by Dr Shimon Lustig
Translated by Mira Eckhaus
Edited by Valerie Schatzker
In the following paragraphs I will discuss my personal memories of Zionist activities in our city and honour those dear members and prominent personalities, with whom I worked, who are no longer with us.
May their memory be blessed and be preserved in the history of the state of Israel for whose establishment they worked with great devotion.
I remember that the first blossoming of the Zionist movement in Drohobycz originated on Stryjska Street. On the property where Dr Friedman later built his house, there was a long courtyard between that street and Podwała Street, which was then called Bomba Gesl. At the entrance of the yard, which was paved with unpolished, uneven stones, there were two shops, one belonging to Leib der blechnik, the tinsmith, and the other to Motie Wilf, the wholesale flour merchant.
Behind the shops were two rows of shabby apartments. I need not add that the occupants of these apartments were not wealthy. They were mainly craftsmen and peddlers. My family also lived in the yard. My late father, whose profession was writing applications, was an educated man. He was the one who brought the news of the Zionist Congress to Drohobycz. In the same yard there also lived a furrier called Brazilitan. His eldest son, who was a good craftsman, knew how to draw letters. On my father's suggestion, he painted a sign on canvas that contained the Yiddish inscription: Der zvayter tsyonistisher kongress in Bazel. The sign was hung on the gate of the association that was involved in educating the city's Jews. The organization soon became the Zionist Association in the city and was called Tsiyon Ferayn.
I was too young to remember what went on in the Zionist Association at that time. I didn't understand much about it. After several years, I understood that the members' main activity was reading newspapers, the Die Welt and the Polish weekly, Przyszłość, and then Voskhod which succeeded it. The members of the association were mostly apprentices who worked in shops or for artisans. The latter were more inclined to the socialist movement, the P.P.S. which attracted Jewish support in Galicia. These apprentices were not well educated but aspired to work for public improvement. Secondary school students also joined them. In the late nineteenth century, professionals were not involved in the Zionist movement. They were devoted mainly to general education.
Of all the Association's activities I remember best the amateur performances to which they devoted much time and energy. Their first play was Hakhasmonaim (Hasmoneans). A high school student adapted it from the play Die Makkabäer (The Maccabees) by the well-known German writer Otto Ludwig. The roles for women in the original play were removed in the adaptation because at that time women were not allowed to perform with men in plays. Of course, musical pieces were added. These were done by Guttman, the local violinist, who taught the violin to wealthy people in the city.
The whole town admired the violinist's original work, but it was later revealed that he had copied the music from other composers and not always successfully. The lyrics to the songs that were not in the original play were written by the same high school student. How enthusiastically the apprentices engaged in the preparation of the play! More than once they neglected their normal jobs to work on the show. The whole city was waiting for the production with great excitement. I still remember how the furrier Brazilitan played the role of Antiochus. The language of the play was a mix of Yiddish and German which was later known as Congress Deutsch. When the Hasmoneans inflicted defeat after defeat on the Greeks causing Antiochus to feel despondent, he would encourage himself by exclaiming: King Antiochus, is it proper for you to be so lowly and despised?
This exclamation was done with such tremendous force that the audience was shocked to the depths of their souls. Antiochus's exclamation took root in the hearts of the people of Drohobycz and in appropriate cases, it was used as an expression of encouragement. The role of Matityahu the High Priest was played by my brother Leybush. According to the plot, he dies at the end of the second act. As he is dying, he gathers his five sons around him to bid them goodbye. He says something special to each one. After his death, the boys end the act with the song Every soul will praise God. As the curtain went down, a sound of weeping was heard in the hall. The mother of one of the actors, Yosel Stock, was crying bitterly, saying, His mind was clear until the last minute, but he was so young. Why did he have to die? She would not calm down until my brother, the deceased appeared in front of her safe and sound…
After the great success of Hakhasmonaim, the Association presented the play Bar Kokhba, adapted from the epic poem by the great Jaroslav Vrchlický. Abraham Freilich, then a student in the seventh or eighth grade, adapted the music for the band. The role of the young Bar Kokhba was given to Levi Dichter, who later became an eternal student in Vienna and studied what did he not study? and served as a guide for all the students who came to Vienna from Drohobycz. The main role of Bar-Kokhba as an adult was given to Mendel Turnschein, who was considered the most talented in music and theater. And no wonder. He had gone to Budapest for a year where he sang in a cantorial choir. When he came back, he would entertain his friends and anyone else who wanted to hear him sing. Before the end of each song, he would stop singing and demand that the window be opened so that he could finish in the high register. He used to say, When the window is closed, I can't open my voice. The premiere was scheduled for Saturday night. It started very late, as was the custom in Jewish theaters, and lasted for many hours. Finally, at about two or three o'clock in the morning, the Betar fortress caught fire. We could see it clearly on the stage. Breathing a sigh of relief, the audience began to leave the hall. But at that moment, someone appeared on stage and announced loudly (in Yiddish), Remain seated, Mendele (alias Turnschein, alias Bar Kokhba) still has to stab himself. After a few moments, Mendele appeared with a dagger in his hands and in a voice that could raise the dead, shouted (in Yiddish), Betrayed! They betrayed me! In the midst of these shouts, he stabbed himself with the dagger and fell to the ground. With that, the show was over.
As well as the plays, I should also mention the Hanukkah balls, which took place almost every year. But I must emphasize that at the beginning of the Zionist movement in our city, these balls were very different from the balls of a later period. First of all, there was no Hebrew recitation, which became an organic part of every Hanukkah ball seven or eight years later. Earlier, Hebrew was not spoken; therefore the recitation and speeches were in Polish or German.
Reb A.H. Żupnik opened these balls. He had had both a Hebrew and a general education, and by profession wrote applications. When he succeeded in this profession, he established a very successful printing house. Over time, it acquired a good reputation throughout Galicia and beyond. As the owner of a state-of-the-art printing house, he began a weekly magazine called the Drohobyczer Zeitung, printed in Hebrew letters but in the classic German language, since almost all the articles were copied from the Neue Freie Presse. Once a year, on 18 August, the birthday of Emperor Franz Joseph, an original article would appear, also in fluent German. For years, he would send that issue to the Emperor's court. Within a month or two he would receive a letter in reply expressing gratitude for the article. Żupnik presented the letter in its original form to the public in the window of his office. His work bore fruit and a few years later he received the title k.u.k. Hoflieferant. As a result of this title, Żupnik was allowed to use the imperial symbol, a black and yellow eagle, in the title of his firm.
Getting back to the Hanukkah balls, A.H. Żupnik would be the first to perform on the stage in the municipal theater, an ancient, wooden hut in the garden of Stryjska Street. Only after that would other participants appear on stage. Żupnik would present each in Yiddish, saying, I have the honor to present… He would always introduce the main speaker saying, I must say that this gentleman is an excellent speaker.
The First Circle - the Horowitz Family
These are my recollections of the first years of the Zionist movement in our town. It was a beautiful period, full of faith and anticipation for a miracle to come. As Dr Herzl's reputation spread, the number of Tsiyon Ferayn (Zionist Union) members grew. There was a feeling on the Jewish street that something new was emerging. By the time I entered secondary school, the movement had changed completely. I befriended one of the members Herman Horowitz. Our conversations became more and more cordial every day.
I expressed my sorrow that we knew almost nothing about the history of the people of Israel and the Land of Israel. This was not surprising because our history and religious texts contained only short excerpts from the Bible. Two or three days after that conversation, Herman told me that an eighth-grade student (high school senior) often visited their home and would be willing to give us lessons in Jewish history if two more members joined us. Considering the views of the Jewish high school students, it was not difficult to find a few more friends willing to attend the course. Within a few days, Avraham Weitzner and Schajke Trau, who was a relative of Horowitz, joined us. The fours of us agreed on a time for the first lesson, which was held, of course, at Horowitz's house. At the appointed time in the evening, I knocked, with anticipation, on the door of the Horowitz family's apartment (at that time Herman's parents lived in a three or four room apartment in Heimberg's house on Stryjska Street). Weitzner came with me and Trau, who was a relative of the family, came separately, probably without special enthusiasm.
Herman ushered us into a room and a few moments later, the high school senior entered. He was tall, and thin, with a slender face; his dress was far from attractive. He began to speak in Polish with an accent a true Pole could boast of. First of all, he expressed pleasure that we understood the need to study the history of our people. At the same time, he revealed that there were already Zionist circles among the high school students, especially in the upper classes but he could not reveal the members' names. He also told us that there were good books on Jewish history, especially the eleven volumes by Dr. Grätz, summarized in three volumes in German. However, even the summary was very long. Therefore, he prepared an abstract of the summary in Polish, which at that time was more familiar to us than German. He promised to attend our class and help us with our history studies. To make our job easier, he gave us the first notebook of the summary. Even today, I can see it in my mind, a long, narrow, not very thick notebook.
After the student left, Herman told us that his name was Meyer Kron and that he came to their house every day because he was preparing his older sister Klara for the secondary school exams (at that time there were no high schools for girls).
Kron kept his promise and once a week attended our meetings. He would tell us about current issues in Zionism and we would repeat our lessons in history. After several lessons, he suggested that each of us prepare a lecture on a particular Jewish subject. I was instructed to read certain chapters from the book The Jews as a Race by Judt and prepare a lecture. I began to read this book hesitantly, but it became my favorite. Two or three weeks later, I gave my lecture in public, that is, at a meeting of the four of us in the presence of Kron. I had the impression that Kron was not very impressed by my talk; this made me very sad and I determined that my next lecture should surpass the first. However, to my sorrow Kron did not get the chance to hear it. Our classes lasted a for a while. Weitzner left first, followed by Trau. A very strong bond of friendship grew between me and Herman. I became not only a guest of the Horowitz family, but a part of it. I visited this house every day, morning and evening, and more than once I dined with them. Sometimes we would do homework together for the next day. At the same time, however, our hearts were preoccupied with important questions about the world, and if not the whole world, then at least the Jewish and Zionist world. That relationship lasted from the second grade to the fifth, when the Horowitz family moved out of the town.
The Horowitz family's home was one of the few Zionist houses in town. The mother was the dynamic spirit in the house. She was the daughter of the well-educated Reb Shlomo Lichtenstein. The father Sigmund Horowitz was a partner in an oil well called Mazel Tov. He was not successful because the well burned down. He then began to export ozokerite, mainly to Germany. Ozokerite, or earth wax, is a mineral whose main element is wax. This material was found underground in Borysław (probably the only place in the world, but some say it is also found in India), and was of great importance in the industry. Mines were built underground in Borysław, similar to the salt mines in Wieliczka in Poland or coal mines in England.
Herman had two sisters: Klara, the older one, and Regina, who attended an elementary school. At first, I did not even dare look at Regina, but over time she became very important to me. She was the epitome of beauty in my eyes and I tried to please her. I did this mostly by supplying her books, which she would read very quickly.
Herman and his sisters were very talented. We would read different books and during and after meals we would have conversations about general topics, especially Jewish and Zionist ones, and in my opinion, the conversations were at a high level. The main speakers were of course Klara and Kron.
Herman also had a younger brother named Dolek, who at the time of our first meeting was seven or eight years old. What a wild boy he was! He kept us busy all day long; every moment we would call, Dolek! And again, Dolek! It was Dolek here and Dolek there. Who could imagine then that he would be the chief economist in Israel and the first governor of the State Bank!
In this section I would like to talk about my teacher Meir Kron, who influenced me greatly. He was the leader of Jewish youth in the secondary school. Everyone obeyed him. He came from a very poor family. His mother died when he was very young. His father, who worked at the Galicia oil refinery, had been badly injured in an accident at work and had to have the fingers of both hands amputated. Mercifully, he was given an easy job at the refinery. They lived about four kilometres from town and Meir would come all the way from there to the high school. In winter he would usually arrive without a top coat. He supported himself by tutoring and served as a teacher and instructor for younger students. He was the one who organized the first classes in the high school and the Hebrew courses in our town. For that purpose, he invited the Hebrew teacher Rafael Sapirman to Drohobycz for the first time. What a revolution it created in the town! About 150 male and female students enrolled in these courses; Zionist life was at its peak.
Kron was gifted with extraordinary talents. He was an outstanding student, not only in his class but in the entire school. He excelled mainly in mathematics and there were stories about him being proficient in higher mathematics, as if he had graduated from university. At the same time, he was kind and easygoing and always showed a willingness to help. So, it was no wonder that the teachers treated him with respect.
Between Meyer Kron, a student in the eighth grade, and me, a student in the second grade, a real bond of friendship was formed. Despite being busy with all sorts of things, he always found time to sit down with me to talk about the matter that was important to both of us: Zionism and once again Zionism. I loved him and also admired him unconditionally.
However, the relationship did not last long. The next summer, about two weeks before the date for the matriculation exams, his difficult life caused him to become ill with acute tuberculosis. All his friends and acquaintances were despondent. It was clear that he could not be left in his father's house. One of his classmates, who had not joined the Zionist movement, the youngest son of Mr Moses Gartenberg, the owner of oil wells, invited him to his father's palace on Mickiewicz Street and made two rooms available to him. Apparently, he also provided the funds that were needed to heal him.
A miracle happened and contrary to all the doctors' predictions, Kron recovered and was able to travel to a sanatorium in Merano in Tyrol. While he was there, he corresponded with me and after I had progressed somewhat in Hebrew, we exchanged letters in that language. Oh my God! How I would like to see his letters now or the letters I wrote in Hebrew! I believe my face would blush from the many mistakes I would find. The correspondence in Hebrew caused Kron great pleasure and even more to me. This also made a great impression in our class and on the Horowitz family, so much so that Mr Lichtenstein found it necessary to give me Hebrew dictionary.
Kron left for Merano in late summer. According to the doctors' advice, he had to spend at least one year there, but suddenly, he showed up for Passover. His health was bad. He had a continual low-grade fever, a symptom of tuberculosis. He said that he also coughed frequently and the cough was bloody.
His friends began discuss what to do. The doctors advised him to return to Merano, but he refused unequivocally. He also did not want to travel to another place in Europe that had a climate similar to that of Merano. There was no point in his staying in Drohobycz; he suggested he would go to Eretz Israel. There, he said, I hope to get well as the air is hot and I really need heat.
I do not know who took care of the finances, but three to four weeks later, Kron left for Israel. From there he sent a few letters, but a few months later all signs of life from him ceased. In any case, I received no information and I believe the Horowitz family did not hear from him either.
When I arrived in Israel, I tried to find information about his grave, but in vain. I think I fulfilled a sacred duty by writing the above lines in memory of a great man who could have done great things for his people and country, but died in the prime of life.
Leadership: Mr Pachtman
Indeed, thanks to Kron and through the Hebrew course, I became familiar with the members and leaders of the Zionist Association. I became closer and closer to them until I was one of them. When I say I, I refer to all the secondary school students who shared enthusiasm for the Zionist idea. They were many.
For who had the strength to withstand the trend that swept almost the entire Jewish community in Galicia? Zionist activity in our town was no different from that in other towns, such as Stryj, Stanisławów and Lwów. It was mainly lectures, distribution of Die Welt, Voskhod (Sunrise), propaganda booklets, and the planning of Hanukkah balls. The program of the Hanukkah balls became enriched over time by a Hebrew recitation. For three or four years, this honour was reserved for Bialik, whose poem El Hatzipor (To the Bird) was read. At every lecture, every meeting, and on the stage, the place of honor was reserved for Reb Shlomo Lichtenstein, who came wearing sunglasses. Next to him was Reb Yehoshua Shauer. They were both of the same age and their bald heads shone in the hall. Before the lecture began, we heard the two sages arguing; the audience, especially the youth respected that. I must add that at the time Reb Yehoshua Shauer published a booklet in German: Ten Letters of a Polish Jew, in which he discussed the establishment of the Zionist idea.
At the beginning of the Zionist movement, there was one Zionist Association in Drohobycz. It was called Kadima; its members were merchants, artisans, clerks, etc. The association's hall such a poor hall was at first in Mr Lauterbach's house on Kowalska Street and later in the house of Taubenfeld, the lawyer. (It later became the office of the Przemyśl Bank).
The number of members grew every year. An organization of Zionist women was also established even before WIZO. It was called Moriah. The Maccabees, an organization of university students was also organized. However there were concerns about funding and worries about how to pay the rent and avoid eviction from the hall.
A meeting of the local committee, the main Zionist authority in the town, was held to solve the problem. Someone suggested the purchase of the Kleiner family house on Truskawicka Street (later called Gronolecka), which was to be sold at an auction. The person who suggested this was acquainted with the matter. He said that it would be possible to buy the house at a low price. The terms would be favorable, since a large portion of the price would be financed by a long-term mortgage. After the matter was discussed by the members of the legal committee, it was decided to raise money, not to pay the rent but to buy the house. Thus the Jewish House (dom zidowski) was established. Over time, it served as the home for all the Zionist institutions in the town. The head of the local Zionist committee who carried out entire plan was Dr Moses Pachtman, an attorney by profession; he was the first lawyer who came from the people (amcha) and not from the upper-class. He was close to the people and the people were close to him.
There were Jewish lawyers in our town, but many people did not like them. It is said that the lawyer Dr Gelehrter, one of those lawyers, once bought apples on the Sabbath in public. Rabbi Josef Hersch Minzer, a follower of the Sadigura khasidim (grandfather of Hoschia Minzer from Merhavia), saw this and slapped him twice in the face. Gelehrter filed a criminal lawsuit against him. When Rabbi Josef Hersch received the summons, he was filled with anger and rage and shouted, What insolence. I wanted to get him back on the right track after he publicly desecrated the Sabbath. Now he dares to file a lawsuit against me! But after all, we are all people of Israel and I am willing to reconcile with him, of course, if he will bring at least two bottles of strong schnapps to our synagogue.
Dr Pachtman came from the people and thus it is no wonder that he was among the first to join the Zionist movement. In fact, he was the Zionist leader in the town from almost the first moment until the outbreak of the First World War, that is, until he left the town. He chaired the local committee. The respect he enjoyed was acquired after many difficulties that caused him heartache but allowed him to do many things. Dr Pachtman was a powerful, perceptive man who made decisions quickly. He attracted the masses by the strength of his enthusiasm. The Zionist movement benefited greatly from his ability.
He and Dr Abraham Backenroth worked together. Backenroth was also a lawyer but the opposite of Pachtman. He considered everything with a great deal of thoughtfulness and took his time in doing so. No wonder there were sometimes differences between the two leaders, although only in small matters, not important things. After all, they were both devoted to Zionism.
At that time (ca 1905) Dr Michael Ringel came to us from Stryj. Although he was young and only a deputy attorney, he gained the trust of all the Zionist circles and all Jews in general in a very short time because of his quiet manner and tactfulness. It is hard to imagine that a person in his mid-twenties would be so capable. Many people who were not swept away by Dr Pachtman's enthusiasm, joined the Zionist movement thanks to Ringel's quiet manner and elegance.
These were the official leaders. There was also a wide circle of people, not only academics, but merchants and artisans who were devoted to Zionism and dedicated to it with their hearts and souls. Unfortunately, I can mention
only few of them: Abraham Fränkel (Jeremiah's brother), Nathan Löwenthal, my brother Leybush, and especially Feiwel Lauterbach. The latter was in his mid-twenties. He had established a wholesale textile business and had also received a large inheritance from his parents. Although married with two or three sons, he placed his work for Zionism above his family and his business. The achievements of the local Zionist organization caused him great joy and satisfaction. He looked out for the needy among the Zionist students and supported them secretly in various ways. It is hard for me to write about him calmly when I recall his devotion to the cause.
Moses Gross and Akiba Shneyer worked as clerks in Lauterbach's store. One morning they did not show up for work. It turned out that they had fled to Vienna for further training. They left in this way because they feared their parents would not let them carry out their plan. I don't know what happened to them abroad. Eventually Akiba emigrated to Eretz Israel with the third aliyah, and Moses became the well-known writer Moshe Gross Zimmerman.
Nathan Löwenthal devoted himself to Zionist activity no less than Feiwel Lauterbach. His shop sold watches and gold. It was a gathering place for activists in the Zionist movement all day long. Often there were so many, there was no room for customers. No wonder his financial situation was not great.
In this context it is worth mentioning Bonzi (Abraham) Friedländer and Itzio Sisswein.
The Academic Associations
The Maccabee Academic Association included several dozen members, not all from those who adhered to Jewish tradition and Jewish education, but also from assimilated circles. It is worth mentioning the brothers Roman and Oskar Alexandrowicz (for some reason, the latter was called Yulek). When they joined the association, they did not know what the letter alef looked like. Over time they became enthusiastic Zionists and Oskar served for several years as chairman of the association (his son is now in Israel in one of the kibbutzim). Dr M. Pachtman's brother, Dr Hersch Pachtman, my brothers Samuel and Moses, and others were very active in the association. Their work was educational. They mainly taught the history of Israel, the history of Zionism, and read the writings of Pinsker, Hess, and Herzl. At the same time, it was a typical academic association that did not have weapons. It would organize gatherings, that is formal parties, in which traditional student discipline would be required. After each Hanukkah ball and other celebrations, public gatherings were arranged to which all the best people of the Zionist movement were invited. Such a gathering was very enjoyable, not only for those who were students. Through these, students would add liveliness to their daily routine.
Years later two more academic associations were established: Hebronia and Hashmonaim. The latter used both weapons, and the concepts of fox, etc., which were common in German student associations.
The Budracki Family
Moriah was an association of educated Zionist women. Their husbands were not always members of the movement. In some cases, they opposed membership for ideological reasons (these cases were few) or because they were dependent on the head of the kehila for their livelihood (these were in the majority).
The women's organization was headed by Mrs. Budracki. She and her husband Saul were immigrants from Russia. They prospered because she was closely associated with the petroleum business; her husband was the business manager of an oil company. The Budracki family had two daughters; the eldest Papacja was the apple of her parents' eye. Mrs Budracki spent most of her time in working for public affairs, the Zionist movement, and philanthropy. She took care of poor women giving birth and needy people in general; they took advantage of her generosity as much as they could.
After the Horowitz family left the city, the Budracki household was the main Zionist household in the town. Zionist leaders, speakers, and important guests who came to town would be hosted in the Budracki home, not only out of respect for the owners, but also because Mrs. Budracki was famous for her hospitality.
Everyone predicted a promising future for ten-year-old Papacja because of her musical talent. She gave a piano recitals at every Hanukkah ball and all other balls. Her concert was one of the important parts of the program.
One day, after I had graduated from the fifth grade and was about to enter the sixth grade, I was invited to the Budracki home and hired to prepare Papacja for the high school examinations at the beginning of the next school year, after she had successfully passed the last examination and graduated to the first grade.
I have no words to describe how happy and proud I was to receive this job. Papacja Budracki, daughter of the well-known Mrs Budracki,
the wonderful girl of whom the whole city spoke, would be my student! Had I ever dared to dream of such happiness? I did not go home, but rather ran or flew to tell my mother and brother about my happiness. The news spread quickly among my friends and jealousy ate them up. But there are no achievements without problems. This job caused me endless worries. Although Papacja did well in her studies and completed every task that she was assigned, my sense of responsibility about her results in the examinations bothered me greatly. This went on for three years. Twice a year, before her biannual examinations, I went through the seven circles of Hell. I would always say to myself, In an examination, blind fate rules; what will I do if God forbid Papacia should fail? And I remember that once, during the night before an examination, I woke up, worried that we had not reviewed one of the chapters of geometry, Papacja's weakest subject. But heaven had mercy for me, because on that occasion she achieved a very good grade in mathematics.
The High School Students' Organization Max Rosenbusch
The year I entered the sixth grade was important for me in another way as well. For four years after I was in the second grade, Zionist activity spread widely among high school students. In each class, Zionist groups of ten to fifteen students were established. It was important to bring all these groups into one organization in order to create a unified plan of activity. At that time, a national organization already existed in eastern Galicia, based in Lwów. It included all the high school student groups. We needed somebody to represent our groups before the directors of the national organization. At the general meeting of the managers of all the groups, a local committee was established and I was elected chairman. The local committee began vigorous activity and with the help of the National Committee worked out a unified plan. The National Committee sent us pamphlets on the history of Zionism written by Y. Kirton (his real name is Czaczkes; today he is Dr. Costa, a physician in Herzliya). Unfortunately, the printing was often very distorted and we did not find the pamphlets useful. We also received other pamphlets from the Central Committee headed by Moses Frostig, later the editor of the Tagblatt. Of course, along with the history of Zionism, we also studied the history and geography of Israel, economics and sociology, and many other subjects.
Two or three weeks after we started reorganizing the groups, I was approached by a schoolmate in the same grade, but from a different class, who offered to help me in my work. At first, I could not believe him. I did not know him very well, but I knew that his parents were completely assimilated. What could he contribute to the Zionist cause? But he stubbornly insisted with his offer and would turn to me on every issue, big or small. Not long after, I learned to understand his unique character, devotion, honesty, and opinions, and slowly a bond of friendship formed between us, a bond that could not be severed.
That friend was Max Rosenbusch. His father was a lawyer, who came from a simple Jewish home but wanted to be assimilated. He was not involved in politics, but his household was culturally Polish. They had a Christmas tree and a Polish governess for the two daughters. There had always been a governess in the house, always an older woman, who had earlier worked in the homes of the Polish aristocracy, such as the Potockis or the Lanckorońskis, and others. One of her duties was to bring upper class customs into the house. The governess would be dressed in black silk from the early hours of the morning, and not just silk, but taffeta. Her dresses rustled like poplar leaves. Into this noble, Polish atmosphere, the beloved, only son Max, or as they called him Maszio, brought a revolution, the dream of the Jewish state. It was not just a revolution but a disaster. And the Zionist idea itself was the main disaster. This might have been overcome. But then the son brought home Hebrew newspapers and even more shameful Yiddish journals. All this happened in front of the same governess who in her youth had served in aristocratic Polish houses.
All pleas and entreaties failed; Max went his own way, his enthusiasm growing day by day. It was not a temporary enthusiasm. He was devoted to Zionism, both to the idea and to the daily activities. Moreover, Max began to invite his friends to his home and group meetings were also held in that aristocratic house. Two other members, Aron Landes and Chaim Luzer Heiss, became very close to Max and me. The three of us would visit Max's house frequently. At the beginning, his parents were not very happy with our visits, because we were from simpler families. Over time, however, they realized that this was not terrible, especially because that we treated Max as our younger, spoiled brother, but shame burned in the heart of Mrs Rosenbusch because of the governess. She was the daughter of Mr A.H. Żupnik, who had retired from the Zionist movement
completely. Max's parents considered Mr Żupnik a rather enthusiastic Zionist and often approached him to curb Max enthusiasm a little. In such cases, Max would move into his grandpa's apartment and we would hold our visits there. Mr Żupnik would always host us generously with the greeting, Oh, the quorum is here again. He would tell us about his Zionist past and would always end with the same words in the same tone, Devote yourself to Zionism. Devote yourself to the Jewish National Fund but don't give up your life to it. These words made an impression and were accepted by the entire Zionist community. In the heat of the moment, when they were devoting themselves to urgent action, one member would advise the other, Devote yourself Zionism. Devote yourself to the Jewish National Fund but don't give up your life to it.
In the end, Max's parents more or less gave up. However, they required one thing of Max that he learn to dance for two reasons: (a) How can a young person be in society, travelling in the summer to Krynica or Zakopane, or other such places, and not know how to dance; and (b) it is proper for a brother to accompany his sisters to dance classes. For the sake of peace at home and also, because of my influence, Max agreed to take dance classes but he never, or almost never, danced. Instead, he spread Zionist propaganda among the other students, both boys and girls. When his parents realized that Max would never become a good dancer, they gave up. And that ended his dancing career.
Max was especially interested in literature and philosophy. He had a unique writing style in both Polish and German and everyone thought he had a future in journalism. He had no affinity for mathematics and did not engage in these studies at all. At school, when a teacher would give classes in mathematics, Max would prepare his lectures for the Zionist groups in which he participated or prepare proposals for the membership of the Zionist Executive Committee. Moreover, he would also prepare the membership for the first cabinet of the Hebrew state, etc. On one occasion, at the end of the class, the teacher called Max to demonstrate what he had learned. It became obvious that he knew nothing. The teacher became angry, saying, But I saw you writing during the class. He demanded that Max show him his notebook. It turned out that what he had written was a list for the cabinet of the Hebrew state. To Max's happiness and the happiness of the rest of us for Max's failure was also our failure the teacher, who was Ukrainian, sympathized with the Zionist movement and the students' participation in it. He forgave Max.
During the first elections to the Austrian Parliament (see the details about it below), Max demanded that his father vote in favor of the Zionist candidate Dr Zipper. It was easier for his father to jump off a roof than to do something that in his opinion was so wrong. And it became a real tragedy at home. The quarrels and conflicts lasted for about two weeks until we, his friends, explained to Max that he could not demand such a sacrifice from his father.
After the matriculation examinations, Max moved to Vienna and enrolled at the university to study history. However, he spent every vacation in our city and remained active, as if he had not stopped at all.
He devoted himself to teaching and became a history teacher, first in the Jewish high schools in Lwów. He was then appointed principal of Jewish schools in various cities in Poland, eventually in Tarnów.
When Nazi soldiers that entered that city, they put an end to his life and that of his youngest daughter. His widow and eldest daughter found solace by emigrating to Israel. In doing so, they fulfilled Max's dream. They both live in Jerusalem. The daughter married a doctor and is the mother of a boy and a girl.
The 1907 election
As is well known, it was decided at the first congress in Basel that the goal of Zionism was to create a national home for the Jewish people in Israel, guaranteed by international law. Herzl believed that with the help of Jewish capitalists on the one hand and the states wishing to get rid of their Jews on the other, he would succeed in obtaining a charter to the Land of Israel within a few years. However, when his aspiration failed, it became apparent that for the time being, the Zionist Organization must work to improve the political and economic situation of Jews in the diaspora, especially in eastern Europe. Russian Zionists made a decision on this matter in 1907 in Helsinki, Finland (In Russia it was impossible to discuss these political matters). On the basis of this decision, Russian Zionists participated in the first elections for the Duma. Also in Austria, and in Galicia in particular, the Zionist Organization decided that work to improve the situation of the Jews (Gegenwartsarbeit, lit. work for the present) would be part of the Zionist program. Accordingly, it began to establish financial institutions. As a first step, a bank, the Credit Union, was established in Lwów. Later, a branch of the same bank was established in Drohobycz.
The Zionists tried to gain influence within the kehilot, as Herzl felt it was important to involve them in the process. They did their best but failed. Assimilated Jews continued to hold offices in the kehilot.
However, all of the above actions connected to work for the present were minor. They were not important for the wider goals of the Zionist Organization and the needs of the diaspora. But political development in Austria provided the possibility for meaningful action that could make a major improvement in the situation of the Jews.
Until 1907, the right to vote for members of the Austrian Parliament belonged only to tax-paying citizens. Also, voters did not elect representatives directly but would vote for representatives who chose the delegates for parliament. The broad strata of Jews, small merchants and artisans, middlemen, etc. were neither among the taxpayers nor among those who had the right to vote for the representatives for parliament. But for reasons that are not relevant to our story, the Austrian government decided to grant the right to vote to every citizen (only men) at least 21 years old. That is to say: the right to vote was direct, general, equal (for every citizen) and confidential. There was a new atmosphere in Austria.
On one hand, this new law opened up enormous possibilities for the Zionist Organization in Galicia, and on the other hand it posed a great threat to the small group that controlled the kehilot and represented the Jews in municipal governments and elsewhere. In Galicia the threat was serious because the Zionist Organization had complete control over the Jewish Street which now had the right to vote, even though the Zionists did not hold official positions. Therefore, those who had represented the Jews in government decided to take measures so that they could continue to support the government authorities.
A difficult war was expected between the large portion of the Jewish population led by the Zionist leaders Adolf Stand, Dr Joshua Thon, Dr Leon Reich, Dr Michael Ringel, Dr Mordechai Braude, Dr Gershon Zipper and others, and the thin layer that called itself assimilated and had control, although among its leaders were people for whom the Polish language was not familiar.
The most important official leader of the Jews in Drohobycz was Jakob Feuerstein, a very rich man without any education but with a good heart, who often helped this or that group by lobbying the authorities on their behalf. His father Elias was the head of the kehila. Jakob also reached this position, as well as the position of deputy mayor. He was willing to do anything to achieve his goal, and the goal was ¬ not to let control pass to anyone else.
First of all, he recruited the officials of the kehila, the Jewish city officials, the religious personnel, and all those whose livelihood was supported by the kehila. As mentioned, the Starosta and all the other authorities, such as the minister of revenue, the director of the health department, the mayor, etc., supported the assimilated Jews, because they believed that Zionist leaders wanted national recognition and would claim the right of Jews to rule, while the assimilated would support the government's causes or lobbying in individual cases.
These authorities began to operate according to a pre-arranged plan. The tax office sent to every Jew, who owed taxes, a bill for the immediate payment of arrears. If he did not comply, his goods would be sold at auction. Representatives of the health department went from store to store, from kiosk to kiosk, to check on compliance with the regulations of the sanitary laws, and of course, they found compliance nowhere.
On the day after such an official visit, Jakob Feuerstein's advisers would appear and promise help to anyone who would undertake not to vote for the Zionist candidate.
Their candidate was Dr Löwenstein, an attorney from Lwów, who was extremely wealthy and well-loved by the Polish aristocracy. He had enormous influence in all circles of government.
Our candidate was Dr Zipper, also a well-known lawyer from Lwów, one of the first Zionists in Galicia, a man known for his honesty, who was an eloquent speaker. The means for campaigning available to us were, of course, very limited, while our opponents had unlimited finances. But we had boundless enthusiasm and thanks to it we acquired the support of the entire Jewish population in the city.
Pre-election campaigning had begun. Jakob Feuerstein controlled it. He and his supporters did not call for public meetings because they had no speakers and were afraid that the Zionist youth would disturb them.
We had meetings two or three times a week. Each time one of our best leaders would speak, such as Adolf Stand, Dr Reich, Dr Braude, and others. When the tension had reached an appropriate level, our candidate came to introduce himself to the electorate. He arrived on the Shabbat evening to spend the Shabbat in the city and meet with the various groups and organizations. According to the plan, he arrived at noon at the small train station (on Gonoldcka Street) and the public was invited to greet him. The entire square
in front of the station was flooded with people, women and children included. When Dr Zipper appeared in the window of the wagon, a call erupted, Hoch Zipper! A carriage waited in the square to bring him to the hotel, but when he stepped into it, the people removed the horses and dragged the carriage through Gonoldcka Street, the square, and part of Stryjska Street to Schechter's Bollard Hotel, while reciting: Hoch Zipper! Long live Zionism! Only with great difficulty did the crowd disperse.
On Saturday afternoon, an open-air meeting was held in the garden of Palik Halperin (Dr Pachtman's brother-in-law) on Słowacki Street, and again crowds came and displayed the same admiration. Soon after, the Zionists and Dr Zipper's fans, who were not yet organized in the Zionist Organization, began to greet each other with the greeting: Hoch Zipper. The entire city was in turmoil. Jakob Feuerstein lost his self-confidence and as a result, the pressure on the merchants and the tiny artisans increased significantly. If until now the authorities used only threats, they now started to carry out the threats. The representatives of the authorities, accompanied by the police under the guidance of Feuerstein's men, came to the place in the city where small businesses in kiosks and stalls were concentrated and began to dismantle them. Some surrendered and promised to vote in favor of Löwenstein, but others did not surrender. I will mention here Alta Minzer (the mother of Haschia from Merhavia) who, while her kiosk was being dismantled, shouted, Take the kiosk! They ruined my livelihood! But Hoch Zipper! And she was not the only one. There were women in their last months of pregnancy who prayed that it would be better not to give birth, only that Zipper be elected.
However, all this enthusiasm did not succeed and Löwenstein was elected. This happened because it was the first time Zionists had attempted to deal with the municipal leaders who were supported by the authorities. Our supporters were mainly young people who could not vote, while the older people were not yet psychologically prepared to disobey the city's leaders.
However, this event was not in vain. The Zionist plan became public and the willingness of people to make significant sacrifices was of great importance. Anyone who remembers those days considers them an important phase in the history of Zionism.
The 1911 Election
The first election was held in 1907, the second election in 1911 with the same candidates, Löwenstein and Dr Zipper. Again, there was the same enthusiasm and the same pressure from the authorities. But Feuerstein knew that he would not succeed by using the methods he used in previous elections, since the number of Zionists with voting rights had grown in the meantime. He sent his supporters to voters that he thought would be, more or less, subject to his will and asked them to deposit their voting cards with him until the election day. However, even this was not enough; he decided to carry out a plot on election day itself. On the day before the elections, two platoons of soldiers were brought from Przemyśl. It was assumed that since there were many eligible voters, participation would be great, because besides the two Jewish candidates, there were also candidates from the Polish Socialist Party (P.P.S) and the Ukrainian Party. The elections were to take place in the old theater in the garden on Stryjska Street. Polling stations were set up, but only one door served as entrance and exit. Contrary to the law that stipulated that the party offices should be located at a great distance from a polling station, the propaganda office of the assimilated Jews was on Stryjska Street, in front of the polling station. Voters would come to the office to receive the voting cards that they had deposited with Feuerstein's staff. The card handed to the voter by a member of the party office staff would indicate that the holder was one of Feuerstein's voters. Only these people were given the opportunity to enter the hall to exercise their right. Those who did not have such a card had to stand in line for many hours. But even this was not enough for Feuerstein. As mentioned, the election was secret and Feuerstein feared that those who deposited their cards in his office might cheat and vote for Zipper. Therefore, he ordered that whoever voted for Löwenstein should hand in an open ballot. Although this was against the law, the chairman of the election commission decided that secrecy was a right, not a requirement and that a voter could waive the right and vote openly, if he wished. This situation continued from early morning until noon. Resentment increased from hour to hour. The area between the square and the garden on Stryjska Street, the locations of the theater, was flooded with Jews and Ukrainians, all with the right to vote, who were not even given the opportunity to reach the garden to stand in line in front of the polling station. Due to this resentment, a rumor was spread that the Jews and the Ukrainians were about to break into the hall and destroy the polling station. These rumors were baseless because the army took a position by the theater on Stryjska Street. To break into the hall, it would have been necessary to take over
the position of the army. But apparently these rumors reached Feuerstein's ears and he decided to act. At about two-thirty in the afternoon, the army fired several times into the crowds that stood between the square and Stryjska Street. The head of the county (starosta), Luszkowski, Feuerstein's lackey, who was in charge of the election, instructed the officer commanding the army to shoot. This was on June 19, in 1911.
The results were fatal, with about twenty-seven men and women killed and wounded. This number included those killed immediately and those who died from their wounds. The number of wounded who recovered from their wounds but remained disabled was much greater. Among those who were killed was my brother Leibush. At about two o'clock he came home to eat lunch and after a quick bite, he went to the hall to vote. Since he did not show up at the house after the shooting, my mother and I went to look for him. We found him by Gintner's kiosk lying with his face down with six bullets in his back. Most of victims were shot in the back. This was obvious because when the crowd saw that the army was preparing to shoot, they turned around to flee and yet the army shot them.
This catastrophe did not persuade the authorities to stop the election. Löwenstein was elected without any further mishap. However, he relinquished the mandate. In the autumn of that year, new elections were held, but because of a decision by the National Committee, the Zionists didn't participate.
Feuerstein was terrified of the anger of the people; he fled by train to Vienna on the same day. Because the news of this event had reached all parts of Austria, Zionist students in Vienna gathered in masses near the northern train station and waited for his arrival to avenge the blood-shed. When he got off the train, a man from Drohobycz, who was in the crowd, could not resist and shouted, There's the killer! Feuerstein managed to escape and thus survived.
In the two days after the incident, funerals were arranged in the Jewish as well as the Christian cemeteries. Masses of people attended the funerals and vowed to avenge the blood-shed. And indeed, in the fall of that year, a young man tried to assassinate Feuerstein while he was walking in the square with his brother Isaac and some others. However, the gun did not fire and Feuerstein survived. Afterwards, he avoided walking the city streets and later he retired from public life.
After that incident, the attorney general of the county began criminal lawsuits against the Zionist leaders in general and against the Zionist students in particular. The charge was violation pf public peace. The claims against most of them, especially against those whose relatives were injured or killed, were dropped. Also, the accusation against my brother Samuel and me was dropped. However, many were tried before a jury and after many efforts and great difficulty, they were acquitted. The hardest trial was that of Roman Alexandrovich, who was a deputy lawyer at the time.
Following the publication of Dr Pasmanik's booklet on socialist Zionism, the Po'alei Zion Association was established in our city. At the beginning of its existence, the organization was unable to attract members of socialist organizations to join Zionist socialism. Some Zionist youth joined this new association but only a few of the high school students joined. However, over time the Po'alei Zion Association became an important institution among the Jewish workers in our city.
Dr Max Rosenfeld was born in Drohobycz, and lived there until he was about thirty years old. He was one of the main founders of the worldwide movement of Po'alei Zion. He maintained close ties with Shazar and Katriel and all the other leaders on one hand and with Dr Oppenheimer on the other hand. Dr Franz Oppenheimer joined the Zionist movement under the influence of Herzl. He advocated the theory of cooperative settlement. According to his recommendation, Merhavia was founded, based on his ideas. At Rosenfeld's invitation, Dr Oppenheimer visited our city to lecture to the general public about his theories and to give more detailed lectures at seminars for university students. When Dr Rosenfeld died at the age of forty, the Zionist movement lost an important, creative power. Dr Rosenfeld's closest friends were Dr Michel Meisel and Dr Zishe Barchasz. Dr. Meisel left the city a few years before the outbreak of World War I. When the Po'alei Zion Association and Ze'irei Zion were established, Dr Barchasz joined the movement and we worked together daily. It is worth noting that besides being a Marxist socialist, he was devout; he prayed wrapped in a large prayer shawl, as did most ultra-Orthodox Jews, and kept the commandments.
Among the other members of this movement, there were Leyzer Rosenblatt and Michael Werdinger, his brother Leon, who was an attorney, Hersch Ber Eisenstein, and also Chaim Leyzer Heiss. Among the other activities of Po'alei Zion, it is worth mentioning the debates with the Jewish Social Democratic movement, which had supporters among the refinery workers. The main spokesperson for this party was Baruch Feuerstein (not a relative of Jakob). He is now in Israel and enjoys everything in the country.
The debates would usually take place in the Po'alei Zion building, and only rarely in the hall of the Social Democrats. These events were chaired by Sigmund Unikel, who always spoke in German. The debate consisted of intermittent speeches. Each side made speeches; each speaker tried to prove that according to the doctrine of Marx or Engels, justice was with his party. When the debates lasted two and three hours and the debaters were no longer careful in their words, Unikel would permit a representative of the Social Democrats to speak. He would say, Before I allow Mr ___ to speak, I must say that he is a generally despicable person. Mr. ___, please speak … The debates often ended with vigorous beatings and breaking of chairs, but they were usually interesting and members of our circles attended them often.
Matriculation Exam, The Light, Theodor Herzl
In 1909 Max, Landes, Heiss, and I passed the matriculation examination. Max started to study law but gave up immediately after the first semester and moved to Vienna to study history. Heiss and Landes enrolled at the Polytechnic University in Lwów to study chemistry. Heiss did not find his studies satisfying enough; he emigrated to Israel to be a worker. He worked for about a year in Petah Tikva. His employers checked his muscles several times to see if he could succeed in the job, before they agreed to hire him. However, he did not have enough strength. Another contributing problem was the eye disease from which he had suffered since childhood. When he about fourteen or fifteen, he spent two months at a clinic in Lwów for treatment under the supervision of specialists, but to no avail. When he returned from Israel, he continued to study unwillingly; he would recall the days he spent in Israel with joy, laced with sadness.
Landes finished his studies and got a high position in the petroleum firm Galicia specializing in gas. He improved the method of producing very light gasoline from gas, without the gas losing its power of combustion. His method was acknowledged in most parts of the world and is mentioned in all the textbooks.
In 1930, when all the Jewish workers in the Galicia firm were dismissed because they were Jews, he was one of the four who remained in office. When the Nazis invaded the petroleum area, he and his wife were the first to be murdered by the soldiers. After the Holocaust, his two daughters emigrated to Israel. The eldest daughter is a member of kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon; the younger daughter studied chemistry at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and works in her profession there.
Max Rosenbush and I stayed in Drohobycz for more than half a year. We were both asked to participate in the local Zionist Committee and were tasked with organizing the youth who did not belong to the Working and Studying Youth Associations (HaNoar HaLomed). According to the spirit of the time, it was necessary to organize boys and girls separately. Max founded an association for girls called The Light; that was his main activity. With Max's help, I organized an association for boys called Theodor Herzl.
In a short time, Max became a favorite among all the youth. Girls from all corners of the city flocked to The Light. His lectures were well known because of their interesting structure and content. Not only young people came to listen to his words, but also adults. Max was helped mainly by Cyla Kuhmärker, who already published articles in the Polish, Zionist, and general press at the time. Max's and Cyla's collaboration in The Light resulted a 300-page book called מונדנקטה (female clerk in a law firm). Cyla worked as a clerk in the office of the attorney Friedman. In this book, which was clearly leaning towards Zionism, the author immortalized Max as Max Aksan. Since then, the members started calling him Max Akshan (Hebrew: stubborn). Cyla immigrated to Israel with her husband Dr Serkes and died several years later from a serious illness.
In those days, activity in Theodor Herzl was very important. It was necessary to give the boys an ideological education to instill the doctrine of Zionism and explain its effects in the general and Zionist worlds, especially to those who could not attend government schools.
We established several courses and instilled the doctrine in the members of the association as much as possible. Within two or three years, we were able to train a group of young clerks, and artisan and business apprentices in Zionist awareness. And indeed, they spread the idea of Zionism among their friends and helped increase the number of members in the association. In this regard I should mention Hirsch, Steuerman and Max Orenstein. They devoted their best efforts to the activities of the association. The main pillar of the association was Jakob Ambach. We had known each other in the past when we studied in the cheder directed by Wolf Bender (his nickname was Wolf Gili). We then moved on to another cheder directed by Yankele Acker. After leaving the cheder, we parted ways. I did not see him for a few years but when I made a public announcement of the founding of the Theodor Herzl association, he was one of the first participate. He was the son of a wealthy man who had made his fortune in the oil industry. However, he volunteered just as other members who were not affluent and lived modest lives. More than once he paid the expenses
of the association when we lacked funding to carry out all the plans we had made.
In the meantime, we received the first edition of Hapoel Hatzair's newspaper. I began to lecture to the members about the goals of the Po'alim (workers) organization in Israel. My lectures found strong support and after a few months it was decided to contact the Hapoel Hatzair Centre in Israel. We informed the group that we wanted to act as a reserve for the Centre. It was clear to our members that being involved in Hapoel Hatzair meant realizing Zionism in practice. We began to plan our emigration to Israel. In the meantime, the 1911 elections came; they ended in a terrible disaster.
Dos yidishe wort
Another role assigned to me was editing the weekly Yiddish newspaper. At that time, many different branches and organizations were affiliated with the Zionist Organization in Drohobycz. A sports organization, Hako'ach (the force), headed by Emanuel Nape, was established. We realized that it was necessary for a single newspaper to keep all these organizations informed. Editing Dos yidishe wort (The Yiddish Word), the weekly newspaper, was a great joy for me but also an endless source of trouble. The paper was printed in a large, four-page format and my job was to fill four pages, or at least three and a half pages, except for a section for advertisements. I ran from one doctor to another to beg them to write something for the newspaper and I didn't always succeed. In these cases, I had to add all the missing parts myself. The newspaper also had a literature section containing mainly translations of modern Hebrew prose. The hardest days of the week for me were Wednesday afternoons and Thursdays, before the newspaper was published. During this time, I would be at Żupnik's printing house organizing the layout and everything involved in printing the newspaper. I would also see that anything necessary was added. The newspaper was published on Friday morning. All the Jewish public in the city and not only they waited for it. Seeing me burdened with worries and troubles, Mr. Żupnik himself would say to me, I must say that you are inexperienced. Why should you have all this trouble? And what are the results of all this? In the end, you publish articles by unknown authors and they are in Yiddish as well. Look, I publish a weekly newspaper on Friday morning (referring to his Drohobyczer Zeitung) with remarkable articles. I take all of them, written in classic German, from the Neue Freie Presse, whose editor is Moriz Benedikt.
Too bad I could not follow his method.
A Hebrew School
The election disaster of 19 June, 1911 depressed us greatly. Jewish organizations returned to their normal operations only slowly, but it is worth noting that by winter, everything had returned to normal. Many of the educated activists, especially the many lawyers who came from other cities, helped with this. Drohobycz was the most important city for business in eastern Galicia. The petroleum business fascinated jurists because they could have a rich, interesting practice and also a good income. An attorney could earn a much higher salary in Drohobycz than in other cities. The local committee tried to attract lawyers who were activists in the Zionist movement, and if we recall that the committee had many attorneys as members, it is easy to see that these efforts were successful. And so, Dr Chaim Tartakower, Dr Adolf Silberstein, Dr Philip Korngrün, Dr Moshe Tombek, Dr Serkes, and others, whose names I no longer remember, settled in Drohobycz. They participated in our daily activities, and almost all of them took important roles in the Zionist Organization. In particular, Dr Tartakower was instrumental in spreading the Hebrew language and literature. I mentioned above that the first Hebrew teacher was Rafael Sapirman. He left after two years in 1903. His departure caused a hiatus in teaching the language, but a year later, new teachers came. The first of them was Kabitner from Stanisławów who, apart from teaching the Hebrew language, also preached a severe vegan life style that is, a diet of fruits and vegetables, preferably not even cooked. When he left the city probably emigrated to Israel Karmerish came; he had a distinct pedagogical talent. However, when he emigrated to America two years later his place was taken by Naftali Siegelbaum, who remained in this role until the outbreak of the First World War. Siegelbaum devoted himself to teaching the language with unparalleled vigor and great success. Language learning ceased to be a sport or an amateur act and became an everyday necessity. Siegelbaum also did much to distribute Hebrew books and journals. He received the material from Robinson's store in Stanisławów under very favorable conditions and distributed it among Hebrew readers whose number had increased in the meantime. He distributed Frishman's Reshafim, Bialik and Rawnitzki's Sefer HaAggadah, Feuerberg's writings, and more. Siegelbaum is in Israel today with his sons and grandchildren and despite his age, is still teaching. .
In Sapirman's time, Hebrew courses were a private business. But afterwards, and if I am not mistaken it was during the time of Kabitner and certainly in the time of Karmerish and Siegelbaum that a Hebrew school was founded
under the supervision of the local committee which paid the teachers their salaries.
Running the school was not easy, especially from the budgetary aspect. The curriculum was not yet uniform throughout the country; every city did what it saw fit. The management of our school was given to Dr Tartakower and Abraham Fränkel. Both did their jobs faithfully. Tartakower was a man who could be called a saint. He treated every Zionist issue as if it were holy; everyone had great respect for him. After Tartakower left Drohobycz, Mr Fränkel was in charge of the school and carried the heavy burden of its management. His closest friend was Dr Silberschein . He had a clear mind and was a jurist of the highest order. He was not only a remarkable jurist but also an economist who had a keen interest in the Jewish cooperative movement. He took over this branch of Zionist action. He also devoted himself to the youth and to the women's organizations. After Dr Silberschein left Drohobycz, he moved to Lwów, where he opened a law firm. But most of his work in eastern Galicia was in the field of the Jewish cooperative movement. He was also elected as delegate to the first Polish Sejm. Later, he moved to Geneva (Switzerland) where he was a member of the Committee for the Rescue of Jewish Refugees, etc. He died in Geneva in 1953. Regarding Hebrew studies, I must also mention Moses Zvi Sternbach, a native of Borysław. He did not teach at the school, which was mainly for young students, but devoted himself to teaching adults and educated people with great success. He was a humble man who lived modestly, without saying a resentful word. I owe him many thanks because it was he who taught me the Hebrew language and literature. He is also the man with whom I held conversations about Hebrew literature.
These were the years before the First World War, the years when Zionism flourished in our city, albeit without a large emigration to Israel. Teuch was the only one who emigrated. It was Galician-style Zionism at that time. This Zionism was expressed in public relations and education. It eventually resulted in a great emigration to Israel, but at that time, it had not yet begun.
The Congress in 1913
Despite this, almost the entire Jewish Zionist public was sensitive to events in the movement. In 1913, the Zionist Congress was convened in Vienna. The Austrian railway agreed to give discounted travel prices to all congress participants, both delegates and guests. Even though the trip to Vienna and the stay for ten to fourteen days involved considerable expense, several dozen people signed up to attend the congress. On the day of the trip, a special car was attached to the train that left from Drohobycz to Przemyśl in the evening. It was full of men and women of all ages. Crowds of people and members from all the organizations gathered on the platform. We sang songs of Zion and decorated the caravan with a blue and white flag, and while singing Hatikvah, we departed. Dr Silberschein was unanimously elected as the commander of the car.
In Przemyśl, the car was attached to the special high-speed train that carried only congress participants; it had started in Chernivtsi. Many people embarked at all the stations where the train stopped. We spent a night without sleep; it passed with singing and in an uplifted mood. From the Theodor Herzl association, Ambach and I attended the congress. Max Rosenbush was in Vienna at the time. In Vienna we met with representatives of the workers from Israel with A.D. Gordon in the lead. In the
The Founding of the Organization of the Zionist Academics (Histadrut)
Another enterprise with national scope that was established in our city before the First World War was the founding of the Organization of the Zionist Academics (H.Z.A.), which encompassed not only eastern Galicia but also other areas. The idea began in our city. At that time, there were academic organizations throughout the country that had important organizational differences. There was a need to bring them into a single organization and create a uniform action plan. There were actually three kinds of organizations whose members could only be students. They were engaged mainly in educational and cultural activities. Associations of this kind, especially in the major cities in Austria, added much to the establishment and deepening of Zionist theory. Theodore Herzl in Vienna and Bar-Kochba in Prague were the first of these associations. .
At the other end of the spectrum were organizations modelled on German student associations (Burschenschaften). Their goal was
cultivating student awareness. Within these associations there were three ranks of members. A student had to pass the two lower ranks to move to the highest rank, when he would be considered a member with full rights. The members practiced the use of weapons God forbid, not with firearms but with a sword so that they could face opponents in a duel. These associations also used symbols, as did the German fraternities, according to a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. It goes without saying that these associations were also engaged in ordinary Zionist action.
As strange as it may seem to us today, these associations were very important. Even in the days before the First World War, Polish and German students attacked Jewish students with insults about Judaism. The members of these associations answered with insults of their own A duel, the direct result of these conflicts, protected the honor of Israel. Jewish students' ability to stand in a duel and win improved the prestige of the rest of the Jewish students, at least in the universities. This was important.
Between these two groups was a third type of association, which maintained a three-rank structure for members but avoided use of weapons.
The Zionist student movement felt the need to establish an organization that would unite these three groups. Max Rosenbush, who was in Drohobycz during the holidays, and I took on this initiative. We wrote to the all organizations and found strong support for the idea. After our plan had been clarified in our letters, we organized a founding conference in Drohobycz. Members from all over Galicia came to this conference, especially those who were considered leaders of the younger generation, including Lauterbach from Przemyśl (he now serves as the director of the Jewish agency's organization department), Schweig from Złoczów (now named Dr Shatkai who serves as director of Beilinson Hospital), and many others. The conference lasted two days and ended with the foundation of the H.Z.A. The management was established in Przemyśl because there were not enough people in Drohobycz to fulfill this role.
Rabbi Chaimoni - The Company for the Settlement of Israel
The outbreak of the First World War stopped all Zionist activity in our city and throughout the country. The youth enlisted in the army as soon as the war broke out. Over time, citizens up to the age of fifty-five also enlisted. Of the Zionists leaders who remained in the city, or rather returned to it after the retreat of the Russians, there was only Avraham Fränkel, and others of his age. Of the younger generation who remained were Dr Leon Tannenbaum and me. Of course, we could not do much, yet we did what could at that time. First, we kept the Hebrew school open, celebrated the 20th of Tammuz, etc.
Dr Tannenbaum and I had an opportunity to start a brand-new activity that we had never dreamed of. One day we both received an invitation to visit the Tzaddik from Sadigura, Rabbi Chaimoni, in his apartment. This invitation was a surprise for both of us because we could not imagine what the purpose of the visit could be. At the set hour we went to the Tzaddik. He received us warmly and apologized for bothering us by saying that it was a matter of public benefit. He told that in Vienna from where he had returned a month earlier he and the rabbi from Sadigura (in Bukovina) and other rabbis (admors) had established a company for the settlement of Israel. The goal of the company was to settle pious Jews in the Israel. This decision had been made by the rabbis after much consultation, recognizing that only in Israel could the problem of the Jews be solved. He himself headed the company but had no experience in such work and asked that we guide him in Zionist action. After about an hour, we arranged another meeting. These meetings became more frequent and from them, I came to know what a valuable Jew Rabbi Chaimoni was. He received us with extraordinary respect, even though not all in his entourage approved of our meetings, since they thought we desecrated the Sabbath. However, he did not pay attention to all their remarks and more than once said that whoever observes the mitzvah of the settlement of Israel should be considered as fulfilling all the mitzvot. Rabbi Chaimoni spent several months in Drohobycz before returning to Vienna. At the end of the war, he himself fulfilled all the aspirations of Zionism. He emigrated to Israel with his extended family and influenced his sons to leave the rabbinate and dedicate themselves to manual labour. The boys did as he said. One of the boys became a bookbinder and works in this craft to this day. One of the sons was a painter. Two or three years ago we read about his painting exhibitions.
The poet S. Shalom is the grandson of Rabbi Chaimoni.
The Ukrainian Period
With the end of the war, while the city was occupied by the Ukrainians, public life returned to normal. The local Zionist committee, which had in the meantime resumed its activities, decided to take over the kehila and remove the influence of the assimilated Jews, thereby fulfilling Herzl's command.
To carry out this task, five people were selected for the delegation headed by Dr Tannenbaum; I was one of its members. At the set time, we five entered the office of the kehila. The chairman Mr Sternbach received us kindly. Dr Tannenbaum began with these words, His Excellency knows that times are different now and that we have come ... Here Sternbach stopped him by saying I know the purpose of your coming, there is no need for long speeches. Here are the keys. Dr Tannenbaum was embarrassed but he took the keys and we signed the protocol. This is how the rule on the Jewish Street passed to us, the Zionists.
The first thing we did was to change the name from the Community Committee (kehila) to Jewish National Council. We distanced ourselves from the members of the previous committee and invited to it representatives of all Jewish Zionist organizations, including Po'alei Zion.
The economic situation of the Jews during the Ukrainian government was very difficult. All of western Ukraine (eastern Galicia) was like a besieged city tightly closed. Our city was associated with large petroleum businesses in Vienna and other western countries, but these connections were completely severed. Trade was reduced to the point of selling wagons of oil and paraffin and transporting them to Brody or to the eastern border of the country. The Ukrainian government confiscated Austrian money that still had value in the world market and put its worthless currency in its place. This impoverished the Jewish masses. Nevertheless, national and public life on the Jewish Street developed. In Stanisławów, a supreme Jewish authority was established which prepared a constitution for itself and for all the local councils. We nurtured national recognition through lectures, conventions, conferences, etc. The Ukrainian government recognized the Jewish language as the official language of the Jewish population. It was a great victory for the national section of the Jewish public. And we hoped that Jews would also have autonomy in the areas of culture and education. It is worth noting that the assimilationists, who until the establishment of the Ukrainian government were supporting Polish culture, changed their colours and became Ukrainian patriots and began to support assimilation into the Ukrainian culture.
During this period, Dr Moses Feuerman, a dear man with a Hebrew education, worked in our city and in a short period of time succeeded in becoming loved by all. Indeed, the Jewish public was very sad when Dr Feuerman left the city.
Over time, a vital need developed to prepare the people for autonomy. A Kalia organization was founded in Drohobycz, which centralized the national-cultural operation for the Jewish public. Given the difficult conditions that existed in those days, it can be said without hesitation that it did great things. We met every day for members' talks and twice or three times a week there were concerts and lectures on science and art. These were at a very high level. We also held debates and assemblies with people on current affairs. The debates were often quite heated because we were determining national autonomy and it was necessary to decide on how it would function. Opinions in this matter were divided, as usual.
We also renewed publication of the weekly Dos yidishe wort and the editing was handed back to me, but now it appeared in a smaller format due to fewer articles and lack of paper. The newspaper was not always printed on white paper, but sometimes on pink, brown, or paper of other colours, as other newspapers in Western Ukraine. We received news from the Supreme Jewish Council in Stanisławów. As mentioned, Western Ukraine was cut off from the world because it was at war with the Polish Republic which held western Galicia. The only connection was through Hungary but it was not easy, because a few months after the end of the war, the trains belonging to the Austrian-Hungarian government did not work properly. After much effort, the Ukrainian government managed to establish contact with Vienna by wireless connection. The Jewish Council in Stanisławów also benefited from this connection. It also served as an intelligence agency. Through our newspaper, the Jewish public received some news about what was happening in the world, especially in the Jewish world. Sometimes, after much effort, someone outside of Ukraine would bring a foreign newspaper. In such cases, I made a great effort to obtain the newspaper and copy the news from it.
The Entry of the Polish Army
The Ukrainian government lasted only about six months, from November 1918 to mid-May 1919. On May 19, the Ukrainian army withdrew after a difficult battle in the area and the Polish army entered the city. However, it came not to liberate the country but to conquer. That night the troops engaged in a small pogrom and destroyed whatever could be destroyed. A small number of stores remained intact, but the majority were robbed. The next day, and for a few days, Jews dared not leave their homes, fearing for their lives. The director of the hospital Dr Kozlowski asked the commander to stop the soldiers, but his efforts did not
succeed. On the contrary, they began to persecute Jews and forced them to perform all kinds of hard physical work, such as cleaning streets, schools, offices, etc., that is, work that could have been done by employed labourers. Headquarters did not consider the condition of the workers for the execution of the works. Any Jew the Poles could find was considered suitable for hard physical work. The attitude of headquarters, and later of the civil authority, towards Zionism was negative. Or rather hostile. The Poles could not forget that in the dispute between them and the Ukrainians over the future of that part of Austria, the Zionists from eastern Galicia officially declared neutrality. They interpreted this declaration as support for the Ukrainians.
Of course, under these circumstances there was no possibility of resuming Zionist activity. However a year later, life began to return to normal. The Zionist Histadrut renewed its activities on a national scale, and a branch operation began in our city as well.
The history of the Zionist movement in Drohobycz under Polish rule is a story in itself. It is more or less known to the generation that survived the Holocaust. I could have finished with that but I feel a need to dedicate a few lines to the late Dr Tannenbaum, who had been the leader of the Zionists in the city since the establishment of the Polish government until his last moments. He grew up in a poor family and as a high school student supported the family by tutoring, as was customary at that time. Despite being busy with this work, he found the time to join the Zionist students in the high school and serve as Meyer Kron's loyal assistant. Until his death he was not at the forefront of the Zionist movement but was the leader of Zionism in general in the city. He was devoted to Zionist idea; he participated in every Zionist and Jewish action with all his talent and with all his soul. Although each of us headed a separate wing of the Zionist movement, there was a very full understanding among us and also a friendly attitude. Even after he was elected as Deputy Mayor and head of the kehila, he remained as humble as he was before and helped anyone who approached him.
His desire to emigrate to Israel was very strong. In 1933 he traveled to Israel as a tourist with the intention of finding a way to establish a livelihood. However, his friends did not help him in this. After his return to Drohobycz, he made many efforts to emigrate to Israel, but in vain, and thus remained a man in the diaspora whose ambition was to live and work in Israel.
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