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History of the Jews of Jaslo (cont.)

Chapter 14

jas035.gif Map of Galicia, Poland. Jaslo in the foreground
Map of Galicia, Poland
Jaslo in the foreground

 

The railway station in Jaslo was opened between 1888 and 1890. The station was along the Lemberg-Krakow line. Three trains passed daily along that line and stopped in Jaslo. There was also an express train. Several years later, a side line was opened linking Jaslo to Rzeszow. During the same period, a high school was built in the city. In the Niglowic section an oil refinery was established along the Wisloka River. Near the bridge, they built a hydroelectric power plant between the years 1892-1894. The power plant moved to a new building in 1913, near Czackiego Street.

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Jaslo was also the district city, thus it had the judicial court center in the city. The courthouse was big and next to it was the business center. Many lawyers, amongst them Jewish lawyers, began to settle in the city, mostly along Kosciusko and May Third streets. Many new building arose along these streets that offered residences and offices to doctors and lawyers. All these tenants attracted many other people, especially Jews from the nearby small communities like Zmigrod, Dukla, Koloczic, Brzostek, Frysztak and Trzciano. The growth of the population also increased the Jewish population.

The core of the Jewish intelligentsia consisted of Hebrew teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, managers and higher officials at the refinery in Niglowice. A large segment of these people tended to assimilate very rapidly; but the Zionist reawakening stopped this tendency. The driving force behind Zionism was the able orator, the lawyer Awraham Kornhauser. He had a substantial following that joined him in the Zionist movement. (Doctor Kornhauser settled in Jaslo in the 1900, he stems from the Tarnow area where he finished high school.) He was a friend of Shtand and Zalc, leaders of Western Galician Zionism in those days. He was very impressive; tall, his black beard gave him the appearance of another Doctor Herzl. He was nicknamed the second Doctor Herzl.

His office was the first office of the Zionist movement in Jaslo and his home served as a meeting place for Zionist leaders.

I already mentioned that the Jaslo Jewish community was relatively young and did not have many established traditions or old established leading families or leaders. Most of the leaders of the community were people that came from middle class families; they did not belong to the Hassidic movement nor did they travel to Hassidic courts. Very few Jaslo Jews were Hassidim and the majority of them followed the Rymanow Hassidic court.

The number of Hassidic Jews increased at the beginning of the 20th century and we already see the appearance of Tchortkower and Sadigora Hassidim. For a while there was even a “shtibel” , a small congregational one-room synagogue, named the Tchortkow-Boyan synagogue. Occasionally the Rabbi of Rymanow came for Shabbat to Jaslo. Most of the Jews of Jaslo were basically religious people that followed the religion as their fathers.

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The lack of Hassidic tradition, the cleanliness of the city, the imposed modest dress code that the Jaslo Jews observed and the large number of educated Jews, gave the Jews the feeling of living in a modern city and sometimes the city was referred to as “the gentile city” or “the assimilated city”; the moderate Jews called the city “a modern and clean city”. The large public garden added a certain environmental charm. The garden stretched from May 3rd street to the courthouse on Chelmska Street and in the width from Czackiego Street on the right to Sobieski Street. The garden was opened to the public in 1900 during the Imperial maneuvers. (The Emperor Frantz Joseph and his family participated in the war games and also visited Jaslo and vicinity). Various trees were planted in the garden; greenery paths interlaced the park that had an line of green benches for people to rest. For the benefit of the strollers there were colorful circular beds of various flowers that emitted floral scents. The roses, lilies, carnations and other flowers were in great abundance. Three main alleys bordered by green shrubs, white birch and chestnut trees were here. There was also a tennis court. In one of the little squares stood a green house with a slanted roof surmounted by a copper snake holding in his mouth a long trumpet. During the summer a band would be seated in the green house and play music for the strollers. In another square there was a huge statue, several meters high, dedicated to the great Polish fighter Kosciuszko, head high in the air, chest exposed and a sword in his arm. The statue was surrounded by a heavy copper metal chain supported by small columns.

The third square consisted of a circle of grass bordered by shrubs and concentric circles of different colored flowers.

The streets of Kosciuszko and 3rd May led to the park and were the main strolling streets in the city. The road to Guriowic and Koblow near the rock quarry and the surrounding mountains was the favorite strolling place on Shabbat and holidays. During the summer, many people went

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along the road to Hiclowka to swim in the river near Koczerow. This place served for many years as a “beach” for Jaslo. For a time, Targowica also served as a swimming place. The final swimming place however was the area under the metal bridge. The local beach area changed according to the season and the security of the place because frequently the swimmers were stoned by gentile youths.

 

Chapter 15

1898 - The Torching Of The Distillery

The Jewish community of Jaslo grew and developed when suddenly out of blue it was shocked beyond wildest imagination. An anti-Semitic campaign was launched by the priest Stoilowski, who represented the “Peasant Party” and wanted to be elected to the Imperial Assembly in Vienna (see the item of Yaakow Freund). The new Jewish settlers dreamed of a safe place where they could work and live in peace. Suddenly there were anti-Jewish outbursts throughout the area of Jaslo. The priest Stoilowski was busy inciting the farmers throughout the district against the Jews. He wanted to represent the Jaslo-Sanok district and spread the worst poison against the Jews in the area. He openly called on the farmers to take matters in their hands against the Jews. He even preached to the farmers that they should evict the Jewish farmers from their villages.

In 1898, the Jews began to feel that the Christian population was slowly avoiding contact with them. As the year advanced, less and less contact occurred between the populations. The farmers began to avoid entering the city. Tensions rose by the day. Then it happened, the church bells began to peel longer than usual. This seemed to be the signal for the event.

The Jews from Ulaszowice and nearby villages abandoned their homes and everything in them to the incited mobs of the priest Stoilowski. The frenzied mob destroyed every Jewish property it encountered. This was the moment that the farmer Jeworski from the village of Koblow waited for. He led a large incited mob to the farm of Naphtali Shmuel Solomon. The latter was a well to do farmer in the village of Podzamci near Koblow. Jeworski decided to exploit the situation and settle personal

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accounts with the Jewish farmer. The Solomon family decided to leave the farm and seek protection. It left their son Yehiel to protect the farm. The latter saw the menacing advancing mob led by Jeworski, and realized that his life was in danger and the situation was hopeless. He disguised himself as a farmer with a white shirt in the style of the peasants in the area and headed away from the farm. He hoped to make his way to the city of Jaslo. Jeworski recognized him from a distance as the son of the Shmuel Naphtali Solomon and began to chase after him. All the farmers joined the race. As he was running, the fringes began to emerge from under his shirt and now everybody saw that he was a Jew. The chase was on and Yehiel Solomon kept loosing ground. He knew that he was not going to make it to the city. So he decided to seek refuge at the distillery of Yaakow Freund in Ulaszowice. He was certain that the mob will not dare to enter the place. The mob surrounded the estate of Freund and demanded the body of Yehiel Solomon.

Freund was certain that if the boy steps out of his place, the enraged mob would kill him. Thus he could not agree to the demands of the mob. He tried to explain to some of the farmers that the boy was his guest and he must protect his guest. The farmers insisted that he deliver Yehiel and then they would leave him alone. When the enraged mob saw that Freund would not surrender the boy, they began to attack the house, smashed the windows, destroyed everything in sight, and one farmer managed to break into the courtyard and toss a burning torch between the barrels of spirit. A fire started and soon spread through the area and the house.

The mayor of Jaslo was at that time, Grabowski, the son of a poor shoemaker who worked as a youngster in Freund's distillery. Grabowski was a smart fellow and excelled in his studies; he finished law school and was appointed to this high office. He befriended the local Count Riegers that resided in Guriowic. He also knew that the Count objected vociferously to the building of the distillery next to his estate but could not stop the process. He therefore decided to show the Count his loyalty and refused to give the order to extinguish the fire at the distillery. The place burned down to the ground while the fireman stood by and the mob was having a field day. The army arrived the next day from Rzeszow and established order. Nothing remained from the burned

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places. The smoke columns could be seen as far as Frysztak and Zmigrod.

Property worth 80,000 silver Rheinish went down the drain. He could not get a penny from the insurance since the policy lapsed two weeks ago and he did not renew it in time. He lost everything but he saved a soul of Israel, Yehiel Solomon (who lives in Jerusalem today).

 

Chapter 16

Dr. Herzl on the Jaslo disturbances

The wanton destructive behavior of Stoilowski's followers soon reached the capital city of the Empire, where Dr. Herzl resided. He was shocked by the events that took place in the province of Galicia where many Jews lived without the slightest protection from the state.

Dr. Herzl had just established the platform for Political Zionism at the first Congress in Basle, Switzerland in 1897. He barely had time to rest when the news reached him. He still had not developed a solution for the Jewish problem but this incident in Jaslo provoked his anger and fueled his energy in building the Zionist Organization and organizing future congresses that would meet in 1898, 1899, 1900 and so on. The incident of Jaslo fired the fury of the Zionists who pointed out the hopeless situation of the Jew. Dr Herzl wrote an article entitled “Fire in Galicia” in 1898 (the complete article appears in “the book of Zionism” published in 1950). We will merely present some excerpts from the article.

“The priest Stoilowski misled his people. In a modern state no one has the right to start fires, to kill and rob people. The minister of the region may publish official statements that minimize and ridicule the event as though someone gave permission to rob and violate a certain section of the population.

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These rumors emerge from sources that are close to the priest Stoilowski as the facts indicate. In the district of Sanok, elections are to be held and in order to gain popularity amongst the masses, the Stoilowski party decided to terrorize the Jewish population and gain the favor of the peasants by instigating this pogrom. The poor and primitive peasants are easily instigated to attack the Jews. These acts that the government permits to occur from time to time have tragic consequences as Jaslo proves. These events frequently go out of control and the government is forced to send large troops to restore order. No wonder that Grabowski can then minimize or ridicule the situation by claiming that the whole thing was blown out of proportion and order has been restored. We had no doubts about the outcome of the event, it was not minimal, ridiculous but terribly brutal.

All parties that want to maintain order and peace in the country must sooner or later fight anti-Semitism. The Jew must be able to sleep in peace. And if a fire starts, the fireman will have to rush to the place to extinguish it and not sit on the sidelines. Government forces must remain at the fire until it is brought under control.

We live in solid homes in the midst of civilized society and expect the night watchers to see to it that fires should not start and sparks would not blaze. Besides we pay punctually our fire insurance to protect ourselves against fire, this is the least that the father can do for his family. Thus the need for a night watchman is essential. But the Jewish people which has produced so many great leaders and scholars throughout its long and famous history, failed in this respect. Furthermore we do not think in advance of the possibility of fire or the wisdom of prevention of fires. When the fires do take place, we do not know who to blame or where to get restitution for the damages. And whoever comes and demands to change the situation is ridiculed.”

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We do not want to play politics with the incident of Galicia but it does provide us with serious information. Who were the casualties of the pogrom in Jaslo? Again the poor, helpless, and oppressed Jews. We who stand at the helm of the Zionist movement receive daily reports of the terrible situation of the Jews in Galicia. One can even consider them tragic.

Many Jewish children will remain scarred for life from the horror of the Sanok-Jaslo pogrom. The imprint will remain for ever. Therefore, we strive with all out heart and with all our forces to achieve security for our people in our own land.”

 

Chapter 17

Dr. Herzl, who appeared at all the Zionist congresses, slowly awakened the Jewish people from its lethargy and attracted it to the cause of Zionism. Zionist groups or branches were formed in almost every city, by the intellectual or well to do Jewish elites. In Jaslo the Zionist “Yeshuron“ club was formed in 1905-6. It was popularly called the “Tzionistiche Farein” or Zionist Club. This club attracted Jewish Zionists in the city and was the nucleus of the Zionist movement in Jaslo. The driving force was Dr. Kornhauser and friends. They organized discussion panels and conferences that were addressed by capable speakers, notably Meshulem Davidson who lived in Rzeszow. He was a talented organizer and helped launch the club in the city. (He now lives in Tel Aviv and has been living in Israel for the last 45 years.)

Amongst the founding members of the club were: Naphtali Hoffert, Eliezer Hoffman, Awraham Werner (Omik), Naphtali Menashe, and Awraham Thaler. They were the first subscribers to the club and helped to popularize it in Jaslo and vicinity. The club was located at the house of Alexandrowicz. (The distillery and the house was later sold to Amer and Kornfeld). The club had at first a few dozen members. It even published for a time the magazine entitled “The Dawn” under the editorship of Berish Meller (today Dov Kimchi). The publication ceased when the editor left for Palestine in 1908.

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The city was visited on occasion by Zionist speakers including Yossef Shprincak, Berl Locker and others who spoke Hebrew. The idea caught on and pretty soon Hebrew teachers were brought to the city to teach the language with the Sephardi pronunciation. The first Hebrew teacher at the “Talmud Torah” was Mr. Karmerish, followed by Meir Mohar

(Presently, supervisor of Hebrew teaching of in the evening schools in Israel). During the same period, an association of “Poalei Tzion” was established in the city by young artisans, apprentices and store helpers. The two Zionist organizations occasionally sponsored social parties and cultural events. Similar to the “Poalei Tzion” association was the “Yad Harutzim” association, also established during this period. This organization consisted primarily of older artisans. The driving personality of the association was Asher Tzweig. At the end of Nowa Street, next to the corner of Wisoka street, was the synagogue of the association (it was destroyed by the Russians during W.W.I).

Several years later, a film about Jewish life in Palestine was shown at the “Sokol” movie house that made a great and lasting impression on the audiences (Mendel Meller was seen in the movie since he was there during the filming of the movie).

 

Chapter 18

As the Jewish population grew, there was a need for more places to worship. The first addition was the “kloiz”, or praying room, at the house of Zelig Miller, the ritual slaughterer; another worship place was organized at the home of Mordechai Getzler; also the “Talmud Torah” had services prior to the opening for instruction. The building was a one-story house and still not finished. Many Hassidim that lived along Targowica or in the vicinity prayed at the synagogue of Rabbi Mandil.

All of these worship places were insufficient to accommodate all the worshippers whose numbers steadily increased. Most of them were accustomed to pray in comfortable synagogues at home and expected the same thing in Jaslo,. Therefore, the community decided to build a big synagogue that will seat several hundreds worshippers, male and female.

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To implement the order, land was needed. That was located on top of the hill with a view in several directions. The hill was called “Kuci Zamek” or cat castle and was purchased from the local count by the community. There was an old dilapidated barn on the estate that was repaired and services began there.

 

The Synagogue

Architects were hired to draw up the blueprints for the synagogue. Builders were brought from Hungary and artistic painters were brought from Italy to paint the interiors of the synagogue. An official ceremony took place with the placing of the first brick of the building. City officials were invited to partake in the festivity. The leader of the Jewish community spoke in Polish and concluded by stating “Thank G-d, here will be a synagogue. The phrase was catchy in Polish and was very popular with the attendants.

The construction of the building cost about a quarter of million thalers or krowns and was officially opened for services on Rosh Hashana 1905/1906. The community was very pleased with the building.

The building was impressive and imposing on the outside as well as on the inside. It received great publicity by its unique style in Galicia.

Blessed are those that managed to see the building in its full splendor as it dominated the city skyline. Many people including Christians came to see the building and appreciate its beauty. Unfortunately the Germans blew up the building in 1939 and destroyed the Jewish community. The building was blown up on the first Yom Kippur under German Occupation, a few days after the Germans entered the city.

I will try to describe from memory the building as I remember it so that the readers can get a good picture. I hope I will do justice to the synagogue. The hill was exposed to several air currents and a stonewall surrounded the estate. The wall faced the Rabbi's house and the study center, and was somewhat similar to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The building reached

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20 meters in height. The roof was covered with tin metal sheets and sloped down to about a third of the height of the building. The windows were also arched and resembled the tablets of the commandments. The glass was tinted artistically.

The entrance to the synagogue was from the west. Seven stone steps led to the entrance of the hallway. The entrance gate was tall, wide, heavy

 

jas045.jpg The synagogue of Jaslo (The east-north side)
The synagogue of Jaslo
(The east-north side)

 

and arched. The door handles were made of copper, large and heavy. The north side also had three entrance gates. The middle was wide and the two extremes were narrow. The gate to the women's section was from the south.

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The three northern gates were opened to the public during the high holidays, special days, birthdays of kings or presidents, and on the special occasions.

The interior walls were painted with oil paint. The lower parts of the walls were painted in a light color while the upper parts were decorated with a rich floral pattern. Between the flowers were inserted gilded and silver colored stars, as well as multicolored Stars of David. In the background were pinkish columns wrapped in floral garlands.

The large and tall Holy Arc was made from nut wood. The carpenters shaved it and decorated it with many gilded Stars of David. The velvet curtain of the arc was long and wide. A great deal of embroidery was crafted on to it as well as gold colored letters and precious stones. The curtain reached the floor and by pushing a button, the curtain would slowly rise. The curtains were often changed and they always looked new.

Four marble steps led to the holy arc. The steps were covered with a red carpet. On either side of the steps was a metal column headed by an electric lamp. Above the arc there was an angled wood panel painted in deep blue to resemble the sky. It also contained gold painted stars that reflected light on to the hall.

On the right side of the arc stood the large box and on top of it rested the great prayer book bound in an artistic manner. The pages were written in manuscript form and on parchment. Above the box, stood the large sign

“ I have set the Lord before me” (hand-made by the artistic Menashe Weinstein). Next to it stood the large silver candelabra with many branches protruding from it.

To the left side of the arc was the honor seat that was usually reserved for the rabbi of the city. Above was the exit of the women's section; there was a three frontal breeze in the shape of the Hebrew letter “Het” and everything was supported by metal beams that were silver colored.

Above the bima, or reading table, was a giant copper chandelier with many light bulbs. The bima was surrounded with four columns, each corner had one, and each column had six electric light bulbs. Friday night or prior to a holiday, people lit many candles that gave the place a special air of light. The reflection of the light on the colored stars of the ceiling created the impression that the worshipers were really in the house of G-d.

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The bima was covered with a velvet cloth that was embroidered with gold letters. Next to it stood the famous beadle as though he was conductor, Yaakov Shames, looking at the large number of worshippers.

On the right side of the hall, was a small prayer room that was called “kahal shtibel” – small prayer room that was used for morning and evening services during week days, especially during the winter.

I will not exaggerate by saying that whoever did not see the Jaslo synagogue in its heyday missed seeing a great and beautiful building.

During the first year of the existence of the synagogue, a young cantor from Krakow conducted the services. The next year, the famous cantor Turbowski, nephew of the famous cantor Zidel Rubner was hired to conduct services. The latter came especially to Jaslo when the newly appointed cantor started to officiate services. Turbowsky was born in Russia; he was a baritone and had a choir to assist him. The choir consisted of Bliman, Lipczer, Nussbaum, Fridman, Raab, Schmidt, Shpringer, and others. Berish Baron was invited from Nowy Sacz to be the bass. The cantor dressed on Saturdays and holidays in formal clothing or a three quarter tuxedo, as was the custom in Russia and also wore a Galician shtreimel, a Hassidic fur hat. Lately he lived in the house of Mendel Gross. With the outbreak of W.W.I., he was given the keys to the synagogue. He left the city when the Russian Army retreated from Jaslo and with him left all the religious objects of the synagogue. (The famous cantor Yossele Rosenblat conducted the Shabbat services in the Jaslo synagogue during one of his tours of the area in 1894)

 

The Study Center

Next to the beautiful tall building of the synagogue, stood a small building that predated the synagogue by twenty years. It was built of wood with long wood beams. The worshippers of the study center were well to do people that did not want to leave it for the new synagogue. New arrivals who were not interested in cantorial music, but wanted to pray in a very traditional manner, also joined the services of the study center.

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Reb Asher or Asher Shames was the main beadle of this synagogue (he used to be a Hebrew teacher in his younger days); a particular type with a good sense of humor, strictly observant, very poor, a talmudic scholar very familiar with the history of the Hassidic families and their interrelationships, and had a large repertoire of stories and sayings. He never wavered from the truth and this caused him many problems that eventually forced him to resign prior to W.W.I. His replacement was Awraham Hirsh.

There was no electricity in the study center. Oil burners and chandeliers with paraffin lit the place. Following the war, with expansion of the electrification of the city, electricity reached the study center.

 

Chapter 19

1914

Most Jews of Jaslo dressed traditionally until 1914. On Saturday and holidays they wore silk coats and shtreimels. More modern Jews used to abandon the traditional dress for the evening Shabbat services and dress modern clothing. The elderly Jews grew beards and payot. The children were sent to the “ heders” and then to the “Talmud torah”. The younger fellows studied Talmud at the study center and continued the ways of their fathers.

 

World War I

On the ninth day of Ab, 1914, World War I started and in strides followed total chaos. The Russian Army conquered Eastern Galicia and even advanced to Western Galicia. As usual, the first victims were Jews.

The Austrians abandoned the city. Many officials and Jews left Jaslo. The Russians occupied the city for 4 days and suddenly withdrew. During the Yom Kippur services, the Russians hastily retreated and left a great deal of military equipment. Although the Austrians returned to the city, the feeling was that the front was not stabilized and the battle could go either way. There was a general feeling of unease and silently in the background the Austrians prepared to abandon the city again.

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Rumors began to circulate that the battles did not go according to plan; wild stories made the rounds of the town and as the city panicked many Jews began to pack. The retreat began. All official institutions were abandoned, the high officials left town, the trains became reserved for the army. Despair ruled the city. Everybody who could leave Jaslo packed their belongings and left; my father also packed and looked for a cart but could not find a coachman so he remained in Jaslo. A few days later, the Russians marched into the city. The retreating Austrian Army torched the Ulaszowice Bridge and the smoke covered the city. This did not prevent the Russians from crossing the Wisloka River and seizing every section of the city. They soon began to raid homes in search of vodka, the favorite Russian drink.

The Citronenbaum bar and distillery was located in our house. Thus we were the first victims of the Russian Army. The retreating Austrian Army ordered that all sharp spirits be spilled into the sewer. But the scent lingered on for days and attracted hordes of Russian soldiers to the place to search for vodka. They were certain that the spirit was stashed away. As a matter of fact, almost every Russian regiment that passed the area visited our house, resulting in constant harassment of the tenants of the building.

The soldiers also began to break into apartments and stores that were boarded up by their owners when they left the city. The local non-Jewish population joined the Russian soldiers in the looting feast. Everything that could be carried was removed from the homes and stores. The rest was smashed, trampled beyond recognition. Wherever they visited, there was destruction and desolation. Winter was approaching and there was a shortage of fuel. The Russian Army also needed fuel, so they decided to dismantle one by one the wooden Jewish homes in order to heat their places.

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The Russian cruelties to the population became increasingly harsh and Jewish sufferings increased by the day. A Jew that stepped out of the house and was recognized as such was immediately grabbed for some hard or debasing work detail that consisted of cleaning streets, or sweeping mud or debris and so on. The Jews also received bloody whippings from the Russians on the way to work. Sometimes they seized Jews in the street to abuse them, kick them about with their spiked boots, “in order to remember forever he heel of Esau…”. The health situation was very poor. Many people had small pox and typhus resulting in many deaths. The lack of proper nutrition increased the despair and hopelessness.

The study center was converted into a stable. The holy arc, the benches, the tables, the doors and the windows were pulled out, broken and used for heating. The roof rafters were pulled down and only the empty walls remained standing.

The Russians advanced as far as the Carpathian Mountains, and even took the hamlet of Gorlice but they could not break through the mountain passes. Meanwhile German reinforcements arrived and stopped the Russian offensive. Bitter and bloody fighting ensued around Gorlice.

All Jews were forced to leave Gorlice which became the battle zone. Even the sick people had to leave for Jaslo where all the Jews of Gorlice managed to arrive. Many of the Jews of Gorlice were sick due to the red beets that they ate during the siege of the hamlet that lasted some time. They could not leave their homes and had to eat what was available namely beets. Jaslo also received many Jews from other towns in Eastern Galicia that were stranded on their way and remained in the city. Food and room shortages resulted from the influx. The medical situation fell on the shoulders of the few Jaslo Jews that remained in the city. Of course the local Jewish population did everything possible to help the poor refugees.

During the Russian occupation of the city, the general headquarters was located in the city. In effect they requisitioned many private homes and the military medical facilities requisitioned many public buildings. Jaslo served as the main rear supply base for the Russian Army in the Carpathian Mountains.

The Jews from the nearby hamlets tried to bring some food to the city but it was very dangerous. The Russians were merciless with those caught in smuggling food. Once, Henech Berger, the brother in law of Leibish Tzimet, from Zmigrod brought a cart of loaves of bread to Jaslo. The Russians detected the merchandise and viciously attacked him with their

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whips and batons. The loaves of bread were tossed into the mud and trampled.

Shimshon Melamed once stepped out into his courtyard where he met some Russian soldiers. They asked him; “Hey Jew what time is it?' he innocently pulled out his watch from his pocket to tell them the time. They grabbed the watch before he could even look at it, and cursed him while disappearing.

Next to the mayor's office Russian soldiers attacked the Polish letter carrier because they liked his boots. They laid him out on the sidewalk and removed his footwear. The irony of the situation was that the mailman looked Jewish since he had a thick beard and a moustache. The poor man had to walk home barefooted.

 

Chapter 20

1915

Austrian planes flew daily over the city and occasionally bombed it. The bombs caused a great deal of human and property damage. The Russians mounted an anti-aircraft gun on the roof of the municipal building that would begin to fire with the arrival of the planes. Unfortunately, their aim was poor and the planes always escaped safely back to their base.

With the arrival of Passover, the Jews faced a serious problem, namely where to get matzoth, wine and other necessary needs for the holiday. The popular saying is that the food angel never sleeps certainly applied to us. For we soon received flour to bake matzoth, raisins for wine, potatoes and of course bitters of which we had plenty. We also managed to obtain other necessary items and began to prepare for the holiday of freedom. We certainly could use this freedom in the years 1914/1915. Together with our worries for holidays needs we also began to worry about the holiday needs of the Jewish soldiers that were stationed in the city.

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My father immersed himself in the work of organizing a Seder place for the soldiers. He went from house to house and collected matzoth, wine and other items needed for the Seder. He asked Mrs. Lambik to prepare warm meals for the Seder. He purchased the necessary “ haggadah” pamphlets for the soldiers and collected glasses for the Seder. He then began to decorate the large hall on the second floor of the “ Talmud Torah” where the Seder for the soldiers would take place. The eve of Pessah arrived. We were ready for the holiday when suddenly about ten Cossacks burst into our place and seated themselves at the table. Those that could not find a seat, sat on the floor. They opened their bags removed bread, pork meat and vodka and began to eat. We were all in despair…” what do we do now? hametz in the house on Pessah, pork meat in the home, suddenly we had an idea. A high ranking Russian officer stayed at the other end of the house so we approached him and explained the situation to him. Indeed he was understanding and ordered the soldiers to leave the place. We began immediately to clean the house again. And towards the evening, the place was clean of hametz.

With the closing of the prayers, my father rushed to the hall of where the Seder for the soldiers would take place to see that everything was in order. The soldiers thanked him profusely for the wonderful evening and then my father returned home at midnight to start our own Seder.

Sometime later, the German spring offensive under the command of Von Mackenson began in full force. All Russian counter attacks failed, and the first signs of hope appeared. Howitzer artillery constantly bombarded the Russian positions and soon the German advance began in earnest and a few days before Shavuot, the Russian high command began to pack. The Russian retreat had began.

In the morning of the first day of the holiday, we saw the Ulaszowice bridge on fire. The Russians had repaired the bridge after they occupied the city and now they set it on fire. This did not prevent the appearance of a German patrol; the patrol consisted of two riders in the afternoon at the entrance of the city, from the direction of the village of Naglowice.

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Some Russian units dug in at the hills of Guriowice and continued to shell the city. One shell hit the outside wall of the synagogue and remained stuck in the wall. The synagogue was already damaged from previous shelling. During the day, cavalry units arrived in the city followed by the infantry that crossed the Wisloka River. Further Russian attacks were repulsed and they left the area in great haste leaving a great deal of material and soldiers that were taken prisoners.

The sun shone brightly during the holiday of Shavuot; the inhabitants of the city were happy and enjoyed their liberation when suddenly the news reached them that the German Emperor Wilhelm is arriving. Indeed the Emperor with his generals Von Mackenson and Hindenburg and their military entourage made their appearance and were received warmly and enthusiastically by the city population.

With all the joy amongst the Jewish population of the city of Jaslo, there was sadness in their midst. For the cruel Russians took with them several Jewish hostages namely the Rabbi, Mendel Meller, Menashe Weinstein, Abba Altman, Israel Haber, and others when retreating from the city. Their fate and destination was unknown. Slowly, life began to resume, stores were opened although they were at first empty. The farmers began to bring daily small quantities of produce to the city. The Jewish population began to feel a bit safer in their daily life after nine months of terrible and cruel Russian occupation. The city was still under military rule but the atmosphere improved. Shimkale the policeman, and the fat policeman, together with military police, maintained order in the city.

Among the military police there was also a Jewish soldier with a long beard from the vicinity of Zabno near Tarnow. The Jews of Jaslo were happy to meet him and talk to him about the situation. A Jewish military policeman, what do you know, wonders never cease.

The first swallows appeared in the city. Individual Jewish families that left the city for fear of the Russians began to return to the city. The Jewish refugees in the city began to leave for home.

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