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[Page 100]

History of Zionist movements
in Przemysl before W.W. I


Jehudia, Some Memories
(The events of an academic organization)

The Remnant of Memories

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{There is a text footnote here that reads: “From the pamphlet “Forty Years (5664-5704 – 1904-1944) Since the Founding of the Herzl Organization of Przemysl”, Tel Aviv, 1944.)

The Jehudia academic organization is worthy of an honorable place and mention of its existence in the annals of the Zionist movement of the academic youth in Przemysl, despite the fact that it was only a vision of “struggle” and only existed for a brief period.

It is most unfortunate that no remnant exists of the archives of this organization, which would be able to serve as a variegated background to the tapestry of this fine movement that was called Jehudia, and would add a precious stone to the pearls of Galician Zionism.

Jehudia was founded in Przemysl at the end of 1917 by a small number of high school graduates, who did not know the smell and taste of the life of an academic citizen on account of the war. These were youths who wore the romantic spirit of Zionism with all its purity and might beneath the coarse fatigues of the soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.

Thus was borne the idea of bringing to life an academic organization in the city with many youths.

Prior to the war of 1914-1918, student groups (i.e. consisting of high school students) existed in Przemysl as they did in all the cities of Galicia, whose purpose was to complete the education of their members by instilling Jewish knowledge, as well as developing the national and Zionist spirit. Agudat Herzl, which was active a number of years before 1914-1918, drew greatly from the wellspring of these powers prior to the war. With the outbreak of the war, the members of Agudat Herzl were dispersed throughout the monarchy, whether in the army or having fled. From 1914 – 1917, Zionism in Przemysl was sunk in a deep sleep. Then a small group of youth arose who were not able to accept the frozen situation. They established Jehudia in place of Agudat Herzl, whose absence was felt in the both the educational and communal realms.

The members of this “wartime” movement were not only from Przemysl, but also people from other places who happened to find themselves in Przemysl.

Without any means, without a roof over their heads, without experienced counselors, as wandering wayfarers, for the most part uninvited, these youths began feverish activity in the organizational field in the city. In the merit of this work, within a brief period, this organization attracted approximately 40 fine youth, all of them enthusiastic about the idea of the renaissance and renewal of the nation. All of them were girded for the battle against assimilation and disillusionment that pervaded among the Jews of the city on the one hand, and their indifference toward the lovers of Zion on the other hand.

Through the efforts of Jehudia, the local Zionist committee was established on a democratic basis, which until this time was the heritage of a few “spiced” individuals whose entire activity was to beautify the Maccabee celebrations. It is possible to state without exaggeration that the organization literally performed wonders in the organizational realm. It was active and instigation activity, it blew the breath of life into dry bones. Members of this organization served as a living example of dedicated and enthusiastic Zionists. This flame attracted and enthused others as well. After several months, the way of Zionist life underwent fundamental change, from one extreme to the other.

Through the energies of Jehudia, a Keren Kayemet Committee was set up with the honorable and beloved chairman Dr. Josef Knoller, who later became the permanent chairman of the Keren Kayemet Committee of the city.

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The participation of Przemysl in the national convention of 1918 in Lvov demonstrated to everyone the great blessing that accompanied the work of Jehudia in Przemysl. A six-person delegation set out from Przemysl, headed by the rabbi and gaon, the rabbi of the city, Rabbi Gedalia Szmelkes who was chosen as the honorary president of the convention. The “guests” who participated included Abraham Chaim Klagsbald, Dr. Szucman, and the Engineer Jawetz. From Jehudia there were Kuba Herzig and the writer of these lines [Tzvi Amit – ed.], who organized and conducted the elections to the convention according to custom and regulations.

Who remembers all the details of the blessed work that was done in the field of local Zionism by Jehudia?

When the members of Agudat Herzl began to return at the end of 1918, they were able to see that the scarlet thread of academic tradition in Zionist life in the city continued to be woven, without interruption.

With the return of the members of Agudat Herzl, the fine question arose as to whether to maintain two separate organizations in the city or to blend them into one unit. Those who opted for separation were very few in the city, and the vast majority of Jehudia members were against separation. The dispute was sharp, all holy and for the sake of heaven… After “Homeric” battles with orators who shot “cannons” from both sides and who attempted to hunt for souls through influence of ideas, and after a certain “dramatic” meeting, the two groups were merged and became one. The elder sister, Agudat Herzl, gathered in its younger brother. Aside from a few lone people, the members of Jehudia transferred to Agudat Herzl, which remained the only organization in the city. It renewed its activities as before.



Jehudia, 1918

Standing left to right: Frisch, Birken, Schmiedel, Morgenroth, Trachtenberg, Rebhun, Katz, Eisner, Segal, Tuchmann, Kleinhaus, Morgenroth, Spatz, Poppers, Torbe, Brodheim, Fenster, Ortner, Kupfer
Sitting: Nagel, Sack, Kupfer, Freund, Herzig, Goldfarb Morgenroth, Sack, Gottfried, Trachtenberg


It is quite possible that this modest overview will remain the sole monument to Jehudia, and to all the fine youths,

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who nurtured it and formed it. Therefore, I shall be permitted to mention the names of several of the founders of this organization, and several of its prime activists. The following are among the founders: Tulu Kupfer of blessed memory, Kuba Herzig, Wilek Nagel, and the writer of these lines. I will mention only the names of the most active members: Dr. David Sack and his brother Bernard, Julek Goldfarb, Leib Poppers, Dr. Samel (today a physician in Haifa), and Milek Szmeruk [Schmeruk] (today in Tel Aviv). My apologies to all the members and comrades, dear and precious, whose names are not mentioned here, for this survey was written solely from memory after 27 years. It is possible that for that same reason, some details were omitted, and some errors are included – and for that I extend my apologies.

Tzvi Amit (Freund), the first and last Senior of the Jehudia organization

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About Haivria

by Y. A.

Translated by Jerrold Landau



Ivria before 1914

Standing left to right: Messner, J. Knoller, I. Antman, and E. Katz. Sitting: J. Mann, G. Knoller, J. Katz, and I. Rosenbaum


An organization called Ivria was founded in Przemysl at about 1908, as a chapter of the movement by that name. This was in fulfillment of the decisions that were taken at the convention of the World Hebrew Organization that convened in Berne. The purpose of this organization was to spread knowledge of Hebrew language and literature among the Jewish youth. The organization in Przemysl was among the first in Galicia that was set up in accordance with the decisions of the Berne convention. The organization succeeded in actualizing its objective after a brief period. Its members worked with enthusiasm and dedication. Some of its members were numbered among the youth

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who had traditional Jewish and Hebrew education. There were other young men and women who maintained some connection to this group of youth. Even though Ivria was not Zionist according to its charter, for practical purposes its members were imbued with the national Zionist spirit. After some years it became clear that the activities of Haivria not only assisted in actualizing the goals of the World Hebrew Organization, but also in the development of the Zionist movement of the city.

Members of the Ivria organization belonged to various factions of the Zionist movement. Among them were members of the Hashachar religious Zionist organization, including Icchak Mann and Jehoshua Katz, who were among the founders of Haivriya; Abraham Sonne who was the man of spirit of the Zionist movement in the city; the brothers Josef and Gabriel Knoller; Manes Kartgener; Shmuel Hirschfeld; Tzvi Baumwald; Efraim Porat (then Einhorn); Aharon Freund; Abraham Isman; and Izrael Rosenbaum.



Ivria Committee of 5684 / 1924

Standing left to right: Freifeld, Bierman, Sobel, Shachner, Granik, Wirt
Sitting: Mamber, Tuchmann, Silfer, Bernstein, Halpern, Fratz, Langsam, Kneppel, Siedwerts, Eisner


The activities of this organization were very wide branched. First and foremost they obtained books of the new Hebrew literature, as well as new publications of the Haskala literature and translations of books in the vernacular. A significant degree of book purchasing was enabled by the income from the lecture of Sonne, to which a large audience came. Members of the organization read very many of the books of the library. Great pleasure was derived from the discussions with Ivria members about national problems. Debates were frequently arranged in the organization regarding the new books. In addition, parties in honor of important writers were frequently arranged, as well as national celebrations whose prime content was readings and declamations. Haivria grew from year to year, until the outbreak of the world war in 1914. Then

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its activists ensured that its prime property, the library, would be stored in a safe place before they left as soldiers and refugees. They transferred it to the communal leadership, which continued to operate also during wartime. Thus was the library saved.

The First World War interrupted the activities of the organization. A portion of its members were drafted into the army, and a portion left the city with the stream of refugees before the Russian conquest. With the liberation of the city by the Austrian army, some sort of awakening took place in the midst of the Jewish youth who had come of age in the meantime, as well as with the students of the Kloiz and Beis Midrashes who had not yet reached the age of the draft. These youths who felt the emptiness of the soul on the one hand and the thirst for the content of a new life on the other hand, searched for a means of changing the face of their lives. The youth came to the realization that the Hebrew language and culture were an inseparable part of the national renaissance. Therefore an organization by name of Hatechiya was founded, which was a continuation of Haivria during its time. The library that was saved once again fulfilled its role. The cultural and spiritual life in the midst of the Jewish youth of the city were reawakened. New, pleasant forces were added, and they conducted many activities such as: meetings and gatherings of cultural topics, lectures, communal judgements such as the judgment of Saul and King David for the Jewish youth of the city, and Hebrew courses for youth and adults.

Among the activists during the inter-war period we must note Mr. Pinkas Erbsman, Josef Ortner, Jehoshua Bernstein, Abraham Katz, Aryeh Kahana, Mrs. Pnina Frankfurter, and Esther Silfen.

With the growth of the circle of Hebrew speakers in the city, with the increase of cultural activities to impart the Hebrew language that became the cultural acquisition of all the Zionist organizations in the city, and with the founding of the Jewish gymnasium, the scope of activities of Haivria declined. A few years before the Holocaust, it merged with the Achva popular Zionist youth organization.

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Poale Zion in Przemysl
– Until the Outbreak of the Second World War

by A. Bloch

Translated by Jerrold Landau

(From the memories of a member of the generation).

The beginning of the activities of Poale Zion in Przemysl took place during the disturbances of the Russian Revolution of 1905. The negative political reaction and events that accompanied it, such as the pogroms, caused a strong wave of emigration of Jews who fled from the regime of the Tsar. Many Jewish refugees passed through our city in their travels westward. Some were forced to stop their journey due to lack of means. Przemysl was known a fortified city, as is known. The army and the police had a deathly fear of “Russian spies”. Therefore, the victims of the pogroms were forbidden to remain there, even for a few days. They had to hide from the watchful eyes of the authorities.

They received assistance, albeit in quite a meager manner, from groups of very young people – the students of the gymnasiums, the officials, select activists – who put up the travelers in an “non-legal” fashion and arranged for the expenses of their travel to a nearby city (Rzeszow, Tarnow, or perhaps even Krakow). The necessary expenses were collected by visits in pairs to Jewish stores for the purpose of requesting “assistance from the immigrants from Russia”. The many appeals to the Jewish community of Przemysl were generally met with an attentive ear. The police never succeeded in exposing what was happening behind its back. Of course, this was a source of pride for the youths.

These youths met several times a week in private houses and discussed the Socialist Zionist movement in Russia. One of the members of this circle was Icchak Schlaf. His father was a member of Agudat Zion and subscribed to the Welt. Not many people of Przemysl were subscribers to the central Zionist publication. The younger Schlaf understood a bit of Russian since he was a student in the Ukrainian gymnasium. In any case, he understood enough to read from Vozrozhdeniye (Hatechiya, one of the first publications of the young Socialist Zionist organization) to his audience of readers. Thus, news was spread about the meaning of the new ideas, about the means of action and accomplishments, and about the victories and the disputes. One of the immigrants brought a lively friendly greetings from Russia, and the joy was great. On rare occasion, a refugee remained in Przemysl for an extended period, of course without permission. He took a position, albeit with great difficulty, as a Hebrew teacher, and he assisted the organization that was being founded as an orator and publicist. Among this group of teachers and activists were: Rozowski and Abraham Vieviorka [Wiewiorka] who also composed poems. Several years later, he became known as a poet in the Soviet Union. Abramsohn was a Hebrew teacher and sought-after speaker at meetings. He lived in Rzeszow but visited Przemysl frequently. He was a faithful servant of Poale Zion. Rozowski and Abramsohn made aliya to the Land of Israel. Another “Russian” lived with the smith Schlisselberg [Schlûsselberg], and worked for a long time in his workshop on Franciskanska Street – as long as it was possible for him. He had a very clear way of thinking in Socialist Zionist ideology, which still had not crystallized in those days. An acquaintance of Schlaf from Vozrozhdeniye must also be mentioned favorably. He arrived in Przemysl as one of the first refugees from the pogroms. However, to his dismay, the writer of these lines cannot recall his name.

In the interim, personal contact and correspondence was set up in our city with similar groups in other cities of Galicia. In the third convention of the Austrian Poale Zion arranged by Shlomo Kaplanski [Kaplinski], in which the spirit of Socialist Zionism was felt, the group from Przemysl appeared in fine form. This delegation, one of whose members was Schafendorf [Spandorf], donated a unique contribution: a picture, in large form to beautify the convention hall, showing

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Pinchas Dashewski [Dashevsky] (who threatened the life of Krushevan, a pogrom inciter of the type of “The Black Century”). This picture was drawn by Jehoshua Herschdõrfer from a photograph. It decorated the drab headquarters of Poale Zion in Przemysl. Such a headquarters already existed, even though they often had to switch it – sometimes because it was too small to accommodate all of those who came, and sometimes because the rent was too high and the landlord would be unwilling to wait any longer for it to be paid off.

The member Stark was considered to be a permanent fixture of the headquarters. He lived in the room next to the headquarters, and he and his wife Ethel had the task of concerning themselves with order and cleanliness. Mrs. Stark, a short woman, ruled with a strong arm also in the kitchen. That was the refreshment area where the members had something to eat when they desired and when they had some coins in their pockets. A member who was not able to pay would request to be “registered”, hoping that all the debts would be foregone! When the member Stark, tall in height and broad boned, would sit on the seat of his wagon which he drove to distribute soda bottles in the city, his long black beard with some white streaks would sway to and fro. Him himself did not bend with the wind. He was faithful and dedicated to his group, on good days as well as bad. Every accomplishment brought a smile to his lips, and with every failure, he wrinkled his forehead into countless wrinkles. It is fitting that his memory be recalled with honor and love!

The organization never was able to run its financial affairs successfully, not even during the era when it had 300-400 members. These were workers in stores, private officials, as well as tradesmen who were the particular pride of the movement: shoemakers, tailors, and carpenters. There was even a barrel maker and boiler forger. According to the holy “tradition”, the job of chairman was given specifically to a tradesman – to Joel Silbermann (in short: Julius) who was a carpenter by trade, and to Fruchter the tailor. Later, Fruchter was a member of the committee of the community of Przemysl. A shoemaker by the name of Baran was the treasurer. None of these ever waved the collector's ledgers in his hand and shouted: “Members, pay up!” Despite the fact that the financial affairs were not in order, there were large and small celebrations… as well as debts.

The poet Moritz [Morris] Rosenfeld read at the “Narodni Dom” (House of the Nation) of the Ukrainians. He was invited there during his travels through Galicia by the Poale Zion of Przemysl, on account of his creations. At the request of the poet, the community also offered a musical program. To that end, an opera singer, who was a native of Przemysl and who returned from Germany at that time to visit his parents, sang the operas of Wagner. In exchange, the singer asked for the opportunity to be presented with a floral wreath on the stage. This request was filled in its fullness by two lovely girls. This celebration was indeed a great accomplishment from a moral standpoint, albeit a failure from a financial standpoint – despite the fact that the hall was filled to the brim. This was not the fault of Berish Sznur [Schnur], in whose hand was concentrated the treasuries and funds of all the many organizations. He knew very well how to differentiate between them. Each one had a separate account. Sznur [Schnur] was proud of two things: his origins from a fine Jewish family (his uncle was a rabbi in Tarnow), and his membership in Poale Zion.

Yaakov Zerubavel, the editor of the “Yiddisher Arbeiter” (Jewish Worker) in Lvov, was in particularly great demand as a speaker at sporting celebrations. The readers waited impatiently for every issue of the newspaper that appeared on Fridays. They donated to the assistance fund on regular occasions in order to sustain the publication of the party.

From the midst of the members of the organization in our city came skillful propagandists, successful orators, and sharp debaters whose field of activity on occasion extended beyond the local boundaries. Berger, an engraver's apprentice, was particularly occupied with the literature of the Poale Zion and Bund movements. He was nicknamed Bebel, after the illustrious leader of the German Social Democrats, who was an engraver by trade. Ickiewicz-Langberg (a smith) and Steinberg (an official in a private enterprise) were prominent in political debates.

The opponent in political debates was for the most part the P.P.S. Jewish workers of the Achva (brotherhood) organization founded the P.P.S. They formed the shock troops who were sent to disrupt the activities of the Poale Zion and to shake it up as much as possible. When the Z.P.S., the Galician edition of the Russian Bund, was later founded, it also participated in the struggle with Poale Zion, and utilized the same means and methods that were formerly used by the

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P.P.S. In this area, there was no change at all with respect to the Poale Zion when the Jewish branch of the P.P.S. merged into one organization with the Z.P.S. As previously, they did not recognize the Socialism of the Poale Zion. In their opinion, active Zionism was a crafty invention of the Zionists as a means of taking the mind of the Jewish workers away from the class struggle, so that they could continue to oppress them.

The battle against the Zionist “peril” was not restricted to words alone. In the wake of words came deeds. They disturbed every gathering of Poale Zion, often ending in blows and the breaking of window panes, tables and chairs – for that was all that there was in the meeting hall. Obviously, such events placed an additional burden upon the budget and served as an easy pretext for the landlord to rid himself from an undesirable tenant.

Speakers from outside often appeared at Poale Zion meetings. Every “gunner” who could be drafted into the battle against the difficult opponent lacking any restraint was brought in. We will first mention Dr. Daniel Pasmanik. The posters announcing his appearance in the small Sokol Hall announced him as a professor since he was a university lecturer in Switzerland. One of the speakers of the Z.P.S. mocked this situation by creating a banner that stated: “Poale Zion is seriously ill. A regular doctor cannot cure them. They require a professor.”

Arnold Gahlberg, one of the spiritual leaders of the Z.P.S. in Przemysl, brought complaints of an entirely different nature against Socialist Zionism. He was an intellectual with a broad base of knowledge, who was very familiar with Socialist literature. In his battles, Gahlberg would cite quotations from the works of Marx, Engels, Kautsky, and Plechanov in an attempt to prove that by all scientific principles, Labor Zionism is a “barren child” from the vantage point of historical materialism. Elias Tisch went out against him in a manner that left a great impression. He pressured Gahlberg with his own weapons, borrowing himself from the fathers of Socialist doctrine. According to Tisch, Gahlberg's outlooks were not properly based on collectivist Socialism. Just as he would cite Marx and Engels as complete units, he would also cite from Max Stirner and Gustav Landauer from a later period. His yearning was for individualism and anarchy. “Saul” once again changed his skin and became “Paul”.

While we are on the subject of the various “battles”, we will note one other battle in this area. After a memorial ceremony in the “Temple” for the victims of the Russian pogroms, Poale Zion organized a demonstration on the street, headed by the bearer of a black flag. The police became involved, and during the quarrel, the flag bearer beat the police chief who tried to arrest him with strong blows. The flag bearer was an “illegal” member from Russia, and in this manner, he escaped serious punishment and deportation. The policeman groaned: “This was the first time that I have suffered blows”. This was the first demonstration by Jews on the streets of Przemysl.

The successful propagandist from America Vera Pevzner; Berl Locker; Yaakov Zerubavel who has been previously mentioned; Kasriel – Leo Chazanowicz and Vitebsky all appeared at large public gatherings. Dr. Chaim Zhitlovsky, one of the founders of the ideology of Socialist Zionism, appeared as a speaker in the great hall of the Przemysl city hall. Dr. Max Rosenfeld, who served in the army in Przemysl during the First World War, appeared as guest of Poale Zion. At the end of the war, he served as the first chairman of the Jewish council in the city.

Icchak Kandel, who dedicated his organizational talents, oratory abilities, and enthusiasm to the movement, earned many merits with the Poale Zion organization in Przemysl. His activities during the first election campaign were great in scope. These activities were based upon the general right to vote for Zionist candidates for the Austrian parliament in Jewish electoral regions. In other areas Poale Zion supported Social Democratic candidates – for example Dr. Liebermann in Przemysl. After his electoral success, he saw it necessary to thank both orally and in writing the Poale Zion organization of Przemysl for its support of him. At the celebration of the laying of the cornerstone of the “Workers' House”

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of the P.P.S., Poale Zion was invited in an official capacity. This is worthy of note, since until this time, The P.P.S. fought against Poale Zion without restraint, and even disputed its right of existence. For a few years, until the outbreak of the First World War, Icchak Kandel served as the national secretary of the Poale Zedek party in Lvov. He was taken prisoner by the Russians during the war. There, he transferred over to Communism. When he returned to Vienna from Russia, he worked for the merging of Poale Zion with the Communists. He spent his latter years in the United States, working on his book “Marx and the Jewish Question” which he did not complete. He died after suffering from a serious illness. Icchak Kandel's elder brother Moshe was a member of the Poale Zion leadership in Austria. Before that he was an official of the Vienner Bankferein in Lvov. Later he was the director the Zagreb branch of that bank. He fled to Kuba before Hitler, and he died there. Another native of the city, Benzion Tag, was the secretary of the professional organization “Algemeiner Yiddisher Angeshtelten Und Arbeiter Geverkshafts Farband” (The General Jewish Employees and Workers Union).

As they did in every place. Poale Zion of Przemysl paid great attention to the members of the younger generation, who were known as “The Young Workers and Business Trainees” – that is to say, the apprentices. The activity in those circles generally bore fruit. The feeling of independence among those male youths (there were no females among them) who had just emerged from the walls of the school or the cheder and whose position in their home and workplace was not at all easy, came to its expression in their ability to create with their own power and from among themselves the organizational committee, their own library, their own meetings and their own newspaper (“Der Yungendleicher Arbeiter” – “The Young Worker”) – to the extent that was perhaps non existent in any other context. They supported the organization faithfully, and after they came of age, they supported the party. The past president of the diamond bourse in Tel Aviv, Moshe Intrator, began his public activities in the Poale Zion youth organization in Przemysl. He served in the responsible position of treasurer.



Dr. Seweryn Schenker


The union of gymnasium students and the Cherut university students organization were affiliated with the Poale Zion movement in Przemysl. The insignia of this organization was made of silver and forged by Wolfling [Welfling], a professional forger and later an engineer. There was also a young women's organization. The first elder of Cherut was the expert lawyer Dr. Aharon Finkenthal, who later settled in Przemysl as a lawyer. Finktal was replaced by Icchak Kandel and later by Eliahu Bloch [Blech]. Seweryn Schenker was a faithful member of Cherut. He became a dentist in Pabianice near Lodz after he returned from prison in Russia. He was noted for his gigantic stature, his noble character and heart of gold. He participated in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and fell in battle.

Dr. Yitzchak Gans died in Israel. He was a fine person in the Cherut organization. He was an enthusiastic fan of Yiddish literature. He left his position as a public judge in Poland, and he made aliya to Israel with his family. However, the years under Hitler ruined his health. He lived in Tel Aviv until he died. His only son works as an official in Bank HaPoalim in Tel Aviv

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Yehoshua Freudenheim was from the circle of gymnasium students who were members of Poale Zion in Przemysl. He later was a lawyer in Vienna. He was deported to Mauritius by the mandate government. There, he engaged in productive work among the residents of the camps. Today he lives in Jerusalem, where he writes books on topics of public law. He received a prize from the city council of Tel Aviv. Another member of Cherut was Dr. Henryk Meisel, a professor of microbiology in Warsaw, and the author of many scientific studies. Dr. Icchak Teich as also an alumnus of the organization. He was the Poale Zion delegate in the communal council of Przemysl, and the delegate to the congresses in the years following the First World War.

The independent course of study of the gymnasium circle and of Cherut was rich and variegated. Their desire was to study Marxist doctrine and the history of the international workers' movement, and to understand the meaning of Jewish immigration and the social and professional makeup of the Jewish people through the eyes of the history of the Jewish economy. The purpose was to strengthen the Marxist ideology of Zionism. Countless lectures and debates were dedicated to the aforementioned topics, and many private discussions revolved around them.

For several years, Przemysl was the location of the central committee of the Poale Zion gymnasium students of Galicia. The members of the central committee were Icchak Kandel, Eliahu Bloch and Shalom [Salim] Herzig. Herzig perished in the Holocaust, and his widow lives in Israel. E. Bloch also lives here. He was active in Poale Zion in Vienna after the First World War, where he was a member of the national Jewish committee that convened under the leadership of Robert Shtriker. From the time of the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until he made aliya to the Land, Bloch served for several years as the head of the Austrian organization of “Working Land of Israel”, that continued its existence and activities under the name of “Binyan Haaretz” (Builders of the Land) during the time of the regime of Dolfus, the persecutor of workers. Bloch was a member of the communal council of Vienna and a delegate to Zionist congresses. Two other Przemysl natives were members of the communal council of Vienna: Dr. Leo Landau who was the president of the Great Synagogue called the Polanishe Shul and the director of social assistance in the community; as well as Dr. Nachman Frey, a well-known and beloved physician of the Jewish community of Vienna. Dr. Landau and Dr. Frey, both general Zionists, live today in the Land.

A serious crisis came upon the Poale Zion organization in Przemysl when some its members, including some of the very active and enthusiastic members, broke off and transferred to S.S. (Zionist Socialists, as the Socialist territorialists called themselves), and set up an independent organization. The attacks that this new organization directed against the “Land of Israel-ness” of Poale Zion were noted for their sharpness, anger and on occasion evilness. The aforementioned Schlaf, Shalom Freund and Dr. E. [Ezechiel Czeslaw] Pordes were among the leaders of the S.S. The latter now lives in Vienna, where he is the chairman of the Poale Zion organization. He participated in the congress of Polish natives that took place in January 1961 in Tel Aviv. He was engaged in writing already as a young man. He published articles for sporting organization, and in Jewish-Polish periodicals, where he described, among other things, his experiences in the protected fortress of Przemysl. Dr. Pordes wrote several books in German, including a psychological research in which he attempted to interpret the types and traits of humans.

With the passage of time, the S.S. disappeared from the stage of Przemysl as in every other place. However the chasm caused a difficult situation for Poale Zion, which only healed after a very long time. The S.S. group that was in Przemysl was stronger than in any other city of Galicia. It successful members were active there, and therefore this city was established as the location of its central leadership.

The greatest stumbling block of the spreading out of Poale Zion was connected with the essence of its ideology. The difficulty was how to make the very complex concept understandable to the straightforward intellect of the simple worker. In his own time, Max Nordau had already pointed out (Amsterdam, 1899) the refusal of the Jewish workers to accept Zionism at the time that they were enthusiastically joining the Socialist movement, for they saw their salvation only in it. The Jewish worker, similar to his non-Jewish counterpart, was pushed by his social status within the state, which was then almost completely lacking any social policies and legal protection of the workers, straight into the arms of the Socialist camp

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which promised it strugglers a Garden of Eden on earth for the group without status after the battle of classes would take place. In addition, the Jewish worker was given the opportunity to liberate himself from the anti-Semitic monster. The worker with “class consciousness” was not a nationalist. In the eyes of the bourgeois he was an “anti-nationalist person who was lacking a homeland”. Therefore, the national Zionist activity only penetrated into the consciousness of the Jewish worker with great difficulty. The Zionist Achva organization did not attain any status at all in the community. They were merely an organization of officials, without any additional power from the workers. Without exception, they all became absorbed into the Socialist Poale Zion organization. In Przemysl, there were many difficulties in particular with regard to the ways of the activities of Poale Zion. They had to overcome opposition from the left and right, and they acted in the way that was within their power. When the First World War broke out, suddenly they all faced a completely new situation, and in their mouths was the question: “What now?”



Group of Gymnasium and academic Students of Poale Zion, Przemysl, 1909

Standing from left to right: Meisels, Freudenheim, Rubinfeld, Rubinfeld, Bernanke. Sitting: Goliger, Gans, Bloch, Kandel, Schnur, Herzig, Pfeffer, Pfeffer, and Mandel

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Dr. Herman Liebermann

by Dr. A. Bloch

Translated by Jerrold Landau



Dr. Herman Liebermann


{Text footnote: translated from a German manuscript by Y. Altbauer.}

The personality of Dr. Herman Liebermann, who started his Socialist activism in the cities of Galicia and ended it as a minister of the Polish government in exile in London, was forged and molded by the times and its conditions in which he grew up and lived his life of many achievements. He succeeded to temper the objective factors that influenced his personality.

Liebermann was born in Drohobycz in 1869. he studied in a gymnasium, at first in his hometown and later in nearby Stryj. The Galician schools, especially the gymnasia, distanced the Jewish youth from the values of Judaism by imparting to them knowledge of the Polish language and the literature and history of the Polish nation. Classes in Jewish religion, as were taught in these schools, did not have the power of weakening the influence of the foreign culture. From its perspective, the Polish environment itself did not make any attempts to draw near or assimilate the Jews into its midst, neither from a spiritual nor from a social perspective. The Jews remained as strangers with respect to it, members of a different religion, and its relationship to them was generally inimical, or at best indifferent. The political parties, aside from the P.P.S.D., made no attempts at attracting Jews as members of the party.

The parental home generally served as a shield against assimilation. The influence of the Jewish environment in the home was great, and prevented the distancing of the younger generation from its traditions, especially in the Orthodox households where Yiddish was spoken, and where they were particular about the Jewish education of the children. The Galician Jewish city in the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century was saturated with Judaism, and everyone who lived in it breathed its air.

We cannot suspect that the home of Liebermann's parents in Drohobycz desired to impart a Polish national spirit to the children, even though his father had secular knowledge and was not observant of

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the commandments, and they spoke Polish in his house. Furthermore, the school alone did not impart in young Liebermann the strong connection to the Polish nation and the Polish nationalist ideology. We must explain this primarily in the context of his connections to Polish Socialism.

During that era, the Jews were the majority of the proletariat in Drohobycz. Later, with large groups of people moving there and the development of industry, the Jewish workers lost their status. Therefore, they turned to the First Zionist Congress with the question of whether it was possible for them to make aliya to the Land of Israel, since they had the fear of poverty and want. From the authority of the Welt, the Zionist weekly in Vienna, Dr. Sh. R. Landau was given the task of investigating the situation there. He reported on this mission in his booklet “Among the Jewish Proletariat”. There, in Drohobycz-Boryslaw, after some time, Dr. Max Rosenfeld (born in 1884) found his path to Jewish Socialism. He later became an activist of Poel Tzioni, and at the end of the First World War, he was the chairman of the national Jewish congress (Volksrat) in Przemysl, which was established as a revolutionary step in place of the community council of reactionaries.

Liebermann as well, with his warm sensitivity, became imbued with Socialist thought and connection to uprightness. He was always ready for sacrifice (this characterized his personality throughout his lifetime). He saw the poverty and suffering with his own eyes, and therefore he struggled against the existing social guard. However he did not grasp the fact that the suffering and oppression, that had touched his heart so much, was Jewish. One solitary thought bothered him: the existing social guard was a tragedy and disgrace, and therefore it must be changed by a war of classes for Socialism led by the revolutionary Socialist party. To the extent that the suffering and poverty moved his soul, and he saw in them a general human tragedy, Liebermann was attracted with great force to the Polish expression of Socialism.

At that time, there was one Socialist party in Galicia that was Polish in its essence and form, and that imprinted its seal on the entire movement from a spiritual and cultural perspective. This gave no opportunity for the establishment of a movement of Jewish workers.

Thus was Dr. Liebermann a Polish Socialist, and thus did he remain throughout his life. A the age of 20, he was already a top notch activist known to the public, and he was numbered among the founders of the Briderlichkeit (Achva) union of Jewish workers in Drohobycz. To him, activism was second nature.

About two years after he concluded his studies in the gymnasium, he spent some time in Paris, which influenced him decisively to the point that its influence never left him. The Third Republic had already been founded, and the mottoes of the revolution of 1789 had deep influence upon the community and Socialist thought, even though they were often given a meaning that was different than their original intentions. Liebermann, who had come into contact with French Socialism and was influenced greatly by the revolutionary tradition of France, also drew near to the Polish Socialist immigrants, including Stanislaw Mendelson (the son-in-law of Nachum Sokolov) and to the Russian revolutionaries. He was arrested as a foreign citizen under suspicion of anti-state activities and he was sent back to Galicia. He finished his course of studies as a jurist in the University of Krakow and began to practice law. Here too he tasted the taste of prison.

Despite his Jewish origins, Liebermann found his political birthplace in the Polish socialist party. Factors contributing to this were the international character of this party, and its connections with Socialist parties in other nations under the Austrian crown who had joint programs and representation in the Austrian parliament.

The P.P.S.D. was a group with important status in the Second International. At the outbreak of the First World War, the International, with its offices in Brussels, was an important factor whose foundations were treated then with honor, for the power of Socialism attracted faith that these principles would ultimately be victorious, and that the day would come when the Socialist revolution would solve all social problems, including the question of nations that were lacking political independence.

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The P.P.S.D was entirely immersed in the struggle to improve the conditions of life and political rights of all strata of the broad society. It was not free to occupy itself with national problems that were created as a cause for action by the reactionary circles. The Polish “patriots” had a monopoly in the hands of the Szlachta (nobility) and the bourgeois. When the Socialists marched through the streets of the city, they waved only red flags over their heads and sung the hymn “The Red Standard”. The civic camp was the sole bearer of the national Polish flag, so to speak, and the singers of the hymn, “Poland Is Still Not Lost”. In this manner, two conflicting camps arose, and the chasm between them was unbridgeable.

In backward Galicia where there was a lack of developed industry, the Polish workers' movement was forced to find allies in the battle against the enemy in order to conduct the bitter campaign. This task was designated for the workers and petite bourgeois of the Jews. This is the explanation why, aside from the general Socialist factors, the Jewish workers organized under the umbrella of the P.P.S.D. – the sole Polish party to which Jews belonged as members.

When he came to settle in Przemysl in the 1990s, Liebermann made efforts to found the Briderlichkeit movement of Jewish workers also here. In the context of this movement, the Jewish workers and employees arose from their somnolence and indifference for the first time, and joined the ranks of the fighters of the battles of the emancipation of the international working class. They were trained to be proud people with class consciousness. From that time on, they had a goal and a flag. They were captivated by the movement, which portrayed before them the “Chosen Land” at any place that they lived and fought.

The “Garden of Eden” of civil liberties and equal rights assured Dr. Liebermann of the support Jewish citizens during the election gatherings. He turned to them, to the householders, the small scale merchants, tradesmen, peddlers, middlemen and merchants, and they came to him in their masses, young and old, men and women, and listened to his enthusiastic speeches that spoke to their hearts and were accepted by their minds. He lectured to them in German and spiced his words with verses of the prophets. He enthralled his listeners, who voted for him during the elections. With the help of these Jewish voters, Liebermann was elected twice to the house of representatives in Vienna. To them, the Jews of Przemysl, the workers and the middle class, he was a symbol, despite the lack of any possibility of bringing them any physical benefit – such as rights or permits for the provision of merchandise – in exchange for their confidence. On the other hand, his fans often had disputes and controversies with the ruling forces of the city council and the community, who had it in their power to reward their friends and punish their “enemies”.

The identity of Liebermann with the Jews of Przemysl found its expression in November 1918, when he was a member of the national council of Poland that served as a provisional government in the city after the breakup of the monarchy. The military command of the city imposed upon the Jews of Przemysl a communal fine of 3,000,000 crown, and threatened to collect it by force. A delegation of the Volksrat offered itself as a surety to legally protect the Jewish population. This offer was accepted by the council. Therefore, Dr. Liebermann put himself up as a surety. Dr. Tarnawski, a gentile member of the council and the leader of the anti-Semitic party in the city, joined him, and only then was the decree annulled.

On the other hand, the head of the national Jewish movement in our city imposed upon Liebermann the responsibility to clear the path for its movement in Przemysl. This situation did not change until Liebermann moved the center of gravity of his political activities to Warsaw, after he was elected as a representative of the Polish Sejm – that time as well with the help of the votes of the Jews of Przemysl. Only then did the path open up for independent activity of the national Jewish movement, which began to conduct independent Jewish politics.

The relations of Dr. Liebermann to the Jewish workers who left the P.P.S.D. and founded their own party, the Z.P.S. (Jewish Workers Party) were not as good as his relations with the Zionists. Not only did he not have any understanding of their “separatist” movement, but he also pegged them as liabilities of the movement, as enemies and traitors

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to the status of the workers. It is probable that this dispute influenced the chasm in the French Socialist movement. This chasm took place before his eyes, and therefore he found it necessary to employ every sort of weapon in his battle against the separatist Z.P.S.

Liebermann was a fighter by nature. Struggle was his daily bread. He did not refrain from fighting against the ruling group of the city council or with the mayor who was supported by the regional head (starosta), and with the trustees of the community who were among those who afflicted the nation with a strap and on occasion also with false pretexts. This gang ruled Galicia in a manner similar to the Turkish pashas, mocking all the principles of democracy according to which they should have run the communal institutions. At that time, the situation was no different in the rest of Galicia.

Another objective that Dr. Liebermann took upon himself was the battle against the two powerful enemies of the nation – the military and the clergy. International Socialism preached the brotherhood of nations, whereas militarism busied itself with preparations for battle for the “Kaiser and the Kingdom”. The yoke of militarism weighed its heavy yoke upon the neck of the nation, while at the same time, the clerics stormed against its soul in the name of the church.

Great brazenness was needed at that time in order to open the battle against the militarists, for, as is known, the Austrian Empire was a military state par excellence. The essence of militarism was not merely a mighty army, but also the subordination of the opinions of the community to the interests of the army and its heads. In Austria, the military department of His Majesty the Kaiser was in power. That group decided on the appointment of ministers and set the fate of governments. The army captains of the Kyr”h[1] were a separate group who were not involved in the lives of the civilians. A member of the generals would demand special honor for himself. His title in the city would be the Commander of the Tenth Corps (of Przemysl), General Anton Von Galgotzy, who enjoyed the faith of the highest ranks, including the Kaiser himself.

On occasion, when Dr. Liebermann would attack in the “Glos Przemyski” the military Kamarila and the outgrowths of militarism such as the cruel treatment of inductees and the beating of soldiers, and he would mock the captains, an order was issued to confiscate the newspapers. Nevertheless, a portion of the confiscated editions would find their way to the readers. The nation read the newspaper, shuddered at what was going on in the army, and rejoiced at any strike at the authorities. The command of the corps forbade the captain of the garrison from visiting communal venues (coffeehouses, restaurants, barbershops) in which the Glos Przemyski was available for reading. The civilian authorities stood at the side of the general. They did not lift a finger to protect the freedom of speech and journalism that was guaranteed by the laws of the state, and did not do anything against the plots against the livelihood and wellbeing of the civilians, mainly Jews, whose economic situation was shaken up by the decrees of the general.

Liebermann's struggle with the general landed him in jail, but when he left jail, crowds of demonstrators raised him on their shoulders.

Liebermann also opened an attack on the Catholic bishop of the city, Dr. Jozef Sebastian Pelczar. At that time, the “Pope of the Workers”, Leo XIII, sat on the Holy Seat in Rome. He understood the social questions of that era, when capitalism reached its pinnacle of development. In order to distance the working class from the “apostate” Socialists, he preached a solution to the social problem in the spirit of Christian doctrine. This was also the main idea in the Papal encyclical “Rerum novarum”. Relying on this, Bishop Pelczar declared war on “his own” Socialists, who were headed by the Jew Dr. Liebermann. In this spirit, the bishop also published a pastoral letter that was read in every church of the city, linking the Jew and the Socialist as related concepts.

Dr. Liebermann responded to this pastoral letter in his weekly news column called “Quo Vadis Domina?” His responses to the pastoral letter were spiced with quotes from the words of the fathers of the church no less than the pastoral letter of the bishop. The publication of the clergy, “Echo Przemyskie” would often present the motto “Do not purchase from Jews” to its readers. This motto was later refined into a more polite fashion – “Purchase from Christians”

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Only”. It castigated Dr. Liebermann, calling him the “Red Yid”, for his hair was red, and his political outlook was similarly “red”. Liebermann did not pay any attention to this slander. “The dogs are barking, and the caravan is advancing”, was his motto.

Exceptional brazenness was demanded in the battle against the church leaders, and in struggling against them in a land where almost the entire population, including the working class, were faithful and believers in the church. On the wall of the hall of the railway workers of Przemysl (the workers of the railway and the printing presses were the cream of the crop of the Socialist party in Galicia), there was an icon of Jesus along with the portraits of Marx and Engels. One of the activists of the movement, Lancucki, who was later to become a Communist representative to the Sejm, explained to the writer of these lines, “Jesus was the first Socialist”.

To the same degree that Liebermann was hated by his opponents who feared him, he was loved by the Polish, Ukrainian and Jewish workers, and by all the Jews. They felt his warm heart and recognized his readiness for self-sacrifice on behalf of the group. They all revered him as a bright defense attorney in judicial cases, who served the poor people without any personal benefit. The people were affected by his modest way of life. When the workers marched on the streets of the city, the cry would thunder out, “Long live Socialism, long live Dr. Liebermann”. On the other hand, the ruling clique gave expression to their boundless hatred and cruelty.

In 1907, when Dr. Liebermann's victory in the parliamentary elections was declared, the group did not heed the directives of the police, and the throng of thousands of demonstrators who had gathered in the city hall to give honor to Dr. Liebermann stormed through the streets. A large number of citizens were injured through the police intervention, which was a form of punishment for the election of a Jew as a member of parliament in a “Christian” city.

It is difficult to know if Dr. Liebermann's Jewish origins arose negative feelings among the gentile members of his party. It is a fact that the sin of his Jewishness was held against him when he actively joined the camp of opponents of the rule of Pilsudski. A polemical statement, the fruit of the pen of one of the former members of his party, opened with the words, “Nisht Zu Hitzig Herr Moshe Itzig” (Not so impetuous, Mr. Moshe Itzig). This annoying verse ran through the entire article.

Thanks to his knowledge of military affairs that he gained in a significant manner from his battle with General Galgotzy, the Social Democratic faction of the parliament in Vienna made Dr. Liebermann its spokesman in matters regarding the budget of the ministry of defense. Liebermann excelled as a brilliant speaker and talented jurist in the parliamentary realm. His broad knowledge assisted him greatly.

The awakening of the workers of Przemysl began already in the 1990s, before Liebermann came to live there. However, this trend that he found was still tender. In addition to the workers of our city that Liebermann found there, there were also thousands more people who were employed or connected with the building of the fortress that was then established according to the directives of the general staff of Vienna.

In 1894, Liebermann founded, along with other likeminded people, the first factional cell in the city and he began his publicity work with success. The reward for his labor was great. That same group of people set up two fortresses: a military one directed against Russia, and a Socialist one directed against the ruling guard. Already by 1897, they had won over the important social institution of health insurance. From that time on, the powers of the workers movement ruled that institution. Within a short period of time, thousands of workers demonstrated their power on May 1st, as they arranged impressive parades. These festive parades, which marched from the central garden in the city hall to the central park known as the Zamek, symbolized the progression of the party from the suburbs to the center of the city. The power of the party was known to the public also through the erection of the splendid building “The Workers' House” on the banks of the San. All of the institutions of the party and the professional organizations had their headquarters there. Cultural activities, including the Workers' Choir founded by Dr. Jozef Axer (died in 1956 in Tel Aviv) took place there. The large hall of Workers' House served as a

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location for the meetings of the organization and it demonstrators. It was also appropriate for theatrical presentations, concerts and lectures. It became an important cultural force in our city.



The Workers' House


From among the economic institutions of the movement we should mention the workers' bakery, in which the workers worked under proper sanitary conditions, which was very rare in the bakeries of the city. The bakery caused a drop in the price of bread.

We can note that at the time of the outbreak of the war in 1914, Przemysl was not only a military fortress but also a Socialist fortress.

The clouds from the Balkan darkened the skies of Europe. The nations under Austrian rule began to awaken and desire national independence. In that vein, the “Polish question” arose on the political agenda. The imperative of the times was to find its proper place among independent nations, to prepare for war and to gird weapons. Pilsudski began to establish his “Shooters” [“Strzelec” – ed.] military organization, which with the passage of time turned into Polish legions and eventually fought the Tsarist kingdom arm in arm with the armies of Austria and Germany under the motto of “Free Poland”. Liebermann also volunteered for the legion and appeared in Przemysl on the day of the outbreak of the war – a tall form in decorated army garb, girded with the twisted sword of Polish captains. He attained the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Polish army.

In the latter years of the war, Liebermann was pushed out of the legions due to his anti-Austrian stance. He became well known for his effective and intuitive defense of the legionnaires who appeared in the military court of Maramures Sziget in 1918 on the accusation of treason against the Austrian homeland.

At the middle of 1918, a new era started in the history of Europe and in the life of Dr. Liebermann, who was fully dedicated to the nation of Poland from that time on. Therefore, we will limit our discussion of this latter era, whose events are not on the topic of this book. We will leave this task to the historians of Poland and of the Polish workers' movement.

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Liebermann was active in many committees as a representative in the Polish Sejm. His vast knowledge and parliamentary experience that he obtained in the House of Representatives in Vienna stood him well there. His energetic fearless activities to expose corruption in the ruling group of colonialists “the Pilsudski people” made him hated among the high echelons of that powerful group. Since he appeared as a prosecutor in the name of the Sejm in the case of the Minister of Finance who was accused of misusing his power for the benefit of the ruling party, his personal liberty was taken from him and he was illegally imprisoned in a concentration camp in Brest Litovsk (Brzesc) by order of Pilsudski. He was brought to trial after he was tortured for two years. He was sentenced to imprisonment, and all of his civil rights were removed. When he left the concentration camp he visited Przemysl briefly, where he was enthusiastically received by the masses, including many Jews, and was taken on their shoulders in the outskirts of the city. In that manner, the local population demonstrated against the perversion of justice that was perpetrated against Liebermann by the Polish despot.

On order from his party, Liebermann traveled to Czechoslovakia and France, where he worked diligently on its behalf. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was among the founders of the Polish government in exile headed by General Sikorski, and served as the vice-chairman of the national council. When Russia entered the war in 1941, Liebermann was among those wished to forge an agreement with it. He took the role of Minister of Justice in Sikorski's government, but he did not last long in that position, for he died suddenly on October 21, 1941. He collapsed and fell while serving in his position.

Liebermann died in exile in London, and was buried in the Highgate Cemetery near the grave of Karl Marx, an honorable resting place for a fighter for Socialism and democracy. He was buried in a foreign land, and not in his birthplace of Poland, for which and on behalf of whose population he sacrificed with all his heart and blood.

Dr. Liebermann was an anti-Zionist. He fought against the Zionist “utopia” and castigated with the whip of his tongue the “ghetto dreamers” who were foreign to his spirit. As the bearer of an important government role in the Polish State, he never hesitated to put himself above the general Jewish interests if the interests of the state demanded such. However along with this we cannot forget that it was specifically this man who first led the Jewish workers of Przemysl to the Socialist vision, and also taught the rest of the Jews of the city not to bend their heads, but rather to proudly straighten their posture as is fitting for a human being and a free citizen.

As a token of appreciation for Dr. Liebermann, the Holocaust survivors of Przemysl dedicate these lines in this Yizkor Book.



Dr. Liebermann returns from Brest Litovsk (Brzesc)


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The History of the
Jewish Assimilationist Movement in Przemysl

by D. N.

Translated by Jerrold Landau

We are talking about assimilation with the Poles and national identification with their nation, for in Galicia, it is impossible to talk about any other type of assimilation as a movement – not even with German culture, despite the fact that many Jews understood, and some even spoke and wrote German during the time of formal, legal emancipation. Furthermore, we cannot mix up the political tendencies to autonomy or centralism with Polish or German assimilation. We know of Jews who primarily spoke German, and despite this, they had leanings to autonomy (for example the famous Shmelke Horowitz). On the other hand, there were those who were not fluent in German, but nevertheless revered the Kaiser and the government of Vienna with clear understanding.

We have in our hands a copy of the Hebrew-Jewish bi-weekly “Ojczyzna” – “The reminder of love for our native land” with the Polish eagle on the heading, having a Magen David drawn on its chest. The copy is from January 1, 1882. The newspaper first appeared in April, 1881. According to the Hebrew text, the Polish text was sort of an addendum to the Hebrew. However for practical purposes, the prime tendency of the newspaper was expressed in the Polish text, which spoke not only of love of the homeland (that is, Poland before its partition), but also about complete blending in with the Poles. In the Hebrew section, it was stated clearly in a programmatic article that the Jews of the land must not only “seek the welfare of the land”, but also “love it, support it with their children without difference based on religion, in the battle for life against other nations, and to learn the language like “one of the people” so that “there will be no language differences between them and everyone else”. These statements do not point at all to “complete assimilation” with the Poles, but they also do not contradict the program described in the Polish section. We need to point out that the Hebrew editor was clear in his expressions. The Hebrew section also included sports articles and poetry, but there was almost no mention of the problems of the Jews outside of the boundaries of Poland – not even regarding the Jews of Russia who in 1881 suffered from “the storms of the south” and began to emigrate. In the Polish article, aside from political articles, there were stories of the lives of Jews in Galicia and other areas of Poland.

The aforementioned issue includes to articles from Przemysl, one in Hebrew and the other in Polish, and a small section of a Hebrew play in verse by the Przemysl Maskil Atlas: “Chased from the Land of Russia”. The Hebrew article was written by Avigdor Mermelstein. It has no hint of assimilationist preaching, but there is also has no nationalist stance. Since at that time, the newspaper had already come out for nine months, Mermelstein would have known about its orientation. On the other hand we should note that Mermelstein was the editor of the Hebrew monthly of Przemysl along with Shealtiel Graber, which appeared in 1881 by the name of “The Lover of his Nation and the Land of his Birth” with a German addendum called “Der Patriot”. This addendum proves that the tendency was not to Poland or Galicia but rather to Austria, and the word “his nation” applies to the Jewish people. Despite this, Dr. Gelber sees a tendency to assimilationism in Mermelstein's publication[2], since Mermelstein writes in issue number 12 about the “lover” who must awaken his love to the Poles, the rulers of the land, and teach the youth to speak Polish. To us it seems that Dr. Gelber erred in his interpretation, and it seems that according to the aforementioned article in Ojczyzna, there is no basis to such an interpretation with respect to “the lover”. In Mermelstein's first article from 24 Shvat 5642 (1882), there is a discussion of the visit of Dr. Bernard Lõwenstein from the Lvov Temple to Przemysl in response to an invitation from the organization

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Dorshei Torah Vadaat (“Seekers of Torah and Knowledge”) that is mentioned in another article in this book[3]. The guest participated in a meeting of the organization, which gave the chairman of the organization Jakob Ehrlich and a young member Shlomo Auerbach the chance to deliver enthusiastic speeches of blessing in German, to which the guest responded in that same language. The next day, there was a public presentation by the guest in German in the large communal hall, in the presence of hundreds of listeners from the city, including many Christians, on the topic of “Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, a philosopher, poet, and the lover of his nation and the Land of his fathers, and his like-mindedness with the Polish poet Mickiewicz”. Even the Christians responded to the lecture with applause. According to Mermelstein's report, the presenter spoke about Yehuda Halevi with enthusiasm, especially regarding the issue of his longing for the Land of Israel. It is possible to deduce from this that by inviting such a presentation, the organization did not change its orientation from one that was distant from assimilation, and the speaker himself did not speak as an assimilationist.

In the Polish section of that same issue, a writer from Przemysl describes that the organization was subject to an inquiry from an assimilationist due to its neglect of the Polish language. It even mentions activities of opposition by those members who were lovers of the Polish language, which brought with time a change in the situation to the benefit of the Polish language. This article also speaks about a plan to found a “Kraszewski Organization” to disseminate the Polish language among the Jewish youth, which was not sufficiently supported by the Dorshei Torah Vadaat, among whose members are mentioned: Ehrlich, Auerbach and Baumgarten. The article is filled with declarations of faith in Polish assimilation, and brings in support of this stance a segment from Mosenthal's German play Deborah, as follows: “For us, the old city of Zion has died. Jerusalem is no longer our birthplace. The land upon which we are partners and whose language we speak, the land which protects the cradles of our children – this is our homeland”. Thus far is the quote.

We do not know of any additional activities of the people of the Ojczyzna in Przemysl. They certainly did not stand out for we have no other mention of the matter. However, on the other hand, the organization Dorshei Torah Vadaat held its stand for a long time. As has been stated, its books, including especially many books of Jewish wisdom primarily in German, have been given over to the Yeshurun organization of national Jewish culture that was founded in 1894. From there they were transferred after a few years to the Zion organization.

From all the aforementioned we can surmise that cultural assimilation with the Poles was not a definitive fact, not only from a political perspective. On the contrary, from year to year, with more people attending Polish schools, the Polonization of the local youth increased, and adults joined up with them. The development of the Zionist movement in the city did not change the situation greatly, for it was formed after this linguistic Polonization. The Maskilim who were activists in this movement did not succeed in attracting the circles of youth who spoke Polish. They continued the tradition of the Dorshei Torah Vadaat organization and lectured in the Yeshurun and Zion organizations, but only in German. On account of this, during the Herzl era, most of the circles of Polish speakers remained outside the influence of the nationalist movement. These activists also did not know how to arouse in their children a love for the Jewish tradition, and to give them a fundamental Jewish education. For example, Dr. Salomon Ehrlich the son of Jakob Ehrlich, who himself was a Zionist leader, Maskil and lover of the Hebrew language, was a veteran assimilationist, even though he was not active in the assimilationist movement. The same situation existed with the jurist Julius Baumgarten, the son of the religion teacher Jakob Baumgarten. It is difficult to state that the path of these children was in accordance with the will of the parents.

At the beginning of the 1892, the circles of Jewish intelligentsia founded the Czytelnia Naukowa organization, headed through the years by Mrs. Mendrochowicz, the wife of the aforementioned lawyer and jurist Julius Baumgarten, and the postal official Adolf Gans who had converted to Christianity after several years in Krakow. The organization, whose purpose was to concern itself with cultural and social problems, was not Jewish by its charter, but in practice, its membership was almost entirely Jewish. In reality, it served to strengthen the position

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of the assimilationists, even though it did not work toward assimilation according to its declared program. It had many members, and it had fine reading halls stocked with many newspapers, as well as a large, well cared for library. The organization arranged public lectures by well-known Polish poets and writers. Important Polish intellectuals considered it a great honor to present to that organization. Among the presenters were the great poets Kasprowicz and Przybyszewski, the writer Zapolska, and the visiting writer of Jewish extraction, Wilhelm Feldman, who found his wife among the cultural activists of this organization (she converted to Christianity after a number of years!).

After the Czytelnia stopped stressing its Polish leanings and turned, for all intents and purposes, solely into an institution for the lending of books, the young nationalist intelligentsia was also accustomed to join this organization so that they could borrow the finest of books. The ultimate fate of this gigantic library is not known to us.

In the period following the death of Herzl, there were only few assimilationists among the academic youth and in the gymnasiums. During the Neo-Polish era, there were of course some assimilationists remaining in the veteran intelligentsia, but if they appeared in any public arena, they preferred to refer to themselves as non-factional. As well, the Socialists of the Jews of Przemysl stopped to speak of the Polishness of the Jews of the city during the neo-Polish era[4].



The tower


Translator's Footnotes

  1. The acronym Kyr”h stands for HaKaiser Yarum Hodo – His Majesty the Kaiser. Back
  2. There is a footnote in the text here, as follows: “The History of the Zionist Movement in Galicia” by Dr. N. M. Gelber, published by Reuven Mass, page 229. Back
  3. There is a footnote in the text here as follows: “The History of the Zionist Movement in Przemysl During the Austrian Era”. Back
  4. There is a footnote in the text here as follows: “We received an important part of the information on the Czytelnia from Dr. P. Gottlieb, a lawyer formerly of Przemysl and from 1936 of Krakow, who arrived in Israel with his wife and son during the 1950s, and died here at the end of the 1950s. Today, his son is a surgeon at the Hadassah Hospital.” Back

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