of the Bobower Hasidim
The Bobower Hasidim in Oshpitzin were the most significant of the Hasidic
communities in town. This congregation continued its expansion and grew more
powerful after the First World War, when the second
of the Bobower dynasty, the
Rabbi Benzion Halberstam struck a new path in the Hasidic world, one that had
not previously been current but was adopted from then on with great enthusiasm
by all the Hasidic courts, namely to inculcate Hasidic teachings in the youth.
With his charismatic personality and magnetic influence, he succeeded in
penetrating to the very depths of the souls of the younger generation and, in
effect, binding them to him with bonds of love. Youths by the thousands began
streaming to his court, to delight in his talks and the gentleness of his
At his behest, in every location where he had Hasidic adherents, lower and
higher yeshivas were established. In addition to local youth, they enrolled
great numbers of youths from the villages and remote places who were attracted
to the Rebbe's court and were sent by him or his administrators to the yeshivas
that were led by his representatives in the cities of West Galicia.
In Oshpitzin, too, branches of the Etz Chaim Yeshiva were established,
enrolling many youths from near and far.
As mentioned earlier, the Bobower Hasidim congregated around the court of the
admor, R Luzer'l. The lively activity was obvious to anyone in the area, so that,
for instance, the first yeshivas were set up in the Rebbe's synagogue and
women's section and expanded to synagogues and
in the neighborhood, such as [those of] the Chrzanower Hasidim and the like.
When the students increased to the bursting point, the leaders were compelled
to decide on the erection of buildings to house the yeshivas and meeting places
of their Hasidim
Such a decision was not at all easy because, in addition to the financial
obligations, the expansion and increase in numbers that would occur also
implied separation and distance from the house of the
admor, R Luzer'l. The necessity, though, could not be denied and it was done. In
a short time, two buildings were erected for the synagogue and the yeshiva,
both on the same street at a distance of about a hundred cubits from each other.
Because we are in the process of describing the synagogues by their locations
on the slope of the street, we have reached the second synagogue of the Bobower
Hasidim before the first.
The sons of R Avrohom Feniger, the young men R Moshe and R Dovid, who were
among the elite of the Sassover Hasidim and who had much knowledge and
experience in building and architecture, assisted with advice and instruction
in the construction of these buildings on their land, a part of their estate,
near the courtyard of their large home. They themselves saw to it that the
plans were properly drawn up, and they were the building contractors and
supervised the construction from the foundation to the roofing-beams.
Thus a nice building was erected. The first floor housed the synagogue and
yeshiva and the upper story was the women's section, whose space during the
weekdays also served as an extension of the yeshiva.
The regular worshippers came to be some of the important and prominent Hasidim
still under the tutelage of their spiritual guide and mentor, that
distinguished man of accomplishment, Rabbi Elchonon (Chune) Eisenberg, the son
of R Michele, a famous Hasid from Kalvaria and the son-in-law of R Nusen
Silbiger. R Chune, in addition to his many superior attributes, was possessed
of a strong, wonderful voice, and when he led the services many gathered around
to enjoy the sweetness of his prayers and
The House of the Bobower Hasidim A
Two houses separated the Bobower Hasidim B and the building of
Bobower Hasidim A. The first was the large house of R Avrohom
Feniger, in whose immense courtyard was the famed children's cheder of the
melamed, R Eliezer Zlotorow, called Fonye because he stemmed from Congress Poland,
who taught most of the city's children their
and then to read and write. The second was owned by Mr. Abramson, a tinsmith,
whose workshop was behind his apartment in that house. From here on until the
end of the block and fronting on Kolejowa Street until the bridge over the Sola
River, all of the buildings belonged to the Haberfeld family. These were
apartment buildings that also housed workshops, stores, and the massive
distillery and winery of the Haberfelds. The first house was a low building of
only one floor, which had been designated by the first Haberfelds for prayer
bes medrish. This was a modest place, but full of good taste and beauty, called Menachem
Avelim [comfort of mourners]. (I was never able to determine the connection
and its name). The members of this dignified family saw to the upkeep of the
place, in spite of the fact that they themselves, men and women alike, had
permanent seats in the Great Synagogue.
and the Menachem Avelim Shul
In the Menachem Avelim Bes Medrish for many years there had been the cheder of
R Yitzchok Porath, a refugee from one of the West Galician cities,
talmid chacham, clever, and a Maskil, who had come and settled in Oshpitzin, founded a cheder
for children aged between 10 and 12, and who was very successful in his
teaching. In 5680  an additional wing with several rooms was built
behind the Menachem Avelim synagogue for the Etz Chaim Yeshiva, and over it
another floor was added to the synagogue for a women's section, which was given
the name House of the Bobower Hasidim A. Most of the classes of
the yeshiva and the rest of the Bobower institutions moved in here.
Hundreds of Hasidim from the synagogue of the
R Luzer'l joined this synagogue, and so did others from other parts of town.
This place was under the unrivaled jurisdiction of Rabbi Yakov Dovid
Bornfreind, a leading Bobower Hasid, a Jew with a sharp intelligence, one of
the great scholars of the town, a man of influence, not only over the hundreds
of yeshiva students but over all the Bobower Hasidim, young and old, as well as
of the town, especially with respect to all public concerns and institutional
His little apartment in the mansion of his father-in-law, R Yosef Laufer,
served as the political and organizational kitchen where policies
were cooked up and higher politics discussed, and no
few intrigues emerged from this kitchen.
It was here, already at that time, that the first harbingers of the
political romance between the Bobower Hasidim and the Haberfeld
family began, for it was on their property that the synagogue of the Bobower
Hasidim A had been built and which brought them after some few
years to power in the
kehilla. From this house the sounds of Torah and prayer came forth day and night.
The Chevre Mishnayes
The list of synagogues and
is not over with the end of this street, the street named for the military
commander Berek Joselowicz. Not far from here, on Koscielna Street, which
stretches from the Catholic church along the hill and further on down, there
was once, many years ago, a part of the city center in which there were
synagogues and halls of study and prayer.
There was a small square, like a bald spot, and like most of the city's
squares, there was a well from which water was drawn and brought to the houses
nearby. Around that little square, which was surrounded by no more than six
houses, there were three synagogues and
batei midrash. The largest and most elaborate was the new building of the Chevre Mishnayes,
a marvelous building with a spacious women's section.
This sanctuary was used during the week for prayer for many from sunup until 10 A.M. with
minyanim, one following the other, and on the Sabbaths for regular worshippers, many of
them engaged in business.
In the last years, after Rabbi Yekele of Pomarno, the son-in-law of the
of Sassow, who had served as rabbi and head of the Chevre left Oshpitzin and
settled in Komarno as the
of Sassow, the members of the Chevre chose the
dayan, Rabbi Chaim Yudel Halberstam, as their rabbi and teacher. Rabbi Chaim Yudel,
with his noble personality and great probity, together with the active
participation of the
gabbaim, the elderly R Yakir Singer, R Alter Neuberg, and R Avrohom Ringer, brought
about a new and rapid development of the Chevre, as a result of which they
increased their membership and engaged the services of the noted
R Avrohom Yehoshua Wilchfurt as permanent
of the Chevre.
As in years past, every Sabbath afternoon Rabbi Mordechai Boruch Danner, known
as Reb Motte Boruch the Magid, would deliver a sermon on timely topics. He was
one of the elders of the
of the town, one of its great scholars, of stately appearance with a long
white beard and thick black eyebrows, piercing eyes and a thick, somewhat
hoarse, bass voice. He was a picturesque figure, of prophetic bearing, as if he
had emerged from the Bible.
The Chrzanower Hasidim's Bes Medrish 2
(The new Chrzanower Shtibel)
A long narrow building completely of red stone, the edifice built to house the
Chevre Mishnayes before it moved to its new location, was taken over by the
Chrzanower Hasidim as their new
after leaving their previous, less adequate location in R Dovid Leizer's
house. This became the study hall for several dozen dignified
among whom were outstanding scholars like R Welwele Wachskratz.
bes medrish, throughout the entire week, the study of Gemara, Rashi, and Codes was
maintained, as well as the
[daily study of a prescribed page of the Talmud]. On Friday nights, and
especially on the long winter evenings, R Shaul Moshe Wolnerman would conduct
the study session on the weekly Torah portion, along with commentary of the Or
Hachaim. The latter was a young man of the elite of the Radomsker Hasidim, a
diligent scholar and a wonderfully talented teacher, who amazingly attracted
to his sessions.
Further along on Koscielna Street, on the northeast corner of the square, in a
low building owned by R Zvi Nebenzahl, there was for many years the
of the Radomsker Hasidim. This was a relatively small place where dozens of
balebatim, young men, and yeshiva students gathered. The room served both as a
and for prayer. The place was too small to house all who came, especially in
the most recent time when the Radomsker Hasidim increased, in addition to the
many graduates of the Keter Torah Yeshiva sponsored by the
Rabbi Shlomo Chanoch Hakohen Rabinowitz, which was administered by that great
scholar, Rabbi Dovid Moishe.
As the pressure of the
and activists increased, they erected a proper home befitting the needs of the
yeshiva and next to it a spacious synagogue, a beautiful edifice on the Jews'
Street (see above), where nearly all the Radomsker Hasidim and their
institutions were housed.
of Rabbi Chaim Yehuda Halberstam
On the downward slope on the corner of Koscielna-Wisoka Streets there was a
solitary house, known as the little Talmud Torah. (This house
belonged to the Chevrat Talmud Torah and was intended for young pupils, hence
the above name).
After the Talmud Torah ceased to operate and the house was no longer in use by
its little attendees, it was taken over as a
and synagogue for the followers of the
moreh tzedek, Rabbi Chaim Yehuda Halberstam. Two large elongated rooms on the first floor
and the yard on both sides of the house more than met their requirements. (The
upper floor and the ground floor were occupied by tenants, among them non-Jews).
With the passage of time it became known as Reb Chaim Yudel's
continued until the time that Rabbi Chaim Yudel was appointed as the rabbi of
the Chevre Mishnayes and he moved to the new building of the Chevre
along with his adherents.
The Gerer Prayer House
Koscielna Street was actually a cul-de-sac. A large house in the shape of a
huge triangle straddled the street at the bottom of the hill and blocked the
way to Glebokie Street; only narrow lanes on both sides of the house were left
for pedestrians. In this house, belonging to Mr. Reifer, the branch of Agudas
Yisrael was located on an upper floor, and a portion was assigned to the
students of the Yesodei Torah school for review studies.
With the passage of time, this section, too, was reassigned and became the
meeting place and
of the Gerer Hasidim who came here on Shabbat and Holidays from their
scattered locations in the city.
of the Belzer Hasidim
On the corner of Glebokie and Klocznikowska Streets there stood a wide
one-story house on a huge lot surrounded by a tall fence, publicly owned by the
Chevras Talmud Torah Association and known as the Talmud Torah House. The
frontage of this building housed shops and workshops, but most of the space was
used as classrooms. The dormitories for the yeshiva faculty and students of the
Talmud Torah were at the rear and access to them was from the east side of the
house, from Klocznikowska Street, through the gigantic yard and a long veranda.
Later, as the yeshivas in the city increased, each Hasidic community with its
own higher yeshiva accompanied by a yeshiva for the young, the Talmud Torah
ceased to exist and a large portion of the former classrooms, together with the
large hall, was transferred to the Belzer Hasidim, who established their
encampment there: a prayer house and study hall for hundreds of
balebatim, young men, and yeshiva students.
The spirit of vitality and ceaseless, devoted activity of the leaders who
zealously strove to establish and expand the Belzer institutions, such as R
Yosef Wolf Wolfgang and R Fishel Reches, were crowned with success, since they
were energetic and farsighted. The place hummed with activity and the sounds
of Torah could be heard from afar.
R Shmuel Schnitzer's
Not far from the Talmud Torah building on Glebokie Street, behind R Yudel
Silbiger's coal yards, on the boundary of the Klocznikowica suburb, an area
which had a mix of stone and wooden houses, in a low building built of logs,
was situated a very pleasant, little
bes medrish. The house in which it was located was part of Rabbi Shmuel Schnitzer's (the
mohel) home, donated for this purpose and named for him. R Shmuel was one of the
town notables and his house was open to all who were in need. He and his
family were known as being involved in all types of communal activities,
faithfully accomplishing community objectives.
The Braslaver Hasidim's
Nearby was the small synagogue of the Braslaver Hasidim, which was established
only recently by a small group led by R Simcha Piltz, a faithful adherent of
Braslav. In this location, primarily on the Sabbaths and Holidays, the
Braslaver Hasidim who lived in various sections of the town congregated.
Often, even during the week, an occasional single Hasid would come to commune
with his Maker.
Named for R Chaim Schenker
On the upward slope of Glebokie Street, on its eastern side, there extended a
large parcel of land, stretching many kilometers, of wheat and hay fields
the estate of R Chaim Schenker. As befit an estate holder of his
class, R Chaim expanded his home, which stood in the shadows of tall and thick
trees, and built additional buildings for dwellings and other uses for his
children, and he planted a flourishing orchard of fruit trees, vegetables, and
various plantings. From that time on the entire section was known as Schenker's
On the west corner of Schenker's Garden, the estate owner built a splendid
synagogue, by the standards of that time, with a roomy women's section and an
upper floor where the watchman who was the beadle of the synagogue
lived, with all the expenses for the upkeep of the place being covered
by the estate.
The building was erected on a large lot, with a porch that gave access to the
women's section and a narrow corridor leading to the stairway, the entrance to
the synagogue itself, and further on to a large courtyard, where the facilities
were and also shady places for the comfort of the congregants.
The entrance to the synagogue itself led to a few steps downward, which was the
entryway to the hall, in consonance with: From the depths I call to Thee,
O Lord. The hall was quite large, with high windows all around except
for the northern wall, a part of which was stocked with shelves of
s'farim, some of them quite valuable and rare. A massive iron stove with a tall
chimney spread a pleasant warmth in the autumn and winter months, and there was
never a lack of firewood or coal, since the owners and its stewards, the
progeny of the Schenker house, supplied all the necessities.
Among the regular worshippers were most of R Chaim Schenker's descendants: the
elderly R Moshe Schenker, his children and their families, R Wowtche Landau,
his son R Binyamin, his brother-in-law R Yosef Halevi Nathansohn, they and
their children and grandchildren, as well as more distant relatives.
and those living nearby also prayed there. The famous R Yossele Schenker,
the owner of the chemical plant, who lived in his splendid villa at the other
end of town, trudged all the way, along with his family, to pray at the
synagogue of their great-grandfather. The uniqueness of this synagogue was
that it united all the members of this noble family and those who had joined it
by marriage. There was always a special atmosphere of exaltation, even on
weekdays; should you have remained after the prayers to participate in the
regular study sessions, or just to socialize in the early evening, you felt and
realized that you were in the company of benevolent and noble souls whose
hearts and pocketbooks were open at all times to others' needs, since most of
them were men of means who had both the ability as well as the desire to be of
assistance. Even the less wealthy among them were as well dressed as their
wealthier fellows, their way of speaking similar, in an attempt to imitate them
in every way in doing what was good and proper.
A group of
came daily, an hour or two before the prayers, to study Talmud and so forth,
and in the evenings after the prayers there were regular study groups for
and the like. Similarly, yeshiva students would gather there to study in pairs
at various times of the day, especially in the afternoons and the long winter
The writer of these lines once had an unforgettable experience in that
synagogue named for R Chaim Schenker. This was at the beginning of the winter
in 5686 . I was at that time a young lad, among the youngest who
attended the lessons of the head of the yeshiva, our master rabbi, R Osher
Zelig Landau, who was teaching a small group of students that included the sons
of the outstanding scholar and yeshiva head, R Eliezer. Towards evening one
night, in a corner behind the heated stove, there sat a bookseller a
relatively common occurrence in those days and in that place a wrinkled
Jew of stately mien, a round low hat on his head (the clothes of a Jew from
Lithuania or Congress Poland), sitting and looking into a book and before him
were spread a collection of books for sale.
When our teacher, R Zelig, entered he approached to examine the books offered
for sale, and then suddenly to our utter amazement bent over and
embraced the stranger who was obviously not such a stranger to him, our
yeshiva, for at that time this bookseller was selling to many Polish Jews:
this was none other than Rabbi Yisrael Meir Hakohen, the Chafetz
Chaim of Radin.
The Bes Yakov
On Glebokie Street, opposite the synagogue of R Chaim Schenker, was the Bes
Yakov school for girls. Some years before the war broke out, the energetic
secretary R Kalman Bornstein set up a regular
in the large hall of the school, only for the High Holy Days and Festivals at
first, and later on also for Shabbat.
To begin with, the worshippers numbered more women than men, since women came
because there was not enough room in many other regular synagogues. The young
women of Bnos Agudas Yisrael, as well as the students and graduates of the Bes
Yakov school, also came to worship. With the passage of time the number of men
worshippers also increased, and it became one of the respectable places of
worship in the neighborhood.
On the corner of Zatorska and Glebokie Streets there was a row of large houses
called Hutterer's Houses after their owner R Shaul Hutterer, who
had built this fortress.
In recent years, in a house at the back of the courtyard partly facing Glebokie
Street, the synagogue of Mizrachi members was situated.
As mentioned above, most of the Mizrachi members attended the Chevras Mevakrim,
and after it became too small to accommodate all who came and now and then
disagreements came up a
[dispute] between the older and younger members the group split up and
a large number of them, led by R. Zalman Frankel, left the Mevakrim and set up
their new worship and meeting place here. The place also served as a locus for
assemblies and gatherings of members and sympathizers and for social and
in R Yakov Wulkan's House
In two of the city's quarters, the southern and western, which were apparently
built in recent times the buildings were more massive, only of brick and
plaster, in modern style around the new market (Nowy Rynek) and also
around the little market (Maly Rynek) and on the long Jagielonska Street, there
was no synagogue or
nearby. In contrast to the central market (Rynek Glawny), there were two
synagogues in one building. When R Yakov Wulkan built his house, a large and
magnificent building, the biggest and most beautiful in the city
(so R Yakov himself called it, and it was indeed so at the time it was built),
he immediately reserved a special place in it for a synagogue. Among the
steady attendees were R Yakov and his sons, R Michele Blumenfrucht, their
families, relatives and other worthies in the neighborhood.
This synagogue was called, after its founder, R Yakov Wulkan's Shtibel. On the
top floor of that building lived the chief rabbi, the outstanding
Rabbi Yehoshua Pinchas Bombach. Adjacent to the rabbi's apartment was a large
dusky room, the rabbi's study and
(Besdin Shtibel). Here the rabbi, author of
Ohel Yehoshua, would lecture before dozens of his students, the students of his famous
yeshiva, which produced hundreds of
who assumed respected positions among the Torah scholars of the time and were
regarded as being in the first ranks of the learned in Torah, many of them
rabbis in the cities of Galicia and Poland. This Besdin Shtibel had a regular
attended by those close to the rabbi and his admirers and was also known as
the Rabbi's Shtibel.
of the Poalei Agudas Yisrael
On the east side of the main market square (Rynek Glawny) stood a three-story
building, outstanding in its elegance and most impressive looking, which
belonged to the heirs of R Moshe Brunner. In its courtyard there were several
structures that also served as dwellings, workshops, and for storage. In that
courtyard, in a one-story house close to the entrance to Stolarska Street, was
the branch of the Poalei Agudas Yisrael.
As time passed, the place became very active and lively and during the evenings
the place was a beehive of activity with people coming to arrange matters or to
participate in the Torah classes that were conducted there. It was natural
that the Mincha-Maariv prayers were regularly instituted, which eventually led
to the obvious next steps, i.e., setting up a Holy Ark with Torah scrolls in an
inner room of the branch and setting up a regular
for the members and friends who lived nearby.
of the Pomarno Rabbi
On a narrow street behind the Magisat, the municipal building, in the house of
the elderly R Yakir Singer, lived the
R Yekele of Pomarno. The
himself used to pray at the Chevre Mishnayes most Sabbaths, but in his home he
organized an occasional
for his adherents which, with the passage of time, grew until it became a
regular place of worship, so that even when R Yekele left Oshpitzin for
continued to operate. This, incidentally, was the only
in the area and served nearby residents, passersby, and even included the
prisoners who were in the city jail on the opposite side of the street. A Jew
once told me that he had been jailed by the authorities on suspicion of having
broken a law and had been held for a time in jail, and that during most of his
incarceration he had been able to pray with a
minyan. How did you manage that? I asked him. He replied, I prayed
of R Yekele of Pomarno; only the street and the prison bars separated
The Za-Sola Synagogue
(On the other bank of the Sola)
The Jewish community on the other side of the river, Za-Sola, evolved after the
First World War so that it was barely recognizable. Until then there had only
been some scattered and isolated low houses along the two sides of the road
leading to the railroad station. During the war the local population increased
greatly, since many refugees who had fled the front as it neared their homes
had come and remained. Not far from the depot an entire neighborhood of huts
had been established which was called the Barracks, and many
families of refugees were housed there. Jewish refugees, however, were few
there because most had been received as brothers who had fled for their lives,
since the Jews of Oshpitzin were renowned for their hospitality. They were
actually taken into their homes and the food was shared as well. A significant
proportion of these refugees, Jews and Gentiles, settled in and remained.
In this way the Jewish population grew by major proportions after World War I
and in the first few years thereafter. In Za-Sola and near the railway depot
(which was essentially, in municipal terms, part of the Brzezinka village) this
was strikingly so, since many new houses were built, some multi-storied and of
stone construction. As the Jewish population increased on the other side of
the river, so did the necessity grow for a synagogue, a
bes medrish, and prayer houses for the multitude of Jews who required them, some for the
three daily prayers, and others for daily Talmud study and the like, or even
for conversation between Mincha and Ma'ariv, and all the more so for Sabbaths
and Holidays. The prayer rooms in the homes of R Moshele Grin, who had set
aside a wing in his new house for this purpose, or the large rooms that R
Yisrael Posner had made available in his home, all of them were inadequate to
serve all those who wanted to participate.
From this standpoint, it was only after a large new synagogue, actually of
gigantic dimensions with a sizable and magnificent women's section, was built
and dedicated, an edifice full of light and splendor, that the Jews of Za-Sola
had a fitting, multifaceted facility to serve their needs.
With the growth of the Jewish community in Za-Sola, Rabbi Naftali Zvi
Rosenfeld-Halberstam, the grandson of the
Rabbi Elazar, was appointed as the rabbi of the synagogue and neighborhood.
He was young and energetic, a great Torah scholar, and led his congregation
with skill and affability. He also had a very good voice and would lead the
services on the Festivals and High Holy Days (with accompanying choir). When
R Naftali left Oshpitzin and moved to Neumark [?], he was succeeded by his
brother-in-law, Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Rosenfeld. The synagogues of R
Moishele Grin and R Yisroel Posner, which had been in operation for many
years, continued to function, albeit becoming more homogeneous, since remaining
to pray there were family members, those who lived close by, and long-standing
whose affinities and customs had bound them together.
The Synagogue Near the Railroad Station
For the Jews living scattered around the railroad station there were two
synagogues. One was in the courtyard of R Dovid Goldstein, in a large hut,
where most of the neighborhood's Jews prayed, and the second, smaller and more
modest, in the home of R Dovid Mandelbrot. This synagogue moved some time
later to the home of Mrs. Chane Keile Einhorn, a more spacious apartment.
Some five years before the outbreak of World War II, a new, spacious public
synagogue was built which concentrated all of the community's social and
Rabbi Shmuel Bombach, the young son of the
of Oshpitzin, R Eliyahu, was appointed its rabbi. He organized regular daily
classes in the synagogue and would often appear before the congregants to
deliver fiery speeches that enthralled them. Some years before the Shoah, he
moved to nearby Bedzin. No one else was appointed in his place, but the regular
study sessions and sermons were given by a very talented young man, our
colleague Yosef Schiffman, who was an outstanding
talmid chacham, wise and proficient in the riches of Torah and science, extremely skilled in
exposition, a skilled writer and superb orator. [He perished in the Shoah.]
These I will commemorate and bewail, the great and the humble, who congregated
and peopled the synagogues,
batei midrash, to address their Creator daily, hour by hour, morning, noon, evening and also
at night; their voices were never stilled in study and prayer, heard throughout
the town as if to say: Behold, the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers
nor sleeps. Most of the synagogues also served as cheders and Talmud
Torahs for thousands of little children or as study-halls for the lower and
higher yeshivas, and the sound of Torah that burst forth could always be heard
from afar, until the murderer arose and exterminated my people, my city, its
together with all who frequented them, the beloved and sweet Jews, these
upright and steadfast, may their memory be blessed. May the Almighty avenge
It is stated in the Talmud: In the future the synagogues and
of Babylonia will be established in the Land of Israel (Megilla 29). What is
the ruling concerning the synagogues and
May this record be a small monument, established in the Land of Israel. This
shall be my reward.
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