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[Columns 147-148]

Dr. Israel Waldman
(A Biographic Note)

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Israel Waldman was born in a Zionist home in Chortkiv in 1881. His father, and especially his uncle Dudu Swartz instilled the Zionist spirit in him from his youth. Waldman studied in the State's Polish-Ukrainian gymnasium from 1891 – to 1897. In 1897, he was forced to leave the gymnasium since he was caught doing Zionist work in public, something that was forbidden for high schools students. He received a high school diploma in 1899 in Berezhany as an external student. In 1905, he graduated from law school in Lviv and received a law doctorate degree. He apprenticed as a lawyer with Dr. Holubovitz for seven years. The latter was from among the leaders of the Ukrainian National Movement of Western Ukraine (Eastern Galitsia). During that period, he connected with Western Ukraine's intelligentsia circles, whose first (and the last) prime minister was the same Dr. Holubovitz.

 

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Dr. I. Waldman

 

Israel Waldman was a political Zionist during his entire life. The history of the Zionist Movement in Ternopil is inextricably linked to his name and personality. None of the Zionist activities in Ternopil took place without Waldman's participation as the initiator or executer.

Israel Waldman was a national Jew. For him, there was no difference between activities connected directly to Eretz Israel and the daily struggle waged by the Zionist Union for obtaining the national rights for the Jewish minority. As a speaker par excellence and an excellent organizer he managed, in Ternopil and the entire Eastern Galitsia, the elections to the Austrian parliament in 1906, 1807, and 1911. He also managed the 1910 fight for the recognition of Yiddish as one of the formal languages in Galitsia. He was always interested in politics and defended the rights of the Jewish workers, artisans, and merchants (the details of which are mentioned in the article about the Zionists Movement). Some of his important activities were - the founding of an organization of porters and workers by the name of “HaShakar” [“The Dawn”], the establishment of the first Galitsian national Jewish association for athletic and physical culture by the name of “Beitar”, and the publishing of a local Zionist newspaper by the name “Slovo Zhidovska” [“The Jewish Word”]. These can be attributed to him directly. Waldman represented and headed the Zionist camp. His slogan was: I am a Jew, and there is no Jewish matter, which is of no interest to me”.

He served in the Austrian army during the First World War, received a high medal of Excellence, and rose to the rank of captain.

After the war, he sided with the Ukrainians because the Western Ukrainians recognized the Jews as a separate nation and were ready to award them national-cultural autonomy. Dr. Waldman was a candidate for the position of minister of Jewish affairs in the government, which was supposed to be established after the election if the people who supported the cooperation with the Jews would win. Although Waldman received an absolute majority, the victory by the Poles over the Ukrainians in 1919 put an end to the Ukrainians' dream about an independent state in Western Ukraine.

Waldman returned to Vienna and was active there as a Zionist and Democrat until he made Aliya to Eretz Israel in 1935. However, his health condition did allow him to actively participate in politics. He resided in the house he built, along with his wife Tzila (nee Otshert) who was known in Ternopil as one of the first women who knew Hebrew and was also knowledgeable about the Talmud. His father, Engineer Otshert, was a veteran Zionist and a national Jewish public activist.

Israel Waldman died in Jerusalem after a serious illness on 19 September 1940.


[Columns 149-150]

The “Young Zionism” in Austria

by Meir Khartiner

Translated by Moshe Kutten

One of the most characteristic chapters in the history of Zionism in Imperial Austria, that the formal Zionism kept totally quiet about, came out of the Zionist youth. They revolted against Zionism's central leadership in Galitsia, close to the First World War. The revolutionary youth movement stood to capture the entire Jewish youth in Galitsia and Austria had it not been for the [First] World War. The war muddled all the national and Zionist values among the Eastern European Jews.

That movement was crystalized as the order of “Brit Bnei Khorin” [“Sons of Freedom Alliance”]. It was organized in cells called “Gideon” [after the biblical prophet and military leader Gideon and his war against the pagan god Ba'al– Judges 6-8]. The daring goal of the order was to organize the national intellectuals among the large Galitsian Jewry (consisting approximately of eight hundred thousand people) under a single association. It aimed to purify the international Zionist Union, contaminated by the diaspora civilization, and direct it toward the Eretz Israel and Hebrew culture. Indeed, that movement was not born in a vacuum. It was founded because of the call of the hour.

There is no doubt that the enormous propaganda that the Galitsia Zionists disseminated during the election to the Viennese Reichsrat in the summer of 1907 brought the Jewish masses closer to the Zionist idea. I recall a phrase by Uri Tzvi Grinberg from 1909. He was still a kid when he said about the election: “It was the hummer that awakens the people to pray Slikhot [penitential prayers] …!” However, the Zionist victory did not bring any reprieve to the people, neither economically nor spiritually. As a minority lucking any influence in the parliament, the Zionist leadership deviated from the path of national and moral purity, which brought it the win. It ceased to attract the studying Jewish youth, known for their high intelligence., the youth that was then concentrated in various academic associations in the state cities. Straying away from the public-moral purity resulted from the political war within the rotten autonomous Polish in Galitsia: The Viennese Reichsrat was the target and the Yiddish and Polish as means of propaganda. That war distracted the Zionist leadership away from Zion and the Hebrew culture. Apart from the meager collection of funds for the JNF, nothing was done to benefit Eretz Israel and the Hebrew movement. All the productive activities were carried out by “informal” activists such as Ph. Korngruen, Refael Superman, Yosef Tishler, Khaim Tratkover, and [Meir] Khartiner. That was how the Galitsian “Hebrews Day” convened in Lviv in the summer of 1911 under the initiative of Ph. Korngruen, with the assistance of the people mentioned above. That was a large demonstrative gathering, which left an enormous impression on the entire Zionist world. The following would serve as examples: Bialik sent a congratulatory and enthusiastic letter from Odessa; “HaTzfitra sent a member of its editorial committee A. N. Frank as its representative to the conference; Dr. Yehoshua Tahun came from Krakow and chaired the conference. However, the “official” Zionism treated the conference coldly, and a series of my propaganda articles on the approaching conference barely made it to publication in the official Zionist newspaper, “Tageblatt”.

Whatever happened in the rest of Galitsia happened in Ternopil. The national glamor of our academic association, “Bar Kokhba”, considered the true founder of Zionism in Eastern Europe during the first years of the century, dimmed by becoming addicted to the state and local politics.

An opposition against the non-Hebrew and non-Eretz Israel trend in Zionism was established in our association, which contained more than forty active members. Only four Hebrew-oriented members remained in our club: Yerukham Fishel, Korngruen, and Tzila Ochart-Waldman. Moshe Delugach (the son of the rabbi from Chemrinitz? in Russia), and myself. Almost all of the “Bar Kokhba's youth joined the opposition, crystallized around me. I was initially one of the most enthusiastic and active propagandists of

[Columns 151-152]

the Zionism's politics, as I considered it as the brave warrior against assimilation. I came out with my alarm call “Knesset Israel BeTza'ar!” [“Literarily – “Israel's Knesset in sorrow!”] A series of Zionist proclamations appeared as the main articles in the “Tageblatt” before the election mentioned above. They provoked an enormous national enthusiasm among the Galitsian Jewry. However, I became a total opponent of that Zionist politics from the day I realized, from within the confine of the top leadership circle, that the politics were not benefiting the voters but the elected. It also does not attract the diaspora towards Zion, but completely the opposite: Zion to the diaspora…

As opposed to that diaspora-based Zionism, whose official name was “Gegenvart Arbeit” (“The work at present”), which we called derogatorily - “diaspora work”. I established a new system named “Neo-Zionism” or “Yung Tzionismus” [“Young Zionism”]. The following were its principles:

Nationality, in its perfect and ideal sense, consists of three factors: land, Blood (race), and culture.

Zionism is nothing but the perfect nationalism of the nation of Israel: Moshe's religion, Cenebium (Marriage), and the Land of Israel.

For that reason, it is, nationally and Zionistically, forbidden to abandon Moshe and Israel's religion, practice intermarriage, or sabotage any cause of Eretz Israel. At present, the nation of Israel is defective. The homeland factor does exist in theory but not in reality. The Zionist Union is not a proper mechanism to realize the missing.

The homeland is the earth that feeds the national life, and the political life is only one side of the national life.

By introducing politics in the diaspora into Zionism, we add a foreign element to our national compound and cause harm to the Eretz Israeli cause as follows:

  1. The public and national energy are split. That energy is not aimed at building a single national center but many national centers.

  2. The national element in Zionism ceased to be qualitative and unifying and homogeneous and became a harmful factor, just like conversion and intermarriage. It became an antizionist not less than the “Territorial Zionism” [e.g. Uganda proposal], in which the harmful element is the foreign land.

  3. Diaspora-based optimism instead of pessimism.
    Implementation of Zionism is not an administrative endeavor. It involves such as the one required to establish a new business, which requires enormous financial investment and especially the participation of tens of thousands of immigrants. However, history teaches us that the Jewish masses only immigrate due to catastrophic psychology when they are expelled from where they reside. So, Zionism requires losing faith in the diaspora life, namely diaspora-based pessimism. However, Zionism based on diaspora politics invokes diaspora-based optimism, uprooting the Zionist idea at its mental core.

  4. Sate Zionism has been adopted by most of the diaspora's Zionists. Adding the optimism factor to it, the Eretz-Israeli cause, which is distanced from and not essential for the diaspora's Zionists, would be pushed aside and eventually disappear.
The “Young Zionism” proposes the following corrections:
  1. Removing the state, diaspora-related work from the Zionist program.
    The diaspora-state politics should be done by whoever would do it- not by the Zionist Union.

  2. Conquering the intelligentsia.
    It is not a big concern if Zionism's influence on the masses would be reduced due to the removal of political involvement in the state. Our main goals of securing immense investments in Eretz Israel and mass immigration would not be achieved by propaganda anyway. We should not lose hope, for now, about these goals and concentrate on securing support from our nation's intelligentsia. The body would follow the head anyway.

  3. Creating catastrophic psychology.
    Jews, we should not wish, G-d forbid, for pogroms and the catastrophic psychology they cause. But, we are allowed to create an alternative for it – creating internal catastrophic psychology within the Jewish intelligentsia by forcing a mental disconnect from the foreign land they reside in. Jewish academic or religious intellectuals would have to forgo their right to vote or be elected to non-Jewish public institutions. Since the ebullient youth would not agree to such a spiritual death, it would turn to the only path opened for it – the path to Eretz Israel.

  4. The new organization.
    We should from, within the International Zionist Union, an organization for the Jewish intellectual youths, which would have the following plan: 1) Prepare the youths for Aliya to Eretz Israel 2) The Zionist Congress should impose a prohibition on the Zionist unions, in the various countries, to be involved in state politics, a similar prohibition, which was issued to prevent involvement in Territorial Zionism {securing alternatives to Eretz Israel].
I gave a comprehensive lecture about these ideas (in the summer of 1910), to two inspired and honest members: Shmuel Reiter (killed in his youth in the town of Berezhany), and may he live long, Moshe Landau (today – Dr. M. L., Kfar Saba, Israel). We decided – a youthful act – to establish a secret “triumvirate” (three men rulers coalition). We aimed at making our association fight for the new idea and someday establish a federation like the “Mizrachi” [Religious Zionist movement] and “Poalei Tzion” {“Workers of Zion”].

We attracted about half of the members of our association and became an openly non-political opposition. Among the first “converted” members, I recall the following: Moshe Kleinberg, Shimon Artmen (today in Brooklyn, NY), Beinush Tunis (today in Newark NJ), Tzvi Parnas (today in Tel Aviv, Israel), Israel Glasgal, Pinkhas( Pini) Shapira-Diament, and Israel Retzenstein.

Endless arguments commenced, which were followed by quarrels. The political people evaded a formal public debate. We finally became suspicious that the central Zionist committee was involved in that. They brought us, especially me as the opposition leader, to a trial, in front of the entire assembly. The charges were: conspiracy and holding a secret meeting of the people who opposed politics, which was held without the knowledge of the senior.

The “trial” was stormy and lasted a few hours. The opposition proposed that if the political leaders of “Bar Kokhba” declare that they forgo their active and passive voting rights to the Austrian public institutions, the opposition would cease to exist. However, that proposal only heightened the storm. At that point, I took the floor and declared that the establishment of the opposition is nothing but breaking up idols we ceased to believe in. That was a long tradition of the nation of Israel and also Zionism.

[Columns 153-154]

I continued as follows: “Since I did not see any possibility for a compromise, and since I would never agree to the formal objective of “Bar Kokhba”, I declare that I would not be a member of the association any longer. I stood up and left.

Eighteen members left with me. More than twenty remained. That happened on one of the nights in the spring of 2013.

The following day we all gathered at the home of member Elazar Retzenstein (he was killed as an Austrian officer at the beginning of the First World War), on Ruska Street in Ternopil. We formed the first “Gideon” association there.

Our “triumvirate” prepared the following plan:

We are founding an order (“orden”, or as we first called it – a covenant) – “Bnei Khorin” [“free people”], who free themselves from the diaspora. Any Jew with high or religious-Hebraic education. The people with an academic degree formed a cell called “Gideon” (named after the war by the biblical judge Gideon against Midian tribes and their god Ba'al. The people with religious education would form another cell with a different name. The two types of cells have equal rights and obligations, including the duty of knowing fencing and the use of weapons.

A candidate for “Bnei Khorin” must swear three oaths: One oath toward the Jewish culture, another toward the Jewish race, and the third toward Eretz Israel. The member had also to take vows to the Torah, warfare, and making Aliya to Eretz Israel.

The swearing and vow making ceremony progressed as follows (the swearer-in denoted as SI, reads the sentence and the swearer – denoted as S, answers with a “yes or no” – according to the ancient Hebrew judicial ceremony in Israel):

SI – I am swearing you in, and you swear by your human honor.

S -Yes!

SI – You would never abandon the religion of Moshe and the people of Israel.

S – No!

SI – You would not marry a non-Jewish woman who had not converted.

S – No!

SI – You would bring your son into the “Covenant of Abraham, our Father”.

S -Yes!

SI – You would not take roots in the diaspora land.

S – No!

SI- Therefore you are giving up your right as a citizen, to vote and be elected to any political institution in the diaspora's country.

S -Yes!

SI – you take a vow now,

S – Yes!

SI – You will be a practitioner of the Jewish religion and Hebraic literature all of your life.

S – Yes!

SI – You will learn how to become a warrior to defend our nation and our homeland.

S – Yes!

SI – You would try to hasten your Aliya to Eretz Israel with all of your might.

S – Yes!

SI – You are now Ben Khorin [A free man or woman]

We held a festive public ceremony, in the summer of 1913, in Ternopil. I was the first member to swear and take the oath. I then swore in and accepted the oath of all of my friends, one by one.

For ethical reasons, the triumvirate decided not to hold any leading position. The triumvirate proposed that our friend, medical student Tzvi Parnes, whom we knew as a vigorous and agile young man, as the first “senior” of the first “Gideon” cell of Ternopil. Later on, he headed the cell of “Gideon” in Vienna from 1913 – to 1914 until the outbreak of the First World War.

Thus, the idea of Young Zionism was born as a result of a spontaneous reaction to the diaspora-based deviation of the Austrian Galitsian Zionism. The idea widened and rose to the level of a comprehensive national movement. The goal was to protect the nation against the fundamental and serious dangers we faced at the beginning of the 20th century. These dangers included: A mass exodus of people from the Jewish religion, making them “people without religion”, violation of Abraham's Covenant, intermarriages, and the worst of all dangers - the horrible ignorance. While the formal Zionism did not pay attention to those national dangers, the “Young Zionism” considered fighting them - a Zionist duty. It was the “Bnei Khorin” organization that introduced the need for armament as a mandatory clause of the Zionist plan. They raised it a long time before Jabotinsky. It was raised since we anticipated a [independence] war in Eretz Israel.

At its core, the “Young Zionism” was a pioneering idea of the Jewish intelligentsia during the period before the First World War. It was conceived at a time when we could not even dream about general Trumpeldor-like pioneering of the diaspora's Jewish youth. And so, the “Young Zionism” served as an ideological passage between the diaspora-based Helsinkian political Zionism [Helsinki Zionist Conference held in 1906. Decisions were made there by the Zionist Organization on actions in its branches in various countries] before the First World War, to a pioneering Zionism, born after Balfour Declaration. A Zionism that prepares the masses for conquering the homeland. The ideological distance between the two approaches on one side, and the meteoric success of the Young Zionism in Austria on the other, can only support the above-mentioned metaphor.

Let me now mention some trifles from that time – namely the symbols that I adorned our members with. Our Gideon warrior icon was the letter G throwing a spear with a three-color ribbon (black - symbolizing the land, red – symbolizing the blood, or our race, and blue symbolizing the sky or Torah). I also authored our Gideon-ic anthem. With the help of other members, I began to write a booklet containing the fundamentals of “Young Zionism”. My work was cut-off by the [First] World War and its horrific events.

The establishment of the order of “Bnei Khorin”, resonated throughout the Jewish students' circles in the state and the entire kingdom. The following “Gideon” cells were established before the war broke (August 1914): Lviv (the founder: medical student Dolio Pordes), Stanisławów [now Ivano Frankivsk] (the founder: law student Dolio Zusman), Sasiv (the founder: philosophy student Avraham Koritz), and in Vienna (the founders: medical students Parnas Tunis, and Rosenfeld, all form Ternopil).

I am not sure where did the Russian” Yevreskia Encyclopedia”, published in the 1920s, received its information. In that encyclopedia, the entry of “Tzeirei Tzion” [“Zion Youths”] erroneously claims that the movement (which had similar objectives to ours) was established in Ternopil and Stanisławów [now Ivano Frankivsk]!

Based on the aspiration of forming a new Zionist federation, our members in Ternopil tried but failed to send me as the “Gideon's” representative to the 11th [Zionist] Congress in Vienna (1913). Despite that failure, I did participate in the Zionist Congress (since 1898) as the veteran representative of [the Jewish newspaper], “Hatzfira”. I actually received two mandates thanks to two sources. One source was the International Zionist center in Berlin, whose president at the time was Nakhum Sokolov z”l. The other was Sokolov's religious secretary – the founder of the “Hebrew Day” may he live long, my friend Dr. Ph. Korngruen.

When the member of the Zionist Steering Committee, Dr. Shmaryahu Levin, visited Vienna in 1913, I and the “senior” of the “Gideon” cell in Vienna. Tzvi Parnas went to see him. We had requested him to formally provide moral support for our movement but encountered a brick Helsinkian wall. We came out of the meeting greatly disappointed…

The World War, which caused many casualties and destructions, ended. In August 1920, before we could start thinking about an efficient renewal of the “Bnei Khorin” order, I made Aliya to Eretz Israel with my wife. Our movement was left “without wind in its sails” …

In the meantime, enormous and fateful events took place in our Jewish world. The East shone, and the West darkened. The idea of autonomy for Eastern European Jewry went bankrupt. The main prerequisite for mass immigration, namely - “Catastrophic Psychology”, was created by the war. Thus, the motivation behind the Young Zionism movement was no longer the need of the time. However, it was sorrowfully satisfied. History brought the justification for it …

The common platform for the quarreling brothers, “Gideon” and “Bar Kokhba”, was recreated. The two organizations were able to reunite. The members of both organizations became candidates for making Aliya to Eretz Israel …

Israel Waldman died in Jerusalem after a serious illness on 19 September 1940.


[Columns 157-158]

Memories from the period 1914-1919

by Dr. Khaim Gilad (Shmeterling)

Translated by Moshe Kutten

The Period of the Russian Conquest 1914-1915

The First World War broke almost abruptly, and Galitsia became an atrocious battlefield from the beginning. Following some light border skirmishes, the Russian army launched a large-scale offensive and conquered Western Galitsia during the first few months of the World War (August – October 1914). That glorious and developed Jewry, who enjoyed equal rights in Austria (albite not totally free from antisemitism) found itself under Russian rule. Russia - the colossal country, publicly promoted special laws against the Jews. It was a country where Jews felt like second-class citizens.

The Jews were totally astonished upon the conquest of Ternopil, about two weeks after the break of the war. Life began to return to normal, as much as it was possible under a foreign and hostile military rule, only very gradually., The economic state of the Jewish residents deteriorated, and the community's activities substantially weakened, except for the essential services like slaughtering, burials, and alike.

After a short while, an aid committee, headed by Shperling, was formed. Dr. Shmeterling was nominated as the administrative manager. Financial assistance was received mainly from Kyiv's Jews.

When the Austro-German offensive commenced in May 1919, the Russians expelled many Jews from towns of Western Galitsia. A substantial portion of them arrived in Ternopil penniless. A large soup kitchen for the needy was opened. The financial means for the refugees' needs were provided by the “Kyiv's Committee for the Support of the Jews Affected by the War[1]”.

the Russian rule became more liberal upon the break of Kranski's First Russian Revolution in February 1917. A professor from Kyiv University was nominated as the district and the province governor. A short while later, a public council was elected to assist the governor. Three Jews (among them, one Zionist – the author of this article), three Poles, and three Ukrainians were elected to the council. The Jewish representatives were elected in a well-attended public gathering.

The Ukrainian authorities allowed the opening of a Hebrew school in the city.

 

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Activists and Staff of the Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Refugees from Russia

 

The offensive of the Austro-German armies in the direction of Ternopil began in the summer of 1917. As a result, the Russians were forced to retreat. Before their retreat, the Russian soldiers attacked the Jewish residents, robbing anything they could put their hand on, and some cases committing murders and arsons. Following several days of battles, the Russians left the city. The Austrian rule was re-established after three years hiatus. Life returned somewhat to normal.

[Columns 159-160]

The community committee, headed by Mr. Lvov, was also re-established. The front was established not far east of the city.

 

The Expulsion of the Jews from Towns of the Ternopil District

The Austrian authorities were forced to expel the Jews from the towns of Terebovlia, Mykulyntsi, Strusov, and more, at the request of the German military's headquarter in Eastern Galitsia since those towns were closed to the front in the summer of 1917.

The writer of this article was summoned, one day, to the governor of the Ternopil district. The expulsion decree was explained to him there. As a representative of the Jewish community of Ternopil, he was tasked with handling the transport of those poor Jewish souls to Western Galitsia. After the community realized that there was no way they could annul the decree, they took on themselves to manage it. The civil government made cargo trains available for that purpose. When the expelled people found out about the expulsion order, they took the necessary belongings and some food and went on their way. Their morale was very low.

The writer of these lines disembarked the train in Lviv, along with some of the expelled people, and went into the city. He turned to the Jewish community. Thanks to the community's help, he purchased food for the small group under his supervision. They arrived at their final destination, Yavoriv, in the evening. The weak women and children were loaded onto wagons. The men and the rest of the women continued their way on foot. When they arrived in the city, the heads of the Jewish communities assisted in arranging their lodging in Jewish homes. Yavoriv's Jews welcomed the newcomers with open arms, love, and friendship. The writer of this article stayed in town for a few more days to ensure that everything was well organized and returned later to Ternopil.

 

The Disintegration of the Austrian Kingdom and the Ukrainian Rule

The Austrian Empire began to disintegrate in 1918. A Jewish conference was organized in October to discuss the situation. The conference was attended by representatives from the entire Austrian Kingdom. The writer of these lines participated as the representative of Ternopil's Jews. The discussion revolved around the state of the Jews in the various provinces of the Austrian Kingdom and the means for forestalling the impending evil.

With the dissolution of the Austrian Empire, towards the end of 1918, various national countries sprouted on its territories. In Eastern Galitsia, the Ukrainians established their own republic, with Ternopil as its temporary capital. Since the Poles did not recognize the Ukrainian government, they declared the entire state of Galitsia, including the Russian Ukraine, as part of the Polish Republic. Open war broke out between the Poles and the Ukrainians. It took place mainly in the central part of Galitsia. The Jews in Eastern Galitsia (the controversial territory) immediately declared neutrality. The Ukrainian government respected the fact that the Jews could not act differently without endangering the millions of Jews residing in the Polish territory. The government officially recognized the neutrality declared by the Jews. As a result, the Ukrainian government did not impose compulsory recruitment on the Jews of Eastern Galitsia. General recruitment decree to the Ukrainian military warring against the Poles was announced for the Ukrainian population there

In the meantime, dreadful news about the horrible pogroms conducted against the Jews by Petliura's army in the Russian Ukraine arrived in Eastern Galitsia. As a result, the Jews in Eastern Galitsia began to fear for their fate. However, the Ukrainian government treated the Jews fairly and even friendly.

In February 1919, a battalion consisting of several thousand new recruits, which was about to be sent to the Polish-Ukrainian front, concentrated in Ternopil. Antisemitic spirit began to spread among these recruits (probably under the influence of the propagandists in Russian Ukraine). The recruits complained about the fact that the Jews were exempt from compulsory military service. They claimed that there was no reason why the Jews would not join the army to defend the Ukrainian homeland. During one of the days in February 1919, the battalion soldiers exhibited a hostile attitude. They entered Jewish stores and took various merchandise without paying. Brawls accompanied by curses and expletives erupted when the soldiers encountered resistance from the Jewish shopkeepers. Those brawls heralded harsher events that erupted at night. The writer of these lines turned immediately, in the name of the city's Jewish community, to the Ukrainian police commander. The latter promised to restore order but did not fulfill his promise. The riots intensified more and more during the evening of the following day.

A stormy gathering of the Jewish residents commenced at the hall of “Yad Kharutzim” [the hall of the Artisans guild] on Berl Street. The security means needed to address the ominous signs were debated. Although the Jewish defense force was well organized and armed, it was decided that it could not battle against an army battalion. That battalion consisted of about four thousand soldiers armed with rifles and a machine gun. Besides, a resistance action could wreak havoc on the city's Jewish residents. As it turned out, that was a smart and correct decision.

Immediately after the public gathering, the community committee gathered in its offices on Sobieski Street to discuss the situation. The fear grew from one hour to the next as news about attacks by the soldiers in the various sections of the city, particularly in the city center, kept coming.

[Columns 161-162]

The news was also received about closed stores and multiple robberies of stores and Jewish homes. It was decided to send a three-person delegation to the military commander in the city, whose residence was in Sobieski Square, opposite the church. The delegation crossed the snow-covered and empty street and entered the garden to pass through to the commander's office, located on the other side. To the delegation's surprise, it encountered fierce gunfire from the direction of the military headquarters' gate and from the right side. The delegation was forced to retreat. It was clear that the situation was more serious than previously thought. That was confirmed by the news that filtered into the community committee offices about additional attacks and robberies in various locations and the echoes of shouts and gunfire from different directions. The committee took shelter n its offices during the entire night. The writer of these lines came out in the morning to explore the situation in the city. A horrible scene unfolded before his eyes, at the first glitters of the dawn. All of the Jewish shops were broken into, and the merchandise was thrown out on the streets and sidewalks. Groups of drunken soldiers wandered around, here and there, and pulled various goods out of the merchandise piles. It turned out that soldiers broke into many apartments, robbed everything they could put their hands on, hit the residents, and forcibly undressed them naked. Fortunately, the soldiers did not use firearms. There was not a single murder or a severe injury, just brutality, abuse, and humiliation. During the hours of the mornings, groups of soldiers wandered around and fired their rifles (probably just to frighten the people into confinement). Life in the city ground to a halt and no living soul could be seen on the street.

When the writer of these lines turned to the district governor, located on Mitzkevitz Street, he found the office empty. On his way down, from the second floor, he saw the governor climbing up from the cellar. The governor told him that the battalion rebelled against the authorities, jailed the headquarters' military officers, and shut down the civil rule in the city. A meeting between the civil governor, the priest Gromnitzki, and the writer of these lines, was held at about 11 AM. The governor phoned the Ukrainian headquarters in the city of Khodorov, provided details about the situation (namely – the total anarchy), and requested help. At around 2 PM, trains filled with soldiers arrived at the city and returned order. A military court was held the following day. The court sentenced three of the rebels [leaders] to death. The sentence was executed immediately, and the battalion was sent to the front.

The colossal extent of the damages suffered by Ternopil's Jewish residents, became apparent two days later. The Jewish community decided to send a delegation to the Ukrainian government (The government has moved to Stanislav {now Ibano-Frankivsk]). The delegation consisted of Dr. Rapoport and the writer of these lines met with the interior minister and demanded full reparations for the damages. The Interior Minister apologized, blaming the events on a military insurrection. He stated that the Ukrainian government treated the Jews emphatically. However, in that case, the authorities were not able to prevent the attacks and robberies, because they were in danger. The minister proposed to provide the Jews in Ternopil with a train tanker filled with kerosine from Drohobych as compensation for the damages. He offered that the Jews would be able to sell the kerosine and thereby could pay for some of the losses. The delegation refused to accept the offer since the damages were on a totally different order of magnitude than the money, they could receive from selling the kerosine. The minister responded that the government did not have any other means of paying for the damages. The delegation decided that Dr. Rapoport would return to Ternopil. The writer of these lines traveled directly to Vienna to submit a report to the Jewish State Committee. The thought was to have the committee turn to Baron Vasilko, the representative of the Ukrainian government in Western Europe to request his help in securing compensation. That plan was carried out, but all the lobbying efforts by the Jewish State Committee in Vienna did not bear any fruits. A short while later, the Poles conquered Eastern Galitsia, which brought the end of Ukrainian rule in the area.


Author's Note:

  1. See the chapter about Ternopil of Sh. Z. Anski “Khurban Galitsia” [“The Destruction of Galitsia”], p. 163. Return


[Columns 163-164]

Ternopil During the First World War

by Sh. Anski

From the book, “Khurban Galitsia” [“The Destruction of Galitsia”]

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Ternopil was the second-largest city in Eastern Galitsia after Lviv [formally Lemberg]. It was also one of the oldest, rich in historical gravestones, memories, prominent and great learned people, and scholars. The Ternopil synagogue, built from stone, was one of the oldest in Galitsia.

Ternopil almost escaped suffering directly from the battles as the Russian army approached. There were no destroyed or burnt houses. When I arrived in the city, it made an initial impression on me as a quiet city but vibrant. Its streets were crowded with passersby, all the businesses and shops were open, and the trade in the market was lively. However, when I looked closer, I noticed that the crowds in the streets, market, and train station, consisted mainly of military personnel, nurses, and regular Russian people. The Russian language could be heard in every corner. The civilian population was hardly seen. Missing was the bourgeois and the educated crowd, those people who are usually dressed like people who own the place, often elegantly and coquettishly. The rare passerby from among the intelligentsia circles was dressed in tattered and worn clothes. They walked hesitantly, and their facial expression was sad. They keep quiet like they are scared, and their faces were impoverished, tortured, and gloomy. Their glance was pondering and gloomy. Signs with distorted Russian were hung above all of the shops. Signs declaring “Russian Shop” could be seen at every turn. Indeed, Russians with typical Slavic faces sat in those stores. These were the “Kuptzi” (merchants) who flocked there from Kaluga, Tula, Moscow, and other Russian cities and made good business with the help of the authorities. The shops and businesses were open, but the trade was almost non-existent. There were no shops for gold products nor shops for luxury items. The shelves in the shops are empty. Dusted under wares or cologne bottles, which remained from past times, could still be seen in the shops' windows. Most of the merchandise in the market were food products: rolls, pork oil, and cigarettes.

Spending one day in Ternopil was enough for me to understand the mood in the occupied city. Before the war, it was a large cultural European city. After the conquest, the city was choked, chained, and helpless. It was as if they sucked its vigor out of it, and left it to die slowly from a malignant disease without outside help. I observed the same situation in all the large cultural cities in the occupied area. They all seemed to me to be dying.

I first made acquaintance with the local rescue committee. Like in other places, the committee consisted of people who joined indecently, without approval by the population. The representative of the [central] Rescue Committee in Kyiv made efforts to find in each location remaining prominent people, such as former activists in the community. The local rabbi was also invited to join if he did not leave town. The representative would discuss the situation in the city and establish a committee that would later be approved by Kyiv's [central committee]. Although most of the intelligentsia and the wealthy people left with the Austrians, many [of the remaining influential people] were taken as hostages, but some educated activists remained in each of the large cities, like Ternopil and Chortkiv. These people served as candidates for the local rescue committee, and the activity established in other cities could be organized through them.

Several prominent and influential community members joined the Ternopil committee, such as professor Rosenboim, Yitzkhak Nakht, and Mr. Tauber. The chairman was Mr. Tauber, a pious Jew, and wealthy merchant. His son, an educated man, was active in the committee and helped him in his work.

The budget of the Ternopil's committee exceeded twenty thousand rubles, a bit less than half the budget of the entire province of Galitsia. However, the first words I received about the budget were that the amount was insufficient and must be increased. When I remarked that, in my opinion, it was unjustified for Ternopil to receive half of the overall budget, particularly since the city had wealthy people in Ternopil who could help the needy, Mr. Tauber responded:

[Columns 165-166]

“Indeed, a few people in the city still have some property or are earning money. These people donate to help the local needy that nobody else helps. The “Zhemsky” (the local self-rule authorities) and the Kyiv committee only support the refugees, numbering about ten thousand in the city. People from all directions, from towns and villages, escaped to the city. There were even some refugees from places now in the hands of the Austrians. Most of these people are those who came back from Russia and are not allowed to return to their former locations. About a thousand families from Rohatyn and about six hundred families from Pidvolochysk reside in the city. Altogether, there are refugees in the city from 120 different places. Initially, the “Zhemski” assisted five thousand three hundred families. They distributed a litra of bread for an adult and half a litra for a child, three pieces of sugar for two days, and a bit of porridge and beans. They later dropped all the people who “were able to work” (in actuality, they could not find work anywhere). So now, only three thousand and five hundred people receive assistance, among them 1700 refugees. Starting the 2nd of May until the end of July, the committee distributed cash money (18 kopeks per person) rather than food, for 27 thousand rubles a month. The refugees were satisfied with that arrangement; however, the governor forbade the distribution of money, and the organization began to distribute food products again. In actuality, the committee is forced to support even those who are “able to work”. In addition, the number of needy continues to grow. People who donated half a year ago must now seek help, as their wealth has diminished. We also have owners of estates and homes in the occupied area, millionaires with huge accounts in Austrian banks, and they are dying from hunger. We must organize a credit union for them. Besides them, we have many people in the city who need shoes, clothes, firewood, shelter, and more.”
He was obviously right. Most of the assistance from the committee was enhanced nutrition for the sick, old, and children. It distributes white bread, eggs, and sometimes meat. The [local] committee members insisted that it would be more convenient to support people with money rather than produce and asked me to convince the [central] committee in Kyiv to agree to that. They reasoned their claim by claiming that it was much easier to distribute money (twice a week) so that the needy would not need to wait long hours in lines. We did not agree with their claim since there was no guarantee that the needy would spend their money on products that had been distributed to them, and the goal of achieving increased nutrition would not be achieved.

The tragic fate of the children was particularly troublesome. During the eighteen months of the conquest, the schools were closed, and the children casted off the yoke. They ran around the city barefooted, torn, and tattered, their bodies thinned out, and their faces greened.

It took a lot of effort to convince the authorities to allow adults to “pray” with the children. Using that excuse, “kheders” were organized, which carried the name “houses of prayer”. About 800 children registered, but only about eighty attended because the rest did not have clothes, or worse, they got so accustomed to the life in the streets that they could not be forced to go a kheder.

The “Zhemsky” organized a residence home where 300 girls were gathered, mostly saved from a life of prostitution.

I witnessed old Jews wearing long peot [sidelocks], standing and cleaning the street half-naked in a deep freeze.

“The clothing distress, particularly for those who were taken to forced labor and the children in the kheders was horrible”, told the committee member who accompanied me. “They used to take five to six hundred people a day for forced labor, but it was not so awful in the summer. Today, they take 100-120 people a day. It is horrific to watch them freezing in the cold”.
A conference of the Galitsia communities and rescue committee representatives gathered in Ternopil in June (1918). Unfortunately, I could not participate and could not even obtain detailed information about the participants, actions, and resolutions that passed there. I did heard that the mood in the conference was elated, and that it progressed intensively. Plans of action for the reorganization of the assistance activities were made based on new sound foundations.

I received the following telegram from the conference:

“The first conference of the representatives of the Jewish population in Galitsia and Bukovina, held in Ternopil, congratulates you as the first representative of the Russian Jewry in Galitsia and the first advocate of our brothers during these hard times, You were the first person who tightened the relationship between the Russian and Galitsian Jews, and proved once more the unity of the Jews around the world. We extend our warmest greetings and best wishes to you for the moral assistance you have extended to us”.

Signed: The chairmen of the conference - Grinberg, Weinfeld, and Krop.

That telegram, which moved me greatly, was the last greeting I received from our brothers in Galitsia.

The Russian conquest in Galitsia began under the oppressive rule of the Russian dictator, with bloody pogroms in Brody and Lviv [Lemberg], and ended through the revolution and the disintegrating and barbarian army in bloody destruction in Kalush and Ternopil.

With these events, the end came to the three-year horrible epic of Russian rule. It resulted in the bloody destruction of the Jewish centers in Poland, Galitsia, and Ukraine.


[Columns 167-168]

From an Austrian to a Ukrainian Regime

by Ben-Tzion Fett

Translated by Moshe Kutten

When Emperor Franz Joseph died, Karl the 4th ascended to the throne. He proclaimed autonomy for Galitsia and other nations in the Austro-Hungary empire. It was clear that the end of the “union of nations” idea of the Habsburg kingdom had ended. The only question was when would the revolution come?

We, the Zionists who served in the Austrian army since the break of the war in 1914, faced a problem: What would be the fate of the Jewish minority upon the disintegration of the empire? We particularly feared for the fate of Galitsia Jewry, which found itself between the rock and the hard place, in the conflict between Poles and the Ukrainians in their struggle for power. At the time, I was in Przemysl. A few Jewish officers gathered one day in the hotel “City” to discuss what to do to protect the Jewish population in the city? We decided to establish a self-defense force. About two thousand Jewish soldiers and officers stationed then in the city were divided into companies. They received a clear order to gather at a specific location when certain events occur and report to the militia command. It consisted of Captain Kaiser, Lieutenant Hertzbaum, and myself. On the 1st of November 1918, the Habsburg empire fell. The struggle of Galitsia Jewry for its existence has begun.

We received news about the riots by the soldiers of Polish General Haller and about the brave defense by our youth. The companies in Przemysl were placed on standby. We did not know anything about the situation beyond the San River.

On the 3rd of November, I left Przemysl, trying to reach Ternopil, which was not an easy feat those days. After three days of road tribulations, I arrived at my destination.

The city was in turmoil. Soldiers from different nations returning from Ukraine were concentrated in Ternopil. The officers of the various nations gathered their soldiers to send them back to their countries: Austrians, Czechs, Hungarians, Poles, Slovenians, and Slovakians all passed through Ternopil. Our boys too began to return to their homes.

Chaos prevailed in the city. A certain kind of Ukrainian rule had begun to organize, but among the Jews, despair and helplessness prevailed. The city lucked any self-defense, and we found it our duty to establish one. We founded the self-defense force in December 1918, under the agreement by the authorities. The militia was headed by officer Leinberg and myself. The authorities gave the self-defense force the authority to arrest any citizen and even a military person,

 

Ter168.jpg
Ben-Tzion Fett and Abraham Leinberd, Commanders of the Jewish Militia

 

including officers, who would not obey their order. The militia was also awarded the right to judge, among the Jews, and the right to impose a jail term up to five days.

The command team of the defense militia announced a youth mobilization. The following is the text of the following proclamation:

Komandeh fun der Yudisher Militz
Oiffoderung [Apeal]
Mir foderen oif aleh yuden, vas zenen geboiren in di yahren 1892 – 1900, zikh tzi melden binen 3 tag bei der komandeh fun der yidisher militz, nakh abloif

[Columns 169-170]
fun 3 tag velen mir erheben ver es iz der oiffoderung nikht nakhgekumen.
Tarnapal, dem 18 detzember
Das komandeh fun der yudishsher mulitz

[The command of the Jewish militia
We demand of all Jews born in the years 1892-1900, report to the Jewish militia headquarter within 3 days, after the which we will find out who did not comply with the request].
Tarnopol, December 18, 1918
The command of the Jewish militia]

 

Ter169.jpg
The Jewish Militia in Tarnopol, 1919

 

Eight hundred people enlisted. The city was divided into areas, and a company guarded each area day and night. The militia received a few rifles and bullets from the authorities. We also found some hand grenades and a machine gun in the barracks. The militia [command] was situated in the seminary in Sobiesky Square.

The very existence of the militia was not to the liking of the Ukrainian masses. They even tried to break into the seminary once. The mob later retreated because of their fear of the machine gun, which stood at the entrance to the building, and the permanent guard near it.

The militia command did not content itself with maintaining order outside. It considered its main task - the enforcement of order internally. The committee advocated the establishment of a managerial body of the Jewish public in the city, and that was how the National Committee was formed, headed by Dr. Aleksander Rapoport. All of the layers of the [Jewish] population were represented in that committee: Dr. Avraham Shwarzman, Dr. Shmeterling, Dr. Ya'akov Lippa, Dr. Yona Abend, Shmuel Margalit, and David Parnas represented the Zionist Union. David Lvov, Shmera'leh Aikhenbaum, Khaim-Wolf Markus, and Khaim Ox, represented the [religion] orthodox' s. Dr. Zlatkes was the representative of the socialists, and Dr. Belmer represented the unaffiliated.

The National Committee took on itself the management of the Jewish community. It was responsible for maintaining the militia whose members were fully enlisted and enforcing order in all parts of the city. All other organizations like “Yad Kharutzim”, the merchants guild, “Bar Kokhba”, and the Zionist Union with all of its affiliations resumed their activities in the city.

The Zionists representatives aspired to give the organization a democratic character by holding a general democratic election. The date for the election was set on the 3rd of March 1919, following the population census, which was held with the help of the militia.

During the election preparation, riots broke out one night in the city. On the 15 February a Ukrainian mob broke into the city and proceeded to rob shops, break windows, and attack homes. The militia got into a battle with the rioters and took control of the situation. Several militia members got wounded in the battle, among them, Ya'akov Planer[1], who was critically wounded.

The National Committee turned to the Western Ukraine government in a memorandum on 17 February, 1919. The following was stated boldly:” In these conditions, not only Jewish property is subject to robbery, but the lives of the Jews are in danger. We demand that the government provide protection of lives and property. We state that the local authorities did not make any effort to find the people responsible for the riots”.

A delegation consisting of Dr. Aleksander Rapoport and Dr. Khaim Shmeterling appeared on behalf of the National Committee before the interior minister and handed him the memorandum.

Dr. Makukh, the interior minister, blamed the communists, who reside in Ternopil in large numbers. He announced the death penalty for three of the rioters. He determined that a Pole named Pikhorsky and a Jew - Lafayovker were among the rioters. Concerning that Jew, it was later found out that he was a 19-year-old student from Lviv and that he did not take any part in the riots on 15 February.

The Ukrainian government promised the Jews reparations in a form of a kerosine train car, which would be handed over to the Jews in Ternopil to sell, without imposing transportation costs and customs. The National Committee never got it (see the memories of Dr. Gil'ad (Shmeterling), column 157).

Proportional free elections to the National Committee were held for the first time on the 3rd of March.

[Columns 171-172]

The following parties participated in the election: Zionists, Orthodox Jews, Jewish socialists, unaffiliated, Merchants and artisans (“Yad Kharutzim”). The Zionists received an absolute majority in the election. The author of these lines was elected as the chairman of the National Committee. The community approved a new by-law based on the principles of Zionism and democracy.

The National Committee faced the problem of organizing the schools because the Ukrainian regime planned the Ukrainization of the high schools where most students were Jewish. The National Committee turned to the government requesting to “maintain the learning language for at least one more year, according to the curriculum customary in the Austrian high schools.

During its existence, the National Committee introduced new arrangements in all aspects of life and carry out essential activities, some of which are listed below:

These are the outlines of some of the activities of the National Committee. These activities embodied all the aspects of Jewish lives. We should note that the committee members acted in complete harmony, despite the disagreement and the disparity in their political views.

I would like to bring up another affair, which brought honor to Ternopil's Jewry and its youth. When the Polish army approached Ternopil in its battle against the Ukrainians, a few hundreds of the Jewish militia members left the city with the Ukrainian army and arrived in Eastern Ukraine. The Jewish militia brought encouragement, assistance, order, and security to Eastern Ukraine's Jews. In various locations such as Khmilnyk, Balta, Zhytomyr, Vinnytsia, and others, Ternopil's people, along with the local self-defense members, participated in battles against the Petliura's thugs and succeeded in saving Jewish lives and properties. Many of Ternopil's people lost their lives defending the lives of their brothers on the other side of the border. The graves scattered around various cities in Eastern Ukraine attest to that. Our youth knew how to defend not only the Jews in Ternopil but also their brothers in faraway places. The national education administered to the youth was not in vain[2].


Author's Notes:

  1. Ya'akov Planer, a member of the Kvutzat Shiller [Shiller Group, A kibbutz in Israel also called Gan Shlomo]. He died in Eretz Israel in 1944. Return
  2. See the article by M. Guliger on column 175. Return

 


[Columns 173-174]

During the Days of the Ukrainian Regime

by A. Weissglass

Translated by Moshe Kutten

With the disintegration of the Austrian Empire at the end of October 1918, part of Galitsia that included the Ternopil district, Borislav areas, Drohobych till Sub-Carpathian Reisyn, and on the other side beyond the Zbruch River, became under the rule of “Western Ukraine” headed by the lawyer from Lviv, Dr. Holobovitz. The Jewish population was led by the “National Jewish Committee”.

The Jewish youth, regardless of party affiliation, but mostly the Zionist youth, who participated in the [First World] War, reached the commissioned ranks, and even received medals of excellence, sensed that the antisemitism tendencies that so depressed them in the army were coming to an end. Even though the Jewish soldiers excelled in their diligence, hidden antisemitism persisted in the Austrian army.

However, all the hopes that the Jews pinned on the change of the regime, proved false very quickly. With the establishment of Ukrainian rule, antisemitism grew so much that the need to form an organized armed militia that would protect the Jewish population became necessary. The Poles and the Ukrainians who served in the Ukrainian army fanned the flame of antisemitism among the Ukrainian peasants and incited them to conduct pogroms and assaults.

After its defeat in Lviv, the Ukrainian army coalesced and a considerable improvement in the relations between the Ukrainians and the Jews became noticeable. The tendency to join the Ukrainian army prevailed among the Jews. The Ukrainians were comrades in arms of the Jewish soldiers in the Austrian army.

In 1919, the Poles conquered the district of Ternopil, and the malicious acts by the Polish army started again. The Jewish youth could not accept the contempt that the Poles have shown towards the Jewish population. That resulted in an increase in the tendency to join the Ukrainian army to fight the Poles together.

A few weeks later, the Polish army retreated from Ternopil, and the Ukrainian army returned. The Jews enlisted then in masses to the Ukrainian army. At the same time, a special committee was formed in Ternopil headed by officer Leinberg who organized a self-defense force (Probojewyj, Zydivskij Tarnopolsky Kurin). The force consisted of approximately 700 – 800 people. It participated in several successful battles near Skalat, Sataniv [Stanov], and Husiatyn. A cavalry unit headed by Ya'akov Planer, containing about 60 people, participated in those battles and “protected”, along with two other companies, the retreat of the First Corp of General Tarnovsky (the Ukrainian army consisted of three corps).

When the Jewish unit crossed the Zbruch River, the situation changed, and the enthusiasm in its ranks diminished. It turned out that the Ukrainians now fought alongside Petliura and the rebels, so the Jews saw it as their duty to defend the Jewish population against the Ukrainian thugs. Not once did the intervention of the Jewish militia prevent riots (in Zhytomyr, Berdychiv, Vinnytsia, Uhniv [Uhnov], and more[1]). With the help of the local liaisons, it was placed in suitable locations. In emergencies, we did not hesitate to cross the front to take shortcuts to our destination. The Ukrainians treated us as their allies.

The Ukrainian army passed through several periods. Sometimes it fought side by side with Petliura and other times against it. Sometimes it fought against the Red Army and other times against it. In the end, part of the Ukrainian army joined the Red Army. It was called the “Chokha” (Czerwina Ukrainska Helycka Armia). The opponents of the Bolsheviks {in the Ukrainian Army”] fought against the Red Army when it entered Galitsia.

Quite a few Jewish soldiers lost their lives in Ukraine protecting the Jewish population. Some were killed by an ambush, and some during the forced recruitment of the Jewish youth to our battalion.

 


Author's Note:

  1. See the article by M. Guliger on column 175. Return


[Columns 175-176]

Memories of A Jewish-Ukrainian Soldier

by Moshe Goligerr

Translated by Moshe Kutten

A. The Jewish-Ukrainian Battalion

After the European Jewry was annihilated, every tiny item or detail that survived attained a status of a holy remnant worth keeping. Since the Ukrainian-Jewish battalion was formed in Ternopil [Tarnopol] by the city's Zionist Movement (which maintained friendly relations and political cooperation with the Ukrainians, for a certain period), any memories related to the history of the battalion, filled with Jewish content, should be included in the book dedicated to memorializing Jewish Ternopil.

The Jewish battalion was attached to Petliura's corps before the latter became the overt enemy of Ukrainian Jews. The unit was slated to fulfill the role of a “storm unit”. However, one of the main goals of the battalion, as presented by its commander at the time of its formation, was to assist Ukrainian Jews, as much as possible. That was a difficult mission due to the enormous enemy forces that the battalion faced. On one side - was a short tradition of political cooperation during the days of the imperial Austrian rule when the only thing that the unified Jews and the Ukrainians was their common struggle against the Poles' oppressive politics in Galitsia. On the other side, the numerous Petliura militias, for which the name gangs fit better than the army, carrying the old tradition of [the antisemite hetmans] Khmelnytskyi, Gonta, and Zalizniak. That tradition was reignited by the death of the Tzarism. Within Petliura's corps, we, the Jewish-Ukrainian battalion, constituted just a tiny part…

 

B. The Rescue of the Jewish City Berdichiv [Berdichev]

At the end of July 1919 was stationed in Kozyatyn, a large station on the railroad line between Zhmerynka and Kyiv. From there, a side railroad truck led to Berdichiv [Berdichev]. Hair-raising rumors were floating in the air. After Petliura allowed his army to take revenge on the Jews for their support of the Red Army, every town, which a Petliura's gang captured from the hands of the Red Army became a metonym for a pogrom against the Jews. Tens of Jewish communities, in towns across Podolia, Vohlyn, and Ukraine, were wiped out from the face of the earth. At the head of the list – the town of Proskurov [now Khmelnytskyi] acquired an “everlasting name” for the big massacre, when six thousand Jews were murdered in one day, on Shabbat, 15 February 1919.

We feared that the big city of Berdichiv, where most of the population was Jewish, would not experience the fate of Proskurov. Our fear was based on our knowledge that the military plan for the Perliura's army called for an approach to Berdichiv, then held by the Bolsheviks. Luckily, we were not far from the city as we could reach Berdichiv from Kozyatyn via a train ride of a few hours. Luckily, Hetman Petliura planned to pass through Kozyatyn. Therefore, the battalion's command decided to send a delegation to ask him to send our unit to attack Berdichiv, conquer it from the hands of the Bolsheviks, and enter it first. All of that was to prevent a certain pogrom against the Jews in the city.

The delegation consisted of three officers: the battalion commander, Leimberg, Oberleutnant [a rank equivalent to Leutnant Colonel] Pinkhas (”Pini'leh”) Shapira-Diamant, one of the wisest people in the battalion, and myself (I served as the “doctor” of the battalion (not without success) based on several semesters of medicine studies).

Our delegation went out, during one of August's cool nights, to the train station in Kozyatyn, where we waited a long time for the train carrying Hetman Petliura to arrive. The Hetman hosted us close to midnight in his dedicated train car. Petliura treated us quite politely, even after we told him that we wanted to enter Berdichiv first to prevent a pogrom against the city's Jews. He did not want to openly admit that he allowed pogroms to proceed against Jews. However, he said that the central command

[Columns 177-178]

must keep its word and allow the first army companies that conquered a city to rule the city for a few hours. He admitted that some soldiers got drunk and robbed a “little bit”, but these things were unpreventable. We responded that we would prevent these things from happening if he allowed us to take the city. He declared that he did not carry any grudge against the Jews however, he stated that it was difficult for him to control the feelings of wild soldiers, who learned to hate the Jews during the days of the Tzars. In the end, he gave us the permission we had requested and shook the hand of every one of us.

We came out happy from there and brought the news to our comrades. The battalion boarded the train cars without delay and traveled to Bedichiv as fast as possible, fearing that somebody else preceded us…

When we reached the city, we realized that our fear was not without reason and that there was a justification for our haste. The atmosphere was electrified. Flocks of crows gathered around the train station already, ready to plow onto the corpses... Hundreds of peasants - women, and men, from the neighboring villages carrying large empty sacks, sat down, lay down, and walked around the train station and the fields around it. They waited eagerly for the thugs, the Jews slaughterers, to help them in the slaughter and looting.

When we got off the train, they began to celebrate. Our uniforms misled them. However, when they gathered around us they were bitterly disappointed: they received an order to hurry up, leave the city, and return to their villages. The peasants refused to obey our orders and remained in their place, grouching and cursing. Several soldiers headed by officer Ya'akov “Kuba” Planer, the heroic boxer among us who rode a horse, used their whips against the refusers.

The battalion was arranged in a spread formation and entered the city. The streets were deserted. No living soul was seen. We progressed carefully because we thought the enemy soldiers were hiding in the city's interior, in positions prepared in advance. We, the Jewish officers, marched on the front line ahead of the troops. We knocked on the closed shutters and gates and yelled in Yiddish that we were Jewish and that they should open up. We did not receive an answer. The fearful Jews thought that it was an ambush of the murderers' gangs. After all, they may have people who spoke Yiddish among them.

We did not receive any response from the enemy to the shots we shot in the air either. To convince the Jews that we were Jewish, we began to sing “HaTikivah”. The shutters, gates, and windows opened immediately. Hundreds or even thousands of men and women burst into the street joyfully with tears in their eyes. Plenty of flowers were thrown at us.

The Jews in the city told us that the Bolsheviks left Berdichiv because they feared that their retreat may be blocked by the armies of [general] Denikin. Which were marching toward them from beyond the Dnieper River.

That was how the Ukrainian-Jewish Battalion prevented a certain pogrom in Berdichiv.

We stayed in Berdichiv for about a month, and from there we went up to Kyiv.

 

C. The “Snitches”

It was the end of August 1919. As early as the first days in Berdichiv, we found out how bad the repulsiveness of the [division], particularly the political division, prevailed in some circles of the nation. Anybody who had a grudge against his friend came to the central command of Petliura's army, which entered Berdichiv a short time after us, and blamed him for being a communist. The Ukrainian command sent the victims without any investigation to the city of Vinnytsia, where they were executed.

One night, a short time before we left Berdichiv, about 1 AM, when I was sleeping in my room on Makhnovskia, a delegation of Berdichiv Jews woke me up. They told me that “haters” snitched about the counselors of the [Zionist Movements] “HeKhalutz” and “HaShomer” that they were communists. Their proof was that they worked throughout the summer along with about thirty other youths in agriculture, dividing the profit among themselves…Was there any better sign of communism than that? These Zionist youths who intended to make Aliya to Eretz Israel simply participated in a “Hakhshara” [Training for people who intended to make Aliya to Ertz Israel]. Berdichiv Jews, for whom the Ukrainian-Jewish battalion was a source of light in the dark, hurried up to the Jewish “doctor”. To try and save the life of these youths.

Fortunately, I was a friend of the commander of Petliura's army that was stationed in Berdichiv. He resided in Makhanovskia Street, opposite my apartment. I hurried to see him, but I did not find him in his apartment since he attended the joyful ball organized by the city's honorable people for the new rulers.

I ran to the tavern and found him there. When I convinced the commander that the two youths were not communists and on the contrary, they were Zionists who belonged to the same union that I belonged to, he issued a written order to free the two youths immediately. Around 3 AM, I went to the place the youths were jailed, but the two “criminals” were already on their way to Vinnytsia. There was no other way but for the youths' parents to hurry up and deliver the order to Vinnytsia. However, a trip to Vinnytsia from Berdichiv was too dangerous for Jews to take. It was decided, therefore, that I would take a wagon from my Sanitary unit and send the Jews in it to Vinnytsia.

When I turned to my commander, comrade Leimberg, about a license for that

[Columns 179-180]

He answered that it was not possible because he just got the order to leave Berdichiv and attack Kyiv. I told him then to forget about my request and proceeded to place the Jewish parents in the wagon. I took with me an armed soldier as if I was transporting prisoners to Vinnytsia. I left Berdichiv without the permission of my commander, Leimberg, and traveled to Kozyatyn station, and from there to Vinnytsia on a train. When I returned to Berdichiv, the battalion already left, but my people with the horses waited for me there. Two days later I found the Battalion in Sviatoshyn forest when it was in the midst of making preparations to interrupt its repose stop and advance towards Kyiv. The two youths were found alive, but when we reached them, they have already been mutilated, since the wild men who captured them, punctured their ears, so t remained deaf for the rest of their life

 

D. A Holy Remnant of a Jewish city

A Hebrew booklet, a holy remnant that remained in my possession, a memorial for the city that survived the “small” Ukrainian Holocaust. However, like the rest of the European Jewry, it did not have a savior during the big German Holocaust. I unusually attained the book, typical to Berdichiv of that time. I lost the book later but got it back miraculously, also in a way typical of that time. The story is worthy of telling.

The heart-warming news was heard in our city of Ternopil during the oppressive days at the beginning of the First World War. That news, which came from Russia, was about the material and moral assistance (organized by Sh. Anski), wonderous in its size and dedication, that Russia's Jews provided to the tens of thousands of the Jewish brothers from Galitsia. Those Jews who expelled by the Tzarist army to Russia's interior and passed through the Jewish towns in Podolia and Volhynia[1] Naturally, the idea of recompensing the Russian Jews was brought up when the wheel turned on our poor brothers in Ukraine. We, the Jews from Galitsian Ternopil, became the powerful people… That was how our secondary mission of helping our Jewish brothers, wherever we found them, became one of the main objectives that the Jewish battalion set for itself.

In Berdichiv, we were hosted in private Jewish homes. My good friend Leib'tsi Lehrer, a lieutenant in our battalion, had a room with one of the teachers in “Schwartzman Gymnasium”, Khaim Ziskind. He was the brother of the rabbi in Chudniv [Chudnov]. The son of that rabbi, who converted his surname Ziskind to Matok [Sweet in Hebrew] early on, was one of the prominent teachers in Ternopil). Khaim Ziskind published an article in the [Hebrew newspaper] “HaTsfira”. He also published articles in other Hebrew papers under his acronyms - Khaza”k [his acronyms spell like the word Strong in Hebrew].

I spent a substantial amount of time in the company of that fascinating man. He was depressed and heartbroken since his young son and daughter escaped with the Bolsheviks before our battalion entered the city. He told me that only after we became close friends. He and his wife lived destitutely and were happy when I could help them in their time of need. However, to not shame them with charity gifts, I bought books from him – for his benefit. Among those books, he gifted me a small Hebrew book by the name of “Ruth” a poetic story about the “chronicles of Elimelekh and his family” by the Head of a Yeshiva Mendel Boimgarten in Vienna, 5625 [1865]. The literary value of the book was not great but I liked it because of the few lines of dedication that Khaim Ziskind wrote with a quivering heart and trembling hand in that city and that time… I later left the books that I bought from him and other authors in Ukraine with an acquaintance in Proskurov so that I could retrieve them later ti.

Seventeen years after the Berdichiv affair, when the [First World] War ended and my fate brought me to America in 1936, I came to visit the city I was born in. A childhood friend, the Hebrew teacher Tzvi Greenspan, invited me on the first Friday evening of my stay in the city. Tzvi and his wife (nee Shitzer in Ternopil) prepared an unusual surprise for me at their home. Tzvi handed me a small book he took from his library and said: ”Please make Acquaintance!”… I immediately recognized the small book I left that time along with my other books in Proskurov. Greenspan bought the book a long while ago, in Ternopil, from a peddler selling tattered rags and old papers in the market. As known, there was a second pogrom in Proskurov at the end of 1919…

With tearing eyes, I read the following lines on the first page:

“I gave this book to my loveable friend, Mr. Moshe Goligor “Nero Ya'ir”[literally –“his candle will shine” – a blessing for a long life], in my first moment of becoming acquainted with him as a Jewish man, speaking pure Hebrew, when he stayed in my home, at my time of troubles and distress. When I found out about his Hebrew name, I wanted to fall on his shoulder and cry, but I was lost for words and was tongue-tied. Fear and despair (in memory of my children who left and disappeared) but also joy and hope engulfed me, so I remained silent. I only took the book and gave it to him – as a memory while my heart was pounding, my pen shaking in my hand, my brain confused, and the thoughts overwhelming – therefore, please forgive me if my words are mixed up… I wish the rage would pass, and you would honorably reside in your city, happy and successful. I revere you, 

Kh. Ziskind (Khaza”k)
(Translator of Krilov's Fables from Russian to Hebrew)

Berdichiv, holy Shabbat night, Torah portion “Re'eh” [“See, this day I set before you blessing (and curse)”, Deuteronomy 11:26], “Atere”t[2]


Author's Notes:

  1. See the article by Sh. Anski on column 163. Return
  2. That date corresponds to 26 Av 5679, 22 August 1919. Return

 

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