This has been a difficult and profound undertaking, organized and written over a period of several years.
I want to publicly thank all of the Jews of Gline who gave me information and stories about the town and its residents, not even knowing that their words would be valuable material for this book.
However, after carefully sifting through and thinking over their words, I found a lot of value in them, and I used much of the material. A heartfelt 'thank you' to everybody! I also want to thank all my friends for their financial assistance. Let me thank each of the following people individually who wrote memoirs for the book. They are: R. Shlomo Cohen (Kugel), R. Rafael Prager, Moshe Greindinger, the late R. Yosef Mordechai Leinwand, Notta Leitner, Yonah Mehlman, Dr. Yonah Allerhand, Sholom Moyer, Chaya Kanner, Yaakov Feiering and Aharon Mandel.
A heartfelt 'thank you' goes to Yechiel Leinwand for writing the major portion of the book that deals with the destruction of the shtetl. (He, his wife and children were miraculously saved from death. They spent the entire period of the great disaster hidden in Gline, staying in a mine that belonged to a gentile). He and his family went and suffered through everything, and then with self-sacrifice, he recorded everything that the Gline Jews experienced, suffered and live through during the Holocaust, and how they were finally murdered. The record is presented here for the reader.
I also want to thank R. Shlomo Cohen, our scholar of Gline who lives in the United States, for assisting me with his photographic memory and advice.
I wish to publicly thank all Jews from Gline and surrounding villages whose letters are published in this book. Most of the letters were printed in the book, The Destruction of Gline, 1945[sic]. We have now added a few other letters that we considered important and appropriate for the book.
When the letters were written, they weren't intended for public use. They were sent to the Gline Emergency Relief Committee and to friends and relatives. We collected the letters and printed them because of the information they contain about people who went through everything, and because of their historical value - as a living testimony.
The shtetl of Gliniany once played a large role in Polish history. A decree of the Polish kingdom is found in the archives of the Gliniany community. The decree announced that the city of Gliniany was to be referred to as the Royal Free City of Gliniany. The wordsKrolewstwo Wolny Miasto Gliniany are engraved on the seal of the city hall. Due to the privilege of appearing in the king's decree, the nobleman who owned the city no longer had the right to force residents of Gliniany to work for him as forced laborers.
After the death of the Polish king, Casirmirz the Great, Polish senators traveled to Hungary and crowned King Ludwig of Hungary as king of Poland. The senators gave him the gift of the entirety of Galicia, which in those days was calledCherwony Rus [Red Russia], which was a part of Poland. When the issue became known in the kingdom of Poland, it caused tremendous dissatisfaction. In Gliniany a large meeting was held, which subsequently led to a political trial, because of the actions of the senators. Ludwig attended the trial together with a regiment of Hungarian hussars. The result of the trial was the beheading of seven Polish senators. In Polish history, the trial was known as The Tragedy of Gliniany.
Many years ago there was a large district that covered a large territory. On one side there were fields and forests that extended all the way to the village of Khonochovka, near the city of Premyshlan. On the other side forests and fields stretched all the way to just south of Lemberg. Over time, the size of the territory that had belonged to the city declined, and in the 18th century the city of Gliniany, together with the neighboring gentile regions, included an area of approximately nine square miles.
This occurred in 1895 during the hot days of the month of Tammuz [July/August], when the sun's rays were as hot as fire, and you couldn't even catch your breath. Suddenly, in the middle of the day, a column of smoke was seen rising from the Dillen priest's barn, which was located at the end of Kilokov Street. The houses in town were small, and the roofs covered with straw. Soon there were flames, and they started spreading to other roofs. Shouting and screaming got increasingly louder, and the bells in the church and in the middle of the market started ringing for help. When the fire was first noticed, all the men ran over to where the fire had started and began tearing off the straw roofs and breaking off the shingled roofs. The fire hoses with barrels of water started spraying and pouring the water, but the fire was stronger and faster than the water and pathetic efforts.
All at once the wholeshtetl was in danger of going up in smoke. The screams and shouts of the frightened and desperate Jews together with the ringing of the bells were absolutely deafening. The hellish fire spread further and with more power. The confusion got worse by the minute, and people were running from the fire like madmen. Everyone tried to save his wife, children and baggage and few possessions, basically anything he could get his hands on. They rapidly packed their things in sacks, bundles and trunks and threw them into the street. Soon all streets and alleys were filled with piles of sacks and trunks. Anyone who owned a horse and wagon loaded up the wagon and rode out of town.
Everyone ran away with bags and sacks, and crashed into each other, making the crowding in the streets even worse. They made their way over to the Jewish and non-Jewish cemeteries. The fire singed everything and the smoke choked everybody. The heat was utterly intolerable, and because of the congestion, flames, smoke and heat, people had to leave many of their possessions in the streets, in the hands of G-d. The fire rapidly spread to the market, the stores and the main streets of town.
Gentiles came in to town from surrounding villages, and the paupers from the courtyard with hoses to fight the fire, but it was of no use in putting out the flames; the whole town became one big bonfire, a virtual blazing hell.
While the roofs and walls collapsed, and chimneys crashed, the streets turned into a virtual harvest of merchandise, including everything people removed from the stores. Soon enough, gentiles, who became collectors, gathered up as much as they could and took it home.
As soon as nightfall arrived, the situation became even more frightening. People realized that families were separated; parents were cut off from their children, men from their wives. One family member was in one place, and another somewhere else. People sat down in the fields, meadows and orchards, at the river, in barns and among the gentiles. No one knew where anyone was. Adding to the problems, torrential rains began to fall, with thunder and lightening. There they all were, lying out under the stars, soaked to the bone. Everybody thought the world had come to an end.
Having scarcely survived the night of hell, at the crack of dawn the men set out to see what remained of their labor, property and goods. They beheld a frightening scene: the whole town was reduced to ashes. Everything was in ruins. Only the synagogue and study hall as well as a few houses around the synagogue were miraculously still standing after the horrible fire. The synagogue was filled up with sacks, trunks and other belongings, old men, women and small children who sought refuge there during the fire.
Seeing what became of their homes, the men fell faint from chagrin. Nobody who had not witnessed the events of that early morning after the great fire could ever understand how hunger and fear can become the strongest forces to compel a person to do just about anything to end hunger. Jews the merciful children of merciful parents from the surrounding towns of Premyshlan, Boisk, Yaritschov and Zlotchov quickly arrived with wagons filled with food and old clothes. Milk, cheese, and butter were brought from the surrounding villages. On the first night the wealthy businessmen gave out bread and a little milk to stop the hunger.
In the meantime, the few remaining houses provided homes for some of the families. Some were able to stay with friendly gentile neighbors, in barns, and local inns and makeshift shacks constructed from pieces of burnt wood. People got along the best they could just not to have to lie under the open sky. Wherever there remained somewhere to cook, a standing oven, the housewives cooked and baked anything they could even achulent [stew] for the Sabbath.
The children were without classrooms and spent a few weeks hanging around with nothing to do, and helped with the clean up. They looked for pieces of metal among the ruins of the burned down houses to sell and earn a couple of pennies. Later on, the teachers reorganized their classes in the attics of the synagogue, the little tailors' synagogue, the study hall and the women's galleries of the synagogues.
Very few of the Jews had fire insurance, even though a few months before the fire insurance agents came to town and encouraged people to take out fire insurance. Very few Jews did so. People lived through a difficult and bitter period, until with G-d's help theshtetl was rebuilt. Of course, the wealthy Jews had already been able to rebuild their homes, as did the poor. It took a few years for everything to get back to normal, and this time the town was rebuilt according to a particular plan. The chief judge and mayor didn't allow anyone to rebuild roofs with straw, but only with shingles and tin. Walls could only be built from brick.
In general, after the Great Fire, theshtetl changed, both internally and externally. Even the intellectual life and leadership changed considerably.
In addition to the Zionist orators in town, Gline had the privilege of hosting speeches by almost all the Zionist leaders in Galicia, and even a few Zionist personalities from outside Galicia. Over the years, a number of individuals came to Gline to give Zionist speeches. These included: Dr. Adolf Stand, the recognized leader of Galicia Zionists at the time; Dr. Gershon Tsiffer, Dr. Leon Reich, Shlomo Schiller, Gershom Badder, Dr. Heinrich Gobel, Dr. Moshe Prostick, Rabbi Dr. Broide, Prof. Mahler, the rousing Zionist speaker, Leib Toyvim, David Hersh Tieger, Mr. Abramsohn and many others, including Micheleh Premyshlaner, a frequent visitor in Gline. Micheleh was from Premyshlan, still a youth and of short stature, a chassid, scholar and a fine speaker, who could hold an audience spellbound for hours. He spoke with a warm speaking style, expressing devotion to the Jewish People and the Land of Israel. He always attracted a large crowd in Gline.
R. Yechezkel Meshenems (as he was called because his father-in-law, R. Yankel the Teacher, had a yellow beard and was called the Meshenemer Teacher) and his wife Khanshe, were the parents of Motek (Mordechai, son of Yechezkel) and Henokh (Khanokh). They were their parents' only surviving children from a family of ten children.
R. Yechezkel was a simple religious Jew, who was so pious that he loved spending every spare moment was spent reading a book. He used to remain standing and listening whenever scholars such as Yankele Chaya Esther's, Baruch Boseche's, Mechel Yenta's and others would teach publicly. He would always attend synagogue, even in the coldest weather. He was a disciple of the rebbe, Rabbi Bezalel and a village peddler. Due to his poor health, however, he was scarcely able to support his family.
In 1920, when Motek Halpern traveled to Palestine in order to settle there, he had already published articles in the best Hebrew newspapers, periodicals and weeklies under the pen name, Mordechai, son of Yechezkel. He was known under this pen name in Palestine and in Hebrew literature.
Gline also had the honor to be able to host the writers, Shalom Asch, Chaim Brenner and Sholom Aleichem, who was received by the public in Gline with great pomp and pageantry. He held public readings of his writings in the large community auditorium and other places. Chassidic rebbes also visited Gline at various times, including the Shiniaver rebbe, the Sanzer rebbe [Rabbi Chaim Halberstam, who was the father of Rabbi Yechezkel, the Shiniaver rebbe], the Zborover rebbe and the Mikolayever rebbe.
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