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Trade
[of the 80's in the previous century until 1939]

by Gedalyahu Braverman, Petach Tikvah

Translated by Libby Raichman

Regardless of the fact that Biale was always considered a religious town, and was famous for its great scholars, yet already in the 80's of the last century, trade was widespread among the Jewish population of Biale, even though trade was not regarded with much esteem.

The main source of income of the Jewish tradesmen in Biale, came from the Christian population in the town and the surrounding areas. Biale, as a Circle–town was home to many officials and military personnel. However hostile the officials and Russian officers were disposed to the Jews, they had to approach the Jewish tradesmen in many instances where there were no Christian tradesmen at all. And if there were any, they were unable to compete with Jewish tradesmen in the superior quality of their work. The Christian shoe–makers were unable to copy a pair of officer's varnished boots that Srulke (Yisroel) Kotshemayinik produced, Who did not talk about Hershl Brisker? People had to wait in a queue to buy a pair of boots or a pair of shoes from him. Aside from the fact that his work was first–class, the materials he used were of the best quality.

True, there were also Jewish shoe–makers who were not as skilled, but these served the farming population who were more willing to allow themselves to be served by the Jewish tradesmen than the Christian.

It is worthwhile telling about a Biale shoe–maker of that time, who conducted his work in a strange way. That was the shoe–maker Sender Motye (he had a son who was a teacher and had his own house at the corner of Grabanover and Proste street). This Sender Motye never measured a client's foot and in particular, that of a woman. He had a little box of sand and he would tell his customers to place their foot in it. Then he would measure the impression that formed in the sand. It is understandable that Sender Motye's clients were recruited only from the Jewish population.

The same occurred with the Jewish tailors, with whom the Christian tradesmen, could not compete. The few Jewish military tailors were frequently inundated with work. The clients of the good Jewish tailors were noblemen and officials, as well as wealthy Jews. The clients of the mediocre Jewish tailors were from the Jewish middle–income group, the Jewish workers, and the local town–dwellers.

The Jewish building–trades, like: cabinet making, carpentry and painting, were certainly dependent on the Christian population for work. The cabinet makers and many building carpenters could be found in the villages for almost the whole season, where they would erect houses for the farmers and in the courtyards of the noblemen.

The situation of the bricklayers was different. They were dependent almost entirely, on the Jews in the town.

The situation of the painters was better. They did not have to wait for the eve of Passover when Jewish people white washed their houses but received work from the Christian population and from the local officials.

In the winter, the economic situation for some tradesmen

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was a difficult one. The building industry ceased, the tradesmen did not have work and they could not exist for long on the money they had saved. They therefore, began to look for other work in the winter. Many went away to chop ice on the river, others were employed to put ice in the ice–houses and many would go around the courtyards of the houses chopping wood.

At the beginning of this century, there was a great revival in the building industry. This happened when the administrator of the Biale court, Dikler, built the barracks on the Warsaw highway. For this work, a few hundred tradesmen from Biale and the surrounds, were employed.

In the later years when menial work ceased to be a stigma for a family, and the youth who were now grown up, hastily turned to learn a trade, every trade acquired new tradesmen. It is understandable that Biale was not able to absorb so many tradesmen, so many of them left to work in larger towns, returning home for Sukkot and Pesach. This was, more or less, the means of solving the problem of an excess of tradesmen in the town.

With the industrialization of the country, shoe factories came into existence that was a blow to the shoe–makers trade. The Biale shop–keepers began to bring in beautiful shoes, and in this way took the young customer away from the shoe tradesman. The shoemakers called meetings, threatened the shopkeepers with torment, but after all the fuss, they realized that one cannot go against the times, and that the shopkeeper could not be forced to give up his source of income.

Amongst the cutters and stitchers of shoe leather, there were two rational master craftsmen, Idl Brisker (Hershl Brisker's son) and Froyem the Ginger, who came up with the idea of creating a Workmen's Association of all the Biale cutters and stitchers, to avoid competition. When the shoe–makers came to know about the impending union, that would, in their opinion, adversely affect their pockets, they began to agitate and tried to prevent the association from being established, but all they managed to attract was one cutter and stitcher, Velvl Kiegls.

In 1906, the union of cutters and stitchers came about. A unit was rented from Reuven Kozzes (Shulman) on Grabanover street and there they all worked together. In the town it was called: “The Cutters and Stitchers Union”. The following tradesmen worked there: Idl Zeidman (Brisker), Froyem the Ginger, Henech Ostatni Grosh, his son and Avraham Froyems. As workers the following were employed: G. Braverman, Mordechai Yosef (Brayndel Gricheles's grandson) and Yoel Ketzeles. The Union however, did not last more than a year and fell apart. There were many reasons for dissolving the Union, but the main reason was that one employee wanted to deceive the other and watched to see that only the other employee would do the work.

During the 1st World War, when Biale found itself under German occupation, the situation of the Jewish tradesmen was pitiful. There were no raw materials with which to work, and the population could not afford to acquire anything. Most of the Jewish tradesmen became day–workers for the German government.

After the 1st World War, it took a while before the economic situation in the land stabilized. Great changes were brought into the lifestyle of the population, that affected the circumstances of the Jewish tradesmen in the town.

A revival came about in the line of furniture carpentry. Before the 1st World War this was an almost unfamiliar skill in the town. Who was interested in what kind of bed they slept, and how many generations had already slept in that bed? Who was concerned with what kind of wardrobe stood in the house? After the war life took a great step forward. For a young couple, after their wedding, the issue of furniture became a problem. Furniture factories began to open in the town, and many building carpenters took to this work. With time, there was a noticeable influx of adult youth to this profession.

The building industry in the town came to a halt, Jews no longer built. Jewish bricklayers were assigned to Christian employers, and the latter rather took Christian bricklayers, who regarded themselves as no worse tradesmen than the Jews. So, part of the Jewish bricklayers actually left for foreign lands, and there were no followers amongst the younger generation to this profession.

The cabinet–makers trade became unstable for the Jews and began to decline. If a Christian built a house, because of anti–Semitism, he gave the work to a Christian.

The production of machine–made shoes in Biale, began even before the 1st World War, when the brothers Hoffer and their brother–in–law Binyamin Klieger established a factory for machine–made shoes, where tens of workers were employed. After the war the work in this factory was not recommenced. Many

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workers who had previously worked in the aforementioned factory, opened factories in partnership and produced machine–made shoes. In the town, before the outbreak of the 2nd World War, there were 5 partner–factories and production was almost stable. The products were sent to Brisk and a part was taken by Biale shopkeepers.

These partnered–factories provided a livelihood for almost all the leather workers in the town and some of the leather shopkeepers.

Generally, the economic situation of the Jewish tradesmen in Biale, in the last years before the 2nd World War, was a difficult one. A revival was noticeable only in the partner–factories of machine–made shoes, and by the furniture–makers and the tailors.

Despite the restrictive policy of the government towards the Jewish population, even relentless anti–Semites were forced to approach some of the Biale Jewish population, if they wanted to have a good article. Even the German murderers could not stop marveling at the work that the Jewish tradesmen produced in Biale.


Factories

by M. Y. Feigenboim

Translated by Libby Raichman

Under the name “factories”, we mean enterprises that worked with machines, even primitive machines, that employed a greater number of workers, or those firms that were never classified as workshops.

Already in 1873, in the Volye, there was a small active factory producing wooden nails. The factory belonged to the Ra'abbes until the outbreak of the 2nd World War, when it was appropriated by the Germans. After the war, the factory was nationalized by the Polish government.

The founder of the factory was the German, Tyber. In 1873 he built up the factory on a very small scale, as a workshop for producing wooden nails for shoes.

Hersh Ber Ra'abbe, a pious Warsaw Jew, who was a small salesman of Tyber's nails, was, after a while, brought in as a partner in the factory. Their firm was called “Tyber and Ra'abbe”. After a few years the partnership was dissolved and Ra'abbe remained the only proprietor of the factory. The name of the factory changed to “Ch. B. Ra'abbe”. Ra'abbe enlarged the factory and they began to produce shoe–trees for shoes. Later Ra'abbe established a sawmill.

In 1915, when the German army marched eastwards, the factory was evacuated and moved to Russia. The machines were transported, and a large number of employees travelled with them to Russia where the factory was set up in the town of Nyerecht.

After the 1st World war, when the Ra'abbes returned from Russia, the factory was re–established and began to operate on a very large scale. Besides the wooden nails, they began to produce new items, like: knives, wooden heels, wooden trowels for medicinal purposes etc. The world–famous firm “Bata” were buyers of Ra'abbes' products.

Ra'abbes' factory was one of the largest of its kind in the Russian empire. Its products reached as far as Manchuria, Middle–Asia and the Caucasus. In 1915, before moving the factory to Russia, 400 workers were employed there, amongst them approximately 100 Jewish female workers. The administrative personnel were entirely Jewish. The factory's doctor was Dr. Gershon Zita, the only Jewish doctor in the town.

After the death of Hersh Ber Ra'abbe, his heirs continued to run the factory. The four sons: Me'oritzi, Bernard, Vintsenti and Yakov (all lived in Warsaw).

Me'oritsi still strove to observe certain Jewish traditions in his house, but some of his children gave up their Judaism. Bernard became entirely assimilated and after all his children converted, he and his wife followed them. (It is worthwhile mentioning that at the elections to the first Russian parliament, Bernard made the effort and managed to be sent as a representative of the Jewish community in Biale, as a delegate to the election–assembly that appointed a candidate as representative to the Russian parliament). Vintsenti was a social–democrat and an active party–member. He materially supported popular socialistic activities. Yakov went to Paris, without participating directly in the running of the factory

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managed by the younger generation of the Ra'abe family. Finkelhoiz was the director of the factory until the 2nd World War.

(This was according to information transmitted in writing by the engineer Moshe Kerner who was a senator in the Polish senate. He was the director of Ra'abe's factory in Biale from 1909 until 1915).

Various factories existed in the town until the 1st World War. Some of these were liquidated due to the events of the war and were not re-established. We will, as far as possible, list them here.

A Jewish owned sawmill already existed on the Volye in 1866. It belonged to a lady named Bayltshe. The work was done by Jewish workmen.

Another Jewish owned sawmill, also on the Volye, belonged to the estate (more details in the section dealing with the premises of A. Vineberg of blessed memory).

In 1866, on the Volye there was a small factory producing grease for wagons, sulphur on a stick and sticks for penholders. This small factory belonged to Noah and Leibush Friedman. All the machines were built by the owners themselves and were operated by a person turning a wheel. Later the machines were operated and driven with the help of a transmission belt. Most of the workers were Jews.

A shoe factory existed in the town that belonged to the Hoffer brothers (sons of Py-e), and Benjamin Klieger. The factory employed more than 40 workers, shoemakers and cutters. The products were also sent deep into Russia.

Famous in the town and the surroundings, was the factory of Motl Mintz that produced paper for rolling cigarettes. A large number of Jewish workers worked there, mainly women.

For many years there was a water-mill on the river, belonging to the court, that was almost always leased to Jews. Some time before the 1st World War, the mill burnt down and was never rebuilt.

The factory of Zushe Goldreich, that produced slabs for sidewalks (was situated in the courtyard that later belonged to Alter Suknov and Volf Mallina) was liquidated in approximately 1912.

The brick-yards in the villages of Seltz and Tzitzibor belonged to the Biale Jews Chaim Levi Rubinshtein and Yitzchak Goldshtein (Yitzchakl the son of Channe Toibes). The brick-yard in Seltz was renowned in the entire area for the quality of its products.

Of the 2 sawmills that existed until the 2nd World War, one belonged to Yitzchak Pizshitz and partners. This sawmill was burnt down by the German air force during military operations.

The second sawmill belonged to Herzl Tsharni and partners. In this sawmill there was also a steam mill.

Aside from the large steam mill of Ratayevitsh, all the other steam mills in the town, belonged to Jews.

The mill on the Yanever highway was the property of Moshe Shneiman and partners. The mill on Artilerisker street belonged to the Krizelmans and Pinchas Nartman. The owners of the mill in Viness, were the Urbach and Vizenfeld families. The Finkelshtein brothers ran a mill on the glinkes that was erected on the site of the former windmill, that belonged to their father. On Garntsarsker street there was a large paper mill belonging to Leibl Blankleider, and on Yaske street – the small paper mill belonging to Leibl Mindal.

In all these Jewish owned mills, a visible number of Jewish workers were employed doing various tasks.

The Winery (the name Winery, which means a wine house, probably stems from the fact that wine was once produced or sold in that place), produced beer, and in 1908 it was rebuilt by Berish Urbach, on the site of the wooden winery that had burned down in 1904.

All the machines there, were powered by a transmitter that was driven by a belt to which a horse was harnessed.

During the 1st World War the winery was requisitioned by the Germans, and on that site, they installed factories that were entirely mechanized, producing: beer, lemonades and artificial ice. In the courtyard of the winery, an electricity producing plant was installed, but only the Germans themselves

benefitted from the electric lights.

After the war, the owners of the winery sold the machines of the lemonade and ice factories and remained with the modernized beer factory. The production of beer continued there.

A few score Jewish workers and many families earned a living thanks to the factory. With time however, the owners of the winery liquidated the beer factory, and erected a steam mill there.

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Leibe Bornshtein's whose house was next to the winery, was called Leibe Mednik in the town because of the mead and wine factory that he had in his house. The mead produced in this factory was particularly renowned and was in demand throughout Poland.

Bia161.jpg
The heirs and workers of the wine-cellars of Leibe Mednik

 

Leibe Mednik, and later his heirs, employed a number of Jewish workers who were very well treated there.

At the beginning of the Volye, immediately after the river, was a tannery that was bought after the 1st World War by the young family man, Friedberg (from Brisk). The tannery was active until the 2nd World War. The main product consisted of Russian cowhide for the harness makers.

A few Jewish workers worked in the tannery.

Next to the tannery was a small soap factory belonging to the lady Sarah Gelle Golfedder. The production was performed entirely by the family.

A second soap factory, on a larger scale, was situated alongside the so-called Kazioner bath, and belonged to the Oppenheim family. Here too, the factory was run entirely by the family members. The factory of the Oppenheim family was liquidated after the 2nd World War.

Of the five soda-water and lemonade factories in the town, four were owned by Jews.

The Jewish soda-water and lemonade factories belonged to: the Cohen family (Kahan – the son of Shaya Bertshes), the Zinger family (Berele Zinger), Yakov Flichtgreich and Moshe Fretter and Listgarten.

The small number of workers that were employed in these factories, were all Jewish.


B. Printing Shops

The first printing shop in the town was established in approximately 1900/1 by a Jew from Minsk, Dvorzshetz, who came from a family, that was engaged in printing. It can be assumed that Dvorzshetz's leaving Minsk, the great Russian town and settling in such a provincial town like Biale, was not dictated by economic motives, but was caused by the percentage-norms for Jewish children in the Russian school system. Dvorzshetz's children were indeed immediately sent to the Biale High school.

The above mentioned Dvorzshetz established a large printing shop in the house of Yitzchak Goldshtein (Yitzchakl Channe Toibes) on Yanever street. The printing shop would do printing work, only in the Russian language and did not possess Yiddish font. It appears that there was no need for printing work in Yiddish, in the town at that time.

During the 1st World War, before the Russian army left the town, Dvorzshetz moved his printing shop to Minsk.

The second printing works in the town was established in approximately 1902 by Yakov Zelig Lubeltshik. Yakov Zelig was by profession a painter but displayed great talent in various areas. Even before he established the printing shop, he turned to making stamps (seals).

The printing shop was run by Yakov Zelig and his two sons Matityahu and Avraham. After the war Avraham remained the proprietor of the printing shop.

The printing shop had a large printing machine

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(100 x 70 centimeters) and a few small printing machines, a machine for cutting paper, and a large assortment of font in various languages. All the machines were operated by human hands or feet.

Polish books, brochures, newspapers and various other printing work, were printed in the printing shops, for officials, and for producing posters. There the Jewish newspaper “Podlasier Life” was typeset and printed under the editorship of M. M. Gellenberg.

For many years the printing works was situated on Brisker street, in the house of Leib Mandelbaum. In the last years before the 2nd World War the printing works moved into the home of Avraham Lubeltshik that he built for himself on Reformatzker street.

The third printing works in the town was established by Moshe Frishtik on Yanever street. The printing shop was a small one and the printing machine was of quite a primitive one and required great physical strength. Despite this however, a few newspapers were printed there during its existence.

The first Jewish newspapers in Biale were printed in Frishtik's printing shop: “Biale Echo”, “Biale Voice”, published by the local Zionist organization under the editorship of Moshe Rubinshtein.

In 1927 Moshe Frishtik moved his printing works to Warsaw.

The fourth printing works, under the name “Express”, was established in 1931 on Pilsodski street by Yisroel Hochman and Dovid Tzeshinski. After a few years the partnership was dissolved and Yisroel Hochman remained the proprietor of the printing works.

The printing works had a printing machine measuring 35 x 50 centimetres, and a small pedal machine. Both were operated by foot. In the last years before the war, they had a paper-cutting machine.

In this very printing shop, the following newspapers were published: “Podlassier Life”, under the editorship of Chaim Rozmarin; “Biale Weekly”, under the editorship of Chaim Miyodek, and “Podlassier Voice”, published by the League for the Working Land of Israel.

The main work generated from this printing works, was for officials and private enterprises.

Stamps (seals) would also be produced in all these printing workshops.

It is worth mentioning that due to the efforts of “Rozvye” in Biale, a Polish printing works was established in the town in the twenties. Despite the backing that it received from all sides, it did not last long. The owners went bankrupt and the printing shop was liquidated.

During the 2nd World War both Jewish Printing works were confiscated by the Germans and handed over to the German named Vanzshura.

(some of the details were submitted by Yitzchak Shein)


The Biale Estate

by Alter Vineberg – Tel Aviv

Translated by Libby Raichman

There were two estates in Biale: one was related to the Biale Rabbi Yitzchak Yakov Rabinovicz, who, due to his broad and rich bearing, was known throughout Poland. The second estate had no connection to Rabbis, but in a certain period played an important role in the economic life of Biale Jews. I mean, the so-called Radzshivil-estate.

In my childhood I heard many legends about the estate. Later, when I was already an adult, I worked there and had the opportunity to move around freely and to verify the authenticity of those legends.

The estate was situated on the Mezritsh highway, immediately after exiting the town, and shared a border with the High School. Entering the estate, on the right side, one could see a building with a tall tower in a neglected condition. On the other levels, there were holes where there were once windows. The front wall, until the first level, was built with longish four-cornered stones, with a high round gate. The arch around the gate was paved with artistically chiseled stones. On each side of the gate were various stone figures, like: guns, cannons on two wheels that the military used to drag, swords etc. The gate was no longer there, and the entrance was boarded up. On the other side of the building, opposite the gate, parallel to the highway, was a mountain that stretched the length of the estate. At the foot of the mountain, stretched a little stream. In the summer, the stream

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was covered with small green leaves. Jewish and Christian women would go there with sieves and buckets and pull out the leaves with which they would feed small ducks. Beautiful dense Ash trees grew between the highway and the small stream.

The mountain was called Val (a cylinder), because, it was told, that the space in the mountain had been filled in. People used to say, that under the mountain was a cellar that stretched from the building with the tower, until the village of Slavatshinek. According to the legend, on a few occasions people went into the cellar with lights and torches, in order to see what was there, and how far the cellar stretched, but no one returned. People also used to say that there in the estate, lay a frame of a whale bone, a piece of which was a cure for a fever. If there happened to be an opportunity to enter freely into the estate, people would go and cut off pieces of the frame of the whale bone.

What circulated was, that the entire town of Biale and the area of the Biale embankment (that the Jews used to call: Nabialke) until the village of Stirentz, and even further, belonged to a member of the Radzshivil family. Who and what this Radzshivil was, nobody knew. Some said, that he was a nobleman, others again – that he was an emperor, that the whole terrain belonged to him and that all the inhabitants in that area were his subjects. He lived on the estate, that, in time of war, was also his fortress.

If one observed the estate carefully, one could actually assert, that this was a fortress. The tower with the holes on the higher levels, were definitely meant for shooting the enemy, in the event that it would be necessary.

The schools in Biale and Yaneve were, as was said, built by Radzshivil. Why also the Yaneve school, nobody knew. The fact is, that both schools were similar.

At the end of the last century, one could not freely enter the estate, because it held the prison for the entire circle. On the second floor of the tower building, there was a prison for women, and the windows there were barred. The court-house was situated deeper into the estate and the court-chairman lived there.

The jail was located in four long single-storied buildings, built in a very old style: very thick walls, and vaulted ceilings of solidly baked bricks. To knock out a brick, was much more difficult than making a hole in a concrete wall today. On every window there were thick iron bars. When I used to work there, it happened from time to time that I had to break into walls and I saw that that the bars were not installed when the prison itself was but were already reinforced when the building was erected.

Nevertheless, it happened that despite the thick walls and the vaulted ceilings, a group of prisoners escaped from there. If I am not mistaken, they were all Jews, and amongst the escapees, were also Biale residents. They made a hole in the ceiling, went into the attic, and from there they managed to escape. This happened at night and in the morning the authorities turned the town upside down. It was told at that time, that the hole in the ceiling was scraped out with knives, a task that naturally must have taken months, and that there were small boats waiting for them at the river. Most of the escapees later went to England. Why the group of escapees consisted only of Jews, and why they were in prison is a whole other chapter. All the escapees were arrested without a trial, and with them in their cell were others who had already had court sentences. The latter did not escape, and as much as they were tortured, they did not reveal a single detail and claimed that they were asleep and therefore, saw and heard nothing.

In the 90's of the last century, a new prison was built in Biale on Proster street. Then the estate became free for all the residents of the town to walk through. Jews also began to go to the orchard there on the sabbath so that they could enjoy the pleasure but some time later, Jews were not permitted to enter.

For some time, this estate was called Finekl's manor, although it was never his[1]. Finekl was the manager there for many years, so people assumed that he was the owner. Everyone who had any contact with this Christian was quite well enriched. There was no shortage of ways to do deals because tens of thousands of acres of land and forests belonged to the estate, that stretched from Bialke on the Brisk highway, to both Slavatshinkes, villages on the Warsaw highway, as well as the villages Prosheki and Stirnetz. In Bialke and

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in both these two villages called Slavatshinke, there were Jewish tenant farmers, who were the purchasers of the milk.

The estate also had many houses in the town and on the Volye. The building in the town, that was once occupied by the officials of the district, was the property of the estate, and stretched from the market place, through Yanever street into Patshtover street. Later Shmuel Pizshitz bought the house. It was told that he bought it for 10 thousand rubles, to be paid over 10 years and that Pizshitz had an annual income from that house that was much more than a thousand ruble. That building housed the district with all its departments, the military and the police. On one floor was the apartment of the Circle-chief. Later, when all these officials moved into Mevyuse's property, they converted the building into shops.

The estate, that was also called the “treasury”, once owned a sawmill on the Volye (on the other side of the railway station), that cut the trees from its own forests. The sawmill was definitely the first sawmill – I think that for many years it was the only sawmill in the town.

The estate also owned the watermills in Biale and in the village of Prosheki. I still remember the small mill in Biale, that burnt down together with the bridge over the river. Later, a large 3-storied mill was erected, that stood for many years and also burnt down.

The first lessee of the mill was Moshe Bergshtein, who had a brick building close to the river, and he later owned the first 3 storied house in Biale that Berel Vineberg erected on Reformatzker street and was passed over to Bergshtein in settlement of a debt.

The second lessee of the mill was Dovid Reb Isaacs or Reb Dovid Shachor, a noted Chassid in the town. He held the lease of the mill until it burned down.

Among the Christian workers in the mill, there were also two Jews: Avigdor Moshe Guttenberg and Shimon Maratshnik.

At the end of the last century the estate was sold to a new owner, a Pole. What was said was, that the reason for the sale was due to the fact that the Russian government issued a decree that foreign nationals may not possess any immovable property. Because this owner of the estate was a Pole, a national, he had to sell the estate. A new manager came in Finekl's place, also a Pole and he began to bring in new orders.

The new landowner however, did not keep the estate long in his possession. In approximately 1900 it was sold to a Jewish girl named Helena Adolpuvna Kogan, a Russian citizen, born in Odessa and living in France. She had very big business and enterprises with many branches in the Russian towns. The main director of her business was an uncle of hers. After the estate became the possession of this girl the manager appointed to the Biale estate, was a Jew from Odessa – Dikler. A new chapter in the history of the estate began. It became a Jewish estate. The Biale Jews could move around freely in the orchard of the estate and go for walks there, whenever they wished. The estate received a new name – Dikler's estate.

Dikler knew how to live in style and was not Russianized like the other Russian Jews who were ashamed to speak Yiddish. In Dikler's home, understandably, they spoke, Russian, but in the office, in the street and generally with Jews, who used to come to him about various matters, he spoke in a beautiful Ukrainian Yiddish. Later, when I met his father, I saw that this Dikler was raised in a respectable middle-class Jewish home. It was said that Dikler received a large salary, truly like a governor. Under his direction, his office changed from a Polish one and became a Jewish one, where poor Jews sat as clerks, who were not ashamed of their Yiddish.

The contractors, workers, and merchants remained the same. The mill in Prosheki was leased and taken over by two Shedletz Jews who were later called Idl and Asher Proshekier. These two Jews remained at the mill until it burnt down.

Dikler first turned to bringing order to the buildings in the castle. Walls were broken to insert ventilation in order to dry the dampness, bars were removed, and beautiful high windows were installed, the stone floors were lifted and were replaced with wooden boards, new levels were erected - all of great size. Trees and grass were planted at the entrance to the estate, which changed its appearance completely.

The office was installed in the first building at the entrance to the estate. On the second floor of the tower building, lived the chief officials and their families, Ruzshinski and Hertzke Vinograd (Yoske Vinograd's father), who worked on the estate as a woodsman and regarded himself as a great tradesman in this field. He was a fine Jew, religious, but not a fanatic.

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The landowner's sawmill on the Volye was dismantled and on its site, a brick sawmill was erected, large and modern. Two Jews who were specialists in the wood industry were brought to manage this facility.

One of the two specialists was a Warsaw Jew, a Gerre Chassid – Segal, who was a very distinguished figure in the town. On the festivals he would go from the Volye to pray in the Gerre prayer house. The second was a young man from M'lav, a religious and intelligent person. On the sabbath preceding the new month, he would go and pray in the synagogue on the Volye. This young man was not embarrassed to put on his hat and do the afternoon prayers in the office. On the festival of Sukkot, he had to have an etrog (citron) in his home.

A Jewish guard named Shpak, lived on the premises. He had a very good job there. Hershl Shykes was

the regular wagon driver there. He would distribute the wooden boards at the site and deliver material to the train. He was a respectable Jew who lived on the Volye.

Later, Segal's place was taken by Zingerman from Odessa. He was a devoted Jew but a liberated one. Even in those days he would ride through the town to Bialke and back on the Sabbath. In his home however, he kept a kosher kitchen.

The sawmill grew to such an extent that it became an international-firm. Merchants came to Biale from the whole of Poland, and merchants from Germany spent the winter months in the town and transported wood to Germany.

Dikler did not rest and constantly initiated new enterprises. In November 1901 he began to build barracks on the Warsaw highway, for the Kaluzshesk regiment, apartments for the officers, a Russian church, and everything that the regiment needed. This was an enormous undertaking that was actually completed in an unbelievably short time. Many workers worked on the site, Jews and Christians. The work could have quickly come to an end, but fortunately Dikler had the sawmill at his disposal, with all its facilities. The machines produced and supplied wood and the tradesmen only needed, to complete the task. Today machine work is quite a simple matter, but then, 50 years ago, when even in Warsaw there were no woodworking machines, and everything was made by hand, this was a huge achievement for Biale.

Which Biale resident of the older generation, does not remember the building of the barracks? Every courtyard was after all, full of firewood and off-cuts from construction. The highway was full of women and children who used to carry away heavy sacks containing wood shavings and blocks of wood.

Of all the work in the vicinity of the barracks, 90% was carried out by Jews. Despite Dikler's efforts to bring in Christian tradesmen, because he was already short of Jewish workers, and he wanted to complete the work as soon as possible, nothing came of it – the Christians could not maintain the work-tempo of the Jewish workers. He even brought Russians from deep within Russia, but in the time that they managed to erect one house, the Jews had already completed five houses. Therefore, when the Russians completed one building, Dikler sent them home.

A Christian carpenter Vintzenti, from Grabanov was also employed there. He was a good tradesman, but he was also slow compared to the Jewish tradesman. But as this Vintzenti was on good terms with my father-in-law Gershon Brodatsh who worked there, my father-in-law retained him. My father-in-law did this with a purpose: As they also had to build a Russian church there, and he, as a religious Jew, did not want to put a hand to such a building, he actually allocated this work to Vintzenti the Christian, and was happy that he managed to extricate himself from church-work.

The roofs were made of shingles and for this work, all the shingle makers and shingle fitters in Biale and from the surrounding villages, were employed. They worked from frantically and therefore over-exerted themselves.

The carpenters who worked in partnership, were Avraham Gril (Braverman) and Velvl Malina. It is worth relating here, the tragic incident that happened by their undertaking the carpentry work.

Avraham Gril and Malina used to work at the estate and were therefore candidates to receive this work at the barracks. Godl Binyes (Milboim) also wanted the same work. Godl had the keys of the synagogue, where he was the treasurer, and he kept the prayer shawl of Advocate Kalman Hartglas, under his supervision. When Hartglas marked the anniversary of a death, he would come to the synagogue to pray and say the traditional prayer for the dead and Godl used to hover around him. Later, when Hartglas's children were nationally elected, everything there changed, and Hartglas would come to the synagogue on every festival and sometimes on the sabbath. Godl also worked in Hartglas's house. Now Advocate Hartglas appealed for Godl to receive the work at the barracks. When Godl went to Dikler, Avraham Gril and Malina came out of their workshop

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and using a piece of wood from a window frame (part of a window), hit Godl over the head. They broke his skull. A doctor was brought from Warsaw, who operated on him. His condition was critical, and only thanks to the efforts of Advocate Hartglas, who regularly brought doctors from Warsaw, Godl was saved from death. The court sentenced Gril and Malina to 1½ years in prison and to pay Godl a significant sum of money; they were escorted to the prison. Later they appealed and were freed. The matter however, cost them a lot of money.

Nearly 90% of the brickwork was done by me. The remaining 10% was done by the Christian, Kaminski. I also built 7 brick wells there. The barracks were built in a very modern way, for those times.

The painting work was done in partnership by Hershl Lentshner and Abele Maller. They worked there with many workers.

While the barracks were being built there was a day-guard, a Jew by the name of Moshe. They made a large barrack with tables and benches, for him. And this Jew organized a restaurant there and earned a good income from the workers.

Dikler appointed a manager in the warehouse In Slavatshinek. He was a simple village Jew whom they began to call Moshe from Slavatshinek. This Jew made a living there, from selling milk products and there were proprietors in the town, who went there to sample these things. The Christian manager did not disturb the Jew from acquiring this income and even used to help him to earn his living.

Dikler also conceived a plan to build a distillery and set about accomplishing the task. Two weeks before the Jewish New Year in 1904, the building of the distillery commenced on a site near the sawmill. The distillery was large and very successful. The alcohol produced there acquired a good name.

As regards the distillery, I would like to note an episode that is engraved in my memory.

I began to build the distillery before the New Year and had to complete it in a very short time because of the winter. As it was the time of the festivals, I had to negotiate with the other bricklayers, that they should work on the intermediate days of the festival of Sukkot. In those days people did not work on those intermediate days. The shops were open, the wagon drivers travelled with their wagons, but the poor worker was not allowed to work. I began to attempt, to persuade the workers, promising a higher salary, but only a few agreed to work.

At the time when the distillery became active, they began to make fish ponds to breed fish. For this purpose, Dikler brought an engineer, a tradesman in this area. This was also a very serious undertaking. For many Jews, the whole idea of breeding fish, seemed strange; they knew that there are fish in the river, but no one breeds them. . . . . .

Before leaving Biale, Dikler still allowed the tower of the castle be renovated. The roof was removed, and a new roof was made with a beautiful tall dome. The work was done by my father-in-law. Shlaymele Stolyer's son, Menachem Leib Hochberg, who made the dome. Menachem Leib regarded himself as one of the best and most talented master carpenters in the entire vicinity. He could understand a plan and could draw up plans himself.

Once, being in the office, I heard that the “girl” bought another property that was truly a Garden-of- Eden, in which she herself, planned to settle. There was a palace in the grounds, and a river flowed through the estate. There was also an orchard and a hot-house with the most expensive fruit, that grew there summer and winter.

Some time later, I once came into the office and noticed a depressed atmosphere. One clerk mentioned to me: - you know Mr. Vineberg, we have to make a reception for the landlady. To my question, regarding what he meant by that, he told me, that the “girl” is coming from her recently purchased estate, near Warsaw with her Christian husband, the distiller of that place.

That was certainly a tragic event for the office. All the years since the office existed, the “girl” had not once been in Biale, and suddenly she is coming with a gentile husband. It was told that the “girl” settled in the manor that she had bought and married her distiller. After she converted, one could sense that the Jewish office was coming to an end.

Preparations for the reception were made. At the entrance to the estate, a triumph gate was erected, with various adornments as they used to do for the emperor or other great personalities. There was great excitement in the town. People were running to see the gate and all the preparations.

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That day, when the “girl” came to Biale, everyone, Jewish and Christian, ran to look at her. The Jewish population went with curiosity and pain to see the hunchback, as she was called in the town, who, being so rich, fell in love with a gentile and in this way, delivered such enormous wealth into gentile hands. The Christian population was also curious to see the “girl” and were overjoyed with the capture of a Jewish soul.

I was not there but after a couple of days, I went to the office, to see what kind of atmosphere there was after the visit of the “girl”. I found the staff depressed.

I do not remember how long the Jewish office continued to exist. Details of the liquidation of Jewishness in the office, have also been erased from my memory. I only remember that a Christian manager arrived with a truly gentile appearance. We, the Jewish tradesmen, went to him about employment and he promised, that all those who worked in the estate, will remain working there. There I met the wife of Moshe from Slavatshinek, who told me that that they had already been retrenched from their work.

Jewish tradesmen no longer worked there, only, I think, Ruven Kozzes (Shulman), and that was due to the protection of the noblemen of the Biale region, for whom he used to work.

All the Jewish clerks and the couple of Russians, left Biale, and only one remained, a certain Azrilian, a Jew from Odessa, who became a supplier of meat to the military in the town.

Now, as I write these lines, when since those times, 50 years have already flowed away, I still see the estate office before my eyes, as if it had been only yesterday. I see the Jewish office with Dikler at its head, with his bearing and understanding of people and the Jews in particular. I see before my eyes, Dikler's entrance into the office, with the Yiddish or Russian 'good morning'. I remember his arrival at the barracks while they were being built, his enquiries about everything, his attention to everything, his occasional scolding, and his remarks and his jokes in a tasteful Yiddish.

I recall now, that weeks would pass, and one would not see a gentile in the office, only Jews and Jews. An office that engaged with the world, was entirely Jewish: Jewish merchants, Jewish tradesmen of all professions, and Jewish day and night guards. A significant number of Jewish families in the town had a comfortable income from this estate, that was an important factor in the economic life of Biale Jews.

Even for work like sanitation – cleaning toilets, that the gentiles had already surely done, came a Jew like Mendele Sitniker (Freedman) and said, that he wanted to take that job. They helped him obtain the necessary tools and Mendele Sitniker was employed in this capacity and earned well.

I want to add here another line about the warm attitude of the office towards Jews.

One winter, the office began to distribute wood to the poor. Hundreds of banknotes were distributed (notes that authorized the holder to remove the quantity of wood specified in the note, from the forest).

In Biale, it was a well-known matter, that if things were distributed late, as for example, 'wheat money' for Passover (for the poor), then “nice” young boys would receive it. These people were not satisfied with one single distribution but took whatever they could; they did, because everyone was afraid of them. The wood was distributed to Jews and Christians, but the quiet needy Jew did not receive anything. Firstly, he was embarrassed, and secondly, when he did conceal his shame, these “nice” youths, did not allow him to receive anything.

It appears that Dikler was informed about all of this and he asked me to take the hundred banknotes and distribute them; if the hundred was too little, more would be added. I took up his proposition. It is possible that a few years earlier, I would not have taken up Dikler's request because I would have been afraid of the “nice” Biale youth, but this happened in the times of the Bundist activity in Biale when he had already somewhat silenced the gang.

I turned to the trustees of the small Chassidic prayer houses about giving me a list of those who needed wood and each trustee received the required number of banknotes, that he distributed among his people. I distributed the banknotes to the tradesmen and others in need, myself, or through intermediaries. For a few years I distributed the wood, and every winter, no less than 150 banknotes. If I was short of a few more than 150, I would go to the office and would receive them there.

I cannot say if the Biale Jews knew how to appreciate the attitude of the office towards them. It could be, that if Dikler was a Chassid, and went to pray on the sabbath

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they would have valued the benevolence of the office, more.

And this office, that became more and more Jewish, suddenly slipped out of Jewish hands and became absolutely Christian. A colossal Jewish fortune was transferred from Jewish possession into Christian hands. Biale Jews felt the change in their economic situation because they lost a very influential source of income.

Footnote

  1. Advocate Apolinari Hartglas writes about it, in his unpublished memoirs:
    “At the time of my birth (1883), the castle belonged to the assets of the German Chancellor, Duke Hohenlohe, to whom it was transferred as an inheritance from the Duchess Radzshivil. Together with him, it was managed by an administrator of German extraction, who assumed a more Polish name, Finekl” – editor. Return


The Professional [Workers] Movement

by Yisroel Hochman

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

In the 1890s when all of Russia began a great evolution in communal life and new branches of production resulted in even more wage workers, a series of factory enterprises with several hundreds of workers arose in Biala. But, just as everywhere else, a labor system existed then in which the work was done in inhuman conditions, with unlimited hours of work, completely unprotected, dependent on the benevolence of those who provided the jobs.

The first forms of professional work began to arise in Biala in such difficult conditions. The worker, who had been accustomed to looking at the person who provided the work as someone upon whom his life was completely dependent, began to change his opinion little by little.

The rise of various groups of artisans and wage workers, the organizing of minyonim [prayer groups of 10 men needed for organized prayer – minyon is the singular form of the word] and shtiblekh [one room houses of study often organized by the members of the same trade] was the first primitive form of organization, the first actual organization of the workers and artisans. Thus, the tailors in Biala created a prayer group named Khevre Bokherim [group of young men]. Its task was to separate the artisans and wage workers from the middle-class Jews. Therefore, the Khevre Bokherim took on additional tasks such as: spreading education among the members and daveners [those who prayed], teaching them to write, a little bit of Khumash [Torah] and Tanakh [Torah, Prophets and Writings], as well as self-help activities for the sick. This first primitive form of professional organization lasted as long as the Biala worker did not have any contact with the larger cities and wider world.

Reverberations from the activities of the socialistic parties in Russia reached Biala and the first traces of the workers movement arose. The young, who were enthusiastic about the revolution, devoted all their fervor to the professional organizing of the workers. Among the intelligentsia, Yewel Tiamkin, Czarni Lewin, Dovid Kruses, Yakov Sztajnman and others excelled with all of their strength and helped not only with organizing, but all led systematic educational and explanatory work among the workers.

An economic revival in the various branches could be observed, which drew in more and more workers. The professional and political work became more varied. The factories of Motl Minc and Raabe, which employed several hundreds of male and female workers, occupied the most esteemed place. All of the other branches also were revived, such as the tailors who were employed, thanks to the demand for ready-made women's and men's clothing. A factory for ready-made shoes opened then at which several dozen workers were employed. These groups introduced greater strength for the political and professional workers movement.

The workers who joined the political parties demanded something tangible and intensive underground work began. The Bund Party committee in Biala created an “exchange” where workers from the various branches would meet with their representatives and tell them about the conditions at their workplaces.

The most important activists at organizing the working class were: with the tailors: Elya Szimszeles, Khona Niskeles, Nakhum Worek; with the carpenters: Shmai Fridman, Elya Bubkes. The other trades were under the leadership of a group of other activists. The brothers Borukh and Yeshayahu Wajnberg played an admirable role in the political and professional movement. Borukh was a true people's tribune; his speeches were like an intoxicating drink for the masses

Strikes broke out in 1904-1905 to which

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all of the workers were drawn. The strikes were partially political, but in greater part economic. They were carried out on a large scale and made an impression.

Emigration abroad of the Biala workers began after the failure of the revolution of 1905. A breakdown began of the organizations that had been created with so much effort. It continued in this way until the outbreak of the First World War, with no change in the situation.

The first years of the First World War passed under the general signs of a real depression until the evacuation of the Russians. The situation completely changed after the arrival of the German military. Illegal work was no longer necessary to lead a professional organization. However, the hardship was that there was no work. The work that existed was for the military regime where no professional union could have any influence. The majority of the workers were jobless and suffered from hunger; this itself created discouragement. At the end of the German occupation, a tailor's union was created at the existing cultural society, which however did no tangible work. This union in which the active leaders were Meyram Fridman, Moshe Brawerman and Nakhum Worek lasted until the German occupiers left Biala.

The date when the first legal professional union in Biala was created is recorded in 1918. The German military regime was crushed and forced to leave Poland. The Polish Republic arose, which gave the workers the opportunity for normal, legal professional activity. Thanks to this, a group of professional organizations were created which had at their disposition an entire house on Grabanower Street, where a worker's canteen was also created. The political party, the Bund, was then located in the same house.

During the first year of Poland's independence, the professional unions of the Jewish workers developed very well. Thanks to the legal opportunities, systematic cultural, professional and political activity was carried out among them. The masses were activated; the young people were drawn into the professional movement. Separate youth sections were created at various trades. Active workers then were: Mordekhai Hochman, Shmai Fridman, Nakhum Worek, Moshe Rodzinek and Gliksberg.

The strong and well-disciplined professional unions carried on their work with full intensity; all actions to better the conditions of the organized workers had the appropriate success and were carried out without any opposition. However, these magnificent organizations did not have a long existence. A large fire, which broke out in the unions' building, erased everything. Not even one bench was saved.

From then on the unions moved from one place to another. A short while later they succeeded in renting a small apartment on the second floor in a small alley, where the tailors union was established with its 200 members, and the leaders were: Leyzer Shneur, Ita Ejzenberg and Gliksberg. The shoemaker's union also was located there and had good leadership, among whom Shmuelka Goldberg and Chaim Eizenberg stood out. All of the other trades such as the carpenters, locksmiths were organized under the name, Construction Union.

The well-known year of 1920 drew near. Repressions spread among the professional unions during the time of the Polish-Bolshevik War. Their activists were exiled to camps; the organizations were closed. This was a deathblow for the organizations. The professional activity ceased for a long time.

After the Polish-Bolshevik War, when it finally became peaceful, the former activists did not return to their organizations. The only communal strength came from the young people, who began to re-erect the destroyed unions. The tailor's union arose again illegally. Not having any refuge, it wandered from one house to another. This lasted for three-quarters of a year until the first money fund was create and the union received a small apartment on Grabanower Street, on the second floor, and it was legalized. Little by little other unions arrived; the shoemakers, metal workers and carpenter organizations were revived. The unions carried out intensive activity, thanks to the active leaders: B. Solman, Sh. Winderbaum, W. Szuster, Semiaticki, Goldhamer and others. The economic actions that were carried out in their time were met with success. However, alas, the economic situation then for Jewish workers in Biala was unfortunate.

The Jewish workers were scattered in many small workshops and even with the best will

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they could not improve their situation. In addition, the currency of that time was the mark with its running inflation. The worker, despite the successful actions, could not make enough money for his daily needs. This situation brought new emigration during 1921-1922 and hundreds of workers emigrated to France, Argentina and other nations. The new storm of emigration drained the masses of active strength from among the young people as well as the older ones. A split in the Bund took place in 1922. This created a dispute on party terrain and the professional organizations were weakened as a result and finally fell into ruin.

Only the carpenter's union remained of the professional organizations, which, thanks to a good set of circumstances and great demand for the work [of carpenters], held together well and carried on good professional and communal work until 1927. The leadership lay in the hands of responsible and devoted people, such as: Elya Hofman, Mikhal Krawiec, Zilia Gutenberg, Charasz and Wirnik. All of the workers in the other branches envied the carpenters for their good and steady income. It is no wonder that the actions undertaken by the carpenter's union at that time succeeded.

In 1927 a decline in the carpentry trade began. The stabilization and the normal life brought with it a standstill in the work. The older workers became meisters [foremen or their own bosses] and left the union. Only the young remained who could not cope. The political parties lost their influence; the union remained unsupervised; control over its activity as well as over the inflowing money was weakened and the organization of the carpentry workers began to crumble. In addition, this situation led to the only existing union being thrown out of its apartment and its wandering began anew.

Thanks to the efforts of Yakov Szwarcberg and Zelig Libman, an apartment again was rented into which moved the professional union of the carpentry branch as well as the library of the professional union. A half-year later, financial difficulties led to neglecting the payment of rent; the owner was not paid for a long time, until one evening he decided to throw the entire [library] inventory out into the street. The books roamed around, a little time with one person, another time with another. The legal professional unions of the Jewish workers in Biala ceased to exist from that moment on.

(Podlasier Lebn [Podlasier Life], number 19, 19th May 1934)


The Artisans Union

by B. Winograd, Ramat-Gan

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The union was founded in 1921. The organizers were: Avraham Lubelczik, Manashe Ceszinski, Borukh Winograd, Yoal Sztromwaser and Tsala Birnbaum. The reason for founding the Artisans Union was to organize the large number (about 500) artisans in a uniform economic organization in order to raise their level of achievement.

The artisans were a significant percent of the Biala Jewish population. Until the rise of the Artisans Union their only form of organization was minyonim [prayer groups] such as the “Zaposner” house of prayer, which consisted mainly of artisan worshippers, the Khevra Bokhorim [Society of Young Men] of tailors and shoemakers, which was located at the Hakhones-Orkhim [place for hospitality on the Sabbath and on holidays for poor travelers], and later just in the attic of the synagogue and from that comes the nickname, “the minyon from Golembik.” The majority of artisans were concentrated in the large house of prayer.

The cultural level and their conditions were humble – backwards. The competition and hatred among them was very great and the want and poverty ever greater, but some of them could read and write.

The institutions mentioned carried out a registration of all the Biala Jewish artisans according to the particular trades. A managing committee, auditing commission and organizational court was chosen at a general meeting. The statute of the union was received from the Warsaw Central Artisans Union and the Biala Artisans Union was legalized with the government as a division of the Warsaw Central.

The managing committee instantly began intensive activity. Gatherings of the artisans were called for each trade and a particular section was chosen from each trade that was occupied with organizational questions connected to the given trade. There was a reading room active every night in the premises of the union and the skilled artisans would read the daily Yiddish newspapers for their comrades,

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as well as various brochures of literary, hygiene-medical and professional content.

Over time, Avraham Lubelczik, Avraham Stricher, Menasha Ceszinski, Tsale Birnbaum, Yehosha Eidlsztajn, Khanina Kaszemacher, Moshe Kava, Welwl Eizensztat, Leizer Eplbaum, Yitzhak Peterburg, Nakhum Warek, Yoal Sztromwaser and others were members of the managing committee of the union.

The chairmen of the union over the course of various terms of office were: Avraham Lubelczik, Moshe Kava, Avraham Stricher, Nakhum Warek and Khanina Kaszemacher.

Borukh Winograd was active as the secretary from the rise of the union in 1921 until 1925, from 1925 until his departure for Eretz Yisroel, Ayzk Szajn. The last secretary of the union was Noakh Kramarsz.

In the course of its existence the Artisans Union took an active part in the political and communal life of the city.

The artisans elected an appropriate number of councilmen from their list at the elections to the city council. In 1923 Menasha Ceszinski and Borukh Winograd were elected; Borukh Winograd and Avraham Stricher [were elected] at the elections in the years 1927 and 1934.

The artisans also took an active part in the leadership of the kehile [organized Jewish community]. During the elections to the first kehile council, four artisans won election out of 15 councilmen: Avraham Stricher, Welwl Eizensztat, Yehoshua Eidlsztajn and Leizer Eplbaum. Khanina Kaszemacher, Yoal Sztromwaser and Yitzhak Peterburg, artisans, were then elected to the kehile managing committee.

There were no institutions in the city in which representatives of the Artisans Union did not take part.

The first premises of the union were located at Brisker Street in Moshe Lebenberg's house. Their second location was at Janower Street in Yitzhak Goldsztajn's house. The last premises of the union were located at Janower Street in the house of the tinsmith, Moshe Elya.

The Artisans Union carried out energetic action in providing artisan's cards for the comrades, without which, according to the law, it was illegal to have a workshop. Later, there came the action of arranging for master-diplomas for Jewish artisans. It was not an easy thing for a Jewish artisan to receive such a diploma because he needed to take an exam, during which, in addition to showing his mastery of his trade, he also had to show mastery of the Polish language, and Jewish artisans in Biala were very weak in this area. However, it was important that the Jewish artisan receive this diploma because an artisan without a diploma did not have the right to employ apprentices. Thanks to the good relationship that existed between the leaders of the Jewish Artisans Union and the leaders of the Christian guild organizations, the exams were limited only to questions in the area of the trade and the Jewish artisans successfully passed the exams.

A gmiles khesed [interest-free loan] fund existed at the Artisans Union, which would divide loans among the members without interest, to be paid in installments.

During the course of its existence, the Artisans Union carried out several events that had great success, such as an artistic evening at Beis-Am [assembly hall] that was carried out by the union members, a lecture by Deputy Noakh Prilicki and others.

In 1939 the Artisans Union suffered the fate of other Jewish communal institutions in the city, which ceased to exist immediately after the German Army marched in.


The Retailers Union

by Shmuel Kahan, Paris

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

When the merchants union in the city ceased to be active because of the anti–Semitic economic policies of the government, which led to the fact that the majority of the large merchants became retailers, the idea developed to create a retailers union in Biala. The union was founded in 1924. The organizers were Shmuel Kahan, Moshe Rodzinek, Dovid Wajcman, Volvish Wajcman, Dovid Kantor, Yosha Bachrach and Yakov Tokarski.

The main task of the union was to defend the interests of the retailers at the tax office so that they would not be worn down because of the too high tax evaluations. Very often, when the intervention by the union at the municipal tax office did not have an appropriate success, a delegation was sent to Lublin to the local izba skarbowa [tax office] in order to intervene and many times the delegation met with success. It

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also was important to be represented in the city council and at the kehile [organized Jewish community] because matters that were important to the retailers often were on the agenda.

Volvish Wajcman, and Dovid Wajcmen were elected to the city council on the part of the retailers and Shaul Batszka and Yoel Sztromwaser to the kehile.

The union tried to have the appropriate representatives at the municipal cooperative bank in order to be of assistance to the comrades in receiving credit there.

The activity of the union constantly expanded and new departments were organized such as an honorary court to solve various conflicts among comrades in order to avoid turning to a court. An information office for the credit possibilities for the clients was opened. Medical help for the comrades at discount prices was organized.

A gmiles–khesed kasa [interest–free loan fund] was created at the Retailers Union, which carried on vigorous and fruitful activity, helping the members with loans. The fund had a large role in the communal life of the retailers in the city, benefitting from everyone's trust.

The union was in constant contact with the central office in Warsaw, which would carry out interventions with the higher officials at the request of the Biala union and also provided legal help in needed cases.

The union worked with the artisans union in the city in certain actions.

The budget of the union would be covered by dues from the comrades and by subsidies that the union would receive from the central office in Warsaw.

In 1927 the organization of the union consisted of the following comrades:

Managing committee: Shmuel Kahan (chairman), Moshe Rodzinek, Moshe Feldman, Dovid Wajcman, Yoel Sztromwaser, Yosha Bachrach and Yakov Tokarski.

Inspection commission: Volvish Wajcman, Yitzhak Agres and Ahron Ribak.

Honorary court: Yakov Sztajnman, Volvish Wajcman, Moshe Feldman, Dovid Wajcman, Moshe Rodzinek, Yakov Tokarski and Hershl Kahan.

The union was located for a time in Yoska Winograd's house and, later, at Yatka [butcher] Street at Ides (Yehudis) Henya Resze's [house].

The union continued its activities, helping the shopkeepers in their daily struggle for survival until the dark day of the Germans arrival in Biala and the entire Jewish communal life ceased to exist.


Credit Cooperation

by A. Wajs

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

a. Until the First World War

In 1908 the first credit cooperative arose in Biala under the name “Loan and Savings Fund.” Later the fund joined the loan and savings fund of I.K.O. [Jewish Colonization Organization]. (The founders were: Chaim Levi Rubinsztajn, Yehezkiel Erlich, Kalman Szajnberg and Dovid'tshe Cahan. They would serve daily without any financial reward – ed.)

The Jewish artisans and retailers lived under difficult conditions during that time and the rise of the loan fund was welcomed with great joy. Only a few people, including Zogar, one of the founders of the cooperative, then understood what cooperation was. But, everyone understood that such an institution where the Jewish artisans or the retailers would receive a loan of several hundred rubles was an important accomplishment and therefore everyone enthusiastically devoted themselves to the work.

The Biala loan and savings fund developed quickly and became very popular with the Biala Jewish population, so that after a year of its existence the fund's members numbered 500 with a share capital of 7,000 rubles and 30,000 rubles in deposits, giving out loans of 38,000 rubles.

The number of members constantly grew, so that the volume of business could not satisfy the demands of all of the members and they had to draw more outside capital. And the late community worker, managing committee member of the fund, Dovid'tshe Cahan, may he rest in peace, who in addition to his own deposit of several thousand rubles, agitated among the group that they should bring the groshns that they had saved to the

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fund, emphasizing the safety of the institution. After two years of its existence, the fund developed with such speed that there constantly was an excess of money. The amount of the loans was tripled from 100 to 300 rubles for a member and in many cases the members benefited from double loans, that is, up to 600 rubles.

The fund satisfied the needs of the poor population, but it did not satisfy the needs of the middle class and of the larger merchants. According to a law of that time, the fund did not have the right to carry on exchange–operations, such as collections and other bank operations. At the initiative of a group of people, with the Messrs Eidl Szwarc and Adolf Boldman at the head, it was decided to create a Society of Mutual Credit in Biala for this purpose.

When one remembers the lack of rights and arbitrariness that reigned in Tsarist times, Perhaps it can be understood what effort and obstinacy must have been connected to receiving permission from the Finance Ministry in Petersburg to found such an institution, particularly when all of the signers of the charter were Jewish, and evaluating the earnings of the above–mentioned, they did not stop working for half a year until the charter was finally approved. Naturally, in addition, they made use of the full recommendation by influential, Jewish community workers in Petersburg.

During the second half of 1911, the charter was approved by the then Finance Minister [Vladimir] Kokovtsov with the provision that at the opening, the cooperative would number not less than 100 members with a minimum capital of 10,000 rubles.

The information was received with such enthusiasm by the Biala merchant–class that the capital was subscribed with a great surplus at the first founding meeting. Then a managing committee was elected with Eidl Szwarc as chairman and a council with Alter Eidlsztajn as chairman.

The activity of the institution began on the 1st of November 1911. The well–appointed office in a European manner, the hiring of Ayzyk Szwarc as an actual director with a full general staff and co–workers, made the institution very popular in the first months of its existence. Almost every day there were new members and trustees of the richest men in the city and the surrounding area. The institution developed at a fast tempo and surpassed all expectations.

After a year of its existence, the Society joined the Petersburger Central Bank of Mutual Credit as a member and over the course of a year it received rediscount credit of 50,000 rubles and was accredited in the same way by various societies and banks in the country and abroad.

The institution developed daily. The deposits grew and it became one of the most esteemed credit institutions in Congress Poland.

On the 1st of August 1914 the institution numbered over 250 members with its own capital of 42,00 rubles, deposits over 150,000 rubles, discount notes up to 300,000 rubles with almost unlimited rediscount credit in various private and share–banks, in the Central Bank in Petersburg and in Bank Towarzystwo Spoldzielczych [Bank of Cooperative Societies] in Warsaw. This provided the possibility of expanding the activity of the institution and raised the credit to 5,000 rubles for a member.

There was great trust in the bank so that Jewish and non–Jewish institutions placed their capital in Wzajemni Kredit [Mutual Credit] (the official name of the institution).

The activity of the institution proceeded at a calm and exemplary tempo until 1914.

The activity of the Biala cooperative institutions was restricted and paralyzed from the outbreak of the war until 1915. Every day the monetary means flowed out. The Cooperative Bank was evacuated to Minsk in July 1915.

Thus the First World War destroyed two beautiful, exemplary Jewish cooperative institutions in Biala.

(Podlasker Lebn [Poldlasker Life] 83/18, of 12th May 1935. A. Wajs is probably Ayzyk Szwarc – M. Y. F–M).


[Page 174]

Credit Cooperation

by M. Y. Feigenbaum

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

a. In Liberated Poland

1. Cooperative Bank

The “credit–cooperative” was founded after the First World War, which actually was the continuation of the “loan and saving” [fund]. Later (1927), the name was changed to the Security Cooperative Bank [Spoldzielczy Bank Udzialowy in Polish].

The tasks of the cooperative were: distributing cheap credit to its members, permitting the members to buy goods on credit through the intervention of the cooperative, taking in deposits and savings, accepting collection notes, etc.

The members of the cooperative consisted of artisans and retailers.

At the founding of the cooperative, its activities were carried out in Chaim Lev Rubinsztajn's house. Later, in Jungerman–Fridberg's house (previously Hartglas). In 1929 the bank moved into a large and beautiful building in the center of Wolnoszczi Square, in the community house belonging to Tila Berlin (over Ostrowska's apothecary).

In 1926 the bank passed through a dark crisis that threatened the cooperative with liquidation. At the general meeting of the members in August 1926 new members were elected to the managing committee, which consisted of the dentist, Yoal Zilberberg, Pinkhas Nartman and Yitzhak Arges. Benyamin Kliger stood at the head. The new institutions energetically began the work of assuring the health of the bank. A number of members simply invested large sums of money and thus guaranteed normal activity. Due to the then favorable economic conditions, the institution succeeded, in general, to emerge from the difficult situation in which it had been.

The population again had trust in the bank and again began to bring in deposits and savings. The Inspectors Union of the Jewish Credit Cooperatives in Warsaw giving its judgment that the activity of the bank had been normalized greatly helped it to receive credit from the Cooperative Central Bank and from the Joint [Distribution Committee] in Warsaw.

The bank never had a director and all of the members' matters and interests were handled by the personnel, according to the decisions and instructions from the managing committee, which would come together for a meeting twice a week. In addition to this, the managing committee members would come to the bank every day, which gave the personnel the opportunity to ask them for advice about various matters.

There always was the feeling of a shortage in the volume of business and, therefore they could not always satisfy the requests of the members. In the last years before the start of the Second World War, a member could make use of up to 2,000 zl. credit. Loans of up to 300 zl. were given in the form of discount notes. When the managing institutions would notice a rise in the profit, they immediately lowered the interest.

The bank leadership maintained a very secure credit policy and always tried to have their members benefit from credit and not permit individuals to have privileges to the detriment of other members. The credit policy led to the bank being able to cope with all economic crises and to continue to exist during the time when all other Jewish banks in the city were liquidated.

The bank was for the common people in the fullest sense of the word. The bookkeeping actually was in Polish, but the everyday language was Yiddish. The bank tried, as far as possible, to help its members. There was no pomposity there; a folksy joke, a witticism, a story could be heard there. A list of immigrants to Eretz–Yisroel and city nicknames was kept there. The bank was known in the city as Zionist although the bank authorities represented Bundists and Agudahnikes [Orthodox non–Zionist organization], who worked harmoniously together on behalf of the institutions and its members.

The bank ceased to exist with the outbreak of the Second World War. The portfolios of promissory notes and securities were hidden and it is difficult to say what their fate was.

In the course of the existence of the bank, its personnel consisted of: Yakov Ahron Rozenbaum, Moshe Morgensztern, Itka Rubinsztajn, Moshe Orlanski, Motl Wiznfeld, Moshe Yosef Fajgnbaum, Yehudis Warm, Yehosha Fajgbaum, Sura Miendziczecki, Yeshayahu Stolowi, Meir Korman and Menakhem Hajblum.

Active in the administrative bank authority during the last years before the war were: Benyamin Kliger, Yitzhak Agres, Dr. Yoal Zilberberg, Pinkhas Nortman, Moshe Rodzinek, Shmuel Orlanski, Yosef Fridberg, Yakov Kornblum, Asher Fajgnbaum (carpenter), Yehosha Eidlsztajn, Yitzhak Hochberg, Yitzhak Grobman, Yakir Kohan–Tzedek and others.

[Page 175]

Bia175.jpg
Board and Personnel of the Cooperative Bank

Sitting, from the left: Shmuel Orlanski, Yitzhak Grobman, Asher Fajgnbaum, Benyamin Kliger, Pinkhus Nartman, Yithak Hochberg;
Standing: Yitzhak Arges, Yosef Fridberg, Yeshayahu Stolowi, Moshe Rodzenek, Sura Miendziczecki, Motl Wiznfeld, Moshe Orlanski, Yakov Kornblum, Yehosha Eidlsztajn, Dentist Yoal Zilberberg (missing from the personnel - Yakov Ahron Rozenbaum)

 

Balance on the 31st of December 1936 Biala Cooperative Bank

Active
Treasury 8,698 zl
Banks 2,045 zl
Securities 1,087 zl
Loans 29,132 zl
Discounts 62,061 zl
Advances on collections 5,538 zl
Inventory 1,600 zl
Other accounts 971 zl
  111,132 zl
 
Passive
Securities 19,152 zl
Reserve Fund 5,207 zl
Special Fund 521 zl
Deposits 56,831 zl
On–going Loans 530 zl
Debts 22,300 zl
Other invoices 5,475 zl
Profits in reporting year 1,116 zl
  111,132 zl

(The balance is taken from the Cooperative Movement, number 10, Warsaw, 10/10/1937.)

In the monograph by B. Gurny, which was published just before the [Second World] war, the number of members of the bank is given as 314 and the bond capital is given as the sum of 20,601 zlotes.

 

2. Merchants Bank

The Merchants Bank in Biala was founded on the 5th of January 1925. It was located for a time on the first floor of Mendl Wajman's house at Pilsudski Street. Later it moved to the ground floor of the same house and was organized in an ample form.

The large merchants from throughout county were involved with the bank and even the landowners. The bank developed at a fast tempo, so that in the course of two years of activity, the bank's own capital reached a sum of more than 15,000 zlotes, which at that time was a very astounding sum.

The bank took care of all kinds of bank transactions and made use of its very good reputation in the banking world, benefiting from high credit at various financial institutions. After a short time of activity, the bank was taken in as a member of the Inspectors Union of the Jewish Cooperative.

However, the credit policies of the institution were not very cautious. Credit operations with individuals were permitted for very large sums. During the economic crisis in the year 1930 several large wood merchants in Biala, with whom the bank was involved, went bankrupt and also dragged the Merchants Bank into the abyss with them.

In March 1933 a general meeting of the bank members took place to stablize the position of the bank. It was decided at the meeting to add a surcharge to every security of 25 zlotes. Elected to the council at the meeting were: Dr. A. Gelbard, M. Orlanski, Sh. Grodner and A. Lustigman. However, all attempts to again strengthen the position of the bank were unsuccessful. The truth is that Biala did not have any great merchants that were in a position to help rehabilitate the institution and in 1934 the bank completely ceased to exist.

Fishl Finklsztajn was the director of the bank. Working as officers were: Ayzyk Szwarc, Shlomo

[Page 176]

Hirszson, Pesl Sirkus, Ruczka Dzenczol, Yakov Liberman, Noakh Kramarcz, Garber and Elihu Libman.

Balance Report of the Biala Merchants Bank on the 31st of December 1926

Active
Cash 4,247.70 zl
Discount 69,602.42 zl
Interest 2,578.61 zl
Moveable assets 2,299.64 zl
Collection documents in the portfolio 61,047.51 zl
Collection documents with correspondence 8,836.30 zl
Correspondents 2,849.18 zl
Property payments and bank instruments 3,701.16 zl
Bonds 145.- zl
Advance on collections 8,264.80 zl
Action by the bank for the cooperatives 179.- zl
Interest for year 1927 110.37 zl
Debts 11,823.62 zl
  175,685.31 zl
 
Passive
Interest 17,960.91 zl
Securities fund 10,900.- zl
Reserve fund 1,270.13 zl
Special fund 3,008.- zl
Deposits and savings 30,988.35 zl
Running accounts 18,174.87 zl
Rediscounts 14,367.75 zl
Various collections 69,883.81 zl
Transitional sums 616.56 zl
Receivable accounts 7,868.15 zl
Interest for 1927 72.64 zl
  175,685.31 zl

(The balance was taken from the Podlasier Lebn [Podlasier Life], number 6, of the 11th of February 1927).

 

3. Cooperative People's Bank

The bank was founded by the Radziner Hasidim in 1927. At first it was located in a room in the house of a leather merchant, Motl Eidlsberg.

Yehezkiel Erlich was the leader of the bank and the personnel consisted of religious young people such as Elihu Erlich, Shepsl Rozen, Hinekh Szajnberg, Dovid Pocztaruk. The only non–religious one there was the bookkeeper, Wajsman from Radzyn.

In order to receive deposits, which were not abundant among the Jewish population in the city, the bank began to pay higher interest. It should be understood that whoever chased after this interest and did not consider where he was entrusting his money brought his money to this bank. The two remaining banks in the city, which did not want to enter competition with the People's Bank, felt the results of this tactic. (Podlasier Lebn, number 19, of the 19th of August 1927)

The bank would carry out risky transactions with “our people” and in chasing after profits they completely forgot to insure the credit given.

The bank did record success at the beginning and moved into the large and beautiful premises of the former Bank dla Handlu i Przemysłu [Bank for Trade and Industry] in Chaim Joska Kasztenbaum's house. It belonged to the Agudah [Orthodox organization] Inspectors Union.

In 1931, with the first sign of a tightening economic crisis, the bank collapsed and ceased to exist.

The consequences of the collapse were very serious because the bank owed a large amount of money to small depositors who had taken advantage of the directors of the bank and their assistants. No efforts were made to collect the debts at least to partially cover the debts for which the bank was responsible.

The decline of the bank created anger among a number of Radziner Hasidim who even left the Radziner Hasidim shtibl [one–room synagogue].

The bank was never officially liquidated and the holders of debt received none of their savings.

The members of the managing committee were: Yehezkiel Erlich, Motl Eidlsberg, Mordekhai Yosef Goldsztajn, Nukhem Tenenbaum, Avraham Goldszmidt, Moshe Yitzhak Biderman, Shimeon Lichtensztajn and so on. The council consisted of Yitzhak Berman, Shmai Kalichsztajn, Moshe Betsalel Laszczewski, Kalman Szajnberg and so on; in the Inspection Commission: Ayzyk Szajnberg, Leibl Wajntraub, Tzvi Halpern and so on.

 

4. Cooperative Discount Fund

After the liquidation of the Merchants Bank, the former officials of this bank, Ayzyk Szwarc and Shlomo Hirshzon, founded this fund that was located at Wolnoszczi Square, in Yisroel Khahan's house.

Despite all efforts, the fund did not develop and was liquated after a short time. It should be recorded that the fund had no influence in the economic life of the Biala Jews.

[Page 177]

5. Cooperative Trade Bank

The founder of this bank was Ayzyk Szajnberg. It was located in the courtyard at Meir Orlanski's and did not play any role in economic life. Its main activity consisted of collecting promissory notes. No loans were given there.

They did not belong to any inspection union and were by controlled by state reviews.

The bank personnel consisted of Shepsl Rozen and Hinekh Szajnberg. The bank ceased to exist with the outbreak of the war.


Workers Consumer Cooperative Einikeit

by W. Szuster, New York

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The rise of the Polish independent nation did not bring with it any easing in the area of economics for the population. The economy, which was greatly harmed during the [First] World War, had still not returned to normal and a new war already had flared up, the Polish-Bolshevik [War]. Workers and the masses were then not in a position to buy the most important major products.

Therefore, the Bund in Biala decided to found a consumer cooperative, where each worker and the general masses could get money to purchase products for low prices and be safeguarded against speculation. The Bundist party and the professional unions called a meeting of their comrades and proposed to them the plan for creating the cooperative.

The plan foresaw that each worker and the general masses in the city could become members of the cooperative on the condition that he bought a share. He was entitled to buy at the cooperative with the payment for the share, but only for his own family. The project was affirmed and the cooperative, Einikeit [Unity], arose. The cooperative numbered 255 members (Lebns Fragn [Questions of Life] 1919, Bundist newspaper in Warsaw, correspondence from Biala).

The cooperative committee consisted of the comrades: Avraham Adller, Nakhum Warek, Moshe Rodzinek, Khanina Kuperszmid and Shmaye Fridman. The sellers at the cooperative were: Khone Frajnd, Chaim Wajsgloz and Velvl Kohan. Mainly the most important articles sold, such as kasha [buckwheat groats], flour, rice, oil, salt, herring, soap and so on, would be bought at the state provisions office.

The cooperative had its selling place at the house of Dovidl the stonecutter at Grabanower Street. Later it was located at Mezritcher Street at the house of Yankele the painter.

The cooperative closed when the Bolsheviks drew near to Biala in 1920 and all active Bund comrades were arrested. With the entry into Biala of the Bolsheviks, several Bund comrades, who had been hiding and avoiding arrest by the Polish regime, gathered and they decided to distribute all of the products among the cooperative members. Later, the committee liquidated the cooperative.

(Written based on the material that was found in the Kursky Archives, New York, as well as from the book by Sh. Herc, Di Geshikhte fun a Yugnt [The History of a Young Man]).


[Page 178]

Cooperative Mechanical Bakery

by M. Y. F–M

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The frequent persecutions on the part of the regime against the Jewish population in the area of sanitation created the idea among the Jewish bakers of founding a joint mechanical bakery.

Such a bakery was founded in 1930 as a cooperative, which was joined by all of the Jewish bakers in the city. They rented several large rooms for this purpose in Wajne's and there organized a mechanical bakery according to all of the newest technical standards.

The cooperative was accepted as a member of the Jewish Central Inspector's Union [of the Jewish Credit Cooperative] in Warsaw, which made it possible for it to obtain certain credits.

The cooperative was dissolved after a very short existence and each bakery returned to being a private bakery. Later, the bakers still strongly lamented the unsuccessful attempt that had cost each of them dearly.

It is hard now to know reasons for the liquidation of the cooperative.


The Interest-Free Loan Fund
at the Small Businessmen's Union

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The gemiles-khesed kasa [interest-free loan fund] at the Small Businessmen's Union was founded in 1926. The initiators of founding the fund were: Shmuel Kahan, Moshe Rodzinek, M.A. Miszkin, Yosha Bachrach, Dovid Wajsman, Mendl Wajsman, Yoal Sztromwaser and Yakov Tokarski. An inducement to found the gemiles-khesed kasa was provided by the news that the Joint [Distribution Committee] in Warsaw was distributing subsidies to such funds.

However, two conditions were placed by the Joint Central in Warsaw: 1) firstly, a fund with the appropriate capital needed to be created on the spot and then the Joint would add its proportional subsidy to the collected capital and 2) the fund had to be a joint fund both for the small businessmen and the artisans.

The initiators contributed to a money collection in the city and in a short time there was success in collecting the appropriate sum. The Joint, for its part, added a subsidy in the amount of 10,000 zlotes and the fund began to function.

However, as the leadership of the Artisans Union had not agreed to the joint fund with the Small Businessmen's Union, the small businessmen founded their own fund and the subsidy that had been received from the Joint was divided between both funds in equal parts. So that the Joint in Warsaw would not know that two separate funds were in existence, every month a joint report was sent to Warsaw. At the first inspection by the Joint on the spot [in Biala], the existence of the two separate funds was uncovered. Later, the two funds received separate subsidies directly from the Joint.

The Small Businessmen's Union's gemiles-khesed kasa would distribute loans from 100 to 300 zlotes to its members and the loans would be paid back in small installments. They did not charge any interest but everyone who received a loan had to pay several zlotes in membership dues.

The Small Businessmen's Union would carry out various events and campaigns that made possible the increase in the capital of the fund and thus received even larger subsides from the Joint.

The gemiles-khesed kasa existed until the outbreak of the war and helped a great number of Biala small businessmen. The society, whose number [of members] reached approximately 400, acted with great sympathy toward their fund, paying their loans on time. An insignificant percent of loans were not paid back. However, the fund never pressed charges in court against a member, because such a step was not permitted by the Joint.

According to Podlasier Lebn [Podlaska Life] number 28/144 of the 20th of July 1934, elected to the managing committee of the fund were Yitzhak Berman, Tzvi Halpern, Moshe Feldman, Leibl Lipiec, Leibl Blanklajder, Yakov Rozencwajg, Yitzhak Khahan, Avraham Srebrnik and Yakov Tokarski.

Yisroel Liverant, Ruchl Listgartn, Berl Czelazo and Yakov Niewidze worked there as employees during the course of the fund's existence.

 

Balance Sheet on the 1st of November 1926
of the Interest-Free Loan Fund

Active
Treasury   75.10 zlotes
Loans given   8,088.50 zlotes
Running accounts in the bank   567.– zlotes
Administrative costs   816.07 zlotes
    ______________
    9,545.67 zlotes
 
Passive
Rescue committee (Joint)   4,475 zlotes
Own debts (deposits)   2,410 zlotes
Various income   871.17 zlotes
Shares of 378 members   1,790.50 zlotes
    _______________
    9,545.67
 
(The balance sheet was taken from the Podlasier Lebn,
number 1, of the 26th of November 1926)

Received from Shmuel Kahan (Paris)
and Ruchl Listgartn (Kibbutz Ramat David)

 

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