by Sara Weiss-Hauptman
Translated by Susannah Juni
Stryy was my birth town. There I lived with my parents and with the entire Hauptman family. There in Stryy I spent my childhood years. There I dreamed and fantasized of a brighter, greater world childish dreams from a time happily spent.
I remember yet well that big Zionist Folk-Fest in the park, Olshina. The sensations from the Fest were 12 cutters from the Land of Israel fields. I was one of them. In white clothes, white head-scarves, white-blue sandals on our feet, scythes in our hands and grasses gathered up in our aprons, we went around the great park, raising our scythes high and sang in Hebrew: How loved and dear you are to us, our earth in Zion.
In the avenues of the park were standing small tables, where we sold various things and onzikhts - kortlakh [?] from the Land of Israel. People called these avenues Jerusalem Avenues. the money went for the K. K. L.
The initiators of the Folk-Fest were Berl Stern, Aron Hauptman, Benyamin Klein, Chaim Dovid Korn, M. Wagner, of blessed memory.
A second event from that time:
A well known woman from Stryy came to my father and recounted to him the following:
A Ukrainian neighbor had accused her husband in court, of spitting on him and his sacred pictures in his home, for not punctually paying his apartment rent. The Christian lived by them [were renters] and didn't want to pay for the apartment. He had devised a frame-up lie on them. His 8 year old boy testified that the Zshid had expressed to his father: I spit on you and your god. The second day a home-agent came and arrested her husband for insulting the Christian religion. The woman cried before my father and asked him to help her.
My father was out to the Jewish Court Counsel, Yanas, whom he personally knew and asked him to be personally interested with the matter.
It's bad, said the Court Counsel, Yanas, 'here we're dealing with problems of people who are religious feeling offended, when it comes to this, some of our Christians are inventive, especially when it's a matter of a Jew. But I am sure and believe that it is a frame-up lie, and I will see about something to do about this thing.
Translated by Daniella Heller
Chaos ensued after the end of the First World War, when Stryj came under the Ukrainian rule. The new rulers had no organized administration and no functioning police. During the first days after the war, the town was a lawless no-man's land. Day and night demobilized armed and unarmed soldiers wondered the streets, trying to get back to their homes.
Various Jewish parties took initiative and approached the Ukrainian authorities asking for permission to create a Jewish militia in order to protect the Jewish population.
According to the agreement each party had to supply certain number of people for armed patrols in the streets.
Some officers took it upon themselves to organize and implement the project. The headquarters of the militia was established near the synagogue, where the weapons' store room was also located. The patrols assembled in the Academic Union hall, where the night duty officer was stationed. A small fund was established in order to cover the expenses of the militia.
The patrols consisted of four men for each one hour shift. They had the authority to detain and interrogate any suspicious person wondering the streets at night. If they caught a thief they had the authority to arrest him. Often they found weapons which they confiscated as most of the thieves were demobilized soldiers.
Sometimes there were violent encounters in the dark streets. As there were no street lights some clashes occurred with Ukrainian military patrols, but luckily no one was hurt.
One day the Ukrainians attacked the headquarters of the Jewish militia and took all their weapons.
Translated by Daniella Heller
During the last winter of the First World War 1917-1918, the discipline in the Austro-Hungarian army started to deteriorate. Thousands of deserters were wondering around. Hunger spread everywhere and demonstrations and riots occurred due to the situation. The war prisoners started to return from Russia after the revolution.
In the spring of 1918 the food shortages increased and hunger was felt everywhere. As the food became scarce the black market flourished. Hunger demonstrations were held in various places against delicatessen stores. Polish organizations took advantage of these demonstrations to inflame their anti-Semitic talk and action.
On April 16th, 1918 a demonstration took place in Krakow during which Jews were beaten and robbed. A man from Stryj who happened to be in Krakow on business was killed in the riots. The murder of Mahler made a big impact on the Jewish community in Stryj. The committee of Poalei Zion decided to prepare for future dangers and appointed people to organize a self defense. A secret meeting was held in which five men were elected to the committee: Shlomo Rosenberg, Leib Teper, Avraham Menderer, Shimon Rosenberg, and Nathan Wunderlicht. It was decided to deploy forty men on the roofs to protect the Jewish population.
Some weeks after Passover it became known that an Austro-Hungarian demonstration was going to take place in Stryj in cooperation with local criminals.
A crowd started to gather before noon in front of the house of Itche Sheinfeld on Potocki Street. The entrance to the yard was guarded by the police. The crowd of about five hundred people was shouting slogans about hunger and bread and marched towards the market square.
The Jewish self defense groups were ordered not to interfere unless there was a specific anti-Semitic action. The self defense groups were armed with sticks and other cold weapons and deployed around the demonstrators.
As the crowd approached a coffee house owned by gentiles, the leaders went up the stairs but stopped and left after the owner came out and said quietly something to them. They went on to a Jewish owned kiosk which was closed and started to break the doors. When it became clear that Jewish shops were the target, it was decided to act and the members of the self defense group attacked the hooligans. The rioting mob started to escape as many passersbys, Jews and gentiles were watching. As stones were thrown by the hooligans, one of them wounded a soldier. The army attacked the mob and they dispersed.
This was the first, and probably the only public action of the Jewish self-defense in Stryj.
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