those living around Brody. Only small businesses and peddling in the surrounding villages remained for the Jews, and even those seeking such a livelihood had stiff competition from the Ukrainian and Polish cooperatives which were established in the early twenties. Antisemitic attempts to boycott Jewish trade in the years before the outbreak of World War II also hurt the Jews.
On the heels of the decline in trade, the sources of livelihood of the Jewish craftsmen and small Jewish manufacturing were limited. In 1921, there were 229 Jewish workshops and factories in Brody, of which 92 were in clothing (tailor shops and haberdashery), 12 in leather goods, and 54 in food. Most serious was the plight of the Jewish workers (156 men, 85 women and 38 children): generally speaking, their workday was of undefined length; they had no health or unemployment insurance and therefore they were dismissed in the dead seasons or times of crisis. A significant percent of the providers of Brody were regularly unemployed and were supported by their families abroad or by the public dole. This economic situation worsened during the great crisis of 1929-1930, and the stagnation that followed continued until the Second World War.
In the years immediately following World War I, the Joint Distribution Committee came to the aid of the needy. It gave financial assistance to those whose homes and workshops had been damaged during the war. With its support, a Small Credit Union was established which, in 1925, had 561 members. That year, the Union granted its members 696 loans totaling 90,592 zloties. 56 [sic] The J.D.C. also supported the National Bank and the Free Loan Society. After the J.D.C.'s flow of support funds stopped, in 1931-33, the Free Loan Society distributed loans in the amount of 80,000 zloties to about 2,000 borrowers. Smaller funds for financial support also existed alongside the Jewish Merchants Union, the Arm of the Industrious and the Vita Jewish Citizens Union.
The social aid institutions which had existed in Brody for many years or had been reestablished between the two World Wars, coped with the problem of the constant shortages of the allocations needed to function properly. The Jewish Hospital, which had existed in Brody for about a hundred years, renovated its building in the 20's with the help of J.D.C. money and, in 1931, an infirmary was established from public donations in which about 100 sick people, not all of whom were Jewish, received daily care. To improve the health conditions, the TOZ (= Towarzystwo Ochrany Zdrowia) organization increased its activity in the late 30's. That same year, the organization held a summer camp for 100 children. The orphanage with its 30 charges, the old age home and the home for the crippled (about 40 people) were also supported till the end of the 20's by J.D.C. funds.
When the support was stopped, funding from the Kehillah and the municipality was insufficient, thus budget difficulties were overcome by public contributions and improvised aid activities. To increase the income for social assistance, a movie theater was established in 1929 whose entire proceeds were dedicated to the support of the above-mentioned social institutions. In 1938, the craftsmen's guild Kidmah contributed all its income to the Free Loan Society and those social organizations named above. The Council to Aid Poor Children (founded in 1936), the WIZO Organization, the student organization Achvah, and the Parents Council of the Jewish School also were busy with welfare and charitable activities. The latter daily distributed breakfasts and lunchs to the needy and also supplied them with clothing and shoes in the winter time. The Kehillah Council, whose annual budget lessened from year to year, found it ever more difficult to maintain its institutions and allocated very little to welfare needs, mainly for Passover alms for the poor. In the 30's, the number of petitioners continued to increase.
Heading the Council (until the 30's, mostly appointed by the authorities) were assimilated Jews close to the Polish regime, i. e., the 'Senation' (Bloch and after him Benjamin Kotin, Leon Kotin and Deodad-David Levin). In 1938, the Zionist Dr. Abraham Glasberg was elected as Head of the Kehillah and, as his assistant, Dr. Shlomo Shapira, also a Zionist. After the death of Rabbi Abraham Mendel Ha-Levi Steinberg in 1928, two contenders vied for the position of Rabbi of the city: the son of the deceased, R. Moses Steinberg, and R. Yosef Poppers-Babad who also had a strong claim. In the elections held in 1929 the votes were even, therefore Rabbi Yosef Poppers was chosen by lottery. Influenced by the supporters of R. Moses Steinberg, the authorities voided the elections and the dispute continued until 1934. In that year, R. Moses was appointed as President of the Rabbinic Court (Av Bait Din). His rival served then as Senior President of the Rabbinic Court (Rosh Av Bait Din) until the period of the Holocaust, in which he perished.
Until 1929, a Commissar appointed by the civil authorities governed in Brody. In the elections held that year, of the total of 48 Council representatives elected, 30 were Jewish. To keep the peace, the Jewish Councilmen voted for a Pole, Franchishek Gorka, for Mayor. Not only was he unfit for the position but he even misappropriated public funds. In the 1933 elections, under the new election law, of the total of 24 Councilmen, 10 Jews were elected and they only received the position of Vice Mayor. In 1939 no elections were held, and by inter-party agreement, City Council appointees were 7 Jews, 4 Ukrainians and 13 Poles. This time, too, the Jews received the post of Vice Mayor.
If for the Kehillah Council or for the City Council, the Jewish Zionist representatives had to compete with the Ultra-Orthodox and assimilated Jews, in the vote for the Sejm the Zionists received a decisive portion of the vote: in 1922, they received 2,794 votes out of a total of 3,741 Jewish votes, and in 1928 1,956 votes against only 392 votes for Agudat Israel.
As mentioned, in the period of the Western Ukrainian Republic, the Zionist parties that had existed till then renewed their activities. As time passed, most of the branches of all of the Zionist parties existing in Galicia were organized (General Zionists, Hit'achdut, Po'alei Zion, the Mizrachi, and the Revisionists), as well as the youth organizations (Ha-Shomer Ha-Tz-a'ir, Ha-No'ar Ha-Zioni, Ha-Shomer Ha-Dati, Beitar and Brith Ha-Hayyal, the General Zionists, and Achvah). Aside from these organizations, WIZO, He-Halutz and Ezra were also active. He-Halutz and Beitar maintained training [for] kibbutzim in the city.
The relative sizes of the Zionist organizations in the elections to the Zionist Congress were as follows:
|Number of Votes in Party or List||1931||1935|
|Eretz Yisrael Ha-Ovedet||-||508|
In the city there was a branch of Agudat Israel founded on the pre-World War I Ultra-Orthodox organizational base. What remained of the assimilationists gathered around the Kidmah club and the Organization of Jewish Women.
The members of the Communist Party and the Communist Youth Organization showed lively activity in the dissemination of information, whether legal or not. In 1933, a number of Jewish Party members from Brody were expelled from Poland. In 1937, 4 Jews, including a girl, were sentenced to 3-7 years imprisonment for belonging to the Communist Party. In 1938, again, 3 Jews from Brody were tried and sentenced to imprisonment. The community of Brody, which in the 19th century had earned the leadership of the Haskalah movement in Galicia by establishing modern schools, clubs for the dissemination of science, and drama and music groups, lost its standing in the period between the two World Wars. However, the public school for Jewish children founded in the mid-19th century continued to exist, and even grew from 4 to 7 classes (with 664 pupils in 1938) but its Jewish subjects were limited to the Religion of Moses only. Because of budgetary constraints, a complementary Hebrew School with up to 100 pupils at times existed off and on. In the Tarbut (Culture) kindergarten, established in 1925, there were at most another 40 children. In 1920, the Tzisha children's home was established, with 30 pupils. In 1933, WIZO founded a handicrafts school with 40 pupils.
Available to the local branches of the Zionist parties were libraries, and lectures were held in their clubs. The academicians' organization, Achvah, evidenced lively activity in the cultural field. Of the two organizations fostering music The Jewish Music Organization and the Zamir the first, which functioned sporadically, became a social club, and the second, which renewed its activity in 1923, and also functioned sporadically, maintained a choir and an orchestra, organized instrumental music lessons and even appeared in concerts in Brody and elsewhere.
In 1929, a Yiddish weekly called Broder Vochenblatt appeared irregularly.
The Jewish Association for Exercise renewed its activity in 1922, stopping in 1928-30, and restarting in 1931; however, it encompassed few sections of the population and had a very small membership.
Even though the Jews of Brody were a decided majority within the city, they were not spared antisemitic incidents. In 1923, there was an attempt to confiscate Jewish dwellings for the church; crucifixes were even brought in. When the Jews objected, many of the local Christians and those from the neighboring villages assembled and broke the windows of the synagogue and of Jewish homes. In the rioting, 12 Jews were hurt. In 1936, antisemitic handbills were distributed in the city. From 1934 and until the outbreak of World War II, there were instances of the arbitrary dismissal of Jews from their jobs in the municipality and its institutions. On the other hand, it should be noted that there were also showings of solidarity with the Jews. Thus, for example, in 1937, a Jew was chosen to head the Cobblers' Guild (it was accepted practice to rotate the head of the guild one year a Christian and one year a Jew). Then there were malicious rumors that the Jewish head of the guild had removed the cross from the group's flag. However, the Christian members of the guild stood by him and expressed full faith in him.
When the war broke out, Brody was captured by the Red Army on Yom Kippur night, 5700, September 23, 1939. As in all the places ruled by the Soviets, all the private plants, factories and stores in Brody were nationalized. The Jewish owners were allowed to continue working there as managers or as skilled craftsmen. The Va'ad Ha-Kehillah and its institutions were disbanded, as were the political parties. Few of the youth volunteered to travel to the Don River Basin to work, and when their work was completed, most of them returned to the city because of the Soviet Union's difficult working and living conditions. In 1939-1940, the Jews of Brody suffered a number of incarcerations of important merchants, manufacturers and community leaders. They were all exiled to the far ends of Russia (January 5, 1940).
When the Russo-German War broke out, the Commissar of the city, a Russian Jew named Katzman, publicly called upon the Jews, and especially the youth, to seek to escape into the Soviet Union. A sizable number of Jews were conscripted into the Soviet Army.
The Germans conquered the city on July 1, 1941. The persecutions typical of the Nazi forces occupying Poland began immediately. The wearing of the Star of David became mandatory; a 4:00 p.m. (or 6:00 p.m.) to 4:00 a.m. curfew was instituted; leaving the city was forbidden; the use of public transportation was forbidden; entering public places, walking on the main streets or public squares, even walking on the sidewalks was forbidden. The Jews were ordered to greet all German officials in uniform. They were allowed to shop for food only from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., when the shelves were already empty. They were forbidden all business and shop work. Mandatory labor was imposed upon Jewish males aged 14-65 and females aged 18-45. Jews were also forbidden to employ non-Jews.
In the first half of July, the Germans and Ukrainians conducted street hunts. They tortured and brutalized those Jews they caught, and some of them were sent to hard labor in the city. These vicious forays resulted in several hundred wounded and some dead. The most shocking event of those days was the murder of about 250 representatives of the Jewish intelligentsia, public and communally-involved personalities. They were invited to the Gestapo headquarters ostensibly to discuss general matters concerning the organization of the Jewish community's life in the city, but it was a trap. They were detained in the Gestapo building for two-three days, debased and tortured, and then conveyed to the lime pits near the old Jewish cemetery and shot to death (July 15-17, 1941). Only the doctors survived the Gestapo: the Germans released them because of the need to supply medical services to the city's population.
That month (July 1941) the authorities ordered lawyer Abraham Glasberg to form and head a Judenrat. Glasberg had headed the Community Va'ad (Council) before the war. A Jewish police force was also established. Hertz Buchbinder was appointed to head it (according to others it was Itche Katz, a Brody municipal clerk before the war).
One of the first tasks of the Judenrat was supplying Jewish work forces to the authorities 150 men a day. The authorities came to the Judenrat with never-ending demands to equip and furnish the apartments confiscated from the Jews to supply housing for the German officials. In August 1941 the Germans imposed a very heavy fine upon the Judenrat and immediately took a group of hostages. The authorities were now heavy-handedly collecting from the Jews late payments of taxes which had been due even before the war. If the person who owed the money was no longer in Brody, the debt fell upon the Judenrat, which activated a special department to handle these demands of the Germans.
Even though for a relatively long time (till the latter part of 1942 and the beginning of 1943) a ghetto was not established in Brody, the Jews lived under difficult, deteriorating conditions. They were plundered regularly by the Germans and Ukrainians, even thrown out of their homes, and therefore became crowded together more and more. They were deprived of their sources of income; their tools, wagons and horses were confiscated, and they were doomed to living on the official starvation rations. People of substance who were able to hide part of their assets maintained themselves by selling off items to non-Jews. There also were Jews who made a living from illegal trade, secretly manufacturing all sorts of products and working in shops. Many tried to work for the Germans, be it in forestry and sawmills, in agriculture (on nearby farms, which passed to the Germans), in the collection of rags and refuse (the companies: Alt- und Abfallstoff-Erfassung and Kaklitski), or as administrators for realtors and in factories that produced goods for the German Army. The leather merchant Mendel Reinhold and the group of Jews he employed used to buy pelts for the Germans and thus were permitted to roam freely about the area. In Brody a factory was activated that employed about 400 Jews. Working for the Germans was hard and the wage, if paid at all, was minimal, but it entitled one to extra food rations or dismal sustenance at the place of employment; mainly, it allowed illegal trade.
However, not just starvation, cold and crowded housing were the lot of the Jews of Brody. The constant attacks by the German and Ukrainian policemen on dwellings and passersby resulted in many victims injured and killed. The Nazis mainly maltreated those Jews who dressed traditionally. To the delight of the rabble, there were public shearings of their beards and sidelocks. In December 1941 the round-ups began (mainly men were seized, but sometimes women were also taken) for shipment to labor-camps in the region. The transport of young Jews to these camps now became a common sight. In the final count, more than 1,500 Jews from Brody were sent, most of whom succumbed because of the harsh conditions that prevailed in the camps. With the cooperation of the local chapter of the J.S.S. (Jüdische Selbststütze Jewish Self-Support), whose director was Leon Blaustein, the Judenrat, to the best of its ability, supplied the Brody camp prisoners with food and clothing, or served as intermediaries for the shipment of packages from family members to the camps. The J.S.S. chapter in Brody dealt with eight camps in the area.
At the end of the spring and in the summer of 1942, the inhabitants of Brody already knew of the liquidation actions in other cities, of the mass murders, and of the transport of Jews to extermination camps in Belzec.
Since it was commonly held that working papers protected one from the actions, the residents began to seek a work card for themselves under any condition, even those who until now had not been constrained to find work to support themselves. The Wehrmacht factories and the operations of the garbage company, Todt, were considered the most reliable in protecting their workers. The Jewish employment office directed by Holzsaeger (a former vegetable dealer) was now the most sought out institution, for it dealt with finding work. Jews paid huge bribes to German officials and influential Jewish ones for a good work card. To that end, connections and acquaintances were exploited. In August or September of 1942, the Gestapo ordered all the work cards of the Jews to be brought up to date. In the Grand Hotel building there was a special German stamping the documents with a new stamp. At the same time, by order of the authorities, the Judenrat prepared a list of all the unemployed Jews and of those 60 years of age and older.
On Shabbat Shuva (September 19, 1942) the surprise action started. German and Ukrainian policemen, aided by Jewish police, drove the Jews from their homes, grabbed them on the streets, and concentrated them in the market square. Many people locked themselves in their homes, hid in cellars, attics, and any hiding place they found, but the German and Ukrainian police fired into the places discovered and at those who attempted to run away. The sick were shot on the spot. In the yard of the Old Age Home, all the residents were slaughtered. The orphanage was destroyed together with its administrator, Nachum Okser. The corpses resulting from the action were loaded onto two large trucks and buried in a mass grave in the cemetery. Most of the people who had been caught were transferred from the market square to the train station and loaded onto freight cars, including many who were employed and whose work card provided no protection; even in the morning when the latter, group by group, went out to work, they were led straight to the station. Only a few were released. The action ended at six in the evening, and the Germans announced it with a great trumpet blast. That very evening the cars were sent to the death camp at Belzec. The action's blood bath resulted in 2,000 to 2,500 driven out and 250-300 dead on the spot.
The next day, Sunday, Yom Kippur Eve, the Jews who had hidden and not been discovered started coming out. Despite the tragic experience and loss of many relatives, the Jews of Brody congregated secretly and held their prayer services, for the authorities had forbade them public prayer.
A few weeks later (November 2, 1942) a second action was launched. This one paralleled the first in its form and number of casualties: 2,000-3,000 were transferred to Belzec, and many were murdered on the spot. This time, too, the work cards and plant emblems which workers pasted on their clothes did not provide adequate protection for their bearers. The abandoned Jewish apartments were stripped of all their contents for the German institutions, as had been done in the previous action.
After this radical reduction in the number of the Jews in Brody, the authorities began to concentrate the Jews of the surrounding towns and villages there. On December 13, 1942, the Jews from Podkamien were transferred to Brody, and on December 22-23, 1942, the Jews from the Dubie work-farm were brought in wagons, they and all their possessions. The latter were from the surrounding villages of Ponikwa, Suchodoly, Jasionow, and Wolochy. After their farms and everything on them had been confiscated, they were brought to work at the aforementioned Dubie farm.
Many Jews had come to Brody on their own initiative after escaping the liquidation actions in their own towns, for they knew that Brody did not yet have a ghetto. Thus, for example, many Jews found refuge here in November 1942 from neighboring Radziwillow, even though it was outside the boundaries of Galicia (in Volyn). In the latter part of 1942, many refugees came to Brody from Toporow, Sokolowka, Szczurowice, Podhorce, Lopatyn, Olesko, and Radziechow. The refugees were placed in houses emptied after the actions. The Judenrat, which was now headed by Rosenfeld (Abraham Glasberg died in the action of November 2, 1942), called upon all who had come, who were believed to have been property owners, to donate their possessions to the community needs of the Jews of Brody. Those who refused were imprisoned in the jail of the Jewish police or had family members taken as hostages. Many refugees were sent to the labor camps in the manpower quotas frequently demanded by the Germans.
The ghetto in Brody was set up only in December 1942, after the majority of Jews of Brody and the surrounding area had already been exterminated. The German authorities set December 1, 1942 as the last day for transferring all the Jews of Brody to the ghetto, but extended the deadline to January 1, 1943. The bounds of the ghetto, located in the traditional Jewish quarter of the town, encompassed only Szpitalna, Lazienna and Krupnicza streets and the adjoining side streets and alleys. Into this tiny area 5,000-7,000 Jews were packed, including those uprooted from other places. The ghetto was surrounded by a barbed wire fence with only two gates manned by Jewish policemen. From time to time Ukrainian police details would appear. The gates carried signs in three languages: Ukrainian, Polish, and Yiddish. They warned the Jews not to leave the ghetto upon pain of death and threatened the Aryans with heavy fines and imprisonment for entering the ghetto. To approach the fence was dangerous for the Jews because the Ukrainian guards would open fire without warning. Many died beside the fence.
Soon, unbearable conditions reigned in the ghetto. The authorities supplied symbolic food rations; there was a shortage of heating materials, and at the distribution of the meager rations, frightening fights erupted. The poor of the population, the weak and the non-venturesome died in droves. Starving people and starved to death; corpses in the streets became a daily sight. The deaths increased due to a plague of typhus exanthematicus. The Judenrat tried to hide the plague from the authorities. Naturally, however, they did not succeed for long. Fearing the plague's spread, the Germans hermetically sealed the ghetto for a time no one in and no one out. This further aggravated the Jews' already difficult situation. During this time some German institutions housed their workers in the factories outside the ghetto. The tortured Jews also suffered greatly from visits of police inside the ghetto and from round-ups of people to be sent to labor camps, which happened again and again. Under these circumstances, underworld forces came to the fore and violence in the ghetto became a common occurrence.
With the setting up of the ghetto in December 1942, the authorities also organized labor camps for men in Brody. The camp's inmates worked in the quarries and in paving roads in the surrounding area. In this camp Jews were constantly killed in various accidents and, among other things, were shot after all the sick and weak had been sorted out.
Thus the lives of the surviving Jews in Brody continued to deteriorate, crowded together in the ghetto or imprisoned in the camp, until the spring of 1943.
At the end of March 1943, a number of actions and round-ups started which lasted until May, when the Jews of Brody were finally eliminated. We have no clear details of the various actions. These are the dates mentioned for the actions: March 31st; May 4th; May 10th and May 13th. These actions hit those who lived in the ghetto and the labor camp prisoners. It is possible that in the course of the actions, a certain number of men and women fit for work were sent to different labor camps, such as Olesko or Lackie. All the exhausted caught in these actions were shot on the spot and in the surrounding woods. In order to protect a number of their workers, a number of German factories housed their workers nearby.
Already in the days of the first and second actions in Brody (in September and November, 1942), and especially in the frequent actions in the spring of 1943 and the abductions for the labor camps, there were some occupants of the ghetto who sought refuge in hiding places. And indeed, the places were set up throughout the ghetto area as best they could be: in camouflaged cells, in cellars, in attics. The poor tried to escape the ghetto if they heard indications of another round-up in time. The escapees hid in the surrounding forests or swamps, or with their employers who indicated a readiness to hide them, and after the round-up returned to the ghetto. Not a few of the Jews of Brody, or refugees from other places, that left the ghetto before the action, wandered the neighboring forests and fields for weeks and months, singly or in small groups. They found cover in makeshift trenches, hollow tree branches, or farm buildings. They suffered hunger and cold, were pursued by the German and Ukrainian police, as well as by a good part of the local population. After fleeing constantly from place to place, many were forced to return to the ghetto out of lack of choice. Finally, most of them were caught by their pursuers and murdered, with only a few surviving by some fortunate combination of circumstances. The well-to-do built themselves well-hidden underground shelters with emergency exits, stocked with water, food and sanitary facilities. People of means and connections had hideaways even outside the ghetto and were supplied with food by non-Jews either out of friendship or for pay.
Among the Christians who at the risk of their lives hid the Jews of Brody, offered them assistance, fed them, prepared forged papers for them and cared for their children, we will note just a few examples: The Poles Yazenti Miklashevski, Tax Department clerk; Dr. Zawadzki, the regional doctor; Kist, Butshkovski and the local priest. Ukrainians: Burachek; Mironku Lukanietz; Homeniuk; Timchishin; farmer Moroz from the Radziwillow-Brody Region who was shot for aiding Jews hiding out in the forest; farmer Karolchuk from the village of Gaya Sudneskaya who saved two Jewish women and a child by hiding them; Laya, administrator of the farm that was transferred to the Germans in the village of Dubie and his wife, who demonstrated great admiration for the Jews working in that camp. He secretly added food to their rations, tried to convince them to flee when they were ordered to move into the ghetto in Brody and gave them food for the journey.
Among those who offered assistance to the Jews there were also lone Germans as, for example. Hassenstein, a German from the Reich who was mustered out of the Army and appointed by the authorities in Brody as Head Forester. He dealt fairly with about 1,000 Jews who worked for him in the forest: he supplied them with extra food from his farm, and protected them from the actions by keeping them in his house and by hanging signs on the doors of their homes which read: This house is protected by the Forests Authority Brody. In the days of the actions, his wife hid scores of Jews (mostly women and children) in the attic of her house and fed them. She was betrayed to the authorities, stood trial in Lvov for aiding Jews and was sentenced to two years imprisonment at hard labor.
During the period of the actions, several small groups of Jewish youth had organized in the surrounding forests, and succeeded in obtaining weapons. They resisted their pursuers and raided villages for provisions. According to witnesses, they even entered the ghetto. There were those who raided the warehouse and treasury of the Judenrat in order to obtain food and money. There is a story told of two Jewish youths whom the police captured in the forest and imprisoned in the town jail. They killed one of the jailers, fled the jail and entered the ghetto. This served as an excuse for a German reprisal on May 13, 1943. Both in the ghetto, and perhaps in the camp as well, attempts were made to establish an underground organization, to make and maintain contact with the groups in the forest, and organize the escape of the youth to them.
The ghetto in Brody was wiped out on May 21, 1943, the day before Lag Ba'Omer 5703. The police surrounded the ghetto at night, set up machine guns, and started the action. The people were taken from their houses and driven into the market square. All valuables in their possession were taken and they were ordered to kneel with their hands behind their heads. From the market square they were led in groups to the train station and loaded onto freight cars. Even the Jews of the camps who had planned to go work were taken to the train station. In order to drive all the Jews out, the Germans set fire to the buildings of the ghetto. Dreadful sights followed: people engulfed in flames, the weak slaughtered, babies' heads smashed. The walls of the buildings were splattered with blood. The number of those deported for destruction (they were taken to Majdanek in the Lublin district) came to 3,500, and the number killed on the spot a few hundred. All that remained in the ghetto was a handful of people in hiding.
Among the victims of the extermination action were the members of the last Judenrat: Chairman Itche Katz (who, as mentioned, had also served for a while as the commander of the Jewish Police), as well as members Chaim Mordechai Harash (grain merchant), Bezalel Meles (Zionist worker), and Leon Broczyner (electrical equipment dealer). It is likely that also among the members of this Judenrat were attorney Bernard Horn, Sigmund Liphschütz (Zionist worker and mill owner), and Herz Feiering (feather exporter). According to one of the versions, the camp remained in existence for another month or two but with a limited number of Jews.
The hunt for hidden Jews continued throughout the city and surrounding area long after the ghetto of Brody had been liquidated. Those caught were herded into barracks and shot to death.
After the liberation of the city by the Soviet Army (July 18, 1944), most of the houses of the Jewish quarter were found destroyed or burned out, and even the cemetery was destroyed. The city itself was damaged to a great extent because the front line passed through it many times. The only remnant that survived was the frame of the old synagogue. Of Brody's pre-war Jewish population about 250 Jews survived, among them a number rescued from the Nazi camps; more than 100 saved in the Soviet Union; and about 100 who were saved in their hiding places with the assistance of local residents. Of the latter, a few resided in Brody for a while after the war before leaving their city.
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Updated 2 Apr 2010 by LA