« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 105]

My Memories of Drohobycz

By Rivka Shapira

Translated by Anita Harband


My earliest memories of Drohobycz, my birthplace, reach back as far as 1911. It was an election year for the Austrian parliament (the district was then one of the many counties belonging to the multi-branched Austro-Hungarian monarchy). The struggle was mainly between two dominant, rival parties: the ruling party which included the assimilated circles, government officials, merchants and members of the “upper” echelons of the city and headed by Yaakov Feuerstein who was the leader of the community at that time. The delegate for this party was Nathan von Levenstein. Opposing this powerful party, undoubtedly the regime's favorite, was a party composed mainly of the lower classes – artisans, clerks, petty merchants. This was the Zionist Party. But to its help came the Jewish youth, that sensed, even then, the forthcoming redemption,[1] joined the party and became devoted passionately and with tremendous enthusiasm to this holy mission. I remember the day when the Zionists' delegate, Dr Gershon Tzipper, arrived in the city. The entire young generation showed up to welcome him and boys were running down the city streets announcing that the Messiah had come.

There was one rabbi residing in Drohobycz at that time, Reb Chaim M.Y. Shapira, later known as the ADMO'R[2] of Drohobycz who was “hooked” to the Zionist cause, an idea rejected unequivocally by the ultraorthodox as well as by the “intelligentsia”, the “pragmatists” and the "realists”. This ADMO'R invited Dr. Tzipper into his home, arranged an elaborate reception in his honor and permitted the Zionists to use the kloiz[3] in his courtyard for election propaganda, meetings and speeches. The ADMO'R 's activities backfired for when his “misdeeds” were discovered he was ostracized by most of his Chassidic followers and even his close friends abandoned him. Undaunted he continued to pursue this road which ultimately led him to Zion. In 1921, after the end of World War I, he collected all his family members and left for the Land of Israel, an act that was then regarded by many to be suicidal.

The above-mentioned elections were also accompanied by a tragic event for the Jewish community of Drohobycz, which lost eleven souls when Government agents fired into the crowded streets on the day of elections. An accurate account of the disaster is provided elsewhere in this book. A long time passed before the city recovered from the severe shock caused by the bloodshed. Indeed, the “pampered” generation of those days did not anticipate what fate had in store for them in the coming years…

Being the “living quarters” of the wealthy who owned the oil fields in nearby Boryslaw, Drohobycz was well known for its affluence and philanthropy and had many charitable and humanitarian institutions. The residents of Drohobycz were also renowned for their hospitality. There was hardly a Jewish home which did not host a “Sabbath guest” and many of the needy would frequent this city, which was reputed to have many rich and numerous philanthropic inhabitants.

Although the majority of the city's population was Christian, the Jewish way of life was prominent and its influence unmistakable in society. The Jews were the “tone setters” in matters of culture, education and good taste.

Trade and labor were suspended on Shabat and Jewish Holy days and all the shops were closed since the Jews owned most of them. Upon taking control of the city during World War II the Nazis immediately ordered the arrest of the leadership of the Jewish community and the saga of agonies and tortures began. In early 1942 remnants of the Jews who had survived previous “actions” were gathered for the final phase of their extermination. Rabbi Zeev Wolf Nussbaum led the procession, marching with his head held high, singing and dancing, encouraging those who were about to die for kiddush hashem (sanctification of the name). Thus was one of the eminent and splendid communities of eastern Galicia, the Jewish community of Drohobycz, eradicated.



Footnotes
  1. redemption: this is the English translation of the word geula meaning fulfillment of the Zionistic ideal and dream of a sovereign nationality in Eretz Israel. Return
  2. ADMO'R : Adoneinu Moreinu Ve Rabeinu meaning our master, teacher and Rabbi. Return
  3. kloiz (Yid): house of worship or study. Return



[pp. 106-107]

Pleasant Memories

by Yehuda Cohen

Translated by Anita Harband

I am not a native of Drohobycz. I was born in Russia and my parents, Shmuel Yona and Chaya Cohen Z”L, escaped from Russia to Chernovtsy[1] when I was five years old. My father was appointed there as a teacher in the municipal school while my uncles, the Rabbis Abraham and Raphael Kitaigorodsky, left Russia for Galicia with the intention of establishing yeshiva[2] and thus ended up in the town of Drohobycz. My parents sent me there for my yeshiva studies and my father was invited there later to teach the Bible and Hebrew literature in the yeshiva. In that way, while still a youngster, I had the opportunity to get to know the Jews of Drohobycz, their leaders and respected people of the town, and especially the great and admirable Rabbi Chaim Munio Shapira. The yeshiva, where we absorbed the Torah and knowledge, was in his court. We had great respect for this noble and gentle Rabbi, a great scholar who was a true “lover of Israel”, an ardent Zionist, who dreamed of Jewish unity. He raised his family according to those important principles. He eventually emigrated to Israel and was here too an influential figure as an educator and promoter of unity and brotherhood among all people His sons followed the path of their distinguished father. His grandson is the famous poet, Shin (Shapira) Shalom,[3] the son of Reb Yaakov Shapira, who upon coming to Israel fulfilled his duties towards the Torah and Avodah.[4]

I remember Dr. Leon Tannenbaum,[5] the great Zionist leader, who spent all his time on Zionist activities, community committees and public issues. The great Zionist, Dr. Spindel Z”L and Dr. Shimon Lustig, who resides in Israel, all dedicated leaders of their Nation and Land. [6] In Drohobycz, under the influence of these people, I absorbed the national spirit, the Torah and culture. The people from this city are dispersed across this country (Israel) and occupied in various fields of work, such as kibbutz members, city workers, industrialists, lawyers, etc.

The city was undoubtedly a model city in Galicia with its unique Love of Israel,[7] In the elections for the Polish Parliament and the municipality, the Zionist list consistently got the most votes.

When I undertook to establish the local chapter, my dear friend, the enthusiastic Zionist, Dr. Moshe Tannenbaum Z”L, immediately helped me. With his warm heart and unrelenting enthusiasm, he spent much of his time on He-Halutz[8] helping the local chapter become the leading one in the area. We built an agricultural farm where hundreds of pioneers received a practical, agricultural education through actual hard work. When hundreds of pioneers illegally crossed the border from Russia to Galicia, the Drohobycz chapter of He-Halutz was among the first to accept our pioneer brethren openly and warmly. For many months they stayed on the farm working and absorbing the national and brotherly spirit until their final arrival in Israel.

Among the pioneers from Russia was the group from Proskorov, who currently reside all over Israel. They can testify to the warm and gracious treatment they received. (Among them are Shimon Kitai, the Haifa lawyer, and Schwartz, the pharmacist from Tiberias.)
We founded the Ivria Club[9] and held periodic meetings to hear lectures on Hebrew literature. The only language spoken there was Hebrew.

We also founded a youth group called Herzl, among it's leaders was Dr. Moshe Tannenbaum. Its members were extremely active in every Zionist activity possible.

The Hebrew school led by the teachers Kramer and Feingold produced hundreds of graduates immersed in the Torah and general knowledge. The school was a meeting place for the study of Hebrew culture and education.

I remember one interesting incident: After listening to the Hebrew lectures, many of us, among the Ivria activists went out to fulfill our duties as guards in the vegetable garden of the farm, prevent thieves from entering. One evening as I was on duty, I found a pair of horses grazing in the garden. I chased them out but their owner, a heavily built Gentile, appeared. He gave me a hard blow on my cheek, threw me to the ground and fractured my arm. I was hospitalized for a few weeks. Later on, the Gentile turned me in to the government, accusing me of treason. I couldn't speak Polish at that time and therefore was unable to defend myself. I was tried and imprisoned for nearly a year. In prison, I was accused of being a Russian spy. They had also found Austrian and Italian coins in my pocket and accused me of being a dealer in foreign currency. However, I had been one of the first candidates chosen to go to Israel and the Eretz Israeli office, headed by Dr. Schmork and Dr. Weisel, made sure that every pioneer had some foreign money with him for his travel expenses. The journey was to be by way of Vienna-Trieste, thus the Austrian and Italian currency. Dr. Tannenbaum and other leaders made many efforts on my behalf. The mayor of Drohobycz, a philosemitic Gentile, also tried to help me. He testified that although a native Russian. I was first and all a Zionist and my propaganda was pro-Israel and not, G-d forbid, against Poland! Nevertheless, I was released on bail only after many months.

In the meantime, as the Russians were about to invade Warsaw, all Russian citizens were transferred to a camp.[10] My parents were also arrested and transferred to a camp in Hungary, where they became ill and died within one year. We were orphans. I became the breadwinner of the family and had to take care of our bare necessities simultaneously with my activities in Youth of Zion,He-Halutz, and other Youth Organizations.

I was accepted as a teacher in the Hebrew school, but I couldn't let go of my desire to fulfill my duty and make aliyah. I managed to came to Israel despite all the difficulties and bring along my sister Yehudit, who works in a Medical Fund, my brother Chanoch, one of the first port workers; and my brother Pinchas, the secretary of the Drohobicz Landsmen Organization. The Nazis murdered one of my sisters, Tzilah, and her husband, Moshe. One of their daughters, Chaya Chaviv, lives in Even Yehudah. I constantly think of my past in Drohobycz, the warmth, and the acceptance of all of my Zionist activities and the help that every activity of the National Fund received. The Jews of Drohobycz were the first to embrace Zionist action and set an example for all communities.

The natives of this city, from which thousands came to Israel or other countries, will undoubtedly write and tell the stories of the Jewish and Zionist way of life in this lovely city, a Jewish city permeated with the Torah and genuine love for the people and the land of Israel.



Footnotes
  1. Chernovtsy: modern spelling for the town in the province of Podolia in Ukraine, also spelled (also Cernauti, Chernivtsi, Chernovitse, Chernovitsy, Chernovitz, Czerniowce, Czernovitz, Czernowitz. In the period to which the writer refers, it was the capital of Bukovina, a province in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Return
  2. Yeshiva: a rabbinical college Return
  3. Shin Shalom (Shalom Joseph Shapira): born in 1904 in Parzew (near Lublin), Professor of Hebraic Studies (1930 – 1931) in Nürnberg. Return
  4. Torah and Avoda: one of the ideals of the early Zionists, to integrate simultaneously study and work. In the case of Shin Shalom he became both a teacher and a famous poet. Return
  5. Tannenbaum, Leon: Born 1884 in: Boryslav, lawyer, graduate of the Faculty of Law, University of Lwów. In 1924 he was elected President of the Jewish community of Drohobycz and in 1928, Vice-president of the town Return
  6. Nation and Land: refers to the Jewish Nation and the Land of Israel. Return
  7. Love of Israel: dedication to Jews and Judaic things whenever possible. Return
  8. A world pioneering youth movement, He-Halutz initiated illegal immigration to Palestine in 1934 and later worked with the Hagana in its activities for illegal immigration Return
  9. A social club dedicated to the Hebrew language and culture. Return
  10. In 1920, Poland and Russia were at war after Poland invaded Ukraine and Russia. Russian troops attacked Warsaw. Return


[Page 108]

The Lives of the Workers and the Masses
in Drohobycz and Borysław

(Memoirs)

by Dr. Chaim Deutschmeister

Translated by Susan Rosin

Edited by Valerie Schatzker

With much respect and pain in my heart I write these lines about the lives and struggles, happiness and sorrows of our fathers and mothers, our sisters and brothers, workers, craftsmen and small business owners, who comprised the majority of the Jewish population in the towns of Drohobycz and Borysław. Their lives and their way of life were utterly and cruelly destroyed by the Nazis.

The pain is still too great, the grief too deep, and the wounds are still open and burning. My pen cannot express the agony, sorrow, and wrath that we feel when we think about the disaster and tragedy.

All I wish is for my modest lines to be a contribution to the memorial book for our martyrs. I hope they will help a future historian who will write about the life and death of the Jews of Eastern Europe.

I must emphasize that I will not be able to write in detail about Jewish life in these cities in the last fifty to sixty years. I would like only to describe episodes, memories, and historical moments from the lives and struggles of the Jewish population in these two towns. It will be an attempt to write about events that happened not only in my lifetime, but also much earlier.

Unfortunately, I do not have any official documents with statistical information or exact dates. Therefore, I have to rely on my memory in writing these lines. I will be very grateful to those who can add details for a more complete picture, as well as to those who will kindly correct any inaccurate information that may have been unclear in my mind because of the length of time that has passed and the hardships and sufferings of the period.

Most of the Jews in Drohobycz and Borysław were craftsmen, small businessmen, and brokers; a small minority were professionals. The Jewish craftsmen, such as tailors, shoemakers, milliners, turners, carpenters, locksmiths, watchmakers, printers, furriers, umbrella makers, brush makers, etc. had small workshops where they worked very long hours to make ends meet. In addition to working as craftsmen and small business owners, several thousand Jewish laborers worked in the wax and oil industries in Borysław.

Whereas in the rest of Europe, Jews did not work in industry, Borysław had an entire class of laborers in the oil and wax industries. Working conditions were very harsh, the days were very long and the pay minimal. There was no way these laborers could protest or appeal for improvement in their employment conditions. There were no unions or other organizations that could fight for these laborers. There was no support system of any kind, such as health care or insurance. These workers were a group of repressed people, half–starved, drained, and exhausted, each of them worrying about his own fate and his own suffering.

A typical laborer's family had five to six members living in a one–room apartment. Some would build a wooden divider to create a room with a small bedroom. The room served as a craftsman's workshop where he spent long hours.

[Page 109]

Wives cooked meager meals in that same room as well. At night, the family members slept in it, resting on assorted bedding and bunks. Sometimes even apprentices[1] would sleep there as well. The furnishings, clothing, and food were poor and humble. The main staple was potatoes. Housewives were skilled and creative in preparing potatoes dishes: with skin, without skin, roasted or boiled, mashed or crushed. The potatoes were eaten with sour milk or pickles. This was depicted in a folk song: “Sunday potatoes, Monday potatoes … and on Shabbat, kugel with potatoes”. Meals with meat were very rare, only on Shabbat. A family of five or six would share only a pound of meat. Even then, the type of meat would be lung, heart, or liver. Sometimes, a housewife would prepare a delicacy. She would buy a cheap piece of spoiled cheese and prepare a spread. No wonder that diseases were common in these families under these conditions.

When capitalism started to emerge during the last years of the nineteenth century in the most economically depressed areas of the Austro–Hungarian Empire, Jewish life started to change.

Drohobycz and Borysław, like the rest of Galicia, were flooded with cheap textiles, leather, wood, and metals that were produced in newly established factories. Small craftsmen were unable to compete; their situation became even more dire. Anti–Semitism started to increase. The National Democratic Party (commonly called “Endeks”) tried to turn the peasants and the Polish poor from supporting the Polish social democrats who were becoming established in Galicia. In their efforts to turn the anger and frustration of the Polish masses from the real guilty parties (the nobles and property owners who took advantage of the poor), they decided to use anti–Semitic propaganda against the Jews, representing them as speculators, middlemen, and exploiters. Under the slogan swój na swego (meaning “your own”) special stores were opened by and for Poles and Ukrainians, thus excluding Jews from commerce. Ukrainians opened a type of department store for farm products, where peasants and farmers could barter their wares for sugar, flour, salt, tobacco, matches, and textiles, etc.

Because of this policy of economic exclusion and the establishment of factories and workshops, hundreds of Jewish families lost their livelihoods.

At the same time about 6,000 workers lost their sources of income in the ozokerite (mineral wax) mines.

Most of the stocks of ozokerite companies were owned by two large Viennese banks: the Galician Credit Bank and the Länderbank. These two banks decided to get rid of the eighty–six small wax mines to eliminate competition. Aided by anti–Semitic representatives in the parliament in Vienna and with support from the mayor of Vienna, Karl Lueger, the enemy of the Jews, the cleric Stanisław Stojałowski, and the Polish Christian–Socialist parties, they were able to pass a law that claimed to protect the workers.

The new law decreed that an open area of 3,600 square meters (4,305 square yards) surround each mine, instead of 700 square meters (837 square yards) according to the previous law. In theory, the new law was supposed to protect the workers, but in practice it caused 90 percent of the existing mines to close. The two banks were able to buy the small mines at bargain prices and close them, thus causing 6,000 Jewish workers to lose their livelihoods without any type of severance.

At that time, there were no unions that could fight for these workers, who tried in vain to plead with the banks, with the JCA (Jewish Charitable Association) in Paris, and with Israelitische Allianz zu Wien (Jewish Alliance in Vienna).

[Page 110]

With no other options, many of these workers had to emigrate. Craftsmen and small merchants were forced to leave as well because of the policies of economic exclusion and the establishment of small, more efficient factories which were in direct competition with their products.

Some moved to Eretz Israel and were settled in the Mahanayim moshava with assistance from the Galician Zionist organization Ahavat Zion (Love of Zion). Others were moved by the Jewish Charitable Association to Canada; some emigrated to America; and some moved to small towns and villages in the Galicia to find work in the new, small factories that produced textiles, clothing, wood products, chocolates, and candy. But most of these workers remained in Borysław and Drohobycz, where they found it very difficult to earn a livelihood.

In Borysław, many of the wax mine workers found a new profession. They became łepaks.

In addition to the wax mines, petroleum deposits had been discovered in Borysław, Tustanowice, and Schodnica. Most of the profits from oil went to large American and British corporations. Some Jews became very rich when oil was discovered on their land and oil rigs were built by the large corporations. However, most of the Jewish oil workers, who through their hard work made millions for the large corporations, were able to make only meager livings for themselves.[2]

Łepaks were even less fortunate. Crude oil was transferred from the rigs to the refineries by pipes. These pipes were laid on the streets, covered roughly by planks of wood. From time to time, these pipes would burst and the sticky, black, rich liquid would spill on the streets. Łepaks – men and women – stood on the sides of the roads day and night with buckets and bunches of rushes[3] waiting for a miracle from heaven – the bursting of a pipe. Then, with their rushes and with their hand they collected the sticky, black liquid into their buckets and sold it to special stores. (The source of the name łepak comes from the Polish łepki, which means sticky, to describe crude oil).[4]

The daily struggles were accompanied by vicious, anti–Semitic propaganda; this further eroded the capability of the Jewish workers and people in our town. No wonder then that these conditions caused social and national awakening among the Jewish masses. It became clear to these disillusioned, repressed, and powerless workers – each with his own troubles and worries – that their fate was the fate of every Jewish worker. They started looking for answers to the problems of their daily existence.

Despite their poverty, these people had a great thirst for culture. Following the establishment of cultural clubs for workers in the larger cities Lwów,[5] Kraków, and Stanisławów, similar clubs were established in our town as well. These organizations came under the influence of the Polish Social Democratic Party (PPS).

At first, the new organizations were unable to offer organized labor activities or assistance to the destitute Jewish workers. However, these clubs were very effective in their campaigns. Dr. Hermann Diamand published and edited several Yiddish newspapers in Lwów for the PPSD, including the biweekly “Yidishe folksblat,” which vehemently opposed Zionism.

[Page 111]

The Jewish workers could not identify with the PPS. Following many discussions and much soul–searching it was decided in Kraków in 1906 to establish the Jewish Social Democratic Party, ZPS (Zydowska Partia Socjaldemokratyczna). Similar organizations were established in Drohobycz and Borysław under the direction of the new party. The Drohobycz chapter was led by the lawyer Dr Friedmann.

The major achievements of the party were in the areas of organizing the workers and cultural activities. Due to these activities, Jewish workers showed their social consciousness even before World War One by appearing in the May Day parades, as well as demanding eight–hour workdays, cancellation of the regional elections, implementation of secret ballots, direct and general elections, etc.

I remember one of these May Day demonstrations when the police tried to disperse the crowds. My uncle (my mother's brother), the tailor–worker Mendel Glasberg led the procession. He unbuttoned his shirt against the police's bayonets and did not let them stop the demonstration. For this he was sent to the Sambor jail for many years. In 1942, he was murdered by the Nazis with his family. Only one son survived; he later settled in Szczecin, Poland.

It soon became clear to the workers, specifically to those who had worked in the Borysław wax mines in the past, that their problems and issues were unique because they were Jewish. They realized that their specific problems were not being addressed or resolved by the assimilationist ZPS. Therefore, many turned to the Ahdut and Ihud, groups that were under the general umbrella of the Jewish Socialist Workers Party Poale Zion in German Austria.

Organizations of Hovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion) had already existed in Borysław and Drohobycz during the 1890s; focusing mainly on cultural and political activities. With the increasing influence of Zionism, new organizations were established. However, the masses of workers could not find answers to their daily struggles and issues in these Zionist organizations. The laborers and retail workers joined the new organizations under the Jewish Socialist Workers Party Poale Zion in German Austria to find an answer to their daily social and national issues.

Both the ZPS and Poale Zion organized some successful strikes, fought for improved working conditions, pay raises, and shorter working hours. The organizations also were active in education and publicizing their ideas. The masses, hungry for education and knowledge, flocked to meetings and lectures organized by local activists. Some of the lecturers in our towns were: the ZPS lawyer and activist Dr Friedmann, Poale Zion activist Dr Max Rosenfeld (he was the editor of the Poale Zion's student publication and a representative in the Sejm, the Galician parliament, who died in 1919 on his way to the national socialist convention in Geneva), Dr Barchasz, Dr Hersh Ber Eisenstein, and activists who came from other towns.

Despite their daily hardships and poverty, the Jewish workers and masses had a great need and desire for education. They themselves were too old to acquire education because of the demands of their jobs and their constant worry about their subsistence and livelihoods. However, they enrolled their children in school, even if it meant not having enough to eat.

At the age of three, boys were sent to study in cheder. There, the instructors and their helpers used the “whip” method. To start with, the children were taught the alphabet. Then they moved on to reading the Chumash (the five books of the Torah), Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchak) and the Gemara. When they reached the age of six, they were sent to the public school, first elementary school and then high school. However, in the afternoons they continued their education in cheder. Their parents hoped to provide their children with a general education in the hope of a better future.

Unfortunately, many children were not able to continue their studies in the public schools. There was a toxic, anti–Semitic atmosphere and hostile attitude on the part of both teachers and non–Jewish students. In addition, embarrassment because of poverty at home caused most of the kids to drop out of elementary school after a few years to learn a trade. That way, they could help support their families.

But even learning a vocation had its challenges.

[Page 112]

To get training, young people had to pay a craftsman. In addition, they had to work as apprentices for three or four years without pay. Throughout the training period, an apprentice had to serve his master and often the master's wife in her housework. The craftsmen, who had gone through the same program while learning their profession, wanted to compensate themselves for their own torturous road to gain their skills.

Those who went to work in businesses and shops did not fare much better. They had to open the shops in the early hours of the morning, tidy–up, and then during the day perform all kinds of tasks in the business, as well as at the homes of their employers.

In the meantime, the working youth started to hear rumors about organizations in the larger cities, Kraków and Lemberg (Lwów), and the establishment of organizations that fought to improve working conditions.

In these organizations, the working youth found satisfaction and basic education. Classes were organized to teach political awareness and general education. There were courses for reading in Yiddish and Polish, mathematics, history, the geography of the land of Israel, as well as popular science, and even popular medicine. Drama and choral singing were also available. The youth were taught labor and folk poems. While teaching Morris Rosenfeld's poems about the workers in America, the beautiful illustrations of the famous Galician painter Ephraim Moses Lilien were shown. Ephraim Moses Lilien was born in Drohobycz in 1874 and the students were very proud of this famous artist, a native of their town.

Professional activities were conducted by the youth organizations. A protection committee for apprentices and youth working in businesses was established. Trips and sporting activities, as well as political activities, were organized. The youths participated in political activities that were organized by the adult workers, such as May Day street demonstrations, meetings, and publicity. In that way, they became familiar with the working organizations in Eretz Israel and abroad.

These enthusiastic youths, thirsty for knowledge, listened, learned, and were thankful for all the lectures in which they actively participated.

I recall that during the popular discussions that I conducted about hygiene and the dangers of nicotine and alcohol, I was surrounded by many of the young people who kept asking questions and wanted more information. These young people came to the meetings after a long day of work but never tired of asking questions and listening to explanations from eight to ten at night. One of my most diligent listeners was Pinchas Cohen. who later served as the secretary of the Drohobycz–Borysław Organization.

As mentioned above, many of the Jewish laborers had to stop their formal education so that they could help their families financially. Some of the children of merchants and craftsmen, whose economic situation was better, continued their studies in elementary and even high school. However, even they would visit the “Jewish home” in their spare time, where they found activities conducted by the HaTikva and HaShomer organizations.

HaShomer's goal was to educate the young people both physically and mentally. It was a scouting organization, tailored specifically to the needs of the Jewish youth. The young people were divided into groups, and each group of four was a squad. All the squads were a battalion. The battalion was headed by my friend, the engineer H. Mager. Our deputy president was the first to emigrate to Eretz Israel in accordance with the pioneering ideology of HaShomer. The Drohobycz battalion also included a group of boys who did not attend school. For them, the meetings were conducted in Yiddish, whereas the meetings for the rest were conducted in Polish. This group was truly enthusiastic and diligent; I served as their leader and was very dedicated to them. Unfortunately, all of them were murdered by the Nazis.

There were some groups for girls. I recall one meeting where we all listened breathlessly to the story of the heroic woman Adela Kikenis. In 1718, the body of a murdered Gentile child was discovered. An affluent Jewish woman, Adela Kikenis, was accused of murder and for using human blood for Passover matzah. Although her gentile maid eventually admitted to the murder as part of a conspiracy. Adela (who had refused a secret offer of freedom on the condition that she convert) was executed brutally by tying her hair to the tail of a frenzied horse that dragged her over town.

 

HaShomer – Ahdut (unity) group HaShomer Sigal group



Academic society Hebronia 1932



Brith HaTzohar (Covenant of the Skylight) 1928 Soccer group Beitar 1920

 

The Hebrew Club Ivria before World War I - dro015.jpg
The Hebrew club Ivriya before the First World War

 

In Drohobycz on 24 April, 1932 The Achva Commitee



Farwell party for Achva pioneers Training Kibbutz of Achva

[Page 113]

Her only request before her execution was to get some pins, so that she could attach her clothing to her skin to cover her body.[6]

This tragic event was used by I.L. Peretz in his short story, Three Gifts.

Morse code, nature trips, and outdoors activities were all part of the curriculum of HaShomer and our other scouting organizations. Special emphasis was placed on Zionist and pioneering education by teaching Hebrew, Jewish history, Zionist and pioneering history, and the geography of Eretz Israel. During group study sessions, we read Auto–Emancipation by Dr Leon Pinsker,[7] The Jewish State, by Dr Theodor Herzl, and others. The political, scientific and literature discussions enriched us.

Other activities were Hanukah and Purim parties, literary evenings, etc.

Here I would like to note a few of our outstanding members: Moshe Tennenbaum, an enthusiastic speaker, who became terminally ill and was murdered by the Nazis. Other notable members of our chapter were: Mundek Oberländer, Hennoch Liebermann, Shimek Liebermann (who passed away at a young age from tuberculosis), Mundek Freund, Shmuel Teicher, Josef Moses, Samek Rosenmann, and Herman Springer (who was later the editor of Głos Drohobycko–Borysławski). All of them were murdered by the German fascists and their Polish and Ukrainian helpers.

All the social and cultural activities in Drohobycz and Borysław stopped during the First World War but were restarted with renewed energy after the war ended.

The lives of the Jews in Galicia demonstrated an increasing sense of social inequality. as a result of which the size of the Jewish proletariat grew. The Bund (previously known as ZPS) and Poalei Zion attracted Jewish workers and laborers. At the end of the First World War, when Jewish unemployment reached astronomical numbers, these parties had widespread assistance programs. In their kitchens, unemployed Jewish workers could get a sugary cup of tea and a slice of bread for a few pennies. Poalei Zion opened a kitchen in Drohobycz where the hungry could get a tasty and nutritious meal for a very low price. Professional classes to teach mathematics, writing, and reading reopened for young and older workers, as well as evenings for reading on political, scientific, and literary subjects.

The Polish authorities outlawed these parties, but the major publications Folks–tsaytung or People's Newspaper (Bund) and Di Arbeter Tsaytung or Workman's Paper (Poalei Zion) reached Drohobycz and Borysław in spite of the ban by the authorities. Those banned publications were smuggled illegally to our town by dedicated members of Poalei Zion: Mottel Shlisselfeld (Sider) in Wałbrzych, Poland, the tailor Berlin, the oil industry worker Krieger,[8] and the Bund's tailor Moshe Vogel. All of them were murdered by the Nazis.

There were also a few Jewish communists; they too conducted political activities. Some of them were arrested and sentenced to long prison terms. Among them was Mark Ratner, a medical student at the University of Prague, who was sentenced to six years in prison. He was released in 1939 by the Soviets and appointed deputy mayor of Borysław.

A drama club was established shortly after the end of the First World War, named after Jacob Gordon. It was headed by the well–known Drohobycz poet Tuvia Adler. Cultural activities included theater history, specifically Jewish theater history, and Jewish literature. A few plays were produced in Drohobycz, Borysław, and Truskawiec. The active members were: Hela Wagschal (in Haifa), Frida Rabach (in Wałbrzych), Shmuel Friedmann (in Australia), the sisters Hudes and Mia Saldörfer, Hetta Mansberg–Tennenbaum, Herman Springer and others. The latter four, including Tuvia Adler, were murdered brutally by the Nazis when they occupied Drohobycz.

The Jewish theater under the management of the artist Hart performed several plays every year in front of large and enthusiastic crowds.

The Vilna troupe performed ten times in Borysław, in addition to its performances in Drohobycz and Truskawiec. The Israeli HaBima performed several times in Drohobycz and Borysław during their Polish tour.

[Page 114]

The TOZ health organization (Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia) became very active in the last few years before the war. The organization was headed by Leo Schutzmann (he and his family were deported to Russia at the start of Soviet rule together with other Jews, Poles, and Ukrainians. He passed away there. His daughter returned and lives in Tel–Aviv). Other members were: Deputy Dr Michael Meisels, a dedicated activist, and secretaries, Dr Häuser (now in Wałbrzych, Poland), and the writer of this article. The activities of TOZ included lectures on hygiene and protection from various diseases, distribution of soap, tooth brushes, and disinfectants to the residents. TOZ became responsible for the health of the children in cheder and Talmud Torah by providing them with milk, hot cocoa, and a warm roll. All Jewish doctors in town participated in TOZ activities.

All the cultural activities in town continued during the Soviet occupation.

With the sudden German occupation on 22 November, 1941 the life and traditions of the Jewish population in Drohobycz and Borysław came to a tragic end. Those fortunate few of us who were able to escape the Nazi hell in Russia could know only from afar the sorrow, torture, and the death of our suffering brothers and sisters.

Such were the lives, struggles, and creativity of our brothers and sisters until they were so brutally annihilated by the Nazi murderers.

We will never forget our martyrs. They live within us, in our hearts and our thoughts. Their deaths are a call to life for all the Jews in the world to build new life, free and full of love of our nation, dedicated to our young state, to the Jewish masses and their fight for justice and integrity.



Editor's Footnotes
  1. In the original Hebrew text, the word נער משולח appears. It has been left out because the English translation would be redundant. The meaning of the word, as explained by Daniela Mavor, is interesting. The word described a young, disadvantaged boy who was not able to live with his family, possibly because he was an orphan, an abandoned child, one who was sent very early in life to work and support his family, or was neglected because of extreme social circumstances. In many cases, such youths worked as apprentices in workshops to learn a trade. Return
  2. Many Jews who dug for wax, who drilled for oil, or who owned refineries became prosperous, even very wealthy. Also, some made money from speculating in petroleum stocks. Return
  3. These were grasses or sedge that would absorb the oil to be squeezed out later into a container. Return
  4. Łepak (Polish) in the dialect of the Borysław region referred to a man who collected crude oil that floated on the surface of water in ditches, or later from leaks in the pipelines. Łepak, sometimes spelled łebak, and the related word łapaczki, meaning oil snares, may have been derived from the verb łapać, meaning to catch. Return
  5. Lwów: the name of the capital city of Galicia changed with the governance of the area. Under the Polish Commonwealth it was Lwów until it became part of the Austrian Empire in 1772, when the name was changed to Lemberg. In 1919, under the Second Polish Republic, it became Lwów again. Now, as part of Ukraine it is called L'viv. Return
  6. Another version of this story appears in the chapter “The History of the Jews of Drohobycz”, on page fifteen. (https://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/drohobycz/dro011.html). Return
  7. Auto-Emancipation was a famous pamphlet, subtitled Mahnruf an seine Stammgenossen von einem russischen Jeden (Warning to His Fellow People, from a Russian Jew), which Pinsker published anonymously in German on 1 January, 1882 Return
  8. The transliteration of the name Krieger is not certain Return

 

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Drogobych, Ukraine     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Binny Lewis
This web page created by Osnat Ramaty

Copyright © 1999-2019 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 24 Apr 2018 by JH