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[English page 576] [Yiddish page 336]

Kalush – Our Native Town

A General View

By Moyshe Etinger

Translated from Yiddish by Adah B. Fogel

Our sincere appreciation to Susan Dressler for typing up
the English text to facilitate its addition to this project.

The town of Kalush lies at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains. On a bright summer day, when one walks up the Vishachanke Hill and stands on the steps of the town's water reservoir, one sees in the distance the mist–shrouded peaks of the Beskidos Mountains. The Lomnitze River springs from the crevices in the Sevolle Mountain. It makes its foaming, churning way down the mountain, and winds through the towns and villages, encircling the Kalush suburb of Hotzien. Three branches pour out of the Lomnitze and supply water for the brewery, the ritual slaughterhouse, and the mill. They flow into the town, drive the water turbines, and provide the inhabitants of Kalush with livelihood in abundance.

When one stands on the eastern edge of the Jewish cemetery which lies on the flatlands of the city on Bagrebske Street and looks westwards towards the town, one sees its houses climbing terrace–like to the sky. On the blue horizon the two crucifixes of the Polish Church and the Greek Orthodox Church tower over the houses. One has the illusion that Jewish Kalush had resolutely entrenched itself in the graves of the Jews who had built the town, had reared it with paternal concern and tenderness and guided it toward a life of peace and harmonious coexistence with its Gentile neighbors.

Kalush was built like most Galician towns which had their origins in the 16th and 17th centuries. Its hub, or “ring” was the square marketplace. All around its four sides stood one and two–story buildings with shop fronts and cellars, the properties of the more prosperous householders. The “ring” was the trading center from which radiated the streets and alleys of the town.

The three main streets which linked Kalush with the outside world were Train Street, Salina Street, and Stanislav Street.

Train Street climbed steeply toward the railroad station, two kilometers from the center of town. Several Jewish families – coachmen – earned their livelihood by bringing passengers to and from the station.

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Salina Street stretched from the “ring” to the salt mines. Actually these mines had been in use as early as the beginning of the 15th century.

The Jews of Kalush were occasionally granted the concession to sell the salt. The mines were the oldest direct and indirect source of income for the town's Jews.

Gentiles from the surrounding villages “banyeners” as they were called, worked in the salt mines. They, as well as the office employees, were the customers of the Jewish storekeepers and craftsmen. They bought good on the installment plan and paid on the first of the month after receiving their wages.

If memory serves – only three Jewish families drew a livelihood from the salt mines. The Hellering family which had the salt concession; attorney Hersh Mandel; and the tinsmith Mondshein. After the establishment of Independent Poland, only the lawyer and the tinsmith profited directly from the mine. There was no other alternative because there was no Gentile tinsmith in the town. Furthermore, lawyer Mandel had been the representing attorney since the time of the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef, and was thoroughly versed in all the inner workings of the enterprise.

Stanislav Street ran through Kalush to the suburb of Hotzien, and continued on directly to the metropolis of Stanislav. Only a handful of Jewish families lived on this street.

From Train Street to Sivertzky Street, which led to the big ritual slaughterhouse and the Jewish cemetery, sprawled the Volln Trenches Streets: the Obervoll and Untervoll. Also the Synagogue Street, which ended at Sivertzky Street. This section of town was inhabited by the craftsmen and the Synagogues: the small synagogues and the large synagogues; the Great Shul – a tall, imposing old brick structure which the Rabbi of Liss, the Gaon Jacob–Ashkenazy Lorberbaum, erected at his own expense, and completed in 1825. The Great Synagogue; the old synagogue; the Stretener Synagogue; Shabsai Mendel's synagogue; the Hassidic “shtibl” of Rabbi Rappaport of Perhinsk; the new synagogue; the small synagogue, the cheders, the Bath and the tiny, ancient slaughterhouse.

The Volln were linked to the center of Kalush via four short connecting streets.

General Jan Subieski fought with and defeated the Turks in 1673 and in 1674 was crowned King of Poland. Legend has it that during the battle, when Subieski's troops entered the area of the town, and his cannons and artillery wagons sank into the mire, Subieski exclaimed, “To ci Kaluza!” (Oh, so much mud!) and thus, from the Polish word Kaluza he crowned Kalush with its name.

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The Kalush coat–of–arms consisted of three cones of salt with the inscription: Royal Free City of Kalush. A tall pole with the town crest nailed to its top stood in the hub of the “ring” opposite Train Street until 1939, the year of the Soviet Occupation.

By 1650 there was already a Jewish community in Kalush. According to the 1765 census, 1,087 Jews were paying taxes and about 130 dwellings belonged to Jews. By 1880, the Jewish community numbered 4,363 souls. or half the population. By that time Kalush had six synagogues and other religious institutions.

In 1939 the Jewish community totaled 6,000. The population growth was due to the incorporation and addition to the town of the suburbs of New Kalush, Zhaerye, Hotzein, which had originally been separate communities. Thus Kalush expanded to a total population of 15,000: 6,000 Jews, 6,000 Ukrainians, and 3,000 Poles.

The political, economic and cultural situation of the Jews in Galicia, which belonged to Austria until World War I, was totally different from that of the Jews under the Czarist regime.

Jews in Galicia enjoyed the privilege of living wherever they wished; freedom of trade; free purchase of land and property; membership in the guilds and industries, held government positions, and had full religious and cultural autonomy.

In Eastern Galicia, Jews had privileges because of the political situation. In the middle of the 19th century, the Mayor of Kalush was a Jew – Moyshe Meyer, the father of Berish Meyer, with the title “ruler”.

However, political and cultural freedom led to language assimilation; there arose a negative reaction to Yiddish (mame–loshn). Yiddish was still spoken by the majority, but scholarly youth and intellectuals inclined to German and Hebrew. One need only mention the Haskalah writers of Brod, the Stanislav author Reuben Fan, the publisher and bookseller Robinson.

Jacob Frost, a Hebrew teacher and native of Kalush, compiled and published a Hebrew–German pocket dictionary which enjoyed great popularity in its time. In his later years, jacob Frost returned to Kalush and was a teacher in the Toshia School.

In 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, Kalush hung out the white flag of surrender, yielding the town to the Russians without a single shot being fired. The police changed into civilian clothes. Reif, the Jewish policeman whose nickname was Makalondra, the former Austrian horn player, suddenly looked broken and pathetic, a man stripped of his glory. Whoever, was able, fled the town, and those who remained waited anxiously, their hearts filled with dread, for the Russian troops, not

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knowing what fate awaited them. But the Russians occupied Kalush peaceably; several weeks later a large Russian army marched through the streets of the town, reaching for the Carpathian Mountains, confident that they would effortlessly conquer the capital city of Austria, Vienna, and the war would be over.

The Russians suffered in ignominious defeat in the Carpathians. At the end of 1915 the Austrian Army drove the Russians out of Kalush. But in 1917, they re–entered. Kerensky's army broke through the front lines and this time the battle raged in the very heart of the town, continuing for three days. The Russians plundered homes, raped women, burned down 200 dwellings in the center of the town. There was one civilian death, a Cossack shot down a Jewish woman – Breintsye Likvornik, sister–in–law of Moyshe Zussye Likvornik.

The Ukrianian State was established at the end of World War I, but despite its military regulations, it was unable to maintain order. Petlura's hordes were rampant and pogromized entire towns. Fortunately, Kalush escaped the atrocities, but peasant bandits plundered and robbed Jewish families. The Fogel family, village dwellers, were attacked and their belongings stolen by three armed peasants who were later caught and sentenced to death; they were executed in the Gentile cemetery by Ukrainian soldiers.

Kalush organized a Jewish militia, a defense group of armed young men who patrolled the city at night.

The Ukrainian government lasted only half a year, ultimately defeated by the Polish legions of General Haller's army. Haller's troops were no better than Petlura's: they pogromized and beat up Jews, cut off their beards and sidelocks, and ridiculed them. In April, 1919, they carried out a savage pogrom in Vilna, during which the Yiddish write and dramatist A. Veiter was shot to death in the street. Thus the newly–formed government of Poland revealed its anti–Semetic visage from its very inception.

The simultaneous impact of two opposing phenomena anti–Semitism on the one hand and the Balfour Declaration on the other, aroused intense nationalist consciousness and pride, obliterating the pre–war tendencies to assimilation. Steps were taken to revive Jewish cultural activities and reestablish a way of life. Gold, the Hebrew teacher, was appointed and classes in the Toshia School re–opened. Mendl Popper's family returned from Vienna to which they had fled. Their daughter Pepka (Pnina) organized the Shomer Hatzair, and student youth founded the Zionist Club OR.

There were frequent mass street demonstrations in Kalush: the “banyeners”, the PPS – members of the Polish Socialist Labor Party.

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celebrated May 1st, the Labor Holiday, with a parade of several hundred workers, led by a brass band in black uniforms with plumed shakos on their heads – the garb of miners – and marched into the “ring” to listen to May 1st speeches.

In the new, independent Poland, the same band led the parade on May 3rd to celebrate the Polish Constitution.

The drumbeat and the wind instruments of this band could in no way compare with Itzikl the musician and his group: the sweet, caressing sound of the fiddle that awakened the townspeople in the gray dawn as the players accompanied the bride and groom and the in–laws home from the wedding.

Itzikl Gutenplan's band was renowned in the entire neighborhood. These musicians were hired for the most elegant weddings and lavish balls.

The jubilant celebration in honor of the Balfour Declaration could not be darkened or disrupted even by the heavy downpours and deep mires. On that Sunday morning, all the organizations participating in the street demonstration gathered in front of Dr. Nadel's dwelling, which at that time housed the Hebrew School which had moved from Winkler's house on the second floor.

The student club OR, Shomer Hatzair, Yad Harutzim, the pupils of the Hebrew School, and the townspeople – all participated. At the head of each organization marched its flag–bearer. The throng, clad in holiday finery, marched joyously into the large, brightly lit shul, which was already jammed with men, women, and children. There were also representatives from the local town council and a delegation of government authorities. Even the Polish priest sent a telegram of congratulations.

When Independent Poland was first established, the cities of eastern Galicia were still culturally separate from Greater Poland. In this interval of social recess, the community filled its need for culture and entertainment by calling on its local talent, amateur drama groups and theater clubs were born.

In Kalush the pre–war amateur theater group staged Jacob Gordin's “Mirele Efros”. Participants in the production were Dr. Reuben Nadel and his wife, Faygele Haber; Dr. Brenner and Mrs. Tossik. This writer played the role of the grandson. Then the Culture Association of OR founded a dramatic club under the aegis of Dr. Nadel, whose home was a gathering place for activists and lovers of Yiddish culture. Dr. Nadel and his family were warm, unassimilated Jewish folk intelligentsia. The Saturday afternoon rehearsals followed by the generous repasts served by Mrs. Nadel are unforgettable. The OR Drama Club produced the following plays, The “Batlen” (Idler); the two “Kuni–Leml” plays; “Chinke_Pinke”; “The Yorshim” (Inheritors), A. Veiter's “Der Shtumer” – (The Mute).

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Yossl Zucker organized the Hashomer Hatzair Drama Group. He directed and acted in Jacob Gordin's “G–d, Man and Devil”. Then, in conjunction with the Poale Zion, he staged Ossip Dimov's “Shema Yisroel” and Pinsker's “Yankl the Blacksmith”. The Drama club of the Yad Harutzim produced Zolotarefsky's “The Yeshiva bocher”, directed by Schneider Weinstock with the assistance of Mayshe Ettinger. Ettinger also staged Peretz Hirshbein's “Nevole” (Infamy) with a group of young people. The first performance of “Nevole” took place in Yoynilov, and the second in Kalush. The OR Drama Club, which Yossl Zucker piloted after Dr. Nadel left, was the longest–lived. Now there sprang up a plethora of professional theater groups, both Yiddish and Ukrainian. The amateur drama clubs, having fulfilled their missing (by laying the groundwork) were dissolved. In the summers, touring theatrical troupes performed in Kalush: Sygmunt Turkov's Theater; Jonas Turkov's troupe, the Artistn Vinkl; even the Stanislav Goldfaden Theater visited our city. Kalush began to benefit from the riches of Polish Jewish culture. We received the Yiddish and Polish–Yiddish daily newspapers. In Yiddish: The Warsaw “Hajnt and Moment”. Various literary publications such as Nachman Maisel's “Literarische Bletter”. In Polish: Slonomski's “Viadomeshtchi Literatzke”, and others.

there arose an urgent need and hunger for education and knowledge. Study groups were formed. Dr. Brenner gave lectures and inaugurated literary discussions. The Toshia library, which had not functioned during the war, was re–opened. Books which had been scattered in various places were gathered together, and new ones were purchased. Yiddish books were introduced into the library which had formerly stocked only Hebrew, Polish and German volumes. The administrator of the library's Yiddish section was the author of this article. He also established course for worker's apprentices in Yiddish language and Jewish history. Class consciousness was intensifying and political parties were organized. It was an age of consolidation of political awareness and the forming of social responsibility and cooperation. At that time, two separate parties, Zeare Zion and Poale Zion, united and formed the Socialist Zionist Alliance – Hitachdut.

The Htachdut and its youth faction – the Gardania, was a major influence in Galician Jewish life. In Kalush particularly, it was the most vital link in the Zionist movement, attracting the majority of the young people.

Other functioning, activist groups were the General Zionists, whose membership was older; the reorganized Jewish National Fund Committee, headed by David Haber; the Ezra, an aid organization which

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collected funds to support Halutzim emigration to Palestine. Altogether, four pioneer groups emigrated. The first two individual Halutzim were Moyshe Fuchs and Moyse Bentcher.

The Toshia school played a significant and prominent role in the Kalush Jewish community. The Chanukah and Purim celebrations prepared by the students brought a renewed sense of life and energy to the community. The teachers of Toshia spared no efforts and put their whole souls into preparing these festivals. The teacher Israel Boruch Hann even translated and produced Goldfaden's operetta “Bar Kochba”. The Toshia school which was founded before World War I disseminated Hebrew knowledge for a period of 40 years. It served as a fortress which shielded the young generation from illiteracy.

Kalush had no yeshiva. And a cheder is always a matter of luck; it depends on the melamed and on the pupil. If the pupil is capable and willing, he absorbs Jewish learning in the cheder. If not – he goes out empty. This writer can recall only two melamdim who were scholars: Mayer Gott and Melech Kornblitt.

Girls generally did not attend cheder. If not for the Hebrew School, there would rarely have been learned women. Girl students in Kalush knew Hebrew and the Bible. When the Hebrew Teachers Seminary opened in Lemberg, it had 8 students from Kalush: 6 girls and 2 young men.

Toshia was a private school. The school committee bore the brunt of supporting the school and ensuring its existence. In the twenties, the congregation, kehilla, provided a small subsidy, but funds for the teacher's salaries were never easily come by. The school's administrators and teachers were idealists, and fulfilled their responsibilities with love and devotion. The school committee included active Zionists, some of whom wre : Fishl Schecter; Yudl Weinreb; Yossl Fuchs; Mattye Schwartz. At certain times the school employed two teachers, at others only one. We inscribe their names with gratitude and great esteem: Jacob Frost; israel Boruch; Gold; Hochman: Kotlorevsky; Meddung; Gemms, and a woman teacher – Yakub.

All the teachers were excellent pedagogues, but the most outstanding was Israel Boruch. He was a Gid gifted teacher, a scholar, who conducted the school with compassion and understanding. It is to him that this writer owes his knowledge of Hebrew, and to him he bows his head with love. Today Israel Boruch is an old man in his eighties, and resides in Haifa.

In those years, two trade unions which had existed prior to World War I resumed their activities. They were the Agudas Achim and the Yad Charotsim. Both were fraternal aid societies.

The Yad Charotsim, the craftsmen's union, was connected with the

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guild of Gentile craftsmen. The barber Max Bein, a Jew, who was the president of the guild, genuinely merited his important position. He was a worldly and intelligent man; kindly, generous, and soft–spoken, and a respected family man.

Max Bein had a natural bent for the law. Had he not been born into an impoverished family, he would undoubtedly have become a prominent attorney. His principal goal in life was to help the needy – Jews as well as non–Jews. he gave legal advice, and wrote lawsuits and briefs without pay. His barbershop was always crowded with people waiting to consult him about a problem. Bein was also the town magistrate and a committee member of the Jewish kehilla.

Melech Melamed Kornblitt was a man of an entirely different type. he also belonged to the Yad Charotzim, not because he was a laborer, but for the purpose of inculcating its members with religious tenets. Melech, a calm, serene folks mentch, used to entertain the workers every Purim in the Synagogue ante–room by chanting the Megillah in Ukrainian with the Megillah niggun (melody); relate the story of Purim, and complete every sentence with the traditional “tu” as in the akdomes (an Aramaic poem read during Shevuoth prayers). Melech was always the one who chanted the El Mole Rachamim (Prayer for the Dead) at funerals. In Kalush, as in most Polish towns, the Rabbi was never called to funerals, not did the family hire anyone to eulogize the dead. The corpse was prepared for burial at home. Then the funeral procession passed by the synagogue where the deceased used to pray, paused, and Melech Melamed would intone the El Mole Rachamim.

The Aguda Achim was a middle–class society. Its members were merchants, Zionists, and Zionist sympathizers. After the World war, the Aguda Achim put up its own building. It had an auditorium with a stage and three rooms. The structure housed the Toshia School and the library. On holidays a minyan (ten men) gathered there to pray, and at the Reading of the Torah the worshippers pledged support of the Jewish National Fund. On Simchas torah all the members participated in a collection. During the procession with the Torah scrolls, they “sold” the portion”Ato Huraysu” (You Taught us) also for the benefit of the Jewish Fund. There were also two youth organizations: I.L. Peretz and AYAP (General Jewish Workers' Party. Both were Communist–inclined and did not last long. In the late twenties, the Merchants Association was established under the total jurisdiction of the Kehilla. The head of the Kehilla – Shloyme Spindl, and its secretary Benjamin Danker, were the undisputed rulers. A major aid institution was the credit bank, formerly the Baron Hirsch Bank. It kept alive the small shopkeepers, female stall–

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keepers, and male stall–keepers. They would borrow from the bank a small sum of money at a low rate of interest, pay back in installments, and then borrow again. The bank director was Leibush Stein, a benevolent and kindhearted man who had much compassion for the Jewish poor.

Kalaush was blessed with many kindhearted, generous Jews, men of good deeds who were also great scholars; Herzele Budyes, Herz Akstmeyer – a descendant of the Gaon Zvi Chochem, he lectured in the synagogue without pay; Jacob Nussbaum, a strict, observant Hassid, spiritual leader of the Chortkover synagogue; Reb Mendl Link, the wise old man to whom all members of the small synagogue came for advice; Jonah Kurall, and others. There were other simple Jews who performed good deed; Menashe Ber Honig (Honey) whose nature bore out his name. No indigent Jew ever left his grocery store on Sabbath eve with empty hands. Moshe Osherkris, Moyshe Millstein, the paper bag maker who lived in a damp cellar and shared his frugal meals with every needy beggar. He also carried kosher food to the Jewish prisoners in the town jail, even when they were not residents of Kalush.

Kalush was justifiably proud of its long line of distinguished rabbis – Gaonim: The Liss Gaon Rabbi Jocob Lorberbaum, the Gaon Isaac Babad who was Rabbi of Kalush for 47 years; his son the Gaon Joseph babd, rabbi of Kalush for many years until 1930 when he was invited to Vienna to be Rabbi of the Kehilla.

The Babad family was descended from the illustrious Gaon Rabbi Heshl. the dayanim Abraham Hersh Weintraub and Moyshe Ashkenazi were Zheditchever Hassidim who prayed in the small synagogue. Rabbi Moyse Ashkenazi was blessed with a merciful death: during the procession with the Torah Scrolls on Simchas Torah he fell to the floor and died instantly.

The three men who performed the ritual slaughter were Itzik; Eliezer–Jacob; and Yehiel Shapiro. Itzik was the oldest. Eliezer–Jacob was a frail man of middle height. When he walked in the street he looked like a shadow gliding past. Yehiel Shapiro loomed over the other two. He was one of those men who could not escape notice. He was tall, with blue eyes set in a rotund face. His beard and side–locks were coppery light brown, and his voice was ringing and resonant. Yehiel was a Chortkover Hassid, who prayed in the Chortkov synagogue. He was a scholar and also the town cantor; on the High Holy Days he conducted the services in the shul. The shul was the official town synagogue and the members who prayed there were not Hassidim. The members of the Yad Harutzim prayed in the anteroom, but because the shul was the official synagogue, Yehiel sang there on the High Holy Days. Even Rabbi Joseph Babad who prayed in the Great

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Synagogue all year, would come into the shul for Kol Nidre, to intone together with the dayanim (judges of the court) the special Kol Nidre prayer Al Das Hamokim (“With the Consent of G–d and with the Consent of the Kehilla”). Afterwards he returned to his own place of worship.

This writer and his family prayed in the small synagogue, the former Zheditchever shtibl. I would always go into the shul to hear Yehiel chant the Kol Nidre. The memory of it still arouses in me feelings of exaltation and intense yearning. I still see the Rabbi, enveloped in his prayer shawl ornaments with its silver collar, covering his face, so that only the tip of his beard was visible. The rabbi would enter quietly and stand beside the lectern. The gabbai, carrying the Sefer Torah, stood beside him. The Rabbi, in a thin, quavering voice like the strings of a violin, intoned the Al Das Hamokim. When he finished, Yehiel began to chant the first Kol Nidre. A hush enveloped the shul; one could hear a fly buzzing, and when Yehiel said Kol Nidre for the third time the walls of the shul rang with his words – reverberated like a bell, and the congregation trembled with awe of the Day of Reckoning.

Both Yehiel and the rabbi were privileged to die a natural death. Yehiel contracted pneumonia and died in Kalush before the Holocaust. Rabbi Joseph Babad fled to England during the Hitler era and subsequently breathed his last in Manchester. Vehiel's second wife and her sons perished in the Holocaust. Sholom – his only son from his first wife, together with Salke (Sarah Zarvenitzer) and their son Chaim, surivived because they were given refuge in a bunker belonging to a Gentile in Razhniatov, or, as it was colloquially described, “In Edzye's hole”. After the war Sholom and his family, who by this time had a daughter, came to America. Their daughter Mina is married and now lives in Israel. Chaim is an engineer in America, still a young man who has reared a traditional Jewish family.

The economic status of Jews in Kalush was not unlike that of other Jewish towns which had no major industries. Kalush had a salt–mine which did not produce salt, but did produce poison gas for military purposes, as well as potash and artificial fertilizer. This salt–mine was the second of its kind in Europe: a government enterprise funded by foreign capital. Jews were forbidden to work there.

The sparse handful of Jewish industries consisted of a brewery and a distillery. Its owners were the Milstein, Spindl and Weissman families. After World War I the distillery was taken over by the government and became a Polish monopoly.

However, the brewery did succeed in expanding. Kalush beer was famous throughout the land. By this time its owners were only the Milstein

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and Spindl families. The brewery provided a livelihood for about 20 Jewish families in the town: office workers, deliverymen, wholesalers and salesmen.

The brick factory which had belongs to the Winkler family before the war, was taken over by the Gentiles when Poland regained its independence. On the other hand, Jewish industry was enriched by a steam–mill operated by the Goldvert family; two saws, belonging to the Halder and Zarvanitzer families; two tanneries operated by Yosl Weintraub. Later the owner was Berish Abish. Liballe's tannery was run in partnership with the Lehrer family. There was also a soda water factory, and stalls were set up in the “ring” to sell it. This belonged to the Reitman family.

Yankl Meyer had a locksmith shop where he taught his trade to the first Kalush Halutzim to emigrate to Palestine.

These major industries were not the only source of livelihood that put bread into the mouths of the Jews of Kalush. There were also craftsmen and storekeepers: tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, tinsmiths, bakers, harness makers, an upholsterer, a bricklayer, but no blacksmith. There were transport workers: carriers and coachmen. To the credit of this class of workers we are proud to say that almost all of them, without exception, were decent, honest family men. They reared their children, taught them to be law–abiding, and educated them to become doctors, dentists and professors.

It was said that Kalush had one Jewish thief. We personally never encountered him.

There were various categories of tradespeople. Some merchants were prosperous; others barely earned enough for their daily bread. There were “Marksitzerkes” female stall–keepers; women who delivered milk, chicken and egg dealers, owners of small stores, and male stall–keepers. There was a large firm of grain wholesalers – the corporation Bentcher, Bukbaum and Lieblech. There was a lively export of eggs, which supported 12 families. Thus Kalush struggled with its bitter competition and the paralyzing taxes imposed by the Polish government. When in 1933 the government declared the Peasant Moratorium, and enforced the edict prohibiting ritual slaughter, all Jewish trade in Poland was destroyed; and the centuries old Jewish life in all the towns and cities, including our native town of Kalush, began to flicker. The year 1939 brought with it the Soviet Occupation, which effected overwhelming changes in the Jewish condition.

During their 1939–1941 occupation of Kalush, the Soviets dissolved the Kehillah Council, banned all Jewish political parties, the youth associations and institutions. Jewish trade was automatically destroyed;

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Soviet soldiers pounced greedily on Jewish goods, never having seen their like in Russia; they bought up everything with worthless paper rubles, and the shops, stripped bare of merchandise, were forced to close.

Some of the Jewish communists usurped community posts and ruled with a high hand. But their “paradise” was short–lived, for the Soviets promptly ousted them and substituted Ukrainian nationals – former “Unu” members and rabid anti–Semites.

The Soviets exiled two Jews to Russia: Dr. Friedlander, president of the local Committee of the Zionist Organization; and Lang, a former Communist whom the Soviets suspected of Trotzkyism.

Before the Nazi Occupation, the Soviets gave the Jews an opportunity to find refuge in Russia. Those who fled Kalush survived.

After the Soviets departed the town, the first to enter was the Hungarian Army. Then our neighbors, the Ukrainians, displayed their true anti–Semitic countenance; they murdered all the Jewish inhabitants of the village of Zavye, a large Jewish community.

Early in July, 1941, the Hungarians left Kalush and the Germans took over. Then the Ukrainian lawyer Vorobetz, a treacherous and vicious Gentile who earned a living from Jewish clients and even spoke Yiddish, gave the Nazis a list of names of 300 Jews of the town. These Jews were assembled in the Polish day–school and savagely beaten. At night, they were tossed half–dead into rickety carts, dragged to the Pilla forest and thrown into an open grave. The peasants of Pilla witnessed this and related it. The Jews of Kalush refused to believe this tale of horror, for the human mind cannot conceive of such brutality. The Jews were convinced that the victims had been sent to a labor camp and were alive.

This writer's younger sister Clara (Chaya) perished with that group. His father Itzik Ettinger died of starvation, and was buried in the Jewish cemetery. The cemetery was desecrated and totally demolished; the defilers dug up the tombstones, crumbled them to bits, and used them to pave the streets.

After this massacre the Nazis drafted the first Judenrat. The Jewish appointees eagerly accepted their posts, naively believing that self–autonomy would preserve order and that if they obeyed enemy commands they would be in a position to fend off further punitive edicts. This “trust” was rooted in hundreds of years of historical experience. Unfortunately it turned out otherwise. The Jews had no inkling of the Nazi master plan – the Final Solution – to completely exterminate East European Jewry.

Three months later the Nazis dissolved the first Judenrat. Its members and their families were sent to Stanislav, and there, in Rudolf's Mill, they were tortured to death. Rudolf's Mill was a real Hell.

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After this the Jews were driven into the ghetto: a total of 7,000 – including Jews from Kalush and its suburbs: Voynilov, Razhentov, Broshniev, Perehinsk, and the Jews from the villages.

The Jews were herded into two streets: the Untervill and the Obervoll, and part of Sivertzky Street.

Crowded to suffocation, the Jews fought off death, performed the possible and the impossible to hold onto life, to survive and see better days. this ghetto was the headquarters of the Judenrat and the military. Here the Nazi Commissar of Kalush and the Military Commander Memmelis – an Austrian Jews, ruled with a despotic, heavy hand.

A second Judenrat was appointed, and this self–autonomous group had no choice but to assist the enemy in its heinous deeds. Several extermination Actions were carried out. Every Action sacrificed hundreds of Jews. The martyrs were taken to the cemetery, shot, and tossed into the graves. Those who were still alive, suffocated when the earth was thrown over them. The Judenrat was forced to pay for the bullets used to murder the Jews.

Further Actions took place in March and April of 1942: Jews were rounded up and sent to Belzec. The last and biggest extermination Action occurred on September 15–17th. For two days and two nights the Jewish military, Gentile police and the Germans raged in the ghetto without pause: they tore up every bunker, uncovered every hole, shattered and scattered the belongings of every household and rounded up 3,000 Jews on the Umschlagplatz. The victims sat on the ground for two days and two nights without food and water; exhausted and half fainting, they were forced to walk to the railroad station and were crushed into cattle cars, which were then sealed and boarded up. When the cars rolled, creaking and groaning, out of the Kalush station toward Belzec, the infamous Death Camp, the Germans (may their names be obliterated) announced that now Kalush was finally Judenrein.

A handful of people miraculously escaped, only to expire later on in the Ugerstaller Labor Camp and in Rudolf's “torture mill” in Stanislav. NOTE: 17 people of 7,000 is “barely” a 1/4 percent. 2 1/2 would be 170.

Only 17 of the 7,000 Jews in the Kalush ghetto were able to save themselves, barely one quarter of one percent of the total Jewish population of Kalush.

During the Hiter era the world was incredibly cruel; it looked, saw, knew, kept silent, and helped. Even the highest Christian hierarchy took no action and did not raise its voice. Except for a very few humane Christians, who still had a spark of benevolence. They gave aid to Jews and rescued

[Page 563]

them. “Whoever saves the life of even on Jewish soul in the time of Holocaust is as though he were to save the entire world.”

How much blood did our people have to shed? How many victims did it have to sacrifice to teach the world this axiom? In Kalush, a Christian official of the “tesp” – Zachary Plaksy and his wife saved several Jews. At risk of their own lives they used every means and not, G–d forbid, for remuneration. They hid the Jews and paid for their food. The family of Shomom Shapiro; David Halpern, a pious Jew who now lives in Bnei Brak; Nussya Feintichl and her daughter who also reside in Israel. To honor the memory of Plaksy and his wife, who are deservedly in Heaven, we bow our heads with gratitude. We remember our beloved kinsmen, our nearest and dearest, the 7,000 martyrs who died terrible deaths at the hands of the vicious beasts and we don't know where their remains lie buried. We record, with pain in our hearts and trembling hands, a chronicle of 300 years of Jewish life – living and striving, joy and suffering, of our town of Kalush, of eternal, blessed memory.

 

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