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Charitable Unions and Committees in Tarnow

by Dr. Avraham Chomet

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

I

1. Bikur–Kholim

Social help had a place of honor among the activities of the Jewish kehile [organized Jewish community] since the earliest times. Until the first half of the 19th century no Jewish organizations of a philanthropic character were known in Tarnow. What is true is that the Yad Harutzim [the Hands of the Diligent – an institution of mutual aid for artisans] society had existed earlier, but it limited itself only to Jewish artisans and then only to its own members.

The oldest Jewish philanthropic institution in Tarnow was the Bikur–Kholim [society to aid the sick], whose purpose was to give free medical help to poor Jews, to cover a part of the payment for medicine. In 1889 the society received as its property its own house from a bequest of Yisroel Rapaport and from then on it was located in its own building at Szeroka 5, where a synagogue also was organized for prayer, which lasted until the Second World War and like all houses of prayer and synagogues in Tarnow it was annihilated by the Hitlerist bandits. There was a memorial plaque in the Bikur–Kholim synagogue on which were engraved the names of the praiseworthy managing committee members of the institution, whose chairman in 1889 was Shlomo Cinz and the secretary was Shlomo Klajner.

This society developed extraordinarily important and useful activity, in many cases x–raying poor patients. In 1932, the following people belonged to the management authority of this institution: Elihu Baron, Dr. Wolf Szenkel, Gabriel Durst, Abush Manhajt, N.H. Balzam, Leon Braw, Ben–Tzion Sznajder, Viktor Grynhut, Yakob Fabian, Hersh Leib Fogelfang, Ben–Tzion Parizer, Melekh Rajnhold, Yosef Glik, Yisroel Man, S.L. Wolk, S. Klajn, Y.L. Temer, Yitzhak Engelberg, Yehuda Falman, S. Blic, Nusan Keler, Bernard Lichtinger, Moshe Liber, Mekhl Wander. The chairman of the society in those years was Elihu Baron, vice chairman – Wolf Szenkel, treasurers – Gabriel Durst and Manhajt. The controllers – Balzam and Braw,

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managers Viktor Grynhut and Mekhl Sznajder, who with particular care and selflessness, devoted themselves to this work. The secretary of the society was Y. Fabian.

Victor Grynhut died on the 29th of August 1932. He was a devoted Zionist and thanks to his character traits, he was beloved in the widest circles of the Jewish population in Tarnow. In addition, as a merchant he particularly distinguished himself with his honesty and scrupulousness. The death of this good Jew and citizen evoked a broad and genuine sadness in the Jewish neighborhood. A year later, on the 12th of November 1933, Gabriel Durst, a man with a crystal character, always active and ready to help and who supported and subsidized all philanthropic and voluntary institutions in Tarnow died. He also was a devoted, self–disciplined Zionist, gave large sums of money to the Eretz–Yisroel Fund. He was a member of the council of the Jewish kehile at that time as the representative of the Zionist organization. The death of this quiet, modest communal worker and Zionist caused great sadness among the Jewish population in Tarnow. The same managing committee was active during the later years, only growing larger with the choice of Dr. Fink, who with M. L. Balzam, was particularly active in the work of the society. All above–mentioned members (except for Gabriel Durst and Victor Grynhut) perished tragically at the hands of the Hitlerist hangmen.

Honor their memory!

 

2. Beis–Lekhem

Beis–Lekhem [house of bread – food for the needy] was a serious philanthropic institution in Tarnow. According to the statute, the purpose of the society was to alleviate the need of the Jews in Tarnow. Over many years, the tireless and devoted philanthropic worker, the already older Mrs. Miriam Sznur, the wife of the Tarnow city Rabbi Sznur, stood at the head of this institution. Mrs. Antonina Edelsztajn, who was the secretary of Beis–Lekhem over many years, performed a great deal of work for the society. From a report that Mrs. Edelsztajn gave at a meeting on the 22nd of April 1928, it was shown that in 1927 the society distributed support for poor Jews with an overall sum of 5,000 zlotes. In addition, flour, sugar, coal, clothes was given to 170 families, and 70 children from the Talmud–Torah [free religious primary school for boys] were given clothing. A managing committee was elected at the above–mentioned meeting

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composed of the following: Miriam Sznur, the rebbitzen [wife of the rabbi], as chairwoman; the wife of the Dzikower [Tarnobrzeg] rebbe, Chawa Horowicz, as vice chairwoman, Antonina Edelsztajn as secretary, Rozalia Grinsztajn – treasurer, Faygl Lezer and Emalia Falter as members of the control commission. Elected in addition to them were Regina Zigler, Mina Baron, Cila Herzfeld, Bronislava Perlman, Makhle Rozner. The new managing committee developed even broader activities and from the report given at the general meeting on the 12th of May 1929 we learn that the philanthropic activity of the society made great progress. During the year 1926 the income reached 5,128 zlotes, in 1927 – 6,198 zlotes, in 1928 they reached 8,497 zlotes. In the reporting year, 470 families were provided with money, with coal, flour and clothing. The endowment fund named the Malbush Erumim [clothing for the poor] founded in 1928, for whose purpose a sum of more than 100 dollars was deposited in a credit institution, which in later years reached 1,000 dollars, had great success. In later years the same managing committee worked which included Mrs. Padwe and Wajntraub (now in Israel). Quietly, without noise, these genteel and good–hearted women worked to bring help to the poorest of the poor. Except for Cila Hirszfeld and Mrs. Wajntraub, none of them survived. The perished with the martyr's death during the Hitlerist occupation. Honor their memory!

 

\3. Noshe haMita v'Menakhem Avelim

The Noshe haMita Society [Noshe haMita v'Menakhem Avelim – Coffin Carriers and Comforting of the Mourners] occupied an important place for providing social help in Tarnow. The task of the society was to support the poor and the sick, particularly in carrying the dead bodies from the home to the cemetery and giving help to the poor family of the deceased. This society was very popular among Tarnow Jews and in 1931 it numbered 800 members.

An expanded managing committee was elected in 1931 with Gabriel Durst as chairman and Henrik Holender as vice chairman.

A separate women's committee existed at the Khevra Kedisha [burial society], which was occupied with sewing shrouds and purifying the bodies of deceased women. The women's committee was led by the tireless widow of Rabbi Sznur and the women Golda Mozel, Elza Zinger, Mekhla Baron and Chaya'tshe Rubin. They voluntarily gave the final help to their fellow citizens.

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4. Tzedakah

During the early years the managing committee of the kehile was occupied with the very poor Jewish population in Tarnow. However, a large number of Tarnow Jews emphasized aid for Jewish society as a whole. However, this society for giving aid encouraged begging. Therefore, at the initiative of the kehile managing committee, a special committee was created in 1928 that decided to create a society for permanent support of the poor. Thanks to the efforts of this committee, at whose head stood Wolf Gecler, Dr. Y. Fajg and Zigmunt Fenichel, the Tzedakah [charity] Society was founded. The funds of the society were collected by members' dues and through a subsidy from the kehile. All of the beggars or those who needed support were registered; they were given identification cards, based on which they received weekly support. The members of the society received plaques with inscriptions that there was to be no begging from the owners [of the shops].

Besides this, the society confronted as its task the control and social support of the poor, particularly of their children, as well as fighting begging by people capable of working by providing them with the opportunity to work.

The first managing committee of the Tzedakah Society was elected in June 1928 with the following composition: Avraham Szpilman (chairman), Dr. Fajg (vice chairman), Sznajder (treasurer), Fenticel (comptroller), Meir Rozenbaum (secretary). Elected to the evaluation committee were: Wolf Gecler, Honig, M. S, Szapiro, Yisroel Honig, Ciechanowski and Maurici Huter. To the inspection committee: Meir Lew, Leopold Szinagel and Dovid Zajden. In addition to these, Dr. Szpan, Rachmil, Klajnhendler, Engelbard, Kurc Yehiel, Kh. L. Korn, Rozenberg, Kh. Fesel, Szenirer, Sztiglic and Szechter belonged to the managing committee.

In a short time, the Tzedakah Society counted a large number of members. From 177 members at the founding, the society reached 245 members in December 1928. The turnover reached 8,955 zlotes for five months, of which 6,383 zlotes were regular monthly support for that period. In addition, the payment reached the sum of from nine to 17 zlotes, depending on the income that the society had during a given month. The increased activity of the Tzedakah Society can be seen from the fact that at the general reporting meeting of the 3rd of November 1929, Wolf Gecler declared, in the name of the managing committee, that the turnover until then of

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the society had cost the sum of 28,607 zlotes since its founding. The above–mentioned committee (with small personnel changes) devotedly carried out its duties until the outbreak of the Second World War. The managing committee members who were later in the Tarnow ghetto, in the most difficult conditions, when they found themselves in the face of death, did not forget those closest to them, organizing secret, urgent help for the hungry and sick during the very greatest need.

 

5. Anshe Khesed

The Anshe Khesed Society [People of Kindness] carried on broad philanthropic activity on behalf of the poorest Jews in Tarnow. Poor artisans, retailers who no longer had any means of living, who lived in hunger and cold and abstained from turning for help, made use of the help from the society, particularly medical help.

The last general meeting of Anshe Khesed took place on the 18th of April 1938, under the chairmanship of Bernard Leib. A new managing committee was chosen then with the following composition: Bernard Leib (chairman), Yosef Shmuel Gros (vice chairman and treasurer), Shimeon Apel (secretary), Herman Hercig (comptroller), Matisyahu Kornrajch, Shmuel Osterwajl, Shlomo Maurer, Ruwin Fenichel, Kalman Lis, Wolf Nachman, Yakov Sztajner, Yeshayhu Herbst, Yisroel Goldwaser, Feyvl Baum, Ahron Lezer, Shlomo Szif, Juliusz Haberman, Yisroel Osterwajl, Chaim Goldberg, Shmuel Betribnis, Shlomo Blajcher, Yisroel Lajnwand, Nakhman Rendert. Simple, decent Tarnow Jews, without commotion and without demands, dedicated themselves to the work of easing the fate of those closest to them. All of them perished at the hands of the Hitlerist scoundrels.

 

6. Ognisko

The Jewish academic young people were organized in the university cities. A strong organization of Jewish students existed in Krakow under the name Ognisko [Fire], which was apolitical and whose purpose was to give help to those young people studying at the university.

In the years after the First World War, a committee was active in Tarnow, which was occupied with giving material help to the Jewish academics who came from Tarnow and who studied

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at the universities in the country and abroad. The activity of this committee, to which Dr. Adolf Kac, Shlomo Rajn, Dr. T. Szwarc and Dr. A. Chomet belonged, was limited because of the lack of funds. However, this committee was the foundation for a larger self–help organization of Jewish academics in Tarnow.

In 1928 the organization Ognisko already existed in Tarnow, on the pattern of Krakow and consisted of all Jewish academics in Tarnow. Chairman of the managing committee was R. Sztamer; managing committee members: Yakov Binensztok, Frenkel, Moshe Klapholc, Mrs. Klajnfesel, H. Szpilman, Wachtal and Dr. Wandsztajn. Hena Gecler, Franka Honig belonged to the members' court. The internal political struggles hindered the society in its development. In May 1929 a reorganization of the union took place and a new managing committee was elected with the following composition: Y. Binensztok – chairman, Roman Szenweter – first vice chairman, Leon Klar – second vice chairman, Cila Marmor – secretary, Hena Gecler – treasurer. Although the managing committee of Ogniska changed often, the society was very popular and a report from the general meeting held in October 1932 gives us a certain idea of the activity of Ognisko in Tarnow. Thanks to the efforts of the managing committee, 10 Jewish academics from Tarnow received the possibility of living in the Academic House in Krakow and several members received a discount for the Ognisko colony in Poronin. The general income of the society reached 3,040 zlotes, resulting in interest–free loans in the sum of 1,300 zlotes being given and five Tarnow Jewish students were continuously subsidized.

The constantly growing impoverishment of the Jewish population placed new burdens on this important society. Ognisko had benefitted from the support of the Jewish population in Tarnow.

In the month of October 1938, a managing committee of the following composition was elected: Natan Szajnweter (chairman), Julias Menderer and Wilhelm Rawner (vice chairman), Rand, H. Zajden, Argand, Berglas, Braun, Ferster, Man, Sznajder, Sziper, Szif, Wachtal, Weg. The inspection commission: Magister Westrajch, Dr. Laufer, Magister Blajfeld. In the honorary court: Magister Cajchner, Magister Rubin and Szinagel.

This was the last managing committee of Ognisko in Tarnow, the last managing committee of the active and useful society of Jewish academics. Only a small group survived, principally those who emigrated to Eretz–Yisroel before the tragedy and those who

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survived in the Soviet Union. The remainder perished in the mass graves as martyrs at the hands of the Hitlerist murderers.

 

7. Nadzieja (Hope)

In 1903 the Nadzieja Society arose in Krakow whose purpose was to save the poor Jewish school youth sick with tuberculosis. From the donations that the Krakow residents gave at that time, the society bought a house in Szczawnica that later was sold to permit the procurement of a larger house in Ritro. Other Galicianer cities looked at this magnificent accomplishment of the Krakow University with jealousy and also wanted to save the local young from tuberculosis. However, they were too weak in the financial sense to create something similar and, therefore, a large number of cities in Galicia joined the Krakow Society. Among others, a division of the Nadzieja Society was created in Tarnow in 1924, whose chairman and most devoted activist from the first minute on to the outbreak of the Second Work War was Dr. Edvard Szalit. Thanks to his sacrificial and devoted work, the Tarnow division provided a large sum of money to the Krakow central [organization] and every year from then on they transferred larger sums to the fund in Krakow that enabled Tarnow Jewish students threatened by tuberculosis to make use of and be healed in the richly equipped sanitarium in Ritro. This humanitarian communal institution was very popular among the Jewish population in Tarnow. Dr. Szalit, with the help of more Tarnow residents, took care of the institution and did not miss any opportunity to collect the needed funds. His ambition was to arrange the ball for Nadzieja every year, which served as the financial basis for the activity of the Tarnow division. Jewish society in Tarnow, as a whole, did not stint in its assessment for the above–mentioned society and Dr. Szalit was happy when he could say that he had sent a large number of young Jewish tuberculosis patients from Tarnow. Dr. Szalit belonged to the idealistic and exemplary Jewish citizens of Tarnow and was active communally for idealistic motives. Although he did not belong to the nationalist [Zionist] camp, he related to the Zionist movement with respect, always emphasizing his belonging to Jewry. After the outbreak of the Second World War, Dr. Szalit was in Lemberg for a time, where he worked as a doctor

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in the hospital there. He was murdered by the Hitlerist murderers. Honor his memory!

 

8. Society to Support Poor Jewish Young People in the Middle Schools

For many years, there was concern about the young students, although in a limited area. After the Austrian times, a committee was active in Tarnow with Dr. Hochberg at its head, which gave help to the young Jews, particularly by buying them textbooks and clothes for the winter from funds partly received from the Baron Hirsch's foundation.

In the later years the committee expanded its activity. A society arose to support poor Jewish young people in the middle school at whose head from 1930 to the outbreak of the Second World War was Dr. Herman Bober as chairman and Dr. Adolf Kac as secretary. Thanks to the work of this society, the poor school students could receive textbooks, which had become very expensive during those years. Dr. Bober and Dr. Kac made all efforts to increase the fund of the modest and useful institution, for which they worked with dedication and quietly.

Dr. Bober was murdered in a tragic manner by the German bandits. Dr. Adolf Kac from his early youth on was a loyal and devoted Zionist, quiet and modest. He never refused to help a comrade and friend, generously supported all philanthropic and national [Zionist] institutions. He died suddenly in Uzbekistan in 1946 in the town of Kermin, just before the beginning of the repatriation to Poland. Honor his memory!

 

9. Society “Support for the Poor Jewish School Young People”

Several years after the First World War a new society, “Support for the Poor Jewish School Young People,” was founded. We learn from a report in Tygodnik Żydowski [Jewish Weekly] of the 25th of February 1938 that the help of this society in 1937 encompassed 700 school children with poor parents, 81 cases of medical help, 60 cases of dental help. The society ran a camp every summer at the Shimeon sports grounds, which benefitted

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240 children who received food twice a day (8,570 total meals were given out). The clothing section distributed 72 coats, nine suits, 20 dresses, 100 pairs of shoes and covered the cost of repairing 40 pairs of shoes. In the above–mentioned report year, they also fed 180 children with meat lunches (in total 4,320 lunches were given out). A managing committee of the same composition as the previous year was elected at this meeting: Dr. Auber Ernst, Mrs. Blazer, Mrs. E. Blond, Mrs. S. Blond, Mrs. B. Blonder, Mrs. Brig, Dr. Emil Dintenfas, Zigmund Fenichel, Mrs. Fajgenbaum, Mrs. Anna Flur, Mrs. Anna Gryn, Mrs. Jablonska, Kestenbaun, Mrs. K. Klajn, Yosef Kornilo, Mrs. Dr. Lantner, Dr. Leibel, Mrs. Golda Mozel, Mrs. Emilia Mondzajn, A. Osterwajl, Mrs. Szenirer, Mrs. Spenadl (now in Israel), Mr. Sztajnbok, E. Sztajer, Mgr. [Magister – holder of a university degree in a technical subject] Taubeles, Miss Professor Taubeles, Professor Wachtal, Mrs. Dr. Wajs, Professor Wildsztajn, Mrs. Professor Wrubel, Professor Zwecher. Elected to the auditing committee were: Avraham Lajnwand, Dr. Szenweter, Dr. Wandsztajn (now in London), Dr. Henrik Blumenfeld (now in Israel) and Leopold Szinagel

As can be seen from the report, the institution was useful and it carried out varied activity to ease the need of the Jewish school youth in Tarnow. The committee members worked honestly and devotedly to do this, avoiding publicity and boasting. The poor school youth in Tarnow had real, devoted supporters in them.

An important position for carrying help to the poorest strata of the Jewish population in Tarnow was the tea hall, which was opened on the 24th of January 1937 in Mr. Lion's house at Lwowska 15 – thanks to the efforts and subsidies from the supervisory council and managing committee of the Cooperative Society for Mutual Credit in Tarnow. Sweet tea and bread were distributed in the tea hall to every poor or jobless Jew.

The woman, Mina Baron, worked with devotion and loyalty in bringing help to Jewish pregnant women. She was the chairwoman of the Khevra Yoledet [society to help pregnant women]. She took care of everything that was needed by the poor pregnant woman. She claimed nothing for herself from this work – no honor, no praise. She was deported with her husband, Elihu Baron, the former chairman of the Tarnow Jewish community, during one of the anti–Jewish actions in the Tarnow ghetto and shared the tragic fate of the Tarnow Jews. Honor their memory!

There were other societies and philanthropic committees, such as Hakhnoses Kale [society to assist poor brides], Broyt un koyln [bread and coal] and others, but the actual burden of social help lay on the shoulders of the Jewish kehile [organized Jewish community] in Tarnow, which utilized significant sums of money from its budget for help for the poor, not including the Passover campaigns (Kimkha–dePaskha [purchase of Passover flour]). Under the supervision

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of the kehile a special committee carried out a so–called “coal–action” every year in which the respected Jews of the city took part with the rabbinate at its head. The motivator of every action was the well–known Mizrakhi leader of many years, Khona Fesel (now in Israel), who before every winter undertook the coal–action, giving all of his free time to this work. Not all of the poor, for whom it was cold in unheated residences, knew him. However, Khona Fesel himself knew all of the needy, for whom he carried home the notes for coal, and particularly those who had frozen in their homes and could not overcome the shame of submitting a request for a distribution of coal. Elihu Baron stood at the head of this committee and working with him were the esteemed Jews who, with the rabbi, went to the richest houses and collected contributions for the coal campaign. In addition, the kehile distributed significant subsidies from its budget for this purpose. We know of the report of the coal campaign from the years 1936/37 published in the Tygodnik Zydowski [Jewish Weekly]. A sum of 3,095 zlotes and 10 groshn was collected for the coal campaign in Tarnow in the above–mentioned year and 222,650 kilos of coal for 1,743 poor families in Tarnow was distributed. The campaign was led then by Elihu Baron and Khona Fesel; H.L. Holander, Zigmunt Fenichel and Markus Rozenberg also belonged to the small committee.

It is now difficult to enumerate an even wider group of philanthropic societies that was active in the Jewish neighborhood in Tarnow. Along with the 65,000 [members] of Tarnow Jewry who perished in the mass graves and in various death camps, every trace disappeared of the quiet, dedicated, often unknown communal workers who held as their modest communal duty the bringing of help to those closest to them when there was a need. Honor their memory!

 

II

The Jewish Hospital in Tarnow

The start of the Jewish hospital in Tarnow, one of the most beautiful and useful Jewish institutions, dates from the year 1840. The representative of the then “Israelite community” in Tarnow, Shmuel Daniel, bought a piece of land for the Jewish hospital not far from the Jewish cemetery (purchase contract of the 20th of May 1840, mortgage number 79).

From the contents of the foundational act (cited in the original in the chapter, “To the History of Jews in Tarnow”) that was solemnly read

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at the opening of the hospital on the 26th of January 1842, we learn that a Jewish hospital fund had existed for a long time, collected by the then managing committee of the kehile: Yakov Goldlust, Pinkhas Falester and Shlomo Finkelsztajn, and so did an earlier building for the Jewish hospital, which was located in the center of the city. The building was sold at the order of the regime and thus the hospital fund was enlarged and the new hospital building was built in 1840 as a result of this at the new location near the Jewish cemetery. The costs of the internal hospital facilities were covered by the voluntary donations collected by the kehile. The favorable relationship to the Jews on the part of the then Austrian chief of the gubernia [provincial] council and the Tarnow “district captain,” Jozef Breinl von Wallerstern, aided the ascent of the hospital.

Four managing committee members from the Jewish local community, Mekhl Falester, Ahron Kaminer, Chaim–Leib Fajgenbaum and Lipa Wajngartn, belonged to the first managing committee of the hospital, which was open to the public on the 26th of January 1842. Thus, the leadership of the hospital was to be in the hands of every mayor of the city. According to the above–mentioned foundation act, the income to secure the support of the hospital had to be come from the income from the mikvah [ritual bath], assessments from the synagogue and houses of prayer, collections on the occasion of births, weddings, haircuts, deaths, erecting headstones, being called to the Torah in the synagogue (aliyas), collections in special hospital puskhes [cans] that were distributed to Jewish homes. The foundation act was signed on the part of the Jews by the then County Rabbi Rapaport, the manager of the Jewish kehile, the so–called “community representative,” Pinkhas Palester [spelled Falester above], S. Finkelsztajn, and the hospital managers, Mekhl Falester, S. A. Kaminer, Chaim–Leib Fajgenbaum, Lipa Wajngartn, Hirsh Keler, Dovid Rapaport, Menka Weksler and Y. Luksenburg. As witnesses, the above–mentioned document was signed by (on the part of the Jews): Yitzhak Keler, Hersh Bernsztajn, Shaul Finkelsztajn, Leibl Minc, Yisroel Borensztajn, Mendl Keler. The act also was signed by Dr. Edvard Kelerman – county physicist and doctor.

However, for the most part, the well–known philanthropist, Dwoyra Weksler, kept the hospital in existence. She had recorded the Jewish kehile as the owner of her two houses on Folwerczna and Nowa Streets, with the provision that the income from the houses would go for the support of the hospital. When this testament was recorded, the income from both houses was completely sufficient to fund the hospital. Until the outbreak of the Second World War, a portrait of Mrs. Dwoyra Weksler (died in 1887) hung in the reception office of the hospital.

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Supporting the Jewish hospital in Tarnow was not an easy matter. The hospital had much to thank the devotion and activity of the Szicer family, an entire generation of experienced doctors who worked there without payment since the founding of the hospital.

The first hospital director was Dr. Yakov Krajcer,[1] died in 1888. Then, the office went to his son, Dr. Zigmunt Szicer (until 1893), whose heir again was his son, Dr. Leon Szicer. The latter worked devotedly in the hospital until 1937.

Dr. Leon Szicer was an important surgeon with extraordinary erudition and intelligence, a free–thinker and sincere democrat. Although he was distant from Jewish life, he surrounded the Jewish hospital with special care, continuing the tradition of his forefathers who were connected to this healing institution. Until the outbreak of the Second World War, portraits of all three above–mentioned esteemed doctors who for tens of years, without self–interest, dedicated themselves to the work of helping the sick, hung in a room near the operating room.

In 1874 land near the hospital was bought by the hospital fund and thanks to this, its area was significantly increased.

However, the administration of the hospital was very inadequate for many years. As long as the communal meddlers of the old style had the upper hand in the Jewish kehile, the hospital had little money because the income from Dworya Menke's[2] houses became so minimal that, in general, it could not be considered an entry in the account of the hospital budget.

The Jewish hospital was taken over by the Austrian military at the outbreak of the First World War and Tarnow Jews in general could not use the institution. When control of the kehile was won by the Zionists (after the end of the war), a new era began in the development of the Jewish hospital. The then kehile managing committee, and completely separately, its members, Chaim Najger and Dr. Shmuel Szpan, with the cooperation of Mrs. Golda Mazel, first endeavored to free the hospital building from military requisition and a citizens' committee was created in order to renovate the hospital. Even before the military returned the building, a clinic, led by Dr. Yeshayahu Fajg, without any self–interest, opened in a room located in the new synagogue. Miss Harcman worked there as a nurse.

When the entire hospital building and the internal installations were renovated in 1928, the kehile managing committee provided a constant tour of duty by the doctors, which permitted the sick in the hospital to have

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permanent medical help and the sick who needed to be taken in urgent cases at the hospital did not need to turn to the private residence of a doctor to receive permission from them to come to the Jewish hospital.

 

tar1_745.jpg
The Jewish hospital building in Tarnow

 

Until the Zionists took over the Tarnow Jewish kehile [organized Jewish community], the doctors at the Jewish hospital worked very conscientiously without pay. Now, however, the doctors began to receive a salary although a very modest one, but a regular one. Only Dr. Leon Szicer refused the salary and continued his work at the hospital without any payment. After the First World War, the experienced internist, Dr. M. Bloch, who died a martyr's death during the Hitlerist occupation, his sister, Dr. Bloch–Merc (now in Israel), Dr. Chaim Wajs (perished during the occupation) and Miss Doctor Zilber worked with Dr. Szicer. Under the careful supervision of the three experienced doctors, there also was significant young medical strength working in the hospital and acquiring expertise and deepening their medical knowledge, because they did not have entry into any other hospitals.

In order to give medical help to the widest strata of the Jewish population, the kehile managing committee opened a clinic at the hospital,

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where Dr. Yeshayhu Fajg (eye diseases) and R. Manhajmer worked without any self–interest. In addition to this, help was organized for the Jews who underwent treatment at the general hospital in Tarnow.

A great importance for the poor Jewish population was the healing without cost of Jewish children from the illness that spread among poor Jews with the name “ringworm.” However, the most important new thing brought by the kehile managing committee immediately after the First World War, was the placing of the hospital budget on a healthy foundation. Once and for all they stopped collecting donations and assessments to support the hospital and all necessary expenses now were covered by the kehile from the taxes paid to the kehile by the Jews. Now the Tarnow Jews were not ashamed to be treated in the Jewish hospital, which no longer was supported by contributions, but by the entire Jewish population of the city.

Making the conditions in the hospital healthier also brought about the reorganization of the orderlies. The self–sacrificing work of the head nurse, Carola Kelhofer, must be underlined at this opportunity.

The Jewish hospital was an accessible institution for the widest strata of the Jewish population and even Poles would often make use of the medical help and services of the hospital in Tarnow.

As appears in the Tygodnik Żydowski [Jewish Weekly] of the 14th of February 1930 (no. 7), in 1929 the Jewish hospital took care of 692 patients of which 39 died (around 7%), and the remaining left the hospital in good health. At the beginning of 1930 there were 31 patients. Only 36 patients from Tarnow had paid the hospital tax in 1929. The sum they paid reached 3,276 zlotes, 50 groshn. There were 107 patients from outside Tarnow – the sum paid 10,516 zlotes, 50 groshn. Among the sick in 1929 were 29 Christians; of them, 14 were accepted according to the recommendation of the sick fund. The number of sick in 1929 was approximately the same as in 1928. The paid sum from the patients then reached 1,000 zlotes more than in 1929. We must underline that the payment brought in by the patient was a very small proportion in relation to the hospital expenses and the Jewish kehile had to subsidize the hospital with larger sums to maintain it at an appropriate standard.

In 1929, 44 beds for patients (in six rooms and four wards) were located in the Jewish hospital. Four rooms were designated for

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adults, one room for children, one for pregnant women. The personnel that year consisted of 29 people, including one on–duty doctor and two doctors who worked in the hospital.

In 1929 the hospital possessed an x–ray institute under the management of Dr. Muszkatenblit, a sun–lamp, and the operating room was equipped with modern surgical instruments and a new type of Zeiss lamp.

The Jewish hospital in Tarnow occupied first place in the Jewish hospital system in Poland. The hospital commission that was appointed by the then kehile managing committee accomplished important work for the hospital. Belonging to the commission were Dr. Henrik Ehrenfraund, Chaim Najger, Dr. Shmuel Szpan, A. Margulies, Chaim Aberdam, Y. Maszler, Shlomo Mehr and Cuker.

The Jewish hospital was the first to suffer when commissariat rule began at the kehile. Many efforts and attempts were necessary to elevate the hospital after many years of crisis and changes in the managing committee, not only to its previous level, but also to adapt it to the growing need because of the constant impoverishment of the Jewish population in Tarnow.

The unforgettable director of the Jewish hospital, Dr. Leon Szicer, died in 1937. In his place, the kehile managing committee under the leadership of Dr. M. Menderer, who showed great care for and interest in the hospital, at the proposal of the chairman of the hospital commission, Dr. E. Szalit, designated as director, Dr. Jerzy Sziper, born in Tarnow, a brother of the historian Dr. Yitzhak Sziper, of blessed memory. Dr. Jerzy Sziper at that time practiced in the Jewish hospital in Warsaw. On the 15th of September 1937 he took over the office of director and the office of surgery at the Jewish hospital in Tarnow where he worked until the outbreak of the Second World War. Even during the occupation, he worked for a time at the hospital until leaving Tarnow (he now works as a doctor in Katowice).

The Jewish hospital stood at a high level under the leadership of Dr. Sziper. In the first half of 1938, 698 patients were treated there, including 307 without cost. A clinic was active at the Jewish hospital, with which Dr. E. Szalit was very occupied. The doctor–specialists, Dr. B. Rubin (now in Tarnow), Dr. Shimeon Bloch and others worked with him without self–interest. During the above–mentioned time, 2,031 patients benefitted from medical help at the clinic.

The Jewish population was drawn to the Jewish hospital with ever greater trust

[Page 748]

but it could not include all of the sick. A location was lacking for the facility for tuberculosis patients.

The last kehile managing committee in Tarnow (chairman – Dr. A. Chomet, vice chairmen – Wolf Gecler and Chaim Aberdam) during the action for the Jewish refugees from Germany, succeeded in drawing to the work a large number of serious citizens who always stood far from politics. These people succeeded in drawing interest to a plan that was worked out at the time by the chairman of the Jewish kehile in Tarnow, Dr. M. Mederner, about building a pavilion for tuberculosis patients.

An old ground–floor building located near the Jewish hospital belonged to the kehile. This building was rebuilt into a beautiful hospital pavilion. The thorough renovation of the building was possible thanks to the foundation of Shimeon and Zisl Maszler and the significant contribution of Yosef Maszler. It was not an easy task to carry out this matter because they had to search for a residence for the resident of the ground floor house; they had to have the necessary funds to build a [second] story, for rebuilding the entire building, arrange hospital rooms and so on.

Thanks to the selfless work of Engineer Moshe Rajch, a veteran of

 

tar1_748.jpg
At the solemn opening of the pavilion for tuberculosis patients in Tarnow in 1939

Sitting from right to left: Yisroel Kohn, of blessed memory, Henrik Holender, of blessed memory, Dr. Jerzy Sziper, Dr. Avraham Chomet, Zigmunt Flajszer, Wilhelm Lichtblau, of blessed memory, Dr. Maszler, of blessed memory Standing in the second row from left to right: Chaim Erlich and the fourth in the row, Mrs. Flajszer, of blessed memory

[Page 749]

the Zionist movement in Tarnow, who conducted the entire construction work without pay, thanks to the donors, Zigmunt Flajszer, W. Lichtblau, Benyamin Kac, Dr. Maszler (doctor–oculist), who from their funds arranged an ocular facility in the building for the use of the Jewish population, as well as thanks to the efforts of the kehile managing committee, particularly of its member Yisroel Kohn (active Mizrakhi [religious Zionists] leader); thanks to the citizens, B. Szpendl, who directed the electrical installation, Bernsztajn, technical director and Mendl Daar, who donated the sum of 10,000 zlotes to buy a new x–ray machine and arranged the radiology facilities, as well as thanks to the energetic collaboration on the part of the director of the Jewish hospital, Dr. J. Sziper, and the chairman of the hospital commission at the kehile, Dr. E. Szalit and Dovid Batist, representative of the Bund at the kehile managing committee, there was success in carrying the thing to its conclusion. There, where a small, abandoned house had stood earlier, grew a beautiful one–story building with large, well arranged rooms, with an x–ray office and Dr. Maszler's oculist office. At the end of April 1939 a solemn opening of the pavilion took place in one of the gardens at the hospital. Many invited guests took part,

 

tar1_749.jpg
After the solemn opening of the pavilion for tuberculosis patients in Tarnow in 1939

Sitting on the left side: Mrs. Flajszer, of blessed memory, Henrik Holender, of blessed memory. Right side: Dr. Avraham Chomet, Wilhelm Lichtblau, of blessed memory, ad Dr. Maszler, of blessed memory.)

[Page 750]

representatives of the civilian and military regimes, representatives of political parties and communal organizations. The building was given to Dr. Sziper as a division for tuberculosis patients at the Jewish hospital.

The Jewish hospital was erected to a high standard thanks to the above–mentioned work of the hospital directors, Dr. J. Sziper, Dr. M. Bloch, Dr. Bloch–Merc, Dr. B. Rubin, Dr. Muszkatenblit and several young doctors who practiced at the hospital. The hospital was endowed with trust from the widest circles of the Jewish population. All of the beds were always occupied and it was necessary to begin to think about enlarging the hospital building. Zigmunt Flajszer (now in Israel) informed the kehile managing committee of his readiness to help realize the plan of adding a second story on the hospital building. The Benyamin Kac family, which wanted to do something for the Tarnow Jewish community, expressed its readiness to build the second story at its expense. The matter should have been settled, but the outbreak of the World War made it impossible to accomplish this important plan.

The Cooperative Society for Mutual Credit, led by Y. Szenweter, Chaim Aberdam and Y. Maszler, gave the hospital a great amount of credit, which permitted the director, Dr. Szalit, to carry out the renovation of the clinic and equip it with the newest curative tools. This work also was interrupted because of the outbreak of the Second World War.

In September 1939, the Jewish hospital was taken by the Hitleristic gangs. Only the pavilion for tuberculosis patients stood at the disposition of the Jewish population until the erection of the ghetto.

We received a letter sent by Dr. Bernard Tesse, who lived through the Hitlerist hell in Tarnow and in the camps and, after the end of the war, emigrated to America (now lives in New York) to Dr. Shmuel Szpan in Haifa, with a collection of facts about the attitude toward the Jewish hospital that reigned after the entry in Tarnow by the Germans. Dr. Tessa wrote the following in his letter:

“Immediately after the occupation of Tarnow by the Germans, I began to work in the Jewish hospital. The director was Dr. Sziper, a wonderful doctor, a good Jew and an extraordinarily devoted man. Working with us was Dr. Justig, a doctor of my age, who was shot in 1943 by the Gestapo along with his bride, Khayke Organd, under the pretext that they had the intention of escaping from the ghetto, which incidentally, was not true. Several others worked with us at a high standard thanks to the devoted work of the

[Page 751]

doctors such as Dr. Abend, Dr Bloch, Dr. Wajs, Dr. Zigfrid, but only for up to two hours daily. At the beginning, the work was bearable; the Germans were not occupied with us. However, when the Gestapo arrived in Tarnow, we had more still more frequent and unpleasant visits from them. The work conditions became still more difficult. Nevertheless, no patient lacked 100 percent care. None of us received a salary; we supported ourselves in such a manner that one rich patient paid for ten poor ones. The conditions became even worse; the first deportation occurred. One truck after another and walking columns of Jews were driven to the Jewish cemetery that was located opposite the hospital and they were shot there. Among the interminable salvos from machine guns, the shouting and lamenting of those being chased and shot, we operated, wrapped bandages, examined the sick and hid old people and children. You can imagine what we felt in our hearts. I am not capable of a short description, just as I am not in a position now to write more on this theme, because I am close to a spiritual shock. In my mind I see the streams of Jewish blood and the mountains of the dead and the worst – I hear the shouts of the murdered children. Nevertheless, we were all on guard. The heroism of our nurses cannot be described. All of this took place in an era before the ghetto. Now you can imagine the ghetto yourself.”

The Jewish hospital building and the pavilion for tuberculosis patients – the fruit of many years of work and efforts by the Jewish population – served the Hitlerist murderers of the Jewish people during the occupation.

The remaining building of the Jewish hospital and the tuberculosis pavilion in Tarnow now belong to the municipal hospital in Tarnow.

 

III

Old Age Home

In 1913 a larger institution, the so–called old age home (moyshev–skeynim), was founded in Tarnow. In 1891 Mendl Maszler had designated 20,000 guldn (40,000 kron) for an old age home. A foundation was created then under the name, “Moyshev–Skeynim in the name of Meindl Maszler for Poor Old People of the Jewish Religion.” In 1912 the Tarnow Jewish community sold an unused Jewish hospital building to the foundation

[Page 752]

and an old age home was opened in the house. Artur Margulies, signed the sale document in the name of the foundation; Yakub Geldvert in the name of the kehile. The activity of the old age home often came up against difficulties because of the lack of funds. The joining of the old age home to the Jewish hospital strengthened it and brought order to the core existence of the old age home. This was possible thanks to the ruling statute for the old age home in April 1933, certified in November 1935 by the Minister of Social Welfare. From then on the old people were located in a newly renovated house near the hospital and received food from the hospital kitchen. The personnel of the hospital also provided medical help. The Jewish kehile paid for the medications for the old people, which, by the way, covered the entire budget of the old–age home. There also was a synagogue there in which to pray. In 1929 there were 27 old people in the old–age home and, in 1932 – 37. A nurse and an aide always took care of them. There was a line in the kehile budget of 1937 for the old–age home for the sum of 13,500 zlotes.

Mr. Zigmunt Flajszer (now in Israel) gave much interest and attention to the old age home. Every Shabbos [Sabbath] he and

 

tar1_752.jpg
The Old–Age Home building (x) in Tarnow

[Page 753]

his wife (perished during the occupation) visited the old age home and left significant gifts at every visit.

All residents of the Tarnow Jewish old–age home were murdered by the German bandits. Today the old age home building is used as a military hospital by the city council and for one of the divisions of the municipal hospital.

 

IV.

Orphanage and Children's Homes

The problem of taking care of Jewish orphans first surfaced during the First World War. In addition to orphans whose fathers died at the front, a number of children also were gathered whose parents died in the barracks of Nikolsburg [Mikulov, Moravia] in Czechoslovakia, where they were evacuated from Galicianer areas that were taken by the Tsarist Army.

The Nikolsburg orphans were placed in the building of the former school named for Baron Hirsch and when the Safa–Berura [clear language] Society bought its own house for its school an institution was opened for Jewish orphans. Thanks to the funds from the Jewish Eskonte Gezelshaft [Credit Society] in Tarnow, an orphanage was erected in which all Jewish orphans in the city were sheltered. A separate society was founded, whose purpose was to take care of the institution and to protect the Jewish orphan.

From the report that was given at the general meeting of the society on the 22nd of April 1928, we learn that in that year there were 26 orphans in the institution. The institution also was involved with them after they left the orphanage, trying to find relatives for them, teaching them a trade, giving them employment, material and moral support.

The chairman of the managing committee at that time was the apothecary, Maurici Adler, secretary – Dr. Shlomo Goldberg, treasurer – Dr. M. Menderer. The doctor at the institution was Dr. Julius Zilbiger, who carried on his work devotedly and honestly. The energetic pedagogue, Dr. Liblich, led the institution and was helped by the nurse, Miss Mahler.

The institution supported itself from income from member dues, from the steady subsidy from the Tarnow city hall, Jewish kehile and the Joint [Distribution Committee]. At the above–mentioned general meeting in April 1928

[Page 754]

tar1_754.jpg
The orphanage building in Tarnow

 

a new managing committee of the following composition was elected: Mrs. Dr. Ehernfraund, Mrs. Dr. Rywka Fajg (avid Zionist, a long–time member of the Tarnow organization, Miriam, died in Israel in 1948), Anna Flur, Mrs. Rubin, Mrs. Szancer (now in Krakow). Zofia Flajszer, the apothecary Adler, Dr. Shlomo Goldberg, Dr. Henrik Goldsztern, Wolf Gecler, Dr. Wolf Mandel (now in Israel), Dr. Menderer, Dr. Edvard Szalit, Dr. Wolf Szenker, Leopold Szinagel, Dr. Szmul Szpan.

In 1937 Dr. Wolf Mandel was elected as chairman of the orphan institution in Tarnow, Dr. Menderer and Ludwik Hupert as vice chairmen, Dr. Shlomo Goldberg as treasurer and Anna Flur as treasurer.

The Hitlerist murderers murdered all of the Jewish orphans from the institution in a cruel manner. For a time, and also during the German occupation, the orphanage was led by Dr. Liblich, who with the children was murdered by the German murderers.

Today an orphanage for Polish children is located in the building of the Jewish orphanage.

[Page 755]

Jewish Ochronka

A group of Zionist women, active in the women's organization, Miriam, became interested in the fate of the poor Jewish children in Tarnow after the First World War. They opened an ochronka [orphanage] for them at Goldhamer Street number 11, led by the energetic young communal worker, Miss Sztajner. Outside of school, after the lunch hour, the children received help with lessons, lectures in Hebrew and a nourishing evening meal.

During the later year before the Second World War, the orphanage developed fruitful activity. Dr. Menderer stood at the head of the work with a group of active, devoted communal workers and among them, Chaim Erlich, the Zionist activist for many years.

In 1937 the orphanage arranged a summer camp for Jewish children for the first time in Pleśna near Tarnow. In addition to this, the children received warm clothing, shoes, as well as school supplies. Over the years various events were arranged for the children, such as special evenings and entertainments. According to the report published in Tygodnik Zydowski of the 11th of March 1938, no. 10, at the general meeting that took place on the 27th of

 

tar1_755.jpg
The orphanage at Safa–Berura [clear language]
Right: Hela Grinfeld Left: Mrs. Dr. Holender

[Page 756]

February 1938, it was reported that 108 children then benefitted from help from the society. The budget of the orphanage reached 8,250 zlotes in the yearly report.

It was decided at the above–mentioned meeting to carry out an action to erect a building for the ochronka and to a hold an enrollment action among the Jewish population to receive more help for the very useful institution.

A new managing committee also was elected then of the following composition: Dr. M. Menderer, Chaim Erlich, Mendl Potaszmacher, Dwoyra Unger, Golda Mozel, Henrik Flur, Berta Flur, Mrs. Dr. Menderer, Mrs. Dr. Zajdenwerg, Chava Lichtblau, Mrs. Emalia Mondzajn, Mrs. Langer, Prof. Zvi Cwecher, Mrs. Dr. Chomet (now in Israel), Mrs. Wurcel (now in Israel), Mrs. Fesl, Dr. Emil Dintenfas (now in Israel), Dr. Avraham Chomet. To the inspection commission: Dr. Szenweter, Dr. Blumenfeld, Chaim Fridman. To the society court: Dr. Leopold Szinagel, Magister [holder of advanced degree from a university] H. Szpilman.

This managing committee constituted itself in the following manner: Dr. M. Menderer – chairman, Mrs. Langer and Mrs. Dr. Chomet – vice chairwomen, Mrs. Dr. Zajdenwerg – secretary, Chaim Erlich – treasurer, Chava Lichtblau

 

tar1_756.jpg
Children from the Jewish ochronka [orphanage] at the bread evening

Left – giving out the food: Mrs. Dr. Menderer and Mrs. Langer
Right: managing committee members: E. Zauersztrom, Chaim Erlich, Dr. A. Chomet and Dr. M. Menderer

[Page 757]

representative of the treasurer, Mendl Potaszmacher – managing committee member, Zvi Cwecher – librarian, Mrs. Emalia Mandzajn – food supply section, Mrs. Unger – clothing section, Chava Lichtblau – social–cultural–sports section, Chaim Erlich – section for the summer camp, Dr. A. Chomet – publicity section, Dr. Dintenfas – hygienic supervision.

The premises of the orphanage was located in the building of Safa–Berura (former Baron Hirsh School). The beautiful and useful institution perished. There remains no trace of it.

 

The Bundist Froebel School

A beautiful, modern Froebel[3] School, under the leadership of Mrs. E. Blumenkranc, was organized in the house named for Benish Michalewicz, where the Jewish professional unions and the Bundist institutions were located. The pre–school was supported by the Undzer Kinder [Our Children] Society, which also would arrange a summer camp for the children every year. The Undzer Kinder Society was under the influence of the Bund.

A non–Jewish institution is located in the building today.

 

V

Union of Jewish Invalids, Widows and Orphans

The First World War left deep wounds among the Jewish population, which had been occupied by the Austrian–Hungarian monarchy. Galician Jewry particularly had suffered. Not only Jewish invalids remained, but the number of orphans and widows of those husbands and fathers who had died at the front was large. The Polish Republic, which arose from the ruins of the Hapsburg monarchy, issued a series of decrees with the purpose of supporting the war victims. However, not everyone could analyze the appropriate decree to make use of the rights that he was due as an invalid or as someone who suffered from the war. Therefore, it became necessary to create Jewish unions that would also defend the interests of orphans and widows. It was the praiseworthy action of several invalid activists in Krakow, the Messers Yakov Bokhner and Dr. Molkner, who accepted all of the invalids unions in western Galicia into the central [organization] and unified the activity

[Page 758]

of the individual union, serving them with effective help when it was a question of intervening with the central government organs.

An invalids union was also created in Tarnow that numbered several hundred members. The union took on the task of helping war invalids, widows and war orphans in the area of care, social aid, making use of the permits and other rights that belonged to invalids in accordance with the [government] directives.

We know of the progress of the general meeting of the invalids union in Tarnow, held on the 4th of August 1929. According to the report that was given at the above–mentioned meeting, the union carried out many interventions at various institutions, state and municipal offices and other places. The treasury turnover for 1928–1929 reach 5,719 zlotes, 6 groshn. A managing committee was elected then with the following composition: chairman – Yakov–Ber Langer, vice chairman – Avraham Wajsenberg, secretary – Yakov Bloch, treasurer – Yehoshua Kanarek, representative secretary – Dovid Engel, representative of the treasurer – Moshe Sznur. Elected to the inspection commission were: Herman Linder, Ahron Gaber and Sholom Braun. To the members court: Ayzyk Dorf, Mendl Tifenbrun, Izidor Mandel.

The general meeting elected as an honorary member of the union the chairman of the main managing committee, Yakov Bochner and expressed recognition for his management on behalf of the war victims, as well as the vice chairman of the administrative committee, Dr. L. Szerman and Dr. Malkner and the deputy, Tzvi Heller. It was decided simultaneously to express thanks to the doctors Francziszka Bloch, Dr. Frenkel, Dr. Mandel, Dr. Goldberg, Dr. Shimeon Block, Dr. Rubin, Dr. Molkner for their free medical help for the invalids. Dr. Shmuel Szpan also was thanked for his free legal advice in court defense and the apothecaries Adler and Taubeles for giving discounts for buying medicines.

The invalids union in Tarnow carried on fruitful activities and won the recognition not only of their members and of the Jewish population, but from the government and municipal organs and from the Jewish kehile.

The last general meeting took place on the 8th of May 1938 under the chairmanship of the then chairman Yehoshua Kanarek, who had dedicated himself to the work of bringing aid to Jewish invalids, widows and war orphans since the founding of the invalids union. After the report that was given by the secretary, H. Meller and the treasurer, Y. Hochhauzer, the chairman of the administrative committee of the United Invalids Union,

[Page 759]

Mr. Bochner from Krakow, gave a lecture. Then a new managing committee was elected of the following composition:

Yehoshua Kanarek, Yehezkiel Meller, Yosef Hochhauzer, Ayzyk Dorf, Elihu Zajden, Avraham Szpangelet. To the inspection committee: Mendel Szlezinger, Yakov Langer, Izidor Mandel; to members court: Ahron Faber, Chaim Herszenfeld and Sholom Braun.

Not one of the modest and devoted activists in such an important area of social help for the Jewish war victims remained among the living. They filled the mass graves at the Jewish cemetery in Tarnow or the gas chambers of the Hitlerist crematoria.

Honor their memory!

 

VI

Interest Free Loan Fund – Gmiles–Khesed

The impoverished in the Jewish population in Tarnow, particularly during the last years on the eve of the Second World War, took on a very sharp form. The workplaces of Jewish merchants and artisans were liquidated and the Jewish middleclass fell into even greater need.

There was an institution in Tarnow that could occupy itself with saving the people from complete ruin. This was the interest–free loan fund, Gmiles–Khesed, which was founded by the Jewish kehile when it was led by the Zionists after the First World War. The purpose of the society was to give interest–free loans to the impoverished merchants and artisans. Thus, they could save hundreds of workshops. For several years this institution was in the control of unsuitable hands. Although Gmiles–Khesed could have become a blessing for full Jewish subsistence in Tarnow, the people who wanted to work on behalf of its development without any self–interest were not admitted. When commissariat rule ended in the Tarnow Jewish kehile and various “politicians” and meddlers lost their every influence in the Jewish neighborhood, it was possible to reorganize the Gmiles–Khesed fund.

In 1938, thanks to the agreement by all political groupings, the institution was reorganized. On the 3rd of May 1937, under the chairmanship of Herman Flur (died in Israel in 1949),

[Page 760]

a conference of representatives of all parties and organizations about rebuilding the interest–free loan fund – Gmiles–Khesed took place. After introductory words by Elihu Gewerc of Agudah [an Orthodox organization], Wolf Gecler (chairman of Mizrakhi [religious Zionists]), was elected as chairman. After an exhaustive discussion, a new managing committee was elected of the following composition: Dovid Batist (Bund), Dr. A. Chomet (chairman of the Zionist organization), Wolf Gecler (chairman of the Mizrakhi organization), Elihu Gewirc [the spelling changes from Gerwirc to Gewerc throughout the text] (chairman of Agudah), Khona Pessel, Zigmunt Flajszer, Herman Flur, Henrik Holender, Shimeon Kajl, Borukh Kriszer, Nakhman Rennert, Wilhelm Rubin, Izak Szenweter, Pinkhus Trinczer (Mizrakhi), Shlomo Wolk, Yeshaya Erlich. As representatives: Betsalel Miller, Dr. Chaim Wajs. In the inspection commission: Kurc Yehiel, Bernard Leib, Yosef Miller and their representatives – Moshe Eksztajn, Lozer Zelinger.

The new managing committee made far–reaching efforts to bring constructive help and immediately established contact with the Joint [Distribution Committee] central [organization] in Warsaw.

This managing committee was constituted in the following manner: Herman Flur – chairman, Elihu Gewerc, Henrik Holender, Yeshaya Erlich and Zigmunt Flajszer – vice chairmen, Dr. A. Chomet – secretary, Pinkhas Trinczer – treasurer.

The significance of the Gmiles–Khesed grew every day, and it even moved to its own premises at Pod Dembem Street. The principle of the loan fund was to give loans exclusively for constructive purposes, with a high of 100 zlotes, which the loan taker returned without interest in payments of two zlotes a week. The best evidence of the significance of the help is the fact that in just the month of February 1938, 197 loans were given out in the sum of over 7,000 zlotes (from a report in Tygodnik Zydowski, no. 9 of the 4th of March 1938).

The small amount of capital that the Gmiles–Khesed dispensed prevented the expansion of its activity as well as serving the great number of applicants who turned to it for help.

The Joint central [organization[ in Warsaw in connection with a large productivity action for the Jewish masses, at that time began to create Gmiles–Khesed funds in particular regions of Poland and expanded their activity. For that purpose, the Joint organized regional conferences of the loan funds. Such a regional conference took place in Tarnow, which is described in Tygodnik Zydowski (no. 6, the 11th of February 1938):

Sunday, the 6th of February 1938, a conference of the interest–free Gmiles–Khesed funds in western Galicia took place in Tarnow with the participation of 70 delegates from 32 places. Coming to the conference from the Joint central in Warsaw

[Page 761]

were Dr. Giterman, Inspector Kagan and Mrs. Engineer Rajchert. The conference was opened by Elihu Gewirc, vice chairman of the Tarnow Gmiles–Khesed. After standing to honor the deceased Felix Warburg, a conference presidium was elected of the following composition: Maszler (Nowy Sacz) as chairman. Dr, Waserman (Rzeszow), Herman Flur (Tarnow), Dr. Dovid Ejchenholc (Ropczyce), Miller (Gorlice), Sznept (Dębica), Kon (Grybów), Aszer (Sanok), Goldsztajn (Krosna) – as vice chairman and as secretary – Dr. Szpigel (Radomyśl Wielki) and Magister Fink (Krosna). In the name of the Tarnow kehile managing committee, the vice chairman, Wolf Gecler, greeted the conference. Then, Dr. Giterman read a paper about the foundations of Gmiles–Khesed funds, covering the entire complex foundational and organizational administrative problems of the funds. Mrs. Engineer Rajchert reported about the economic reconstruction of Polish Jewry. Taking place in the discussions, which were at a high level, were Kohn [spelled Kon above] (Grybów), Szenweter (Tarnow), Szneps [Sznept above] (Dębica), Miller (Gorlice), Dr. Kuppert (Zakliczyn), Goldsztajn (Krosna), the Rabbi Elbaum (Łacko), Dr. Ejchenholc (Ropczyce), Aszer (Sanok), Engineer Goldflus (Szczuczyn), Renert (Tarnow) Meller (Krynica), Brotman (Muszyna), Sander (Nowy Sacz), Dr. Waserman (Rzeszów), Dr. Chomet (Tarnow), Batist (Tarnow) and Dr. Wajs (Tarnow). In their speeches, the delegates spoke about the miserable condition of the Jewish population in the provinces and promoted a series of requirements of the Joint [Distribution Committee] central [organization] in Warsaw.

The participants answered Dr. Giterman and Inspector Kagan from Warsaw. Finally, a resolutions committee was elected with Dr. Chomet at its head, which reported the resolutions approved by the committee to the plenum. The delegates unanimously approved the proposed resolutions. The resolution that expressed thanks to Dr. Giterman and Inspector Kagan for their work on behalf of the development of the funds, as well as a resolution that appealed to the Tarnow landsmanschaft [organization of people from the same town] in America about supporting the funds must be emphasized.

The conference and the presence of the delegates from the Joint central contributed greatly to the strengthening of the activity of the Tarnow Gmiles–Khesed fund. The number of needy grew daily for whom the sum of 100 zlotes was their entire “business–capital” with which to earn a living. Market sellers, handworkers, artisans, retailers turned en masse to the fund for help that had to be quick, immediate. There were days when tens of needy waited at the premises of the fund until

[Page 762]

the zlotes paid back by others were collected for the sum that was needed for the day at the fund.

And when the fund lacked money to pay everyone for whom the loans were a question of life – and often there even was a lack of money to pay out two or three thousand zlotes – the managing committee then, Herman Flur, of blessed memory, Elihu Gewirc, of blessed memory, Henrik Holender, of blessed memory, Zigmunt Flajszer, long may he live, and others, did not wait long and they signed notes for the necessary sum and, on the same day, all approved loans were paid out.

The secretary of the fund, Dr. Avraham Chomet, received a thank you letter for the work of the Tarnow Gmiles–Khesed fund from the Joint [Distribution Committee] central office in Warsaw.

Dovid Batist had particular warmth and earnestness in his work at the Gmiles–Khesed fund and Pinkhas Trinczer and Borukh Kriszer dedicated a great deal of time and work to the fund.

The managing committee of the Gmiles–Khesed fund in Tarnow examined the difficult economic condition of the Jewish working population in Tarnow, particularly of the artisans working at home and retailers and decided to carry out a large action expanding the activity of the fund. For this purpose, it was decided to call an economic conference of all the institutions and communal–political organizations that were involved in bringing constructive aid to the Jewish population in the city. A delegate from the Joint [Distribution Committee] in Warsaw was supposed to be a delegate at the conference.

This conference did not get further than its preparations. The war and the destruction of Tarnow Jewry brought an end to the very beautiful and useful self–help institutions in the Jewish neighborhoods in Tarnow.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. The first hospital director's surname should be Szicer. Return
  2. Her surname is given above as Weksler. Return
  3. Friedrich Fröbel was a German pedagogue who created the modern kindergarten and promoted education based on the needs of children. Return

 

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