Remnants testifying to the community's activity in the area of health were discovered in inscriptions on ancient headstones in the old cemetery from the 16th and 17th centuries. One of them told of a man (whose name has not been deciphered), known as leader of the land. It seems that this was a member of The Council of the Four Lands 3 and a community member, who established a poor-house, a bathing house and a mikveh. According to the inscription, the activist left an inheritance of one-hundred zloty per year for Eretz Yisrael until the coming of the Messiah.
A headstone from a later period was preserved, that of the community leader, Abraham Moshe Bar Elyakom, who managed the hospital located in the town. In the same corner there are graves of a number of physicians. In the monograph written by Leopold Hauser about the town of Przemysl 4 , we read: the Jewish hospital was founded by the Jewish community from donations in 1842. The property consists of a house and a fund in the amount of 4,364 gulden and 14 cents in stocks. The hospital's capital is based on interest from the principal and on income from the Jewish bathing house. The supervision is conducted by the Jewish community. The management: a director, a comptroller and a physician.
Coincidentally, an old hospital seal from the first half of the nineteenth century has been preserved in the new hospital. In this seal, the engraver included the characteristic marks of the period. The physician's garb, as he checks the pulse of the patient in bed, is from the Biedermeier period. The inscription is in German, the official language at that time.
We read of the atmosphere in the hospital in the memoirs of Moshe Glanzman, who was known as Moshe Krankfuter, the old orderly at the Jewish hospital from 1875 to 1937.
[An old Seal of the Jewish Hospital]
When I walked past the Jewish hospital in the summer of 1875, the hospital director at that time, Mr. Margolis, called to me and offered me the position of nurse krankfuter in the institution. I agreed, and one week later I arrived at the hospital office to determine my work conditions. In the office, I met the hospital directors, Margolis, Schwartztal 5 , Haim Blumenfeld and Haim Wolf. They confirmed that I had been approved by the community for the position of sanitary worker at a salary of 12 gulden a month and board. When I began my job, I was 15 years old. Since then, with the exception of the three years during which I served in the army, I have worked at the Jewish hospital.
The hospital budget came from contributions from the population in the town and the surrounding areas, weekly pay (wachen gilt). Households were given special boxes in which they placed pennies for the hospital. Treatment fees were only collected from strangers or from those who could afford them. The fees reached 15 gulden a month.
The hospital was managed by a board of directors who were chosen from the among the community members. The chief director was Margolis and, practically, the two of us were the chief directors. Patients were admitted upon a physician's referral, but the final decision was always made by Margolis. Appeals on the rejection of a patient were transferred to the senior authorities. All patients, with no exception, were served the same food, and only rarely were there any deviations. The hospital kitchen also served other purposes it provided hot water to women giving birth in the town, and people often came to ask for hot water to bathe their babies. The kitchen also provided hot tea for the town and distant areas, especially on Shabbat. Sometimes people praying and studying at the nearby klois 6 came to drink hot tea in the kitchen. On Shabbat the housewives would bring their pots with food to heat up, and there were often quarrels among the women when the pots were exchanged. Increased traffic could be noticed in the kitchen when a famous rabbi was coming to town. Then, the housewives would provide the rabbi's entourage with their cholent and kugel, for the festive feasts. During the winter months, hot soup with beans was cooked in the hospital kitchen in huge pots, and was distributed daily to approximately two-hundred poor people, with a piece of bread. Margolis allocated the food products according to weight. He also ordered special diets for the patients and sometimes prescribed medications, without consulting others, based on prescriptions from professors in Vienna, which he collected and classified according to the type of illness.
When I began my service, the managing physician was Dr. Dauer 7 , an elderly man of 60, who was kind and attentive to the patients. After he went to Vienna, he was replaced by Dr. Szyszkowski, who was also kind and always willing to help the patients. He often rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night, in severe weather conditions, to treat a patient. Like his predecessor, Dr. Szyszkowski also did not receive any pay. When I once gave him three-hundred gulden , which had been donated for him by the community as a grant, he refused to accept it and donated the sum to the hospital. While he was absent, he was replaced by Selver 8 , a surgeon. Dr. Szyszkowski sometimes summoned Dr. Orlowski the director of the general hospital in town for consultations or operations, and he later did so with his successors Dr. Medejski, Dr. Biber, and Dr. Kiburzynski 9 .
Every day the doctors made their calls in the following way: at eight in the morning the doctor arrived in the patient room and, without taking off his coat, went straight to examine the patient and prescribed medication and a diet. Laboratory tests, as are customary nowadays, were not performed.
The morgue in the yard also handled the deceased from the surrounding villages, and they were then taken to the local cemeteries. Every day, all around the hospital, one could hear crying and wailing of the relatives of the deceased. This was accompanied by the noise coming from the headstone workshop in the adjacent yard, and the sounds of young children from the cheder in the nearby house. It was a symphony of hammering and children laughing and playing around the hospital. Complex surgery was not performed in this hospital. Often, the doctor himself performed small operations and I assisted him. We did not have the advanced surgical instruments which are used today. Even so, thank God, no disasters occurred. There were usually cases of burns of various degrees, caused by careless handling of oil wicks and alcohol. Patients from the town and the vicinity were admitted to the mental patient room. If the illness lasted for a long time, the patients were released, and most of them wandered the town's streets. Patients with various contagious diseases were hospitalized together, however it should be noted that the situation in the general municipal hospital was no better. The number of examinations sometimes reached 40 per day. The examinations were held in the hospital office and the director, Margolis, was always present, as he was considered an expert. After Dr. Szyszkowski resigned, due to his age and failing health, a new director came, Dr. Ehrlich from Rzeszow. Dr. Ehrlich did not introduce any changes or new routines in the hospital. The old method continued, and we did not even purchase any new instruments. The new doctor was dedicated to the patients, however, in my opinion, he was not as advanced as his predecessor.
[photograph of the Jewish Hospital]
In May 1921, Dr. Rudolf Cohen, representative of the American Joint, convened with a number of dignified citizens to consult with regards to the means of handling the worrying health situation of the Jewish population.
The lack of essential institutions, such as a hospital and public bathing houses, which were completely destroyed during the war, had caused a deterioration in the health situation in the town. Infectious diseases such as typhoid, trachoma, and skin diseases, were severely harming the Jewish population, which was suffering from poverty and lack of means following the war, as a result of the raging inflation and high cost of living.
Following the recommendation of the Jewish National Council, the Folksrat (as the Jewish community was known after the revolution), Dr. Alexander Steinhardt was appointed as the Joint representative, to supervise the rehabilitation of healthcare in the Przemysl district.
Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Landau, the community leader, the hospital building was restored to the ownership of the community. The building was not fit for use, and was completely renovated by the community. With the assistance of the Joint, new equipment and modern medical devices were purchased, and on January 13, 1924, the Jewish hospital was opened. The poor-house conditions which had prevailed in it for decades, were liquidated once and for all. Dr. Alexander Steinhardt was appointed hospital director and he continued in this position until the Shoah.
The hospital located in a large park on a hill on Szaszkiewicza Street included three houses:
[photograph of the medical staff.
First row from left: Dr. Tuerkel, Dr. Schmorak, Dr. Steinhardt, Dr. Hass, Dr. Halpern-Weissberg, Dr. Schattner
Second row from left: Dr. Bauer, Dr. Segal, Dr. Loebel, Dr. Diamant
At back: nurses and Moshe Krankenfuter]
1) The main building, 2) the surgical building, 3) the administration building. It also had six clinics and a chemical-bacteriological laboratory. There were 100 beds.
1) The Internal Medicine Department directed by Dr. Alexander Steinhardt, with 10 rooms.
2) The Labor and Delivery Department the first of its kind in Galicia (labor and delivery departments were opened in Lvov and Krakow during a later period), which had a great affect on the decrease in the mortality rate during labor. It had 8 rooms and was directed by Dr. Zygfryd Diamant.
3) The Surgery Department included 6 rooms, 2 of which were septic. The department was directed by Dr. Mark Tuerkel 12 (now a surgeon in Ecuador).
The following clinics existed in the hospital:
1) Clinic for internal diseases and pediatrics directed by Dr. Steinhardt, Dr. Wilczer and Dr. Knoller (died in Haifa).
2) Gynecological clinic directed by Dr. Diamant, Dr. M. Aberdam and Dr. A. Reif (now a doctor in Tel Aviv).
3) Ophthalmology clinic directed by Dr. M. Mieses-Reif (now a doctor in Tel Aviv) and Dr. E. Eisner.
4) Ear, Nose and Throat clinic directed by Dr. M. Gans (now a doctor in the kupat cholim [sick-fund] in Tel Aviv).
5) Dermatological clinic directed by Dr. S. Turnheim and Dr. Brand.
[photograph of the foundation-stone ceremony for the hospital extension, 1938)
6) Department for nervous conditions directed by Dr. Schattner, who also directed the bacteriological laboratory (now a kupat-cholim doctor in Tel Aviv).
All the X-rays were performed by Dr. A. Rinde according to a special contract with the hospital. The hospital nurses included Netka Mayersdorf 13 , who worked until her death in 1960, as head nurse in the kupat-cholim center in Tel Aviv.
The hospital also served as a residency location for young Jewish doctors who were not accepted to do their residencies in governmental hospitals, due to anti-Semitic discrimination.
The assistant physicians and specialists included: Dr. Henryk Loebel (his courage during the Shoah is recounted in the chapter on the Shoah); Dr. Edmund Mayer; Dr. Gershon Walter; Dr. Israel Segal; Dr. Shlomo Hass; Dr. Zygmunt Meister; Dr. David Mayer; Dr. Czeslaw Furdes; Dr. Abraham Walker; Dr. Arnold Meister; Dr. Israel Poppers; Dr. Wilhelm Diur 14 ; Dr. Edmund Lercher; Dr. Klemens Cohen; Dr. Zygmunt Ferster; Dr. Emanuel Kupfer; Dr. Bruno Hassel.
During the period between 1924 and September 14, 1938, the hospital admitted 12,529 patients, during 166,349 sick days, 79,203 of whom did not pay any fees. A record of sick days was recorded in 1932. In that period, 131,698 people visited the hospital and received treatment, including 53% women and 47% men. ****
The hospital budget was funded by the following sources:
1) Perpetual funding by the community, which dedicated the income from chuppa registration and burial and headstone fees to this cause.
2) Patient sick fees.
4) Assistance from the Przemysl Municipality.
In 1924, the hospital income reached a total of 28,737 zloty, to which the community had contributed 11,383 zloty, the Dobromil kehila contributed 1,700 zloty, and the sick fees were 15,654. The total expenses were 66,464 zloty.
In 1938 the hospital expansion was begun. Plans were drawn up by engineer Schaffer and the cornerstone was laid for the clinic house, but the building was not completed. Today, the Jewish hospital building serves as a school for Polish nurses. After the Shoah the glorious institution of Przemysl Jewry was transferred, then, to foreign hands.
The Bikur Cholim [visiting the sick] society was founded approximately 100 years ago. At the end of the 19th century it was one of the best known philanthropic institutions in the town.
The society's first codex was composed in 1870, but there was an earlier one, which was lost at some point.
The most respectable citizens of the town were among the society's activists, such as: Yehoshua Mieses, who signed the first codex, Moshe Hirt, Shalom Baumwald, Leon Mezuzah, Mendel Halpern, Efraim Laufer, Maurycy Briefer, Dr. Shmuel Kutna.
The society's purpose was to provide medical assistance to poor patients by means of supplying medication and other means of treatment for free.
The society's committee managed to acquire the trust and admiration of the public at large. One clear sign of its popularity is that a single women from the lower classes, Roza Blech, who worked hard her whole life, bequeathed the society a house on Serbanska Street. After receiving the inheritance the old house was destroyed, according to the committee's decision, and a new building was erected in its place, thanks to the generous assistance of Efraim Laufer, who paid off the mortgage on the new building.
Before and after the First World War, until the hospital was activated in 1924, the society's activities were a great help for the members of the population who lacked their own means. Apart from medication or money for medication, the patients also received a physician's treatment for no charge. It is worth emphasizing that many Jewish physicians volunteered for this humanitarian action.
The rehabilitation of the hospital released the society from the need to provide medical care, because the hospital clinic took on all the society's duties.
The recent chairmen of the society were Maks Ochsenberg and Abraham Kahane.
The proclaimed purpose of the society was to maintain health, and disseminate concepts of hygiene and cleanliness among the broad strata of the Jewish population.
The Przemysl branch, which was founded in 1927, was particularly involved in caring for the two-hundred students of the religious schools: Bais Yakov, Talmud Torah, and the Yesodei Hachuka yeshiva. The children were given medical examinations and dental treatment for no charge, and free tickets for the bathing house. During the winter months, they were provided with hot breakfasts. Before Passover, the needy families were given cleaning materials, whitewash for the walls, paint and soap.
In 1934 the branch acquired a large lot in a rural area, where they established a building for a summer camp for 200 children every year.
In 1938 the branch was directed by Dr. Julius Susswein 16 , Dr. Stapp, Dr. Brand, Dr. Sohn, Dr. Diamant, Dr. Kutna, the pharmacist Grin, Dr. Schwartz, Dr. Glanz, Dr. Mester 17 . They were supported by a society of active members: Rena Reisner, Zilla Goldstein-Haber, Lusia Margulies, Wiska Rabinowitz-Reichman.
Jewish Welfare Institutions in Przemysl
After the founder Ms. Mester died, Dr. Joachim Goldfarb was chosen as chairman.
The orphans enjoyed material and moral support from the Jewish public in town. The institution received the first inheritance from Katriel Hartmeier 23 , who dedicated half of the income from the Victoria hotel on Mickiewicza Street to the orphanage. After a short while, the institution was bequeathed a two-story house on Tarnawskiego Street, from Fischel Goldman. The orphanage was moved to this house and it remained there until the Shoah. The building had no neighbors, and it was adapted to its new function under the directorship of the assistant chairman of the management, Dr. Izaak Sohn, who supervised the children's health. The children went to school until the age of 17 and were then directed to vocational studies for three years. Each student's profession was determined on the basis of psycho-technical tests. The tuition which needed to be paid to the artisans and masters was a great burden, but thanks to the assistance offered by the Yad Charutzim society, they overcame this obstacle too.
During the institution's existence some 400 orphans passed through it, all educated to become productive citizens. Most of them perished along with the director during the Shoah. A few survivors remained two dentists, one in Poland and one in America. After the death of the chairman, Dr. Joachim Goldfarb (1930) it was directed by Dr. Daniel Hass 24 .
The twentieth anniversary of the institution and its educational value were noted in 1937 in a special celebration. Special appreciation was expressed towards the founding activists, who dedicated themselves to handling the orphanage: Maurycy Briefer, Dr. Bernard Gans, Dr. Jakob Glanz, Dr. Joachim Goldfarb, Dr. Leo and Leonora Probstein, Moshe Scheinbach, Mina Mintz, Maria Mester, Jakob Hirschfeld, Rabbi Schmelkes, Roza and Henryk Blatt, Deborah Citron, Rosa Diamant, Bertha Gans, Dr. Leib Landau, Lola Mantel, and Adella Margulies.
That year, the institution's budget reached 30,000 zloty.
[photograph of the Old Age Home]
A prominent activist in the Society of Friends of the Old Age Home was the righteous woman Leah Knoller, who dedicated herself wholeheartedly to improving the conditions of the elderly. She organized a volunteer club from among the wealthy women in town, who took upon themselves to prepare special meals at regular dates, at their own expense, especially on Shabbat and holidays.
The station was housed in two rooms in the orphanage and was equipped with the appliances required by the science, as well as a specialist library on pedagogy and psychology. The students went through psychotechnical tests and were directed, according to the survey results, to appropriate professions.
Until 1930, the society drew from the funds they had accumulated and from loans from the Joint and reached a turnover of approximately 5000 zloty. From 1931, the society was regularly assisted by the relief society of Jewish Przemyslers in the United States, and the annual turnover in 1938 reached a total of 12,394 zloty.
From 1926 until the end of 1938 loans were given to 5278 families, in a total of 367,873 zloty.
During the last years, the institute's management was composed of Dr. Michal Buksbaum, chairman, pharmacist Jakob Katz, B. Stermer, Haim Elias, a labor movement activist, S. Frankfurt, Leon Streier, Feibel Herzlich, Yosef Tepper, Markus Felsen, A. Wirth, H. Antel 25 , Yosef Ettinger, Y. Bloch.
Many members of the Jewish population in the town obtained academic degrees and reached the status of liberal professionals, thanks to the assistance of this noble society. Among the society founders was the respected religion teacher in town, Jakob Baumgarten. The most respected citizens in the town served as chairmen and the position was considered a sign of respect and appreciation. During the last years, the chairmen were Henryk Blatt, Dr. Michal Schwartz, Dr. Lichtbach and others. According to the report from 1931, assistance was given to 850 Jewish students in the town, which represents approximately 5% of all the Jewish population in the town.
This discrimination prevented many Jewish students from continuing their studies. The society took upon itself the burden of providing tuition. It established contacts with similar societies in Lvov and Krakow, which owned student dormitories, and provided cheap residence for needy students.
In 1928 the society achieved a peak in its development, when its annual budget reached 50,000 zloty ($10,000). Some 50 members benefited from the society's assistance, and approximately 15,000 zloty were devoted to monthly payments to needy members, and 35,000 for their tuition.
The society enjoyed the financial and moral support of all strata of the Jewish society in town. The community, the Bnei Brith brotherhood, the social club and the merchants' union allocated special portions of their budgets to support the society. The society activists were members of Agudath Herzl and the academic Gordonia.
The chairmen were: attorney Dr. Adolph Pfeffer and Dr. Zvi Rubinfeld. The last chairman until the Shoah was Dr. Marcin Aberdam, and the assistants were Y. Stremer from Agudath Herzl and K. Goldfarb from Gordonia (both now in Israel).
As the aliya to Israel increased, the society's activity was reduced.
Jewish Sports in Przemysl ********
The only sport they engaged in at that time was soccer. There were not yet able to purchase a sports facility without support from the public, which was still not supportive of the Jewish youth's physical renaissance, and belittled what was then known as sport. The youngsters made use of the little they had and used the city grazing field, Blonie, without permission, and were often chased away during their training by the shepherds. When the war began in 1914, the club's activity ceased, and in 1919 Hagibor [the Hero] was founded, which continued the Jutrzenka's tradition.
Hagibor was founded upon the initiative of a group of energetic and ambitious youths. The most active were the Poller brothers and Yitzhak Kneppel. They organized a group of Jewish sports fans and thanks to the help, the contributions and the enthusiasm of the young athletes, Hagibor progressed from one year to the next. The soccer team rapidly rose from the Third League to the Second League in the national soccer association of Eastern Galicia.
[Photograph of Hagibor Tenth Anniversary, 1930.
Sitting from left: Bernfeld, Dr. Pieper, Swiatnicki, Dr. Weintraub, Klausner.]
Among the activists we should mention Mr. Goldfarb (a clerk in Frenkel's flour mill), the Weissman brothers, Berek Bernfeld (a soccer referee), Maschler 28 (a pharmacy owner), the Goliger brothers, the Rinde brothers, attorney Dr. Axer, S. Rebhan, Hotrer 29 and Engel.
At first Hagibor practiced in the open field, Blonie, but in 1920 the municipality gave the Polish sports club Polonia most of the area which was used by other sports organizations or just amateurs. Polonia fenced off the area and developed it, and allocated only a small amount of time for Hagibor training.
The chairman of Hagibor at that time, Dr. Benjamin Weintraub (now in Haifa) managed to convince the mayor of Przemysl, Mr. Koszczewski, and at the beginning of 1926 the municipal council decided to give Hagibor a 5000 square meter area of municipal land on the right bank of the San river, near the Goliger brothers' sawmill. With great enthusiasm, the Hagibor activists quickly erected a sophisticated sports ground, which included a soccer field, a running track, a tennis court, a seating gallery, and changing rooms for the bathers and swimmers in the near by San river.
Since the establishment of the sports field, hundreds of young Jewish men and women would throng to the field for training in all branches of sports: soccer, basketball, tennis, athletics, gymnastics, swimming and so forth.
The new conditions bore fruit: Hagibor rose to the top of the Second League in soccer. In some cases, friendly games were played between Hagibor and the local team Polonia, which was a member of the First League, and Hagibor won the games, to the great joy of the Jewish population in town.
During its heyday in 1926-1927, the soccer team included the following:
[Photograph of Hagibor team (in the striped shirts) at a match in Boryslaw, 1928.]
The surprising development of Hagibor attracted even the assimilators, including the well-known attorney Dr. Leon Peiper, who was chosen to run the club. During that period, Dr. Yosef Axer was the chairman of the society (he died in Tel Aviv in 1956). He was succeeded by Dr. M. Turkel 31 and Dr. Marcin Aberdam. During Succoth of 1937, under the auspices of the Maccabi organization in Poland, of which Hagibor was a member, a day of Jewish sports events was held in Przemysl. Hundreds of Hagibor members competed in all branches of sports on this day. The event became a sporting event celebrated by all the Jewish population in the town.
Apart from Hagibor, there was also another Jewish sports club, Jutrzenka, which was mostly comprised of the Noar Ha'Oved. Its influence within the sports public was small.
The Zionist youth, members of Hashomer also had a sports club called Hashachar, which operated for a few years. Hashachar members later moved to Hagibor, and the club was closed.
[Photograph of members of a course in light athletics Hagibor.]
Original footnotes from the yizkor book:
Please note: In the original, it is unusual for more than two footnotes to
appear on one page. Therefore, it was not necessary for the authors to
differentiate between footnote references there. However, for the sake of this
translation, the original footnotes have been labeled with a consecutive number
of asterisks (i.e. the first original footnote in this chapter is labeled *,
the consecutive one is labeled **, etc.). This will help the reader to find the
appropriate reference for each footnote (ed.)
|*||From the jubilee book of the Jewish hospital in Przemysl, 1924-34. Back|
|**||From the memoirs of Moshe Glanzman recorded by Dr. Steinhardt (translated from the Polish by Y. Altbauer). Back|
|***||Based on the records of Dr. Alexander Steinhardt, director of the hospital, in the hospital jubilee book. Back|
|****||From the Jewish Hospital report of 1938. Back|
|*****||According to the writings of Maks Ochsenberg in the Przemysl Jewish Hospital Jubilee book, 1934. Back|
|******||From the company report, 1938. Back|
|*******||From the institution's report, 1938. Back|
|********||The material was mostly provided by Dr. B. Weintraub. Back|
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