The orphanage, which was co-educational, had 50 children, aged 19, 18, and 5, an obviously undesirable age distribution. However, it was impossible to let the older ones leave without receiving a high school diploma of some kind. The institution, or more exactly, its managerial committee, did not fulfill its task by this alone. It also took an interest in the lives of its graduates: it found them suitable jobs in those hard times and arranged scholarships for the talented ones so that they could continue their studies. The Buczacz orphanage was known for the quality of its graduates, individuals of understanding and character who were well prepared for the struggle of life.
One of the graduates, a second-year medical student, fell while fighting for a free Spain. This was Karol Neuberger, brother of a teacher in the Stanislevov gymnasium.
The orphanage pupils were for the most part accounted to be good workers, their labor and energy serving as an example to others. I would also like to mention a boy by the name of Zelig Lampert. He was an illegitimate child who had apparently been handed over to peasants in a village either by a mother who was cruel or who in those years had been rejected by society, and who later left for America. Under a false name, claiming to be his aunt, she would send money from time to time to cover the expenses for the child’s upkeep. The managerial committee heard about this boy. In order to “save” a Jewish soul, the committee arranged to transfer him to the orphanage. Of course, this called for a certain amount of monetary persuasion. The peasant family was not eager to lose a cheap source of labor; perhaps it had already become used to the child it had raised from infancy.
He was a clever and talented boy, but difficult to teach. He was full of resentment towards the world that had deprived him of a normal childhood. People’s personalities can change from one extreme to the other in times of war. Fear has often changed the bad into good and the noble into the bestial. What of Zelig? This youth, who didn’t look Jewish, had the opportunity to save himself; instead, he defended the lives of other Jews at the cost of his own. I heard this story from an acquaintance who lived in Buczacz during the war and who had little to tell about other orphanage pupils. He had heard that some succeeded in fleeing to Russia, a few abroad and the rest were murdered. This war claimed many victims.
I should mention the activities of the supervisory Committee for Jewish Children and Youth. The orphanage was maintained partly by contributions and partly by the Jewish public and the kehila [Jewish community]. The above Committee directed and supervised the orphanage. The Chair was the lawyer Mrs. Paula Marengel, a dear woman; unable to have children of her own, she devoted her life to the Jewish child. The vice-chair of the committee was the lawyer Mrs. Clara Gross, who was in charge of the house. The treasurer was Mr. Henrik Kriegel, a teacher; his substitute was Stanislav Neuberger. The supervisory Committee for Jewish Children and Youth had many members whose names I cannot recall. They helped mainly by collecting donations and organizing special evenings and the like. The most active were the four members of the Executive Committee whose names I have mentioned.
Worthy of special mention in addition to the lawyer Mrs. Marengel is Mr. Henrik Kriegel, a man of broad public awareness, who cared for the orphans. Mr. Kriegel tirelessly divided his time between his professional and social activities. Neither rain, snow, nor the burning noonday sun could prevent him from visiting the children daily, checking every corner to be sure no one was in need, the storeroom full and lunch satisfying.
Two other active friends of the Committee who devoted much of their time to the well being of the children were Samuel Neuberger and Clara Gross.
The Orphanage The Orphanage Committee The Hospital and Old Age Home Committee (1934) Talmud Torah pupils with their teachers Haim Kopler and Isaac Kirshner, 1936 The kheyder [elementary religious school] of Reb Mendele
It was necessary to find funding for the project. A group of young students decided to stage a theatrical play. They bought the production rights from the Tanentzap Troupe, hoping to raise funds for the project. The students sold all the tickets and gave the proceeds to the gymnasium teacher Yitskhok Falk as a start towards establishing the school. Prof. Falk, who showed a deep concern for the project, dedicated all of his energy and practical skills to increasing the initial sum, taking it upon himself to realize the plan of the Jewish boarding school. Near Fedor Hill  he found a small house surrounded by a garden, which was suitable for the purpose. Thus many youths from the area who couldn’t afford private studies could be enrolled immediately. From the first day till 1914 it was managed by a group of Jewish teachers from the Polish secondary school in Buczacz, with the aid of important communal leaders. However, the political and financial changes caused by the First World War, especially the increase in the number of children who had lost parents during the war, made it necessary to turn the school into an orphanage.
The goals and plans of the orphanage changed and again it was Professor Falk who cared for the institution, introducing new people to assist it. Among them were Mrs. Marengel, Clara Gross, Sheyndl Herzas and other women. The orphanage’s primary goal was shelter and upbringing for the full orphans. But it also tried, with the help of the families, to care for the single-parent orphans by keeping them in the orphanage during the day, tending to their education and health.
The founder and the first chairwoman, who continued in this capacity for several years, was Ms. Betty Medwinski, whose energy and dedication contributed to the organization's development and to its becoming a wide-reaching and influential institution. We maintained contact with the kindergarten and with the Hebrew school. We had a committee for social welfare and especially for assistance to expectant mothers without means, for whom we delivered various food items, soap and diapers both during the months before the birth and afterwards. A poor mother who was in distress, always found a listening ear and quick assistance. Apart from all these, the young members collected donations for the Jewish National Fund and participated in any other Zionist activity. Hebrew courses and craft courses were organized.
In order to attract members from all different circles and to strengthen the warm ties, tea parties (herbatki) were held from time to time. Usually, one of the members would compose a feuilleton on current affairs, and others contributed to the success of the parties by serving good cakes. We were in touch with the Lvov center and sent delegates to all the congresses, and that was where we received our directives for activity. Among the first chairwomen were, besides Ms. Medwinski, Dr. Paula Wolftel-Asenfeld, Chaya Roll, Esther Eisenberg and others.
Some jokers would say that the only man who belonged to the women's group in our town was the headmaster of the Hebrew school in Buczacz, Mr. Yisrael Farnhof. He supported the group in every way, provided us with the school auditorium for our Shabbat meetings, and even gave lectures. He admired the women's organization very much, and presented it as an example for all the other Zionist organizations
I recall that once we went with Dr. Khalfan to visit the Count's hospital. I was already immunized after having been gravely ill. During one general assembly, Dr. Khalfan announced that only two people out of all those who had been seriously ill were still alive: Roll and Alter Goldberg (who is now in Haifa).
At the same time, a committee was established by the name of: Tow szerzenia higeiny wsrod Zydow. Dr. Nacht was appointed as head of the committee, however the practical management work was assigned to myself, with the help of Mordechai Rotenberg and Baruch Shechter. We were provided with a shack in the Square of Pigs and the committee's activities were managed from there. The Joint sent us soap, soda, tooth-powder and toothbrushes, which were distributed to the needy. Every day we purchased large amounts of milk, which we gave out to the poor people in town. We also used to visit the homes of sick people, together with Benjamin Tziring, who was also immunized, and help in whatever way we could. The convalescents would receive wine and various nutritious items from us. Through its meager means, the committee did all it could to help the victims of that terrible epidemic.
It is worth mentioning an interesting episode from the same period. We once learned from the newspaper that Dr. Cohen would be coming to Lumberg, sent by the Joint. Of course, we immediately contacted the center in Lumberg, with which we always maintained close ties, and asked them to inform us whether Dr. Cohen would also visit Buczacz. We received an immediate reply via telegraph from Dr. Martin Seltzer, the chairman of the center, in which he informed us that Dr. Cohen would visit all of eastern Galicia. This telegram was sent to the address of Dr. Nacht, who transferred it to me, and I transferred it to Dr. Khalfan. At midnight, I heard someone pounding on my door and when I opened it, several police officers and military secret police officers stormed in and investigated me regarding the telegram and who was Dr. Cohen, and other such questions. In order to spare Dr. Khalfan from any unpleasantness, I did not want to tell them that he had the telegram, since they already knew its content from the censorship anyway. I only showed them the newspaper and the correspondence in the matter, and they soon realized who this Dr. Cohen was. The whole fuss ensued because at the same time, another Dr. Cohen a known communist had moved to Poland, and the police were searching the whole country for him. Since our Dr. Nacht was known as someone with leftist opinions, they justified all their suspicions.
After Dr. Cohen from the Joint arrived, I went to welcome him. He was on duty
and wore an American military physician's uniform. On that occasion, I told him
about my visit from the police during the night. It turned out that he know
exactly who he was being mistaken for and he was intending to go to the police
to present himself.
The government instructed us to determine the needs of the refugees with respect to food, clothing, and shelter. However, our reports fell into the hands of the local officials, who were more interested in enriching themselves at the cost of the refugees than in providing adequate services. I met with Dr. Rudolf Shvartz-Hiler, the chief of the refugee center, to discuss the situation of the refugees. He explained that he was powerless to do anything and that any change had to be initiated by the government in Vienna. At the death of the Emperor Franz Josef in 1916 the young Emperor Karl took over and was introduced to the Parliament. The Galician representatives, Braiter and Raizes, asked for his help in improving the living conditions of the refugees in the Moravian camps. After a vigorous discussion, a parliamentary commission was chosen and given the task of studying the conditions in the refugee camps and make public their recommendations. The decision of the Parliament was all that one could hope for. The Parliament resolved to close the refugee camps immediately and house the refugees in available private housing. So was this sad affair brought to an end. While many of the refugees stayed on in various Moravian towns, the majority opted to settle in Vienna.
In November, 1918, after the end of the War and the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the new Czech government suddenly, and without any public discussion, evicted all the Jews who had settled in Moravia and sent them to the Polish border in order to return them to that country. The Austrian government, which had just been reorganized under a social democratic majority, also took action to settle the question of war refugees. The leader of the socialist government, Albert Lever, issued a decree requiring that refugees who had arrived in Vienna after July, 1914, and who wished to stay in the city, had to submit a petition requesting permission to stay on.
All the petitions were delayed, of course, and eventually turned over to the police, who summoned all the petitioners and informed them that, because of security and civil order considerations, they could not stay in Vienna for at least 10 years. They were given 2 weeks to leave the city without any possibility of appeal. This was the beginning of a difficult time. Jewish refugee families were evicted from their homes, taken to the police station, and then, by train, to the border town of Lindenburg. Since the Czech authorities didn't allow them to pass through, these unfortunates had to return to Vienna. There they were grabbed by the police and accused of entering the country without permission.
The efforts of Dr. Robert Shtraiker, a Jewish Parliament member, were to no avail, especially after Chancellor Karl Rener declared that the new Austria was not responsible for the decision of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire to admit the refugees in the first place. The Galician Jews were in a terrible situation. In order to help themselves, they formed an Organization the purpose of which was to plan for an orderly return to Poland. This Organization included Dr. J. Halraih and Yacob Feldman, my fellow Buchachers, and me. In a meeting with the police chief arranged by Robert Shtraiker we reached the following agreement: those war refugees who indicated to the Organization that they wished to leave Vienna and return to Poland received permission from the police to do so and were not bothered further.
Actually, several families, and among them some from Buchach, really did want to return to Poland. However this was not possible because they lacked the economic means to do so. The Austrian government refused their request for help arguing that this was the business of the Polish government. However, the Polish representative in Vienna told us that there were enough poor Jews in Poland and that there was no interest in increasing their number. While the majority of poor Jewish families wanted to return, Jews who were well off were interested in staying in Vienna.
Many months passed until Robert Shtraiker ended his involvement in the refugee question. Thereafter, JOINT (Jewish American Organization for Help and Settlement of Refugees) took over this problem and so ended the affair of the refugees.
Some 1500 to 1800 Buchachers stayed in Austria after the War, 95% of them in Vienna. After overcoming many difficulties, for example in obtaining citizenship, the refugees were able to establish themselves on the basis of the St. Germain accord, which benefited refugees throughout Austria. Many were able to establish successful businesses. However, a significant number of refugees were stuck in marginal business activities and could not set roots in the community. Their small shops or other businesses eventually folded and many of these Buchachers were left without adequate means of support.
The "Viennese" Jews, particularly those who established themselves in Vienna years before the Polish Jews, regarded the latter as undesirable competitors. Thus, the Polish Jews were steered into specific districts of Vienna and there was little contact between them and the more established Jews. There was also little contact between Buchachers little sharing of either happy or sad occasions. There was even little social contact between family members and friends, to the point that few in the community heard about it when a Buchacher died or became ill. (Translator's note: this was not true for all families, in particular not so for the translator's (N.P.) family). In spite of these problems, the Jews from Eastern Europe played an important role in the politics of the Viennese Kehila, where they strongly supported the Zionist party with their votes.
In order to improve conditions, I invited some of my Buchach friends and discussed with them the possibility of forming an association of Jewish former residents of Buchach. They concurred with this idea. I began by gathering names and then went to the police to obtain the corresponding addresses. When I had put together a list of some 200 families I advertised the formation of the group and prepared for a general meeting.
The first meeting of the Association took place in 1929, following government approval. Several hundred Buchachers attended and it was a very successful meeting. A directorate was elected and began to function. The name given to the group was "Association of Buchach Jews in Vienna". Its mission was to work on community, educational, and primarily, social welfare issues. We organized meetings on various topics, as well as recitals, theatrical performances, and visits to the sick. Many of these activities were designed to attract the younger people. The income derived from these functions was used to help the needy. In time we were able to hold a Minian at "Iamim Noarim". The services were attended by Jews from Buchach and its surroundings and were very successful.
Some twenty families asked for our help, which we gave within the limits of the available funds. There were others who suffered hardships but were too ashamed to ask for help. They constituted our biggest problem because we had to give them substantial help, but both in secret and indirectly. Eventually we were able to set up a charitable fund that was used for both gifts and loans. This permitted us to help members of the community to establish or improve their businesses. We also sent funds to Buchach at Passover time to be distributed to the poor Jews remaining there. Our Association also participated in the communal life of the city, and helped mark the passage of both happy and sad occasions.
The Jewish Kehila of Vienna joined us in many social welfare projects. Our Association and its effective work were frequently mentioned in "Der Shtime" and "Olam Hadash", the Jewish newspapers of Vienna. My job was not an easy one as the Buchachers did not have much faith in our efforts and left us the most difficult tasks. However, I derived great pleasure when I could help the needy. In praise of my fellow Buchachers I do have to say that they always helped me and contributed funds when asked. I was the president of the organization from 1929 until 1938, as no one else was willing to assume this office. All the work was done in my office and the help I was able to provide was my only reward.
In March of 1938, when Hitler annexed Austria, there were several hundred Shillings in our account, and as it was just before Passover, I distributed them to the needy. I was summoned by the Gestapo and directed to turn over the records and funds of the association and, finally, to dissolve it. Thus ended our charitable association. The directorate consisted of Leon (Leibush) Frid, honorary president, Yehezkiel Adrer, Yakob Kraminer, Aprim Alpenbein, and Matitiahu Waiser, vicepresidents, Egon Maiziger and A. Ginsberg, treasurers, M. Jugendorf, M. Weiser, Abrim Levi Fridman, members of the financial committee. Other members were Zelman Neiman, Aron Anderman, Ing. M. Shainberg, Dr. David Pohorille, Shaul Weiner, Paul Adelshtain, Sh. Wildman, and M. Torten. Mrs. Cila Gancer and Mrs. Ofner served as secretaries.
After the war between Germany and Poland started in September, 1939, a number of Buchachers who had remained in Vienna were arrested and sent to Dachau. Among those who perished on "Kidush Hashem"were Moshe Jugendorf, Hirsh Preminger, Moshe Hofman, Mendel Jurman, and Josef Rozenfeld. Blessed be their memory.
New York City
In 1934, when the fascist Polish government was increasing its economic pressure on the Jewish people, letters came from our hometown, filled with tears and sadness, describing the distress and poverty which had befallen a large part of the Jewish population. The cry of pain from our afflicted brothers did not fall on deaf ears. Upset by the terrible news, a small group of people gathered on a cold winter day in January of 1935. These were simple and innocent men and women, with hearts of gold, who gathered in order to establish a welfare organization for the benefit of our hometown and the suffering people of Buczacz. And thus, on January 20, 1935, the United Butzatzer Ladies Auxiliary was established.
It would be unjust if we did not mention the names of the people who founded the organization, as many of them devoted hard work and extraordinary efforts in order to help their townspeople.
Honorable mention must be given to Abush Anderman, a tireless activist and one of the founding members. His intelligence and agreeable nature affected many people and were a source of inspiration for our continued, dedicated work. He is sorely missed by us and we shall never forget him. Among the other founders who have passed away, we should mention the following: Ms. Dara Boyer, Ms. Anna Pek, Max Zilberbush, Anna Nachtigel, Anna Adler, Leon Rosenblatt, Moshe Stein, Yetti Stein and Sam (Shmuel) Schwartz, who passed away recently. The annals of the Society are a long succession of wonderful accomplishments and noble acts, of sacrifice and fraternity. The heart-breaking letters of the activists and the community representatives from that time (Mendel Reich and Pinchas Wienstock) were a decisive influence on us and the touching and intelligent words fell on fertile ground.
The initiator and primary founder is Leibaleh Farber, a man with a kind disposition and liked by all. But the other organizers are also worthy of commendation for their extensive and plentiful work. And these are their names: Moshe and Dara Boyer, Lewis and Anna Pek, Morris and Anna Adler, Bernard and Sloe Gotforcht, Sam and Fannie Kopfler, Yisrael and Hinda Shere, Max and Tzili Silberbusch, Paul and Clara Silbersein, Louis and Reda Rosenblatt, Louis Gotfried, Avraham and Reda Zomer, Abush and Jenny Anderman, Louis and Lena Duchovny, Moshe and Anna Stein, Anna Nachtigel, Izzi and Tilli Wieldman, Sam and Esther Schwartz, Millie and Bessie Wassner, Reda Sneider, Alter and Ethel Farber, Meir Klienfeld. However, not only the founders and organizers fulfilled their duties, but also all the members and many of our townspeople assisted us, out of enthusiasm, and contributed greatly during the thirties until the Second World War broke out in order to alleviate the distress and poverty of our brothers in Buczacz. Among the significant contributors of our organization, we should mention Philip Silbersein and Yisrael Neiman, the son of Avraham Yona Neiman.
The activity of the Auxiliary can be divided into three periods. The first period begins in 1935 and ends with war breaking out in 1939. The purpose of our activity during that period was twofold: in order to awaken the spirit and prevent desperation, we would support a few individuals financially, according to the instructions of the community, which was also doing as much as it could to alleviate the distress. However, we did not ignore the important Jewish institutions, which were destined to deteriorate without our assistance. We assisted the following institutions: the orphanage, managed by Paula Marngel and Yosef Kornbly; the hospital, directed by Monish Frankel and Arthur Bik; the Talmud Torah, directed by Haim Kofler and Mendel Reich; the Gmilat Hessed Society, managed by Monish Frankel, Dr. Yeshayahu Hecht, Pinchas Wienstock and Yakov Margaliyot.
The second period continues throughout the Second World War, from 1939 until 1945. During this period, our contact with Buczacz was cut off, although our activity did not cease. In a nervous condition and with beating hearts, we awaited the moment of renewal of our contact with our dear brothers. Horrifying news spread of pogroms and mass murder of the Jewish people in Poland, but we hoped that the accounts were exaggerated and that the cultural world would not allow the annihilation of an entire innocent people. How innocent was our faith!
In fact our work during the war was more intensive, we collected money and waited impatiently for the moment when the world would once again be open and we could assist our brothers and heal their wounds. At that time, our organization fulfilled its patriotic obligation in our country's war against the Nazi enemy by contributing to the Red Cross and other national institutions. And of course we donated significant sums to support our Jewish-National institutes (such as the Joint, United Jewish Appeal and HIAS [Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society], Jewish National Fund, Ort, etc.).
The third period begins with the end of the Second World War. This was the most
intensive period of action in the history of our organization, which expresses
the noble character and sensitive heart of Buczacz Jews. Unfortunately, the
dreadful news of the war was confirmed, and to our horror we learned that only
a small handful had been saved of our large and famous Jewish community. Some
65 survived in Buczacz itself, and almost 400 who had escaped into Russia. In
1946-7 a large portion of the survivors moved to Germany, hoping to leave soon
and go to America and to Eretz Yisrael. And the situation in the
temporary camps on the cursed German land, was
unbearable. And again, the Auxiliary began to receive sorrowful letters, full
of despair, and the organization gave help and awakened hope. With great energy
and extraordinary efforts, the women and men of the organizations began the
welfare activities. They searched for relatives, sent clothes for the unclothed
and food parcels for the hungry. During the six years following the war, our
organization spent more than 20,000 dollars, an amount which can be considered
huge for a small organization. By means of the great assistance we also offered
spiritual aid to the misfortunate people, who had been brought to the abyss of
desperation by the horrors of the war. The outstretched helping hand enabled
them to get through the crisis period which followed the war, with hope for a
The annals of our Auxiliary would not be complete if we did not mention the names of our members who still fulfill their human obligation loyally, despite their old age and personal difficulties. Our spiritual leader is Rabbi Yisrael Schor, who is well-known among the Jews of New York. He is always prepared to heed our call, at times of trouble and at times of happiness. His appearances at our various gatherings add honor and benefit.
I would be honored to mention the members who, after 20 years of difficult activity, have not lost their spirit and are ready and willing, to the best of their ability, to continue the noble work in support of the injured and the poor. And these are their names: Leibeleh and Zaide Farber, Alter and Ethel Farber, Louis and Jenny Esienstadt (Anderman), Louis and Lena Duchovny, Bernard and Sally Gutfrocht, Yisrael and Hinda Schor, Louis Gottfried, Meir Kleinfeld, Avraham and Reda Zomer, Reda Sneider, Lola Peler, Dora Kirschner, Esther Schwartz, Morris Potshter, Sloe Kilreik and Regina Galbreit.
And last but not least: the finest and most dedicated among the workers are Zalman Neiman and his wife Dara, who are beloved to all the former residents of Buczacz in New York. Neiman is a true Buczaczer Jew. His strong personality influences all who meet him, and we view him as the second spiritual leader of the Buczacz organizations, after Rabbi Schor. We are proud of him, and he and his wife deserve to be engraved in gilded letters in the annals of the Auxiliary.
Here ends the short history of our welfare organization the history of fearless and tireless work performed by a few people, for the common good. It was not for their own honor that our people gave their time, their energy, their strength and their money. The painful cry of brothers and sisters overseas was the only motive which moved them to act in such a way that might heal, if only partially, our brothers' wounds.
The history of this small society revealed the solidarity and mutual
responsibility, which are the defining characteristics of our people.
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