A statement from the publishers of the Korczyner memorial book
There is a statement in the Talmud that says: Rabbi Yossi said that he
never contradicted his friends. I know that I am not a cohen but if my friends
insist that I go and bless the congregation, I would do it (Sabbath 115).
We know that we don't have the necessary literary skills to create a fitting
memorial but the remnants of the Jewish community of Korczyn demand that we
undertake the task in spite of the fact that we are not priests (cohens) or
writers. Of course we can ask whether any professional or literary writer can
do justice to the Jewish destruction in our times. The object of the memorial
book is not to create a literary or historical masterpiece but to create a
memorial, a tombstone in the memory of our fathers, our mothers, our brothers,
our sisters and our children from Korczyn that were innocently killed by the
Germans. The object of the memorial is that the children and their children
should read and especially see the book in order to remember what the Germans
did to our community. The future generations must remember that there once
existed a Jewish community in Korczyn that consisted of 786 people who lead a
simple and pious life. In 1942, the Germans cleared the Jews from the entire
area about 800 into the ghetto of Korczyn and then destroyed the entire Jewish
community of about 1600 people.
This deed can't be forgotten. It must be memorialized for eternity. Perhaps the
future generations will be able to see in the German defeat some consolation as
the German philosopher Nietzsche stated: 'A token revenge is better than none'.
May their memory be erased forever.
Pour out thy wrath (passage based on the Haggadah of Passover)
Upon the Germans, the Nazis
That knew Thee not
And upon those that call not
Upon Thy name:
For they have eaten Jacob
And laid waste his dwelling,
Pour out Thy fury upon them
And may the kindling of Thine
Anger overtake them
Pursue them with anger
And destroy them from
Under God's skies.
A Yizkor book is dedicated to the memory of a township that the Germans,
meanest killers in history, destroyed. It is a vocal protest against the
senseless slaughter while the world stood by in resigned silence and watched
the destruction of innocent and hopeless men, women and children. Hundreds of
Jewish townships and villages were wiped off the map without leaving a trace or
survivor that could write a Yizkor book for the place.
Most of European Jewry was destroyed. Why does each city or hamlet publishes
its own Yizkor book. This was a national catastrophe and not some local event.
Why don't we create a national monument that will serve as an eternal memorial
to the great Jewish tragedy, something that will be observed and kept by the
entire Jewish people for generations to come. Each Jewish tragic event in
history is immortalized. We express our sorrow for the destruction of the
Temple for about 1900 years. The sorrow lasts from the seventeen day of Tamus
(Jewish month) to the ninth day of Av (Jewish month). For 2400 years we abstain
from eating on the fast of Esther and enjoy the holiday of Purim that destroyed
the evil plans of Hamman to kill the Jews. For 1800 years we mourn the death of
the 24000 students of Rabbi Akiva who died as a result of an epidemic or revolt
directed at the Romans. We don't shave and marry on the days of the Omer
(between Pessach and Shavuot).
Can't the holocaust where hundreds of communities were destroyed compare with
the dying of Rabbi Akiva's students. Were the rabbis, talmudic scholars and
yeshiva students of these communities less important than the yeshiva of Rabbi
Akiva. Where are the present day religious leaders, the orthodox leaders and
the leaders of the secular Jewish world. About postmortems in Israel, the
streets of America are constantly alarmed. We see big warning signs about these
events. Even marches to the United Nations are organized. Where is the big
protest for the killing of the 6 million Jews. Why can't we create a special
day to memorialize the destruction of European Jewry that would be observed by
all the Jews.
Yizkor Book: Korczyn
by Itzhak Englard Wasserstrom and others
[Picture: Itzhak Englard-Wasserstrom]
The name of the hamlet is Korczyna and Jews called it Korczyn. We don't
remember whether we studied it in school or read a history book to the effect
that the name supposedly stems from the fact that there were once many German
settles in the area and they called it Kot Sheine (pretty swamp) for the many
swamps in the area. The Poles mispronounced the name and called it Korczyna.
The township is centrally located in Galicia along the railway line to Krosno
or Kros as the Jews called it. Westward, Korczyn is 5 kilometers from Krosno,
21 kilometers from Jaslo and 200 kilometers from Krakow. Eastward, Korczyn is
15 kilometers from the spa resort of Iwonicz, 40 kilometers from Sanok, 80
kilometers from Przemysl and 200 kilometers from Lwow (Lemberg or Lviv). The
following villages belonged administratively to Korczyn: Kombornia, Kroscienko,
Iskozinia, Wenglowka and Adzikan. Even Krosno once belonged to the Jewish
community of Korczyn until it received permission in 1901 to create its own
The township consisted of a square that was called the market or the ringplace
and several small streets: the Mangel street, the beth hamidrash (study center)
street, the street to the old post office, the street to the Kombornia road,
the street to the Krosner road (Goszciniec). The market measured about 1000 x
700 square meters. Most of the homes were built around the square and had one
floor except for seven taller buildings. Most homes had stores in front facing
the market while the family lived in the rear.
The taller buildings had windows facing the market. In a corner of the market,
was the study street, which lead to a smaller square that was called the moon
square since Jews blessed the moon each month there. According to the Jewish
Encyclopedia (Yevreiska Encyclopedia) published in Russian in St. Petersburg in
1909, volume 9, page 777 (see YIVO, NY), Korczyna had a Jewish population of
1026 in 1900.
In 1939, the population of Korczyn consisted of 6000 people, amongst them were
786 Jewish residents in the township and 50-60 Jews lived in the nearby
villages. The Christian population, exclusively Poles, lived around the
township. Four Christian families lived in Korczyn proper. The entire center of
the township was Jewish and 99% of all the stores were Jewish owned. The Jews
built the township.
[Pictures: (page 21)
Right picture: Street leading to the study center. Nachman Leibish Reich's house on the
right and Mendel Rubin's house on the left.
Left picture: The center of Korczyn
Picture (page 22): The last house on this street belonged to Mrs. Godel Gutwein. Today
the place serves as a slaughterhouse. The man in the picture is Yaacov Fessel a
great grandson of hers. He took the picture while visiting Korczyn in June of
When did Jewish life begin in Korczyn?
We don't know when the first Jews arrive in Korczyn or when the Jewish
community started to function. All Jewish community or kehilla documents were
ceased by the Germans in 1942 or were destroyed. The municipal documents were
not placed at our disposal. We base our book on the stories told by the
old-timers of Korczyn and the tombstones of the old cemetery, especially the
first row, which reveals a tombstone, dated 1701 (tasa). This would indicate
the existence of Jewish families as well as a community in the 17th century.
Thus, we can safely assume that the Jewish community is at least 300 years old.
The area belonged to the feudal family of Szepticki in the days of the Polish
kingdom. With the partition of Poland in 1772 between Russia, Prussia and
Austria, Korczyn fell under the hegemony of Austria.
Today the town is devoid of Jews or Jewish traces except for the cemetery that
indicates that there once existed a Jewish community in Korczyn.
All our enemies opened their mouths at us
Fear and death reached us
Waste and destruction is our lot
My eyes shed rivulets of tears
Upon the destruction of my people
The stream of tears can't be stopped
(Job, aprt 3, pp 46-49) freely translated by William Leibner
The Kehilla or Jewish community administration
Under Austrian law, there was a Jewish community leadership that was
responsible for the affairs of Jewish communal life. The leadership consisted
of several people (we don't know the exact number) and a presiding officer.
Only people that paid taxes voted for the kehilla leadership. Thus, only the
well to do and the merchants played a dominant role in the elections. The
latter, well advertised in advance were held in the beth hamidrash or at the
home of the well to do. On occasion the leadership of the kehilla was selected
by the head of the area office (starosta) if there was bitter dissension or
lack of decision.
In 1919, with the establishment of an independent Poland, the government passed
a law regarding Jewish community affairs. According to this law, the kehilla
leadership was to consist of eight duly elected members who in turn elect the
leader of the kehilla by majority vote. The rabbi of the community is
automatically a member of the leadership and has full voting rights. The
elections must be secret, general and proportional. Every man aged 21 had the
right to vote. Every person that collected 20 signatures of eligible voters
could stand for election. Each list of candidates had to have eight names and
20 signatures of eligible voters. The leadership was elected for a term of four
years following which new elections had to be called.
The activities of the public and the elections
The kehilla leadership was primarily responsible for the religious needs of the
Jewish inhabitants such as the maintenance of the beth hamidrash and the public
baths, flour for matzoth on Passover, the salaries of the rabbi, the shochet
(ritual slaughterer), and the Shamash (custodian of the synagogue) etc. The
leadership had no other functions. To maintain all these expenses, the kehilla
levied a tax on ritual slaughtering that is if someone wanted to kill a chicken
or slaughter a cow, they had to buy a ticket from the kehilla office. The
kehilla also imposed taxes on the Jewish inhabitants of the town. These taxes
had the force of law and could be collected through the official administration
if the parties refused to pay. All these incomes barely covered the budget of
the kehilla. This caused many a headache to the head of the kehilla especially
if the rabbi or the shochet did not get their salary on time or belonged or
sympathized with the opposition in the kehilla leadership. No one could then
envy the members of the board, nor were many people interested in the job. Most
stayed away not wanting to get involved. Thus, the same board continued to
function for many years and many terms. Until suddenly someone demanded
elections for the kehilla.
The community emerged from the so-called trance and everybody became interested
in elections even those that could not vote. Political fever seized the town.
The rabbi wanted a new board where he would have greater sway, why the urgency,
In our township as in most Galician towns, the rabbis were related to famous
rabbis and the job went from father to son. Nobody even thought of
changing or that there was a need for a change. The rabbi's job consisted of
answering questions concerning religious laws, judicial arbitration andmaking
the flour mill kosher for Pessah so that matzoth could be baked for
the community. That was the extent of his job, ample time for political
life. Factions soon formed, issues were created, each side tried to show
strength and wisdom. The fight was especially difficult in a small community
where there were about 200 eligible voters. Four electoral lists appeared
for the election of the kehilla leadership. The elections cost a great deal
of money, votes were expensive, bribes had to be given to the prince of the
locality and to the local administrator of the area or strarosta in order to
keep things fair.
The prince could create all kinds of problems if he was paid the right sum
of money. He could cancel a list on technicalities, postpone elections, or
delay the transfer of administration to the newly elected leadership. Thus,
the contenders would pay various sums so that the prince would stay out of
the race. Each list of candidates made appeals for contributions. The
economic situations was difficult, people barely met their needs, to buy
clothing or shoes for children was a hardship but to contribute to the
election fund was a must. How could one permit for so and so to become the
leader of the kehilla, here is another fifty zlotys for your campaign.
Brief, it was a regular election campaign, ads, speeches, rallies and even
promises of paradise. Hassidic lists promised paradise for those that will
vote for them and not for the reform lists. Elections similar to the ones in
the big cities and one can even compare them to the American elections.
All sides lost, only the prince made money by keeping out of the way. We
must stress that the elections did not create eternal animosities or hatred
between the contending parties. It was more a sporting event than a real
fight. The campaign did awake the lethargic community from its slumber,
people began to talk, to think. The blood circulation increased and affected
the sclerotic organizations of the community. A bit of reawakening did take
place in the township.
We don't know when the Jewish community of Korczyn selected the first rabbi
or his name. We do know however that in the first half of the 19th century,
the rabbi of Korczyn was Shmuel Aaron Rubin, author of the scholarly book
Beth Aaron . We think that this rabbi was the great grand father of
the rabbi Shmuel Aaron of New York. The latter called himself
Der Moreh Derech (The Guide) and established the institution called Anshei
Maamad Ubeith Vaad Lehahamim (A religious institution) located in the
Lower East side, on Henry St. NYC.
With the death of Rabbi Shmuel Aaron Rubin, Rabbi Shmuel Rubin became rabbi
of Korczyn. He was a father in law to the Sziniver Rabbi, Rabbi Yehezkel
Halbershtam, author of the book
Words of Yehezkel . Shmuel Rubin's son,
Asher became the rabbi with the passing of his father in 1901. Rabbi Asher
Rubin passed away in 1932 and was succeeded by his son Mordechai Eliezar
Rubin who died two years later due to pneumonia. His brother, Eliyahu was
appointed Rabbi of Korczyn.
The Germans killed the rabbi, his wife and their six children aged 6-14.
[Picture: [page 30]. We see the tombstones of Rabbi Asher Rubin and Rabbi Mordechai
EliezarRubin at the cemetery of Korczyn. Yaacov Itzhac Fessel of Sweden took the picture in June of 1963.]
We know practically nothing about the synagogues prior to the 20th century.
We describe here the synagogue, the study center (beth hamidrash) and other
places of worship from 1901 until the destruction of the Jewish community.
The last study center was built in 1901 mainly due the initiative of the
then leader of the kehilla, Mr. Meshulem Akselrad. The study center was
beautifully decorated, the ceiling and walls were covered with painted
scenes created by an artist. All this work was encouraged by Mr. Haim Den
also referred to as Haimel Broider.
When the synagogue was built nobody knows. The synagogue, the study center
and the prayer house called Yad Harutzim formed one building complex from
the exterior. The complex was situated on 200 square meters and had one
entrance. In the hall there were three doors: one facing south led to the
study center, one facing north led to the Yad Harutzim synagogue and the
last one facing east led to the synagogue proper. Little is known about the
latter, it was never finished. It had red brick walls and a roof. The
ceiling and the walls were never painted and it had no floor. It had simple
wooden tables and benches and a simple holy arc. We don't even know who
exactly prayed in this synagogue.
During WWI, the entrance to the building complex and the roof of the
synagogue burned down since they were built of wood. Only the walls of the
synagogue remained standing. It could no longer be used as a worship place
and served as a place for the blessing of the moon (each Hebrew month is
blessed) and for bridal canopies for weddings. The entrance to the study
center was rebuilt through the erection of an additional building that led
through the women section of the old synagogue. The Yad Harutzim synagogue
was established in 1930-1931 in this addition.
On Sabbath and Holidays there was also prayers in the house of Mendel
Schroit until 1919. There were also regular prayers held for many years at
the home of Mendel Gleicher. There was a small congregation of Dzikower
Hassidim that prayed at the home of Israel Meir Dorschowitz and a similar
congregation of Belzer Hassidim that prayed at the home of Nachman Leibish
Reich. These congregations disappeared with time.
The Beth Hamidrash
In a township like Korczyn, the entire Jewish communal life revolved in and
around the beth hamidrash. Naturally, the place was foremost a holy place
where Jews prayed and studied torah. The beth hamidrash was never closed,
the doors remained open from 5 AM to midnight. The walls of the beth
hamidrash soaked up the prayers of the congregants as well as the chants of
the students who sat and studied holy texts. The place was drenched in tears
that were shed in supplication by our mothers and fathers demanding divine
assistance with health, income and family protection and continuation. The
sounds of supplication still rings in our ears as women would enter the beth
hamidrash and literally scream for divine intervention on behalf of a sick
husband or child. We all shed tears and looked as the women would frequently
open the holy arc and kiss the torah and ask for divine pity and protection.
The beth hamidrash was a holy place but contrary to a synagogue was also a
community hall. All meetings and assemblies were held there. The sale for
the purchase of flour for Passover was held there, the discussions regarding
the maintenance of the public bath was debated there, a candidate for
Parliament spoke there and large group meetings were held there. After the
Minha and Maariv services or in the middle of the day, one could see people
light up a cigarette and discuss with friends and neighbors topics of
interest. The Shamash of the beth hamidrash had a little candy store in a
corner where you could buy cigarettes, cookies, chocolate, apples, pears,
People that wanted to meet someone or hear the latest gossip would come to
the beth hamidrash, not necessarily to pray. Here was the place to release
your sorrows or worries and listen to other people and to other problems.
You realized that you were not the only one with problems. The beth
hamidrash was a sort of social club for the individual as well as for the
collective Jewish community.
The beth hamidrash is no longer a teeming center of activity, there are no
Jews in Korczyn. It serves as a warehouse. The eternal light that lit for
ages is gone and so are the Jews, our parents, brothers, sisters and small
children. Don't forget that the Germans performed this heinous crime.
The economic situation and jobs of the Korczyner Jews
Old people told a story that once upon a time Jews could not celebrate Purim
since they could not give donations for the poor because there were no poor
people in Korczyn.(Tradition has it that on Purim it is a mitzvah to give gifts
to the poor). This was about a hundred and fifty years ago when Korczyn was
the center of the area and nearby Krosno had no Jewish residents to speak of.
With the settlement of Jews in Kros, the commercial life of the city developed
rapidly and inversely caused the decline of economic opportunities in Korczyn.
The economic base of the Jewish community steadily declined. The hamlet had
plenty of poor people, as a matter of fact, it had more takers than givers.
Thus there was no problem celebrating the Purim holiday.
In this chapter we are describing the Jewish economic situation of Korczyn
prior to WWI, between the wars, WWII and the destruction of the Jewish
community. Korczyn had no railway station but Krosno, seven kilometers away,
had one. Everything had to be transported by horse and carriage. The township
had no industry or large commercial enterprises. Most Jews engaged in small
trade that provided the surrounding peasant population with their needs. The
farmers sold their products in town and bought all their needs. There were
textile stores for clothing material, haberdasheries, leather goods, metal,
paint, chalk, cement, glass, pots and pans, food, beer, liquor and two tobacco
stores. Until WWI, Jews owned all stores except for two grocery stores. There
were Jews who were not involved in commerce, they were watchmakers, bakers,
butchers, coachmen, tailors, seamstresses, porters and glaziers The glaziers
carried their wares in a box on their back and went from village to village to
fix windows. Most of artisans and petty traders could not afford to eat meat
every day, they barely provided milk for their children. Poor storekeepers ate
a piece of chicken only on Saturday or Holiday or if they were sick. To consume
a quarter of a chicken was a rare deed. A chicken had to provide food for the
Friday night and Saturday meals for the entire family of 6-8 people. With each
bite of meat came a piece of hallah to satisfy the hunger. Bread and potatoes
were the main food staples of the families. For breakfast, bread with a thin
spread of butter, coffee or chicory with a drop of milk. Eggs, cheese,
marmalade were only served in the richer homes. For lunch, potato soup,
potatoes with butter milk, dough with beans, and other meatless dishes. Pastry
was only consumed at a wedding, a bar mitzvah, or a Brit. Nobody would eat
pastry on a simple day, even well to do people would abstain from showing off
fearful of an evil eye. A piece of sponge cake was a luxury.
The economic situation and jobs of the Korczyner Jews following WWI
Following wars, the general public is hungry for things that they could not
obtain during the war years, people buy everything, and there is prosperity.
The same thing happened in Korczyn. Business flourished, everybody was in
business: shoemakers, tailors, shochtim, cantors, coachmen, butchers, teachers
in heders, their assistants and even people that never dealt in commerce. You
did not need experience for what you bought today you sold the next day with a
nice profit. Everything was in demand: soap, candles, paper, shoelaces, you
name it. In special demand were the materials for clothing where small fortunes
were made. Every home had a corner set aside for merchandise that was sold
wholesale. No store or agent, the goods went from hand to hand.
A Korczyner Jew would travel to Kros, or Rymanow, or Sanok (Sunik in Yiddish),
or Nowy Sadz (Zanz in Yiddish) and buy merchandise. A week later, the salesman
from Krosno, Rymanow, Sanok or Nowy Sadz would come to Korczyn and repurchase
the merchandise at a higher price. A week later, the merchant of Korczyn would
again travel to look for merchandise and pay more money for the same
merchandise he sold last week. Everybody made money, everybody had bundles of
paper money, everybody lived way above their means and people counted their
money that grew by the day. Yesterday's nobody was today a millionaire. Money
was constantly printed but merchandise became scarce. What you purchased this
week, was more expensive next week, in short, a galloping inflation.
The bubble burst, the money became valueless. Those that had merchandise in
stock were left with value. Those that only had paper money were wiped out
overnight. Time moved on and with it came some sort of normalcy. People slowly
returned to their previous positions. The shoemakers and the tailors returned
to their workshops, the butcher to the butcher store, the coachmen to the
horses and the coach, the shochet and the cantor to their work, the teacher and
his assistant to the heder. Some remained grocery men or storekeepers. The main
source of income for the storekeepers and the merchants returned to be the
market. Friday was market day in Korczyn and Monday was in Krosno. On Friday,
hundreds of peasants would arrive from the surrounding areas and park their
carriages in the market place. They sold their goods and spent their money in
stores, bars and food stores.
Monday morning, all merchants of Korczyn with exception of food and metal
merchants left for the Krosno market in order to sell their wares. The rest of
the week, the merchants sat at the entrance of their stores and waited for
customers or talked politics with their neighbors. After WWI, tobacco licenses
for stores were granted to war invalids, one of them was a Jew by the name of
Haim Wolf Koref. Two non-Jewish food stores and some bars opened up. The rest
of the commerce in Korczyn was in Jewish hands. Korczyn had two restaurants
owned by Aaron Blank and Wolf Gleicher where one could eat a meal. There were
also grain merchants and forest merchants. The city had a vinegar factory owned
by Yosef Holloshitz and a soda factory owned by Haim Eliyahu Kaufman. There
were also merchants that purchased the entire egg or butter production of a
farmer and resold it wholesale to the city. There were merchants that would
purchase an entire apple orchard while the fruit was still on the tree and then
sell the picked apples to big city fruit dealers. This business was seasonal
and the biggest apple dealer was Wolf Kirschner.
There were also haulers and suppliers. The latter provided the merchants with
items that could only be obtained in the big cities. These suppliers would come
around take the orders and then bring the merchandise. The main supplier for
merchandise of Krakow was Israel Margoles and the one for Tarnow was Simha
Bezenshtock. The haulers transported merchandise from and to the railway and
saw to it that the goods were tended to. The leader in the field was Leibele
Schiff. With the exception of a few well to do Jews, most of the Jewish
population in Korczyn barely existed for the economic situation was very
difficult. They worried about income and a dowry for daughters if they had,
without a dowry it was almost impossible to marry a daughter. Many a person
grayed before their time due to these worries.
The first attempts to produce lines were made in 1935-1936. Jewish
entrepreneurs would give polish spinners the materials and the latter would
produce beautiful tablecloths, towels, kerchiefs and different lines in various
shapes and different qualities. The items we pretty and nice and attracted
attention throughout Poland. Korczyn had a linen industry prior to WWI but it
was somewhat backward and lacked incentive. Jews entered the field in 1935-6
and gave it the necessary push and it soon reached markets throughout Poland.
Korczyn had four large spinners where the items were pressed and stretched into
shape. Three of the spinners used horsepower and one used engine power. Four
Jewish families drew their income from the spinners. The main dealers in the
industry were the following families: Lezer, Pinter, Reich, Willner, Dym, Rubin
and Weber. There were also a few other families that did not deal directly with
the linen production. Most of the families that dealt with the linen industry
and its services made a nice living and some even prospered.
Acording to unofficial reports, the following families were considered wealthy
in the years between 1850-1914: Wele Rapport, Naphtali Raab and his descendants
called Raabes, Mendel Schroit, Moshe Rothenberg, Meshulem Akselrad, Mendel
Gleicher and Mendel Rubin. These were well to do people and lived accordingly.
Some of them lost their place and their fortune during WWI and others took
their place. But the newcomers never measure up to the old established
families. We can safely say, that a garment operator in NYC lives nicer, more
comfortable, more secure, dresses better, enjoys more luxuries, feels safer
economically that the rich Jew of Korczyn after WWI.
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