by Yakov Mendl Marksheid (Tel Aviv)
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
That is what we called Yitzhak Shlomo Shmoys in all of the groups of Jewish Kolomea and with it we expressed recognition and even love for one of the most devoted leaders and pioneers of the Poalei-Zion [Workers of Zion Marxist Zionists] movement in the city.
Yitzhak Shlomo Shmoys was born in Kolomea to poor parents who were only able to allow him to study for no more than a few years in a kheder [religious primary school]. However, with the strength of his innate will to learn, Shmoys was able to graduate from the nine-class folks-shul [public school] in Kolomea and then the commercial school in Krakow.
Krakow had a crucial influence on his further life cycle. Krakow, at that time, was a revolutionary center. At that time and in all cities in Galicia, the Polish Socialist Party P.P.S. in considerable numbers and its well-known leader, Ignacy Daszyński,
supported the Jewish workers, toilers and also to an extent the Jewish assimilated intelligentsia. The literary-political journal, Krytyka [Criticism], edited by the Jewish Wilhelm Feldman, also was published in Krakow in the Polish language. The leader of the Jewish workers parties and escapees from pogroms and Tsarist Russia would also at times settle there.
Shmoys returned to Kolomea; he came already baked [matured]. He was a young man with serious character traits, an idealist and, seized by those ideas that were nurtured during that romantic epoch at the beginning of this [the 20th] century, he threw himself with body and life into the struggle for his ideas.
A little later he was under the influence of an anarchistic atmosphere and ideologies. However, he quickly found the way to Poalei-Zion. He then served the Poalei Zionists, the Poalei-Zion movement for all his years.
A strong influence on him were the visits from Sholem Alechim, Dr. [Chaim] Zhitlowski, the Yiddish language conference in Chernovitz and then the tour of Galicia by the four great ones Y.L. Peretz, Sholem Ash, Avraham Reizen and H.D. Nomberg that was arranged by his Comrade Khasriel during those years.
Already as a serious worker at the Kolomea Poalei-Zion organization, he also was one of the founders of the apolitical Jewish Culture-Union in Kolomea that was created after the Chernovitz conference and that led to the Kolomea Jewish Socialist Party (Galicianer Bund) becoming the national opposition in the Jewish Socialist Party movement and, after the First World War, the three leaders of the Bund, Hersh Habacht (tailor, former chairman of the Jewish Socialist Party Congress), Moshe Bal (chairman) and Shaya Ernman (baker), members of Poalei-Zion. Khaver Shmoys also had a large part in this.
Then Shmoys became a recognized worker and leader not only of Poalei-Zion. He gave lectures on literary and political themes. He was one of the most active workers in the professional movement of the trade employees and private officials; in the people's movement for being registered during the census of 1910 in a column with Yiddish as one's mother-tongue, he was
one of the fieriest speaker-propagandists. He earned his popular name, Khaver Shmoys legitimately and honestly.
He thus worked tirelessly in all areas until the outbreak of the First World War. Because of his weak body he was tall, thin as a stick, in addition to being very short-sighted he was mobilized at a later time and designated for a labor battalion, in addition to the annotation that he was political, unkosher.
However, at this time, despite the serious danger for him, he did not keep his anti-militaristic position a secret and he did not stop his political education work. In 1918, half a year before the end of the war, he was freed and he returned to Kolomea.
Shmoys returned at the right time. During this leg of his journey, a political and military state of emergency still reigned there. Shmoys was an employee of the district administration. He was not afraid and it did not stop him from doing further political propaganda work. He and I together organized flying propaganda meetings in secret in the synagogues and houses of prayer during and after prayers. We proposed an initiative to create a Jewish national council in Kolomea as the representative and protector of the Jewish population.
On the 1st of November 1918, at the downfall of the Austrian monarchy, the Ukrainian military formations seized power in Kolomea and proclaimed its annexation to the Ukrainisher Folks-Republik [Ukrainian People's Republic].
A new era began at a time of serious dangers and also with certain hopes. On the same day, a national council was constituted in Kolomea, thanks to our previous preparation with the representation and chairmen from three parties: Zionists (Dr. Laks), Poalei-Zion (Marksheid) and Bund-Jewish Socialist Party (Zeinfeld), with equal rights and duties. Shmoys was unanimously elected as manager of the cultural division at the first constituting meeting of the Jewish National Council. There he showed his capabilities and devotion. The Ukrainian regime organs prevented him from continuing as an official at the district administration and, thus, he had the opportunity to be watchful, to influence
and to obtain from the new regime a certain agreement for the needs and necessities of the Jewish masses.
The Jewish kehile that until then was in the hands of the obsequious Jews and allowed a constant disruption of Jewish national aspirations, was taken over by the Jewish National Council with the help of the Jewish military division. A Jewish national representation was built with all of the prerogatives and attributes, and Shmoys, as the cultural manager, immediately took on constructive work in this area. He organized a Jewish public school with Yiddish as the language of instruction, recruited teaching personnel among the Jewish intelligentsia who were returning home from the war front, helped create a teaching program for the school; he won over Aleksander Granach (who found himself then in Kolomea as one who had been demobilized) and they created a good Yiddish dramatic group at Poalei-Zion. And when the party decided to publish its own press organ named Di Royte Fon [The Red Flag], Shmoys was one of its most important editorial members.
The Ukrainian People's Republic episode was of short duration. After this came another Romanian occupation of several months and then the joining of all of eastern Galicia in the newly arising Polish state.
Shmoys not only lost his place of work, he also was persecuted by the new people in power because of his political past and position and they also could not forgive that he was an official in the Ukrainian county leadership. He was arrested several times and each time released under the pressure of public opinion.
It was a long time until Jewish life began to normalize a little. Shmoys made his great contribution to Jewish communal work during this transition time.
The struggle at Poalei-Zion began left-right. Shmoys remained devoted; he fought devotedly against a socialism that supported force and that turned to violent means. He would always argue that socialism and justice cannot be built with bayonets.
After the split, Shmoys became a member of the right Poalei-Zion Central Committee; he moved to Lemberg, became an editorial member of the Yidishn Arbeter [Jewish Worker], wrote articles on literary and political
themes, and for several years he was found on propaganda tours through cities and shtetlekh [towns] of eastern Galicia, until he again longed for his home city of Kolomea. Returning, he was no longer an old man, but a young man with a girlfriend. He arranged a home, opened a beautiful lending library in the nicest part of the city with a separate division and to sell Yiddish books, newspapers and journals.
He remained principled for all his years, even a fanatic Yidishist [advocate of Yiddish culture]. This is, perhaps, one of the most important reasons that brought him closer to and drove him to the left Poalei Zion [Marxist Zionists]. Here, he also showed much activism, writing articles about cultural problems in the Warsaw Arbeter Zeitung [Workers Newspaper], the central organ of the left Poalei Zion, gave lectures at the society evening courses for workers at the Y.L. Peretz Library in Kolomea, gave public lectures, appeared at various opportunities at political gatherings.
When the Polish regime sealed and confiscated the Y.L. Peretz Library, the Society for Evening Courses, and arrested a number its activists, held trials for them, it did not forget Shmoys; they made frequents searches [at his home], warned him, but he, Shmoys the fighter, the idealist, went bravely and consistently on his well-trod way; his library was the meeting point for all workers and the populist element in the city, without exception. He was surrounded with honor and recognition by everyone.
Thus it was until the outbreak of the Second World War. The Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact divided the former Polish state and, on the 17th of September, 1939 Kolomea was occupied by the Red Army and the Soviet regime.
A few days later, Shmoys was destined to taste the flavor of the Soviet Paradise. He was arrested after appearing with a serious speech at a gathering of people of culture who were going to organize the new school system for the three peoples who lived in Kolomea Ukrainians, Poles and Jews and also the new cultural life in the city. At the gathering, he demanded full rights for the Jewish public schools with Yiddish as the language of instruction, warned of Ukrainian nationalism, warned of idealizing the Cossack culture, which was a general phenomenon in Ukrainian literature,
and he voluntarily made available his library and, when necessary, himself.
He was arrested at night; he sat in jail for half a year; finally, they did not have anything with which to accuse him. He left jail a broken man.
On me, his fighting and like-minded comrade for many years, fell the fate in his time of emergency to stand by him. I then led a textile cooperative that I had organized, taking in former merchants and making textile workers out of them, and I easily convinced them to accept Shmoys as a member. He became the secretary and treasurer of the cooperative. We worked together there until the last second, when the Soviet troops and the Soviet Union left Kolomea in chaos.
I did not see him again. He Shmoys, the Jewish revolutionary, the fighter and idealist was politically unkosher in Imperial Austria, in the new Polish state, in the socialist fatherland [Russia]. This was what his tragic fate wanted. In 1942, in one of the annihilation actions, he perished with his Kolomea Jews who he had served so devotedly and faithfully for thirty-something years. From 1906 on, the history of Kolomea Jewish life was tightly connected and bound to the person and name of Khaver Shmoys. He is a part of the history of Kolomea Jewish folks-lebn [folk-life].
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
Chaim Ringelblum was the son of a gemore-melamed [teacher of the Talmud] on Kaminker Street and the son-in-law of Feywl Stampler, who moved to Mielec, western Galicia after the First World War.
The ideologue and one of the founders and leaders of Hapoel Hatzair-Tzeiri-Zion [the Young Worker-Youth of Zion] (later Hitachdut [Zionist Socialists]) in the city, Chaim Ringelblum emerged at the very front of Jewish society. He was one of the most beautiful personalities in
Kolomea at the time between the two World Wars. He was beloved by all strata of the Jewish population and also by the Christians for his honesty and affability. Everyone recognized his devoted work on behalf of the community.
There was no social institution in the city for which Ringelblum was not among its managers. Be it the rescue committee, the gemiles-khesed [interest free loan fund], the orphan's home or the cultural institutions under the name Toynbee Hall Ringelbaum had a hand in the work everywhere.
In addition to this, he was the chairman of the Hitachdut Central Committee in Lemberg, a member of the city managing committee and of the kehile council, chairman of the Union of Private Employees, delegate to the Zionist Congresses and a member of the managing committee of the cooperative bank, Preminger, Bergman, Biter and Frenkel.
During the last years before the catastrophe, he was the bookkeeper at this bank and he drew his livelihood from this.
That there was general recognition among the Zionist parties for the youngest of their leaders can be seen in that he, Chaim Ringelblum, was designated to be the chairman of the famous city banquet given by the Zionists for Yitzhak Grinbaum during his visit to Kolomea in 1932.
Ringelblum was esteemed and loved for his learning (he was a man with a great deal of Jewish and secular knowledge, knowledgeable about Spinoza and Kant) and his good, humane traits.
We called him the silken Jew. He was silken because he was a Jew with a warm heart and with a generous hand. He had to be well-guarded to make sure he did not distribute his wages as soon as he received them. He was ready to give away his last groshn if someone needy turned to him.
I saw Chaim Ringelblum for the last time during my visit to Kolomea in 1924. I remember the evening that I spent with him at his home in hot, Yiddish debates and in still hotter Yiddish singing.
I remember his quiet and mild persona that glowed with readiness for self-sacrifice.
Eliezer Unger, in his book, Zikhron [Memorial] (Masada Publishing, Tel Aviv, 5708 ), provided several lines about the persona of Chaim Ringelblum.
Eliezer Unger lived in Kitov in 1941. At the outbreak of the Soviet-German War, he, his wife and child moved to the larger city, to Kolomea. There he met Chaim Ringelblum. And he told the following about him on pages 51-53:
In August 1941, the commandant of the Kolomea area, the Nazi Folkman, told the Ukrainian city leaders to provide him with a list of Jews who were eligible to be members of a Judenrat [Jewish council] (the communities of Kitov, Jablonow, Horodenka, Zablotow, Sniatyn, and Zabie belonged to Kolomea County). The Ukrainians immediately submitted the names of the Jews who stood at the head of the community and were distinguished workers during the time of the Polish regime. The next morning, very early, Folkman called these Jews to his office. Then, after they had waited in the waiting room for a few hours, the chief of this area came out of the office and told them to choose a Judenrat [Jewish council] and presented them with a slate of members for the council. He proposed Chaim Ringelblum as the chairman of the council. He spoke about the responsibility that lay on the representatives of the Jewish community on behalf of the German regime. He threatened them with the penalty of death and left. All those invited were imprisoned in a room. The doors were opened for them at night and they were permitted to go home.
Chaim Ringelblum a relative of the historian Emanuel Ringelblum in Warsaw was chairman of the Hitachdut group in the city, a member of the city council of the Polish regime, a fervid Zionist and a devoted communal activist, a refined and spiritual man.
That evening I went to Ringelblum's house. Several of his friends and neighbors were assembled there. All were apprehensive and distracted; it was almost night and he [Ringelblum] still was not there. His wife paced from one corner to another, each time lifting the curtain at the window to see if perhaps he, her husband, was coming. Their daughter lay in bed. The day before, while working, she had received terrible blows from the German bandits and got a fever. Her heart trembled for the fate of her father.
Hunger infiltrated this house just like the other Jewish houses. The small reserves of food products had run out weeks before and the family was starving. All of the carpets in the house were taken to the peasants, exchanged for cornmeal and vegetables. Every day they cooked a meal that was called kulesha (a kind of cooked dish made of cornmeal). The good-hearted residents divided their small reserve with everyone who came to ask them. And the reserve ran out in a short time. The comrades and friends of Ringelblum knew what was happening in his house. They brought what they could in a way that he would not know. He would argue with his friends: There are hundreds of families in the city who are dying of hunger and why should food be brought to me and not to the other families?
Ringelbaum returned home late at night, pale and breathless. Full of concern, he spoke about the offer of the rulers. He had struggled with himself: should he take on the management of the Jewish council from the Germans or not? Many of his friends advised him to accept the proposal. They argued that as a crystal clear, honest man who had great moral influence in the city, at this fateful hour he needed to take over the kehile [organized Jewish community], which along with the smaller communities in the area, numbered 40,000 Jews. He desperately struggled with himself. He decided that he could not look in the faces of Nazi animals and that he would not in any way agree to their proposal, even if he were risking his life and the lives of his family.
After a sleepless night of reflection and of inner-most struggle, Chaim Ringelblum left and notified Folkman that he refused his offer of the office. With this decision, Ringelblum showed great moral strength. Many Jews did not have such inner courage… A short time later, during the extermination actions in the Morka part of the city, the Gestapo members caught Ringelblum and his entire family and traces of them disappeared…
Ringelblum was a good soul. During the days of hunger and need in his own house, he had an open ear for all the
people who came to him to pour out their bitter hearts. He sympathized with everyone's sorrow and he made use of his personal influence with the rich men in the city to help the needy. Until his last second of life just like many others he was filled with illusions and with false hopes that despite the pain in his body and soul, the Jews in the captured nations would live to see the defeat of Hitler. He believed in the victory, the victory of good over evil, believed in the redemption and freedom of people. In the darkest moments he found words of consolation for the broken and despondent who would come to him.
There were two types of leaders in the ghetto: pessimists who predicted bad and inspired despair in the hearts of their listeners and optimists who strengthened and encouraged the mood of the fallen people and stilled their pain. Chaiml as they called Ringelblum was the head of the optimists in the city. People who were looking for a word of consolation in the most difficult minutes assembled around him.
Traces of Ringelblum disappeared at the time when the city already numbered hundreds of victims, thousands doomed, when there no longer was a house without a corpse… At the time after the two deportation actions in the city. The hearts of the people were horror-stricken in great sorrow and burning pain and their feelings became numb. Everyone was in his own pain and mourned for their closest ones. However, after the disappearance of Chaim Ringelblum, everyone cried and grieved. The man who consoled, cheered up everyone was gone. He had infected the hearts of those who listened to him with his own belief. This was the belief that the democratic countries, and particularly the workers' movement in the free nations would not permit Hitler to annihilate a people who had given the world the idea of fairness and justice…
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
Yakov or (as he was in general called) Yekl Biter was from his student days a Zionist and a devotee of the Hebrew language. In the Tzeri Zion [Zionist youth organization] student organization he was one of those who primarily emphasized learning how [to speak], to read and to write Hebrew.
He was the manager of the Hebrew library of the Safa Khaya [Hebrew the living language] Union and the most fervent propagandist for Hebrew among the young.
The youngest son of the rich wood merchant and industrialist, Gdalya Biter, Yekl was able to order every new Hebrew book and every new Hebrew journal and he lent to everyone who could and wanted to read [Hebrew].
In 1913 Yekl graduated from the Kolomea Polish gymnazie [secondary school] and then studied jurisprudence at the Vienna University.
After the First World War, he married Gitele Preminger, the daughter of the bead merchant, Reb Nota Preminger. Gitele also was a Zionist and a Hebraist and the Biter couple gave their children a Hebrew education not only with teachers in school, but also themselves, through the Hebraic atmosphere that reigned in their house.
During the years between the two World Wars, Yekl Biter quickly became known in the city as an industrialist and communal worker.
As an industrialist, he and his older brother, Hersh, led the largest wood business in the entire area. Several hundred people worked in the Biter business.
In the communal area, he immediately after his arrival in Kolomea in 1919 founded the academic union, Avoyde [worship]. He was the president of the union. He organized all cultural undertakings and he was the lecturer at all literary evenings and the director of all theater presentations.
Yekl Biter belonged to the general Zionist group. He was a member of the Zionist city committee the entire time and several times was also the chairman of the Zionist organization in the city. Biter did a great deal during the Polish election campaigns.
He was often a delegate to the Zionist congresses in Poland and several times to the Zionist World Congresses.
Jekl Biter's private Hebrew library, which possessed its own particularly considerable number of antiques, was well known in the city.
At the time of the first Soviet regime (1939-1941), eminent Zionist leaders would come together in secret at Yekl Biter's house.
When the Nazis entered Kolomea, Yekl Biter was one of the first victims. On Hashana Rabbah [the seventh day of Sukkous the Feast of Tabernacles], 1941, he and his family were taken to the Sheporovicer forest and there they were all shot.
by Nun Beis
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
Reb Efroim bar [son of] Moshe Klarman, was born in Krakow in 5684 (1874). As a young boy he already had a good name in his home city as a child prodigy in Talmud and commentaries. As a young man, Efroim Klarman secretly acquired great general expertise and knowledge from older friends.
The friends that helped Efroim Klarman to a broad general education were Dr. Dovid Rotblum, later one of [Nakhman] Bialik's closest friends and Hersh Malter, later professor of Talmudic literature at Dropsy College (died in Philadelphia in 1925).
In 1895 Efroim Klarman married the daughter of Reb Hersh Ramler, one of the very richest men in Kolomea, and thus became a resident of Kolomea.
Reb Hersh Ramler's young son-in-law quickly became a known and beloved personage in his new home city. He distinguished himself from all of the other pious Jews with his secular education and behavior and from all of the followers of the Enlightenment in the city with his deep piety. In the middle of the eastern Galicianer city of Kolomea, Efroim Klarman was the type of Orthodox Jew from the western German city of Frankfurt.
No one spoke a more beautiful Polish than Efroim Klarman and no one doffed his hat for a woman more elegantly, but at the same time, no one observed the daf yomi of the Gemora [daily study of the Talmud] more and no one recited the Shemoneh Esreh [central prayer of Jewish worship] with more religious ecstasy than Efroim Klarman.
After Reb Motia Herman's death, the leaders of the patrician Reb Ayzykl prayer house chose for their leader (synagogue manager) the Krakow young man, Reb Efroim Klarman.
Efroim Klarman also was one of the early Zionists in Kolomea and, also, one of the founders of the first Kheder Metukan [modern religious primary school] in the city.
Efroim Klarman was a refugee in Vienna during the First World War. When he returned to Kolomea from there, he was the chairman of the Jewish National Council and of the kehile managing committee during the Romanian occupation. Until his sudden death at the age of 54 in the summer of 1928, Reb Efroim Klarman was one of the Jewish spokesmen in the city.
Both friends and opponents related to Efroim Klarman with great respect.
Characteristic of the general love and respectful relationship to the person of Reb Efroim Klarman was an incident that took place at his funeral. A quarrel broke out at his funeral between the Agudah [Orthodox anti-Zionists] and the Zionists. The members of Agudah argued that they did not want to permit an apikorsim [heretic] to trouble himself with the funeral of such a devout person as Reb Efroim Klarman. The Zionists argued that Efroim Klarman was an active Zionist all his life and a spokesman for the Zionist movement in the city.
Thousands of Jews as well as non-Jews accompanied Reb Efroim Klarman to his grave at the new cemetery.
Efroim Klarman's oldest son, Dr. Moshe Elihu Nhir, lives in Tel Aviv, where he is a well-known pedagogue and secondary-school teacher.
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
Reb Hanokh Shekhter was born in Chortkov. In 1904, in Kolomea, he married the daughter of Reb Leibl Eiferman and his wife, Mesholem Velvel's Reyzl, who was known for her piety and charity and also as the owner of the largest millenary shop.
Reb Hanokh Shekhter quickly became well known in the city as a great scholar and as a fervid Chortkover Hasid and a leading activist in the Mizrakhi [religious Zionist] Party.
Zionism was a major challenge for Reb Hanokh Shekhter. When he became the official propagandist for Mizrakhi in 1930 and traveled through the cities of eastern Galicia as an envoy for Keren Eretz Yisroel [Land of Israel Organization] from Mizrakhi, he had to carry on a difficult struggle with Agudas Yisroel [Union of Israel Orthodox party].
His opposition to Agudas Yisroel created a wall between him and the Chortkover Rebbe, Reb Yisroel. Reb Hanokh Shekhter remained with Mizrakhi and he stopped traveling to Chortkov. But he remained a Chortkover Hasid for all of his days, not less fervid than his father, Reb Avraham Shoykhet [ritual slaughterer] of Chortkov.
The book of memoirs that Reb Hanokh Shekhter published in Tel Aviv in 5703  (with an introduction by the famous Hebrew writer, Dov Sadan) breathes not only with Hasidic warmth but also with his unyielding partisan spirit, so that he is known not just as a Hasid [follower] of a rebbe but as a Hasid of the Chortkover Rebbe.
This was both incomprehensible and intelligible with such Jews as Reb Hanokh Shekhter. Incomprehensible because the Mizrakhi activist, Hanokh Shekhter, was a man of wide national horizons. And understandably, because he was a Jew deeply rooted in the old family tradition and the inherited ball of fire did not cease to burn.
Reb Hanokh Shekhter and his family emigrated to Eretz Yisroel in 1933. He died there at the age of 77 in the summer of 1955.
Reb Hanokh Shekhter's children live in Israel. His son-in-law is the well-known Hebrew poet and translator from Yiddish to Hebrew, Shimeon Melcer.
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
No one in Kolomea from before the First World War was a socialist with [as much] knowledge as Moshe Herer's oldest son, Mikhal, who wore a beautiful, black beard, a wide black hat and a black, artistic cravat, strolled with a Ukrainian woman dressed in national dress, publicly smoked on Shabbos [the Sabbath] and, as Jews would say by way of exaggeration, sat in jail every Monday and Thursday.
Mikhal Herer's father, Reb Moshe, was a rich grain merchant, wore a shtreiml [fur hat worn by Hasidic men] and prayed at Yekl Beidaf's synagogue.
Mikhal attended the Kolomea gymnazie [secondary school] and then studied jurisprudence at Lemberg University. He did not graduate from the university because he and his comrade, Oster, were expelled for carrying out socialist propaganda. Herer was the secretary to the famous leader of the P.P.S. [Polska Partia Socjalistyczna Polish Socialist Party], the Kolomea lawyer, Dr. Shmuel Eliezer (Samuel Lazarcz) Schor. He and Dr. Schor took part in international socialist congresses and also were at the congress of the Austrian Social-Democrats in Vienna on the eve of the outbreak of the First World War.
Herer was one of the most capable worker organizers in the city. He organized the artisans of Yad Harutzim [Arm of the Diligent], as well as the Polish railroad workers, bricklayers and weavers and Jewish talisim [prayer shawls] weavers.
Herer was a regular speaker at the First of May celebration, where he spoke Polish and Ukrainian. He spoke Yiddish at Yad Harutzim.
Herer led a demonstration from the Leiblech Hall to the city hall during the parliamentary elections with the demand that the voting slate be issued. He and Simkha Weic and Oster were then arrested and sentenced to jail.
A convinced member of the P.P.S., Herer appeared against Jewish separatism. The Zsh. P. S. section (the Jewish section of the party) was created against Herer's will. He also was a later opponent of Zionism, but despite this a warm Jew.
After the First World War, he moved to Lemberg, where he was an employee at the Polish firm, Nafte. The Nazis murdered him there in Lemberg.
by Lamed Giml
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
I do not know when Moshe Sak was born. And I do not even remember when he died. But I know that during the 14 years of our century before the First World War he was a renowned person in the city.
Moshe Sak was a Jew, a poor man, burdened with children and a number of them were sick. Moshe Sak lived with Betz, the shoemaker, on Szpitalna Street in a room with a small kitchen. The bookbindery was located at the [house] of the widow Heller on the Ring Platz. And there in the bookbindery, was the main room for the Polish Socialist Party (P.P.S.) in the city.
Moshe Sak, a Jew in a long jacket during the week and in a long, coarse men's coat and shtreiml [fur hat worn usually by Hasidim] on Shabbos [Sabbath], was a fervid Polish Socialist. He prayed with Yad HaRutzim [Arm of the Diligent], went to hear a sermon by the city preacher, Reb Yitzhak Weber, on Shabbos and went to the tish [table communal meal with a Hasidic rabbi] of the Rebbe-Bokher [Hasidic rabbi who was a young man]. However, in addition to this, Moshe Sak was a follower of the P.P.S. [Polish Socialist Party]. He did not speak or read Polish, but he nevertheless trusted the Krakower Naprzód [Krakow Forward] and the Lemberger Głos [Lemberg Voice] and was an opponent of bringing a Yiddish newspaper to the Artisans' Union. The bookbinder, Moshe Sak, was an assimilated Pole. The Jewish division, the Jewish Socialist Party, was created in the Polish Socialist Party, against Moshe Sak's will. He was for complete integration.
At Moshe Sak's bookbindery the policy of the P.P.S. in the city was decided, as well as for the artisans' union, Yad HaRutzim. At election time, the main room for socialist activity was in Moshe Sak's bookbindery.
Every decision, before it was made by the city committee, was discussed first in Moshe Sak's bookbindery by Dr. Schor's Leib-Gvardii [imperial guard]: Mordekhai Leib Weitz, Shimkha Weitz, Fishele Thau, Mikhal Herer, Naftali Kestn, Shmuel Hilzenrat and Chaim Bretler and his wife.
Chaim Bretler was an insurance agent for Viktoria and Feniks and was the only one among the people meeting in Moshe Sak's workshop who lived well, lived in an apartment of six rooms and dressed elegantly.
Moshe Sak held the authority at the meetings. The strike of the talisim [prayer shawl] weavers was carried out from his workshop. Moshe Sak for all his life remained a consistent member of the P.P.S. Even during the time of free Poland, after the death of the famous leader of the Kolomea P.P.S., Dr. Samuel Lazarcz Schor, when the anti-Semitism of the P.P.S. strengthened, Moshe Sak, and a number of comrades, remained a Polish socialist an opponent not only of Zionism but also of Bundist nationalism.
Moshe Sak, the P.P.S. member, bookbinder, had many enemies in the city, but no friend and no opponent doubted that Moshe Sak was an honest and devoted socialist who was ready to give his life for socialism, as his Rebbe, Dr. Samuel Lazarcz Schor, had preached and explained for him.
Yehuda Borukh Feierstein
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
Before the First World War, Yehuda Borukh Feierstein was one of the better known watchmakers in the city.
In 1918, Yehuda Borukh Feierstein returned to Kolomea from Vienna where he had been a refugee during the war
with his family. During the war years, the jewelry merchants in Vienna left for good and Feierstein, the jewelry merchant, returned to Kolomea with money. He bought Shaul Breyer's house on the A-B line [designation of the building on the perimeter of the market] and there arranged one of the largest jewelry shops in the city.
Feierstein was a young man with many temperaments, with great communal initiative and with a feeling for all roads and paths of politics. He truly, quickly became an important activist in the city.
He began to organize the merchants and created a Merchants Union with a well- functioning apparatus that was concerned with a very important matter to Jewish merchants under the Polish regime taxes.
The Merchants Union grew greatly under the leadership of Yehuda Borukh Feierstein and of the lawyer, Dr. Izidor Bar, and of the managing committee in which sat among other well-known shopkeepers in the city, Shlomo Elster, Yosl Lederfeind, Ayzyk Fund, Zelig Sperber, Heinrich Reisman, Zisie Ziskind, Chaim Bortn, Motie Bank and others. The union doubled its membership and was a political power that had to be considered by both the Jewish parties and the Polish state.
Yehuda Borukh Feierstein, during the years between the two world wars, was a true, the true mediator of the small Jewish merchants and artisans, whom the state tax machine was trying to destroy.
Feierstein's devoted humanity was recognized by all, even his Polish opponents, who fought him, because his politics as a mediator was a moment of respite for the Polish power holders.
Feierstein occupied important offices both at the city managing committee and at the Jewish kehile [organized Jewish community]. He was appointed and also elected as assessor at the city hall, a member of the kehile managing committee, treasurer at the municipal savings fund and delegate to the chamber of commerce in Stanislau [Ivano-Franivsk]. And he served every office with distinction.
I cannot forget, Mr. Feierstein Chaim Ringelblum, the leader of the city Hitachdut [Zionist Socialists] group, once said to him in a public quarrel that the boundary of your political
work is the boundary of Kolomea, the Werbish Bridge. Because beyond Kolomea, no Jews stand behind your shoulders.
This was actually true. However, it also was true that in Kolomea, for the poor of Kolomea, Yehuda Borukh Feierstein was a devoted intercessor and helper.
Yehuda Borukh Feierstein and his family were among the first victims of the Nazis. The German murderers annihilated Feierstein, his wife Nety and four of their children in 1941 in the Szeparowicer Forest.
Only one of Feierstein's daughters survived. Feierstein's brothers, Leib (today in Israel) and Ayzyk (today in New York) survived.
by Sh. B.
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
I remember him somewhere from the third class of gymnazie [secondary school]. Until then, Emanuel, the son of the rich mill owner, Shlomo Luft, of the firm Asderbal and Luft, studied with private teachers. One of his private teachers was none other than the future well-known Jewish philosopher, Professor Dovid Neimark.
Emanuel Luft was the oldest of our class in years, the tallest in height and the most mature according to knowledge and commonsense.
He did not belong to our Jewish educational groups, Tseiri Zion [Zionist Youth]. But a year or two after his arrival, he created a group in our class with the name Europe for, in general, the most essential philosophical education. Of the members of that group who would come together from time to time and mainly under Luft's leadership, in addition to Luft and me, I remember two Poles, the son of the Kolomea court president, Jasek Bernacki, later an
officer in the Polish Army and the son of the Kolomea tax director, Stanislaw Liphardt, later a doctor and a man of letters, and of the Jews, the son of a rich egg exporter, Karol Bishel, and the later lecturer at Vienna University, Philp Mandeles-Merlan.
After those young, philosophic discussions at Europe, 27 years later, approximately a month before his death, Emanuel Luft and I met in America at a hotel in the eighties around Columbus Avenue, where he struggled with a relentless stomach illness under the care of a nurse.
Here we began to talk in a few half hours about what had happened to each of us in the more than a quarter of a century that had passed.
For Emanuel Luft it had passed thus: in 1923 he received his doctorate in political science, specializing in economics and in financial matters.
He worked at the large Warsaw bank, Bank Diskontowie Warszawskie [Warsaw Discount Bank] and he quickly became the chief director there and the expert on international financial matters.
In the early summer of 1939, the Polish government sent him to America and to Canada to seek a loan from the banks there. Luft carried out the mission with success and returned to Warsaw on the last ship that sailed to Poland from New York on the 8th of August.
After the German invasion he was successful in escaping to Romania and from there he crossed Italy and arrived in New York in spring 1940.
Here business friends who were eager to make use of Luft's extraordinary abilities as a financial visionary and as a financial technician waited for him.
However, his severe illness clouded the road for the 48-year-old man. Luft fought the illness like an opposing party in a great confrontation: with cool dignity, with commonsensical, resigned indulgence and without the least expression of self-pity.
The great finance man, on his sick bed in New York, was sustained by the knowledge of stoic philosophy he acquired during his childhood, which was drilled into his head and ours in the European social circle in Kolomea.
Five days after the outbreak of the Soviet-German War, which he greeted as the beginning of a possibility of Hitler's defeat with the weak voice of his last day, he died on the night of the 27th of June 1941.
Dr. Anselm Kleinmann
by Z. R. Lek
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
In the years before the First World War and in the first few years between the two World Wars, Antshel (Anselm), the son of Mordekhai Hersh the toker [turner], was the most popular Kolomea writer.
Mordekhai Hersh Toker (Kleinmann) was also a people's poet in his youth and wrote Purim-shpiln [Purim plays] and presented them with friends.
Antshel (Anselm) Kleinmann graduated from the Kolomea Polish gymnazie [secondary school] and studied jurisprudence in Chernovitz and in Lemberg. Under the influence of Leibl Toybsz, Kleinmann became interested in Yiddish literature and was a co-worker at Toybsz's Yidishn Vokhenblat [Yiddish Weekly Newspaper] and at Lemberger Togblat [Lemberg Daily Newspaper]. In 1906, Kleinmann was a member of the editorial committee of Gershom Bader's Nayes Lemberger Togblat [New Lemberg Daily Newspaper] and there, at that newspaper and also at the Polish-Yiddish periodicals and at Voskhod [Dawn] and Moriah, he wrote articles, short stories and theater reviews.
Anselm Kleinmann was one of the secretaries of the Chernovitz Language Conference in 1908 and then co-editor of Dr. Nusan Birnbaum's periodical, Beshas der Milkhome [During the War], he was a co-worker and, then, editor of the Vienna Yiddish newspaper, Di Viner Morgenzeitung [The Viennese Morning Newspaper].
At the beginning of 1920, Dr. Kleinmann came to America and remained until the end of 1921. During the two years, he wrote in the New York Yiddish newspapers, Yidishes Tageblat [Jewish Daily News], Tag-Varhayt [Daily Truth] and the Tsayt [Time].
Between the years 1922-1924, Anselm Kleinmann published three yearbooks in Lemberg named Yidisher Literarisher Kalendar [Yiddish Literary Calendar] and with them he tried to carry on the tradition of Gershom Bader and Moshe Frostig's Almanakhn [Almanacs], which over the course of years became the centers for Yiddish literary creativity in Galicia.
Kleinmann translated two songs from Goethe's famous poem, Hermann und Dorothea. The translation was published in the Lemberg weekly, Der Yidisher Arbeter [The Jewish Worker].
At the end of the 1920s, Dr. Anslem Kleinmann withdrew from literary work, moved to the city of Jaroslaw and there practiced the legal profession until the end of the community in 5612 [Translator's note: 1952 this is an error, the date should be 5702 1942]. Dr. Anslem Kleinmann perished there together with the holy community of Jews.
Dr. Eliezer Bickel
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
Eliezer Bickel was born on the 8th of May 1902 (Rosh Khodesh [new month] Ayer 5662) in a village in southern Bukovina to his father, Reb Itsie Bickel, a Torah scholar, a follower of the Enlightenment, a [member of] Poalei Zion [Workers of Zion Marxist Zionists], a Hovevi Zion [Lover of Zion], and then a fervid political Zionist.
His father sent him at the age of six to study in his home city of Kolomea. In Kolomea, Eliezer remained in the house of his grandfather, Reb Mordekhai Bickel until the second Russian occupation in 1916.
Eliezer attended the folks-shul [public school] in Kolomea and the Polish gymnazie [secondary school] to the fourth class. He finished the secular subjects in Chernovitz in 1920 and then studied medicine at Bucharest University.
In 1926, the young Bucharest doctor left for further studies in Berlin. There he became an assistant to Professor Wagner, the director of the gynecological division of the charity clinic. He wrote a series of works in the area of gynecological research. The Berlin Medical Faculty gave Eliezer Bickel its doctorial diploma without an exam.
In April 1933, Eliezer returned from the Germany that had become Nazified to Romania, and in Bucharest quickly became one of the leading gynecologists and surgeons in the area of women's illnesses. He was the director of the gynecological division in the Jewish hospital, Mentshn-Libe (Jubirea de Omeni [Loving People]).
In addition to medicine, Eliezer Bickel was interested in philosophy. His knowledge of Spinoza led him to a friendship with the philosopher, Constantin Brunner, the author of Di Geistigen und das Folk [German title is Die Lehre von den Geitigen und von Volke The Teaching of the Spiritual and of the People] and other books for expanding and deepening of Spinozism.
Constantin Brunner took Eliezer under his wing and he was one of his most beloved and most important students. In his will, Brunner designated Eliezer (Lothar) Bickel as trustee of his literary estate.
After the death of Constantin Brunner in 1937 in The Hague, Eliezer Bickel published and wrote introductory words to three books by his teacher: 1) Undzer Kharater [Our Character] (publisher Di Liga, Zurich, 1938), 2) Kunst, Filosofie, Mistik [Art, Philosophy, Mysticism] (publisher Humanitas, Zurich, 1940), 3) Der Entlarvte Mensch [The Exposed Man] (publisher Nishzhof, the Hague, 1951).
Eliezer published two of his own books during his life: 1) Zur Renesans der Filosofie [To the Renaissiance of Philosophy] (publisher Guchtov Kifenhauer, Berlin, 1931) and Probleme und Ziele des Denkent [Problems and Goals of Thinking] (publisher Humanitas, Zurich, 1939).
After his premature death, another two books were published, to which his good friend, Moshe Sterian of Toronto, wrote
introductory words: 1) Wirklichkeit und Warheit des Denkens [Reality and Truth of Thought] (Diana Publishers, Zurich, 1953), and 2) Kultur [Culture] (Diana Publishers, Zurich, 1956). Two more books from Eliezer Bickel's literary estate were prepared and published by his previously mentioned friend, Moshe Sterian.
In 1949, Eliezer succeeded in leaving Sovietized Romania with his wife and child. He settled in Montreal, Canada, and prepared to revive his medical practice.
A serious heart attack made an end of Eliezer Bickel, who had not ended his 49th year, on the first day of Kol Hamoyed Pesakh 5711 [the first intermediate day of Passover] (23rd of April 1951).
In his introduction to Eliezer Bickel's book, Wirklichkeit und Warheit, Moshe Sterian writes:
Thinking and doing were identical for Bickel and it meant the development of all his strength of intellect and feeling. This came to expression illuminatingly. Everyone who knew him was under the strong force of his personality. His incomparable insight went hand and hand with the ethos and emotion that flowed in his warm heart. In his last years, he spoke very little, but the silence was a result of his quiet, creative depth and of the most internal harmony. Goodness and wisdom were loving sisters who love each other and were worthy of being loved.
Dr. Yisroel Osterzetser
by Sh. A.
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
The son of Reb Ruwin Osterzetser and the grandson of Reb Leibush Osterzetser, the young Yisroel had behind him the tradition of an illustrious and scholarly Kolomea family.
Yisroel Osterzetser studied with the former head of the Lublin Yeshiva [religious secondary school], Reb Meir Szpira, and, in addition, he studied subjects at the universities of Krakow and Warsaw. In 1927 he received his doctorate
in history and classical philology. In 1928 he made contact with the Institute for Jewish Studies in Warsaw and there became the assistant of the Talmud Professor, Dr. Avraham Weiss. In 1935, Yisroel Osterzetser became the lecturer on Talmudic and Hebraic Literature of the Middle Ages. He was the youngest lecturer at the Institute.
Dr. Osterzetser published a series of research works in the area of students' rights. At the university itself, Dr. Osterzetser took upon himself the heavy burden of practical examination work and maintained personal contact with the students who, for the most part, were the same age as he.
In 1936, Dr. Osterzetser was elected the vice president of the Union of Hebrew Writers in Poland.
Yisroel Osterzetser was a young, educated man with great talent and a great deal more was awaited from him in the area of Talmudic and Hebraic literary research.
by Shin Beis
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
Chaim Ziskind's youngest son Hershl, or Henrik, as he was called at the Kolomea Polish gymnazie [secondary school], or Heinrich, as he was called during his residency in Germany, was my gymnazie friend. He was the son of a rich father and was himself a stately and well-dressed young man.
He together with the majority of gymnazie students belonged to the secret organization of the Jewish educational circles, Tseiri-Zion [Youth of Zion].
With him, with Henrik Ziskind at home on Sobieski Street, in the spacious, beautiful kitchen, we held the meetings of our educational circle, Palestine, every Shabbos [Sabbath] afternoon. At the head of the small group in 1913 were gymnazie students from the sixth class. Henrik Ziskind was the secretary (he wrote useful and exact
minutes), Shmai Manger, then a young Yiddish poet (died in America in 1954) the vice chairman and the writer of these lines the chairman. Benyamin Praiz, who wrote dramas (he fell in the First World War) was also among the leaders of the group.
Shmai Manger, Praiz and I struggled to be writers. Ziskind dreamed more about publishing in Germany.
His older sister and brother lived in Germany and Henrik was always their guest at vacation time. Henrik really liked this and spoke a good German and he was the Germanist in gymnazie.
After graduating from the gymnazie, I lost trace of Ziskind. However, during the 1920s, the news reached me that he had settled in Berlin after the First World War, that he had joined the Communist Party and obtained a prominent position there. At the end of the 1920s, Henrik Ziskind achieved the high position of chief editor of the communist central organ in Germany, Di Rote Fahne.
Here in New York in 1941, I was told about those few years of Henrik Ziskind at the height of his party success by our former gymnazie friend, Emanuel Luft (see his portrait in the same section, Portraits), who would meet him in Berlin from time to time. Luft said how Henrik Ziskind had grown intellectually, what a brilliant orator and writer he was and how high he therefore rose in the hierarchy of the Communist Party in Germany.
Henrik Ziskind's party success, as said, lasted no more than a few years. After Hitler came to power, Ziskind along with most leading communists left for Russia and there
The only news they we possess about Ziskind in Russia comes from the book of the former communist, Jan Waltin, Aroys fun der Finsternish (Out of the Night), Alliance Book Corporation, Chicago, 1941). And there, in Waltin, it is written that Henrik Ziskind was liquidated together with many other German communist refugees in Stalinland about a year after his arrival in Russia.
Dr. Feywl Shternberg
by Sh. B.
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
He was a pioneer in PoaleZion [Workers of Zion Marxist Zionists] in Galicia before the First World War and he was the main spokesman for PoaleZion in Romania immediately after the First World War.
When I became personally acquainted with Feywl Shternberg in the summer of 1919 in Czernowitz [Chernivtsi], I actually had been acquainted with him for a total of 10 years. He had belonged to the group of ZionistSocialist students who very strongly influenced we Kolomea gymnazie [secondary school] students.
The young Kolomea student, Feywl Shternberg, was one of the most important propaganda workers for Yiddish [to be used in taking] the government census of 1910. He appeared on the same dais with Shlomo Kaplanski and with Nusan Birnbaum and had exceptional oratorial success. The young Kolomea student was a coworker at the PoaleZion party newspaper, Der Yidisher Arbeiter [The Jewish Worker], in Lemberg and even the editor for a time of this weekly publication.
At the end of the First World War, Shternberg moved to Czernowitz, where he was the editor of the PoaleZion weekly publication, Di Freiheit [The Freedom].
Shternberg lived in Czernowitz for only a scant two years (from Autumn 1918 to Summer 1920). However, during the two years, he achieved prestige and importance for himself and for the PoaleZion Party that is usually not easy to attain in ten times the time.
Along with the Bundist Yakov Pistiner and the General Zionist Meir Ebner, he was surely the most popular personality in the city. And on the dais, Shternberg had no equal.
The late young Yakov Pistiner was the most politically experienced among the Bukoviner Jewish party leaders; Meir Ebner distinguished himself from among everyone with his writing talent; the youngest among them, Feywl Shternberg, possessed oratorical fervor and brilliance and took his listeners by storm.
I actually remember Shternberg's stormy success for PoaleZion at the Jewish National Council in Czernowitz, summer 1919, when he spoke in the name of PoaleZion, and both the Bundists and the General Zionists kept increasing his speaking time, did not want him to leave the dais because they stood under the spell of his argumentation, of the way in which he built and expressed his arguments.
In the summer of 1920, Shternberg left Czernowitz and moved to Vienna, where he quickly occupied an esteemed position in the legal profession.
At the FolksUniversitet [People's University] of the SocialDemocratic Party in Vienna, Shternberg had the ability to make use of his great lawyerly zeal for the socialist world vision with great success and pleasure.
Here in New York, an escapee from Hitler's Vienna one pulled from his GalicianerBukovina and from his Vienna environment he could not find a way of active cooperation with PoaleZion nor with the Viennese refugees.
Feywl Shternberg [known as Philip Sternberg in New York] died of a heart attack on the 18th of June 1948 in New York.
The older of his two sons, Daniel, is a music professor at State College of Waco, Texas, and the younger one, Eli, is a professor at the Technical High School in Chicago.
by Sh. B.
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
I was still a gymnazie [secondary school] student, a student in the higher classes of the Kolomea gymnazie, when the news spread that Yeshaya Gronik [Alexander Granach's original name], a bekeryingl [baker boy] from the nearby shtetl [town], Horodenka, had left for Berlin and all of Germany had gone topsyturvy because of his talent.
Understand that at that time this was an exaggeration. However, the exaggeration quickly became true. In preHitlerist Germany, Granach occupied a leading place in the German theater world. It was not possible to list Germany's ten greatest dramatic actors and to leave out the name of Alexander Granach.
Granach was not the only Jew among the great, but almost certainly the only one with a vigilant intuition and with a consciousness of his historical Yidishkeit [Jewishness, connoting an emotional connection to Judaism and/or to the Jewish people and their history, beliefs and customs]. Granach never tried to wipe away Yeshaya Gronik, the poor baker boy from Horodenka, from Zolishtchik [Zalishchyky], from Kolomea and from Stanislav.
The familiar tone was always articulated from Granach's stage persona and it was noticeable in his familiar gestures of a Jewish man of the people who combined the philosophical gentleness of Sholem Aleichem's Tevya the Milkman, the strength of [Joseph] Opatoshu's Kivke Gonif [Kivke the thief] and [Zalman] Shneur's Noakh Pandre and the stormy protest of a modern Jewish proletarian defender. Somewhere this element of Granach, the Jew from Horodenka and from Kolomea, was sublimated in all of his roles: in Faust, in Shylock and in Professor Mamlock. Granach's Jewish color and sounds were always noticeable and could be discerned in them.
Alexander Granach was a Jewish man on the German stage who acted in German. But in his core, he always interpreted the persona of that sadsmart and stormy
loquacious Shaya from his village of birth, Wierzbowce [Verbivtsi], after which his father named him and which he himself immortalized in his book of memoirs, S'geyt a Mentsh [published in English as There Goes an Actor].
I became acquainted with Granach in 1915 in the Austrian military in the Joint Division (division of officer candidates). He served the officers there in the casino, did recitations of Faust for them and earned applause and enthusiasm from them.
After the [First World] war I met him in Kolomea. He was active at the Jewish Social Democratic Party and was a beloved speaker at their meetings. And he reached the very apex of oratorical success. He stood at the Torah reading desk at the large synagogue and thundered a protest against the pogroms against the Jews in Lemberg. It was an unforgettable speech. Granach expressed Shylock's irony and revenge, the selfsacrifice of Kivke Gonif and the clever wisdom of fate of Tevye the Milkman. In short: This speech in the Kolomea synagogue was the prelude to Granach's later 20yearlong theater [career], where the previously mentioned elements of persona occasionally emerged in succession and occasionally together.
At the time of Hitler, he wandered to the Soviet Union; from there (after months in prison) to Switzerland, and from Switzerland to America, first to California and then to New York.
He tried to act in the Yiddish theater, but the glory days of Yiddish theater in America had long passed. There was no place for Granach in the theater.
He began to write his memoirs. The book of memories was published in German and Swedish. He could not find a Yiddish publisher during his lifetime.
This grieved him greatly but was this bitterness drawn into his heart?
Granach died suddenly after an appendectomy on the 14th of April 1945. I saw him dead in his coffin. A smile was frozen on his face, which gave evidence that Granach left the world without complaint and in the very fervor of hope, of faith and with love of the people.
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