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[Page 132]

Dr. Leon Tannenbaum z”l

by S. Segal

Translated by Susan Rosin

Edited by Valerie Schatzker

Among the many great men and women who were active in recent generations in Drohobycz, Dr Leon Tannenbaum z”l, a man of illustrious character, was prominent.

Our generation – a Zionist and nationalist generation – will always fondly remember Dr Tannenbaum as a leader of the Jewish community of our town for many years. As the head of the kahal and as deputy mayor he was always concerned with the interests of the individual and the community.

We remember Dr Tannenbaum as head of the Zionist movement who participated in all its meetings, conferences, and congresses. Dr Tannenbaum was a close friend of Dr Leon Reich, Dr Michael Ringel z”l, and most of the leadership of Galician Jewry. People looked to him for his opinions and his advice.

The Jews of Drohobycz thrived during his tenure as the leader of the community organization. Many institutions were established and a Zionist atmosphere was dominant in the community, in contrast to what happened during the absolute reign of the assimilationist Dr Jacob Feuerstein and his cronies.

Many of us still recall the 1911 Austrian parliamentary elections when thirteen Jews were killed and many others wounded under the orders of the assimilationists Feuerstein and Löwenstein, who were supported by the civil authorities.[1]

Major changes occurred after the First World War. Young lawyers who came to town – Backenroth, Tannenbaum, Adlersberg, Schneider, and others – brought with them a new and refreshing spirit. From then on, the victory of the Zionists in all areas of Jewish life was assured.

Heading all these activities was Dr Leon Tannenbaum. His heart and his house were open to assist any Jew in the town. He never tired and was available twenty–four hours a day. His life was dedicated to his brothers in the town and to Zionist activism.

Leon (Leib) Tannenbaum was born 4 April 1884 in Borysław – Wolanka.[2] His parents were Samuel and Debora (Mansberg). When Leon was sixteen, his father was killed in an accident in a wax mine in Sołotwina (present day Solotvyn).

In 1902, the family moved to Drohobycz where Leon, paying his own way, completed his studies in the local high school. In 1906, he graduated from the university in Lwów with a doctorate in law (Juris Doctor). While a student, he worked as a tutor and helped support and educate the rest of the family. In 1909, he married Sissel (Zosia) Lichtenstein.

After completing his internship in the courts and training with other lawyers, the family settled permanently in Drohobycz, where Dr Tannenbaum's son Samuel, who later lived in Tel–Aviv, was born in 1910.

Leon Tannenbaum had already begun to participate in Zionist social activities while he was at the university. Some valuable historical documents have been preserved in his personal archives from that period. He especially treasured a personal letter from the renowned author Sholem Aleichem, which contained the sentence, among other comments; “This is the first time Sholem Aleichem has laughed at Sholem Aleichem”.

During the First World War, Dr Tannenbaum and his family lived in Austria.[3] There he befriended Dr Leon Reich z”l. The two remained friends until Dr Reich's untimely death.

In 1917, the family returned to Drohobycz where Dr Tannenbaum's daughter Lusia was born in May 1918. During the period of Ukrainian rule in 1918–1919, the family suffered many sleepless nights when Dr. Tannenbaum, as a public activist, had to deal with the Ukrainian authorities. Dr Tannenbaum described a horrendous scene from that period. An old Jewish man, who was accused of spying and sentenced to death, was brought to Dr Tannenbaum's house. The authorities were going to carry out the sentence in the hallway. It turned out that when the wife of this person, who lived on the corner of Solna and Mickiewicz streets, had lit her Sabbath candles. The flickering flames seemed to the Ukrainians like a code to the Polish army camped on Szwolezerów Street. Due to Dr Tannenbaum's insistence and his wife's pleading, the man was saved. However, he was not allowed to return to his home and had to stay with the Tannebaums for a month.

After Dr Tannenbaum's wife died in 1942 and his daughter and son–in–law were murdered by Ukrainians, he was taken in the third Aktion with the rest of the Jewish community and led to the place of internment – the court house. He was holding the hand of Rappaport's granddaughter. He shared the poison he had with the little orphan.

His life dream to live in Eretz Israel did not materialize. He had visited in the 1930s, but his efforts to settle in Israel did not work out at that time.

May his memory be blessed forever.

Editor's Notes
  1. On 8 June 1911, elections for members of the Austrian parliament were held in Austria. In Drohobycz, there was great animosity between those supporting the Jewish nationalist party and those who supported the incumbent Nathan Löwenstein, a member of the Polish Club in the Austrian House of Deputies. In previous years, Jacob Feuerstein had been the Vice Mayor of Drohobycz and leader of the kahal; he was a strong supporter of Löwenstein. On election day, the crowd surrounding the polling station became large and restive. Various parties in the city accused the electoral authorities and Feuerstein of fraudulent electoral practices. The army had been called to maintain order, but for reasons never fully understood, it fired into the crowd. In the subsequent official investigation, the officer in charge said he heard a command to fire, although no one gave that command. Eight people were killed immediately and eighty were wounded, twenty–five of whom died of their injuries. The victims included people of all the national groups in the city. Return
  2. Leon Tannenbaum was not born in Wolanka, but Mrażnica, another village close to Borysław. Return
  3. Although the author has written Austria, it is likely that he meant Vienna, or possibly another city in the western part of Austria that was not occupied by the Russian army during the First World War. In fear of the anti–Semitic brutality of the Russian troops, many Jews left the province of Galicia for their personal safety. Most went to Vienna. Return

[Page 133]

Youth Working for Eretz Israel

by Shimek Fritz Eidelsheim

Translated by Susan Rosin

Edited by Valerie Schatzker


It is difficult for me to describe the many contributions of the Zionist youth movement in Drohobycz. However, as someone who was educated and matured in this movement from my late teens until the Holocaust, I will try, to the best of my ability, to describe these organizations so that future generations will not forget the youth who lived in our town and were active in this movement.

Unfortunately, I am unable to write a monograph[1] about all the youth organizations in Drohobycz. The interested reader can find much information on this subject. My goal is to contribute personal memories, specifically about Hashomer Hatzair, where I had my initial Zionist and socialist education, and then Hitahdut Poale Zion, the party in which I was an activist during the ten years preceding the Holocaust.

The Zionist youth movement in our town began to develop during the period before the First World War. You will probably read in another chapter of this book about the “bloody elections” in Drohobycz in 1911. I am aware that Zionist youth participated in the struggle between the Zionists and the assimilationists.

Under the influence of Poale Zion, youth groups were organized even before the First World War. No doubt, many Drohobyczers still remember the call by one of the youth members to “take the post office” in 1919. The Zionist youth probably intended to take over the government during the struggle between the Ukrainian army and the Poles.

Hashomer was first organized as a scout group for Jewish boys. Their activities began at the end of the First World War. Probably these young people were those who established Hashomer Hatzair in our town. At the time, the movement had no political identity; it was purely an organization of Nationalist–Zionist Jewish youths. As can be seen in one of our publications, the report about the group's Saturday outing in the Górka forest was about the Mincha prayer.



I and others of my age were first introduced to the idea of pioneering youth and Eretz Israel around 1920. That's when we saw the Halutzim (pioneers) passing our street, Truskawicka Street, singing Ukrainian folk songs. They had long dark hair and probably had a haircut no more than twice a year. Their shoes were always dusty and for pants, they wore breeches. We were told these were pioneers from Russia training on a farm on Jura street in preparation for emigration to Eretz Israel. These were the young men who trained in agriculture and suffered many hardships. Although I do not know who and where they are I am sure that they were among the first to drain the swamps and pave the roads in Eretz Israel.

That is how I and my peers saw them when we were eight years old. I often thought about them when I joined the pioneering youth movement as a cub. Then and even years later, we could not comprehend that it was possible to live in Eretz Israel and not be a farmer, agriculture worker, or wagon driver.

A Jew, who owned a pub, attended the synagogue of the rabbi of Sambor, Yehoshua Herschel, where I prayed with my father. His son was a field watchman in Eretz Israel; he sent his father a photograph showing him riding a horse with a rifle in his hand. I remember the sensation and the pride in the entire synagogue that “our Herschele” was a watchman.

Another memory from my childhood is of the only Jewish parade I ever saw. Parades were usually the monopoly of the gentiles. I was a young student at Talmud Torah

[Page 134]

when we were taken out of the school and led throughout the town with students of the Hebrew school Beit Yehuda and other children. The parade was led by Hashomer members wearing scout hats and holding long scout sticks. The entire town could hear the Yiddish song “We come together and the masses of the Jewish people are at home.” This was on the day of the Balfour's declaration.

These are the memories of my childhood and when I was growing up. I saw the youth movement of Hashomer Hatzair and Halutzim (pioneers). Naively, we thought that the Halutzim were without any party affiliation. But later we learnt that they were adults, previously members of Hashomer Hatzair who, for some reason, could not continue in the educational movement.

There is so much that can be written about Hashomer Hatzair in our town. The members were special people with a special mentality; they even used special language.

I was introduced to Hashomer Hatzair when I was thirteen years old and had started my studies in the government high school. It was natural, since the meeting place of Hashomer Hatzair seemed like the high school's branch for the Jewish youth.

The meeting place was in the yard of the Ratz family on Sobieski Street close to Łan. In time, this structure became well known in town. It was well suited for its purpose. Can you imagine a place like that – probably still remembered by many of you – a large hall where several group conversations were taking place simultaneously without interrupting one other? Forty people could dance the hora at the same time in this hall. There was also a stage for plays and an alcove for coats. The fact that there was no electricity and no heating in winter did not bother us. We were happy with kerosene lanterns. And we did not feel the cold as the place was always full. It is interesting that even the noise late into the night did not bother the neighbors. Nobody thought that anything else could be expected from this place. Sometimes, the meeting place had to be moved because of police persecution. But as soon as we could go back, we went with great enthusiasm – as if we were going back to our homeland.

I must also mention another meeting hall – Beit Yehuda which was called by all Dom Żydowski (Jewish home). All the youth felt they belonged to this home. People came there even if there was no special occasion. It was sufficient to sit in the yard, sing together, and dance the hora. And when the youth decided to dance, they were not bothered by the yelling of Mr Schwartz, the housekeeper who wanted to keep the place intact. He could turn the lights off, but nobody was bothered and the dancing continued in the dark.

Originally, the entire Zionist movement met in this house, mainly because of its vast yard. Even after the movement grew and smaller gatherings were held in many other areas in town, this home continued to be the main gathering place during holidays or during troubled times, such as the Arab riots in Palestine or anticipation of anti–Semitic pogroms. On these occasions, youth from all over town gathered in Beit Yehuda, the fortress of the Hebrew youth in the town.

Many Halutzim (pioneers), even families left these places to train for Aliyah. It is truly hard to imagine that these places no longer exist – the whole area does not exist, the Jewish population and the youth no longer exist …



The location of the headquarters of Hashomer Hatzair had to be moved from time to time due to persecution by the Polish secret police. They saw the movement not just as an educational organization dedicated to pioneering and emigration to Eretz Israel, but as a threat to the authorities due to the increasing socialist awareness among the youth.

Despite attempts by anti–Zionist movements, Hashomer Hatzair thrived in our town and educated a whole generation. If you visit Hashomer Hatzair kibbutzim such as Merhavia, Gan Shmuel, and Mizra you will find many of the original pioneers from Drohobycz. More can be found in newer kibbutzim of the movement.

However, it is painful to think of those that did not make it.

Some characteristics of this movement were:

Immediately after joining Hashomer, you would change. Your posture would straighten, you would hold your head high, you would walk with more confidence. Your clothing would be different as well. You would dress more simply; even in winter you would wear a shirt with an open collar, and if at all possible, no hat. Even your manner of speech would change. These changes became part of your character. That's how a whole generation of youth was educated and forged in our town, specifically in Hashomer Hatzair.

Other youth organizations also existed during this period,

[Page 135]

such as Poale Zion and Hitachdut and for a short period Gordonia. But THE youth was organized in Hashomer Hatzair until 1928–1929; even after the establishment of other organizations, it remained the strongest and most important.

The many Zionist parties did not ignore our town. Between 1928 and 1930, all the youth organizations existed in our town from Hashomer Hatzair through to Betar.



Nathan Bistricki visited our town in 1929. I believe he was a delegate of the KKL–JNF (Keren Kayemeth Leisrael–Jewish National Fund). His message about uniting the youth in town under the Zionist flag had a great impact. For a few weeks, the youth would meet and hear about the country of their hopes and dreams. They spent time together until after midnight and then would sing and dance until the early morning hours.

The bloody events in Eretz Israel in 1929 increased national awareness among the youth. Zionist youth movements became dominant due to this increased awareness and the various movements competed to bolster activism and education.

Hashomer Hatzair, which was focused originally on high school students, started to become more involved with working youth around 1930. The Zionist movement focused more on those who did not accept the nationalist ideology at first. Even the religious youth could find its place in the Zionist organization Bnei Akiva.

Halchud, the local branch of Hitachdut Poale Zion, which was established in the town in 1932 had an important impact. Until its establishment, the main organization that worked for Eretz Israel was Hashomer Hatzair, but it was limited to education and the collection of donations for Histadrut (General Organization of Workers) industries. With the establishment of the Ichud branch, the political outlook of Jews changed.

The branch recruited many of the workers in the Galicia and Nafta refineries and through this activity, became a major player, not only among Jews. The socialist parties, the PPS[2] and the Ukrainian socialist party, were aware that in their political activities they had to consider Ichud as a representative of the Jewish workers. As a result, Ichud youth became friendlier with the non–Jewish socialist youth. These connections became invaluable during the anti–Semitic pogroms in Poland. When Ichud started in 1932, it sublet a room from Yad Charutzim. In time, it expanded to include many organizations which occupied an entire house on Mickiewicz Street, where the party held all its political and cultural activities. The Ichud branch was instrumental in establishing much of infrastructure of the movement in the town. Among its major achievements were the establishment of pioneering youth organizations, Gordonia and Buselia, Haoved (the worker) which attracted many craftsmen, Z.S. (Ichud), which was focused on emigration to Eretz Israel, the sports organization Hapoel, and labour organizations, which sent representatives to the labour unions. Prior to the establishment of the Ichud branch, the Zionist movement had had no influence on labour unions. Ichud had a major impact in making Zionism part of the labour movement, as well as in the issue of emigration.

I thought to mention specifically one person who had a major impact on the Zionist youth in our town. Aunt Idelka was the secretary of KKL (Jewish National Fund) and the dominant figure in the organization and in the town. She was the apolitical organizer of youth from all political parties. All representatives gathered around her; she educated them in practical work and contributions for Eretz Israel. Under her influence, the collection of money for the Jewish National Fund became a labour of love and great pride for the youth of our town.

These youth movements provided national education to school–age youth and increased the awareness and the educational level of working youth. They developed mutual help in the Jewish population and gave people confidence and preparation for self–defense. Just before the Second World War, anti–Semitic outbreaks were a common occurrence in Poland. However, the anti–Semites did not dare touch the Jews of Drohobycz; they knew that the youth was prepared and would retaliate. Those who were in Drohobycz at the time may remember that this is not an exaggeration. During one of the anti–Semitic outbursts, a reinforcement of Endek students from Lwów arrived in Drohobycz to start pogroms in town[3]. Their initial plan was to destroy Beit Yehuda. Upon hearing the news about this plan, the youth, as well as the adults, immediately organized for self– defense. In addition to barricading themselves in Beit Yehuda, they surrounded the rioters from all directions. At the end, the Endek students had to retreat under the protection of the Drohobycz police. Such was the Drohobycz youth.

The Zionist youth, and specifically the youth working for Eretz Israel, had a great impact during the last half century of Jewish Drohobycz. It is sad that only few of these youths could fulfil their dreams and emigrate; most remained in the diaspora … and actually, they did not remain there…

Editor's Notes
  1. A monograph is a treatise on a single subject or an aspect of a subject, usually by a single author. Return
  2. PPS (Polska Partia Socjalistyczna), the Polish socialist party. Return
  3. Endeks: The National Democrats (Endecja or ND in Polish) was a right–wing political party founded by the Polish politician Roman StanisÅ‚aw Dmowski. A controversial personality during his life and since, Dmowski believed that only Polish–speaking Roman Catholics could be good Poles; his opinions marginalized other minorities. He was vocally anti–Semitic. Return

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