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[Page 157]

Chapter 7


People and Personalities

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View of the entrance to the Great Synagogue and surroundings

[Page 159]

Elyahu Abrahamer

Josef Chrust

Translation edited by Lisa Newman


Eliyahu Abrahamer – there was not a single aspect to community life in which he was not mentioned, first as a community worker, and later as a committee member.

In November 1935 he turned 50, and his birthday was celebrated appropriately.

He had always dreamed about a Katowice community educational network. In the same year that he was celebrating his 50th birthday; the Katowice community took another step forward and opened the Hebrew school.

Eliyahu Abrahamer deserves credit for drawing the youth of Katowice closer to Judaism through various activities, but his greatest achievement was doubtlessly the “official bulletin” he edited, which reflected the community's life in great detail.

An article published in the bulletin's issue #91 allows us to learn about this man and his character. A decade earlier he volunteered as a community worker, to help with the difficult situation created by mass movements of Jewish populations The taxing system made running community activity almost impossible; he established the foundations in the community for steady, regular activities. Katowice was the first community in Poland that could afford reforming into a new method of operating, and provide community services like burial and medical care for free. His second action was to reform the community's election regulations, a change which enabled new community members (along with existing ones) to vote for their desired representatives.

Bruno Altman

Josef Chrust

Translation edited by Lisa Newman

He was the community's leader, who turned 60 in June of 1934. From the greetings published in issue # 57 of “the bulletin”, we can fathom the personality of this man, who was then in his 15th year of leading Katowice's Jews with great devotion.

The Sabbath was always kept in his shops and places of business in Katowice. His parents' will, (of great wealth in property and businesses), stated that no work was to be done in any of the company's branches on Sabbath or on Jewish holidays.

From his parents, Bruno inherited the Jewish spirit and character, including the idea that it is every man's duty, especially a Jew, to devote himself to his community; the community became his prime guiding ideal.

He started in 1919, and was shortly involved in each and every aspect of the community's social activity; in 1921 he was elected to be the community's chairman. It was, as mentioned before, a remarkably difficult period, but Altman gained the trust and support of Jews at all levels of the community.

Translated from his parent's will: “we now conclude our instructions with a decisive wish that the core business L. Altman will be managed by our children and their offspring for as long as possible, and that in all times the management will follow the same principles; that is morally, and in a religious manner. Accordingly, all businesses inherited from our company must act in strict integrity and keep the religious law as we were instructed to do. We specifically order that no business will be done during Sabbath and the Jewish holidays, as far as it is forbidden.”

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View of the entrance to the Great Synagogue and surroundings

[Page 161]

Szmuel Hoppen

Cila Katriel Hoppen

Translation edited by Lisa Newman

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My father z”l was one of the dominant figures in Katowice's Jewish community. A young, well-educated and energetic man, he was the heir of a Rabbinic family, a scholar authorized to instruct torah; he was a frequent visitor at Rabbi Fogelman's house, and a steady listener to his torah lectures.

My father was a tax- collector among the community in Katowice for many years, until the Nazi invasion in 1939. As part of this job he had other responsibilities, including managing the great synagogue and the activities that took place in it.

As he was proficient in different customs and Jewish laws regarding the Sabbath and holiday prayer services, he was always available to the Rabbis and caretakers in the synagogue, and to the executive arm of the different authorities within the community.

My father always had a great deal of work to do; He was often asked to help others contact the community's charitable members, or to figure out other ways for them to obtain financial support.

He was also responsible for the Jewish soldiers, whom he had to provide with essential groceries for Sabbath, with kosher food and with siddurim. He used to give them vouchers for free dinners in Jewish restaurants. These soldiers often came to visit us, knocking on our door and asking for their “dad”, the name they called my father with great affection.

The wealthier families in the community were familiar with my father, and welcomed him in their homes; this allowed him to collect charity for the ill, the needy and the elderly, which he would pass on to them anonymously.

He had a habit of giving away milk and fresh buns to the poor every morning on his way to work; during the holidays, our door was always open for occasional guests during meal time.

In 1933 he also assumed the position of the community's mohel, in place of old Mr. Wolkowski; he was known in Katowice's hospitals and the area as a professional surgical expert. My father z”l was also a volunteer in the local chevra kadisha, burial society.

Blessed be his memory.

[Page 162]

Otto Sztern – a Nobel Prize Recipient

Chana Engelhart-Goldfeld

Translation edited by Lisa Newman

Nobel Prize recipient Otto Stern was born in 1888 in Zorau near Rybnik. His father, Oscar Stern, owned a gristmill, near my family's iron factory, “Huta Pawla”. My father was one of the factory's owners, and my husband, engineer Maurici Engelhart, was the main foreman. We were on friendly terms with Oscar, and met him frequently at the synagogue, especially during the holidays. We were very few Jewish families, maybe three or four in the town. At the holidays we wanted to have a minyan – (at least 10 people, the number required to run Jewish prayers properly) and so we invited our friends and families to come and celebrate the holidays with us.

We knew that the Sterns had an only child, a very talented student who was studying abroad. They put much effort into giving him the best education. After he graduated, young Otto was Einstein's apprentice in Prague, Zurich, Frankfurt, Rostock and Hamburg.

But after Hitler came to power, Otto left Germany and developed his scientific work in Pittsburgh at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. He received the Nobel prize for physics in 1943. He passed away in Berkeley, August 18th, 1963 and was buried there.

Notices of his death were published in the Polish and British editions of the paper “Dziennik Polski”.

Heinrich Margalit

Josef Chrust

Translation edited by Lisa Newman

Born in 1890 in the city of Sosnowiec, he lived in Katowice from 1895, studied in the Technical High School, and was part of the group that included Arnold Ulitz, Arnold Zweig and Ludwig Meidner. After his matriculation exams he was hired by the “Landsbereger Bank” (“Breslauer Disconto Bank”); he studied in Leipzig and Berlin and filled senior positions there, later becoming the financial advisor to the Israeli embassy in London.

He returned to Israel in 1956 in order to continue his scientific-literary activity. Among his books are: “The struggle of Suez and Baghdad in early History” (1919), “Criticizing Zionism” (1920), “Joseph's Pharaoh” (1964) and others.

Franz Landsberger

Josef Chrust

Translation edited by Lisa Newman

Born in Katowice in 1883, he grew up and studied in Breslau and subsequently in Berlin, Geneva and Munich. He specialized in art history; he was a lecturer at the Breslau University from 1912, and a professor there from 1918.

He edited Polish art journals, published essays in 1926, and was considered the local authority in the field of art history.

As an art expert and the manager of Berlin's Jewish museum, he was forced to leave Germany and was appointed a professor in “Hebrew Union College” and manager of the Jewish museum there, in Cincinnati. He passed away on March 17th, 1964.


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