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[Page 7]

Chapter I

Jews in Krosno

 

Introduction

The city of Krosno is an old historic city that developed slowly and reached its zenith in the “Middle Ages”. The city was frequently refered to as “Little Krakow” due to the beautiful buildings that surrounf the 'rynek” or market place. Krosno then started to stagnate and was dormant for a long period of time. One of the causes for the stagnation was the absolute stranglehold that the guilds imposed on the city. They prevented competition and did not admit Jews to the guilds. As a matter of fact, they even prevented Jews from living in the city. Jews were permitted to enter the city during the annual fairs. Krosno enforced the ban against Jews very effectively until the Austrian Empire changed the rules. Jews began to settle in Krosno. The Krosno population expands rapidly as does the Jewish population in the city. The railroad and the discovery of gas create an economic boom. Jews flock to the city from all the small villages. The Germans destroy this young Jewish community within a short period of time. The few survivors are scattered throughout the globe where they pass on in isolation from their birth place.

Only last month, Dr. Herbert ( Zvi) Breite formerly Breitowicz suddenly passed away in the USA. He helped shape the Yizkor book.

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Dr. Herbert Breite
May he rest in eternal peace

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The city of Krosno is a district city in Galicia, Poland
Administrative area of Krosno since 1945

 

The City of Krosno, by the Wislok River

Krosno is located in southeastern Poland, east of Krakow. The Wislok river flows next to the city. Since there are several places named Krosno, our Krosno is frequently refered to as Krosno on the Wislok. The city was founded in 1324 on lands belonging to the crown. Krosno's weaving industry played an important role in the development of the city and perhaps contributed to the name of the city, loom in Polish. The city was also an important trade center for Hungarian wines. In 1348 it was granted a municipal charter based on the Magdenburg laws. Somewhat later, Krosno was granted the right to hold an annual fair that became well known. This commercial boost and the protection of a city wall enabled it to flourish.

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The famous landmark of the city of Krosno, the commercial passages called “Pochenia” in Polish of Krosno

 

Known to the Jewish inhabitants as Kros, Krosno became an important industrial, trade and craft center in the 16th century and had about 250 artisans organized in 11 guilds, the total population exceeded 3000 people. The city attracted many artists and became known as “little Krakow”. The various wars, invasions and partitions brought a halt to the growth of the city. It remained dormant until the second half of the19th century.

According to Jerzy Potocki, historian of the area, Jews appear in Krosno in 1385 and 1427. The first actual residence is recorded by two brothers Nechemia and Lazar of Regensburg in Germany who received royal permission from Wladyslaw Jagiello in the 15th century to reside in the city for three years. But there was no continuity of Jewish life in the city. Here and there a Jew lived in the city but no trace of organized Jewish community life. Jews visited the city but did not reside in it. Jews lived in nearby Korczyna or Rymanow or Dukla. The city population vehemently opposed Jewish presence. The guild members led the fight to keep Jewish merchants out of the city. Krosno finally received from the crown in 1569 the so-called privilege “de non tolerandis Judaeis “barring Jews from residing and trading within the city walls. Jewish traders living in nearby townships of Korczyna, Rymanow or Dukla were frequently jailed and their wares confiscated for attempting to enter the city. Still, Jewish merchants from nearby towns maintained contact with the city and the property census of 1851 indicates that there were three Jewish families in Krosno: Loje Grusnspan, Mojzesz Grunspan and Schije Dym.

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Dr. Alexander B. White (formerly Bialywlos)
a native of Krosno who survived the Shoah

 

The Austrian annexation of Galicia induced several major social changes that affected Jewish life in the area. The limitations on marriages were lifted, the limitations on the residence of poor Jews were eased, professions were opened to Jews, and Jews could purchase land. Finally, the new Constitution of 1867 granted all citizens equality before the law. All these changes encouraged and stimulated Jews to leave their villages and hamlets for the larger cities that offered larger opportunities. Krosno was no exception, by 1870 there were 26 Jewish families in the city The number grew to fifty families in the city by 1890. According to dr. Alexander B.White ( formerly Bialywlos) a native of Krosno, his maternal godfather Chaim Hersh Platner and his wife Mala were amongst the first Jewish to settle in Krosno. The family dealt extensively in coal, wood and coke. The Bialywloss family will develop the glass plate commerce in the city. Soon other 32 families arrived in the next ten years. To these official statistics we must add the unrecorded arrival of single people who lodged with families.

The population of Krosno

Year Population Catholic Jews Greek
Orthodox
1870 2132 2100 26 6
1880 2461(2810) 2318 (127) 113 30
1890 2839 (3251) 2454 (567) 327 58
1900 3276 (3310) 2664 (961) 567 45
1910 4353 (5582) 3329 (1559) 961 63
1914 5521 3839 1558 70

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The numbers within the parenthesis are the numbers provided by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel.

Column 1 is Year, total population, Roman Catholics, Jews, and Greek CatholicsColumn 2 represents the total population of Krosno that grew by 96.5% between the years 1870-1910. Column 3 represents the Catholic population that grew by 60.5% between the same years. Column 4 represents the Jewish population that grew between the same years by 376% . If we go by the numbers within the brackets provided by Yad Vashem, the Jewish population even grew by a much larger percentage. Column 5 represents the Greek Catholic church that grew between the same years by 17.2%

The above figures show the rapid growth of the Jewish population which outpaced the overall growth of the city as oil was discovered in the area and money flowed in to develop the industry. The railway, linking Krosno with Jaslo and Europe, followed in 1884. Industries began to develop especially the weaving and glass producing sectors. Krosno was in the midst of an economic boom. Jews kept streaming to the city and even beyond it to the distant lands of the Austrian Empire, Germany and the USA.

 

The Jewish population of Krosno grew in numbers and influence. The leaders collected money and build a big modern synagogue, a religious school and a mikvah or ritual bath. The leaders also petitioned the provincial governor to grant the Jewish community of Krosno the right to form a Jewish community council or kahal that would administer to the needs of the Krosno Jews. At present, all decisions were made in the Korczyner Jewish community council. On January 1st, 1900, the governor of Galicia granted the Jews of Krosno the right to organize their community and select the leaders of the community. The kahal or community leadership then proceeded to search for a rabbi to represent the community. They chose Shmuel Fuhrer to be their rabbi and head of the religious council that adjudicates khalakhic matters. The rabbi was born in 1863 in the historic village of Sekowa near Gorlice, Galicia. He was a bright Talmudic student and gifted in in mathematics. In 1883 he was ordained rabbi and chosen by the Milowka, near Krakow, Jewish community to be their rabbi. He remained there until 1904 when he moved to Krosno. Rabbi Fuhrer urged the community to establish a cemetery which it did. Up to this point, Krosno Jews buried their deaths in Korczyna. With the consecration of the cemetery, the community created the “Hevrah Kadisha” or voluntary burial society to handle burials. The association worked in close conjunction with the rabbi. Rabbi Fuhrer was the only rabbi that Krosno had. He served the community for 35 years.

He would be shot during one of the “actions” that liquidated the Krosner ghetto. A memorial stone would be erected for him following the war.

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The Krosno synagogue survived the war but disappeared with time. The building is no longer in existence

 

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Rabbi Samuel Fuhrer, rabbi of Krosno

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German permission for Rabbi Samuel Fuhrer to return to Krosno

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He was familiar with financial matters and frequently arbitrated monetary disputes between merchants. He authored the scholarly Khalic book entitled “Har Shafar” that was published in Bardajow, present day Slovakia. In his later years, he was assisted by his son Shlomo Fuhrer. With the outbreak of the war, rabbi Fuhrer moved to Eastern Galicia where he remained until the Germans occupied the area. The rabbi received permission from the Germans to return to Krosno. The permit was issued in Brzezany district in Eastern Galicia on November 11, 1941. On the back of the permit are listed 5 people that were permitted to return with the rabbi, namely; Shlomo Fuhrer, son of Of the rabbi, born 1902, Roth Taube born 1924, Hemerling Ruchel born1927, Pinter Meyer born 1900, and Horowitz Schija born 1925.

At last the rabbi was at home where he had a large family and many followers. The Germans killed the rabbi in one of their actions of rounding up Jews during WW II in Krosno in 1942.

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The Hassidic rabbi of Krosno, Rabbi Moshe Twerski

Krosno also had an elderly Chassidic rabbi named Aaron Twerski or better known as “Arale”. He was a descendant of the famous Twerski Hassidic rabbinical family. On his death, late 1920, a typhoid fever epidemic raged in Krosno. Aaron's son, rabbi Moshe Twerski assumed his father's position. The rabbi and his wife Frida, sister of the famous Radomsker chasidik rabbi lived with my maternal grand father Chaim Lang and his wife Feige Reisel Findling-Lang.

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The rabbi's family lived upstairs where the rabbi conducted services. The rabbi was very popular and had many Hassidic followers. He conducted services in his apartment and occasionally attended services at the main Krosno synagogue. At the beginning of WWII, he left Krosno with many other Jews and headed to Eastern Poland which was then occupied by the Soviet Army.

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Official German military document enabling rabbi Moses Twerski, his mother Rosa, his wife Frida, and his daughter Civia to return to Krosno.
Document dated February 10, 1942

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Yaacov Breitowicz at the end of the war

According to Yaacov Breitowicz, a native of Krosno and a Shoah survivor, he met the Rabbi's starving family and brought them some food. He spread the words among Krosner Jews in the area and they helped the rabbi's family. Furthermore, he states in his book “Through Hell to Life” that he urged his acquaintances to help get the rabbi back to to Krosno. Indeed, the rabbi family consisting of rabbi Moshe Twerski, his wife Frieda, his daughter Tzivia and his mother Rosa received permission from the German authorities to return to Krosno. The permission dated November 10, 1941. The style is typical Nazi German style of writing, the permission talks of Jews, no reference to the rabbi as a person. He even had to pay for the permit. At least the family received permission to return to Krosno. We do not know how many strings or money had to be given to the Gestapo to obtain the permits for the two rabbis to return to Krosno. Other Krosno Jews that were stranded in the formerly Russian areas were also permitted to return to Krosno. The Gestapo was not the friendliest organ in dealing with Jews in general, especially with very religious Jews. The road back to Krosno was long and tedious but the rabbi finally made it.

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Chaim Lang

The rabbi shared the house with my maternal grandfather Chaim Lang. He and his wife Feige Reisel Findling- Lang and children lived downstairs in the back while their clothing store faced to the market or rynek. The Langs were natives of Nowy Zmigrod hamlet and moved to the city prior to WWI. Chaim Lang opened a clothing store that operated until the Germans entered Krosno. In WWI he served in the Austrian army where he acquired the German language. Both Chaim Lang and his wife Feige Reisel Lang managed to to smuggle their way from German occupied Krosno across the new German-Soviet border in Poland. They reached the hamlet of Lesko or Linsk in Yiddish where they had distant relatives. They remained in Lesko for a while and then were asked to apply for Soviet citizenship. They refused to become Russians. During the summer of 1940, they were arrested by the Soviet secret police known as the NKVD at night. They were told to pack a few things and were escorted to the train station.

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Feige Reisel Findling-Lang

A special cargo train awaited them. The Langs were helped to board the train. The loading proceeded very rapidly since everything was prepared in great detail. Hundreds of Polish Jews who had fled their homes in German occupied Polish areas were rounded up like the Langs and pushed aboard the train. Many similar trains left the area with Polish refugees mainly Jewish. Some Krosno Jews like the Mintzes, or the Platners, and many more were aboard these trains. It is estimated that about 200,000 Polish refugees were transported during the summer of 1940 to the depths of Russia. The Lang train reached Siberia where they would remain until the Polish-Russian agreementwould be signed July 30, 1941 that would restore their Polish citizenship. The agreement is also known as the Sikorski-Mayski accord was extended on August 11, 1941 and gave the Polish refugees permission to leave the miserable Siberian camp for warmer areas in the Soviet Union.

The Langs and the other Polish refugees soon left the desolate camp and made their way to a nearby train station that took them to the big city of Dzhmbul in Kazakhstan. They were helped by the Polish Red Cross and Russian aid offices to settle in the city. Hunger and disease were rampantand many refugees died of sheer exhaustion. Everything was in short supply since the Russian armies at the front needed everything. The black market was thriving and food prices were prohibitive. Most of the refugees managed to find work and barely sustained themselves with basics like bread. Many Polish refugees died of hunger, starvation, diseases and loneliness. My maternal grandparents; Chaim and Feige Reisel Lang died in Dzhambul one after the other. Both were buried in this city.

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Chaim Lang the son of Yehuda and Dworah Lang died on July 5th 1943 in Djambul, Kazakhstan

 

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Feige Reisel Findling –Lang , wife of Chaim Lang died in Dzhambul

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The growing Jewish population in Krosno created the need to open special Jewish stores such as butcher shops, fish stores and bakeries. In 1906 there were already two established baking families in the city, one belonged to Selig Findling, and the other one to Chaim Oling. Krosno had three Jewish slaughterhouses belonging to Fulka Breitowitz, Moses Breitowicz, and Wolf Mahler. Sender Fessel, Jacob Grunspan, and Tobiah Nagiel, owned kosher butcher shops. Dawid Mehl led the metal industry that included Chaim Korba, Jakub Pinkas and Jonasz Steifel.The spirit industry was headed by Schije Dym and Isaac Hertzig. Tax collections were in the hands of Hersh Wasserstrum and the Dym family. Jewish tailors, barbers, glaziers, shoemakers opened stores or workshops. Ritual slaughters and Hebrew teachers found employment in the city. The Jews dominated and expanded the commercial base of the city. They also developed small industries. Jewish artisans and craftsmen opened and expanded workshops.

 

List of Jewish merchants in the city of Krosno 1912-1915

The translation of the Polish document

Grocery; Hersz Roth, Eliasz Horowitz, Szymon Pastor, Ozjas Weinstein

Slaughterhouses: Salomon Storch, Samuel Trenczer

Charcoal; Chaim Platner, Jakob Schoenberg, Eliasz Matzner, Feldes Wolf

Construction materials; Simche Eisenberg, Abraham Pel, Israel Winter, Dawid Trencher, Jakob Margules

Agricultural machines; Seld Szamroth

Furniture; Regina Fishbein, Mojzesz Hirschfeld

Utensils; Mayer Dunkel, Mayer Ellowicz, Dawid Ozjas Pasternak

Oil; Hersz Just, Naftali Just

Ready made clothing; Hersz Beer, Chaim Lang,Chaim Zwiebel, Hersz Wasserstrum

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List of Jewish merchants in Krosno 1912-1915

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Fruits and foods; Menashe Bodnar, Izaak Eisenberg, Hersz Heller

Agricultural implements; Jacob MayerKleiner, Hersz Roth, Leizer Rozner

Leather goods; Eliasz Blazer,Chaim Feitelbaum,Israel Heferling,Izaak Chaim Hares, Saul Weinberger. Eliasz Zeller

Draperies;Sara April,Jozef Grunspan, Chaim Muller,Regina Schneider,Chaim Eisenberg, Abraham Meilech

Haberdashery; Jozef Horowitz, Adolf Biednar,Abraham Gleicher,Rachela Truncher, Samuel Klein

Household goods; Chana Gartner,Ozjass Gerlich, Israel Helfering, Leja Herbstman, Naftali Margules, Chaim Orgler, Mojzesz Pasternak, Samuel Safran, Mendel Stroh,Edi Vogel.

Coal and Coke; Chaim Platner,Meilech Denn

Metal and metal products; Tomasz Stiefel,Samuel Vogel,Izaak Kinderman, Mendel Margules, Hersz Kinderman

During the Austrian period, some Jews served in government offices. These officials were later retired with Polish independence. There were only two Jews that worked for the civil service in Krosno namely Dr. Samet who gave Jewish religious instruction in the city school system and Spiegelman who worked in the post office. Jews were by and large absent from the ranks of the police forces, officer corps, judicial branch or local or governmental civil service. They concentrated in the fields of commerce, commercial services, professions and small industry. Jews were not hired as industrial workers in the Krosno plants, notably the glass plant, the linen factory, the Tepege tool and dye plant and the the “Wudeta” rubber plant that produced footwear and bicycle tires. Two Jews built the factory namely Wurzel and Daar from Tarnow. Some Jews worked in the offices of the plants but not on the production line.

With the advent of WWI, many Jews left the city and headed to the interior of the Empire namely Vienna or Budapest. The city was occupied for a while by the Russian army. The Russian soldiers looted and robbed Jewish stores and apartments. The Jewish population was instantly pauperized. Food shortages and the lack of medical facilities caused serious harm to the Jewish population in Krosno. With the end of the war, the city's economic life was in shambles. Many of the Jews that left the city did not bother to return. Those that returned found their places ransacked or destroyed. Commercial links shrunk since the Austro-Hungarian Empire disintegrated and many national countries appeared instead, each with its rules and regulations. The new Polish administration did not look with favor on Jewish commercial interests. The Jewish community of Krosno was seriously affected by these changes.

The Jewish community of Krosno was in dire financial straights following World War I. There were many orphans and widows and the able bodied men had no work.

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The Jewish population received assistance from the American Joint Organization and from former Krosno Jews in America. The slow process of economic recovery also improved the conditions of the Jewish community. In 1921, there were 49 workshops that employed 112 people. 38.4% of the workers were the actual owners of the places, 16% were members of the family and 45.5 were salaried workers. 82.4% of the latter were Jews. 49% of the workshops dealt with clothing, 21.8% dealt with food, 14.6% were connected with the building line and 10.9% dealt with metal.

The Jewish community of Krosno appealed for financial help and the American Joint Organization and the Krosner landsmanshaft in the USA (former Jews of Krosno) helped financially the revitalization of the Jewish community. Slowly the city resumed life and with it the Jewish economic sector. Suddenly in 1921, a serious Typhoid Fever epidemic swept the city, mainly the Jewish section of the city that was concentrated around the market square. The kahal or community leadership appealed for help to the Polish government and various health organizations, the American Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC and to the Krosner landsmanschaft in New York.

The former Krosno residents in conjuction with the former Jedliczer residents established, a shtetl near Krosno, established in New York City the “The First Krosno Jedliczer Young Men's Benevolent Society”.

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The entrance gate of the Krosner-Jedliczer cemetery in New York The above picture was graciously presented by Elissa Sampson

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The officers of the Krosner-Yedliczer landsmanschaften were; Isidor Moskowitz, President, I. Kalb, V. Moskowitz, M. Spindler, A. Calitzky and P. Moskowitz

The cemetery was just outside New York City. The gate entrance to the cemetery is dated May 30, 1928 and listed the officers of the society. The Landesmanschaften also provided financial assistance to the communities of Krosno and Jedlicze in Poland. organization was to aid new immigrants in the new country, assist the new arrivals to take the first steps in the new country, provide some assistance to needy families and provided burial plots for the deceased members of the society. The cemetery of the society was located in the Beth David cemetery

 

The Krosno community also appealed to the AJDC for medical help and it responded by sending a medical investigator who made the following report found amongst the AJDC records relating to the epidemic in Krosno of 1921.

“Information reached my office ( AJDC representative in Poland) on May 15th, that an epidemic of typhoid Fever broke out at Krosno, a small town in

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West Galicia, with a total population of 8,000 of which 2,000 are Jews...There are no hospitals in the city and the patients are being cared for at their homes....The general sanitary conditions of ths city are primitive and poor. No water system nor sewers are there. Neither can be found a bath house....It was discovered that nearly all persons affected have been using the water from the local river (Wislok) for drinking purposes. The Epidemic was found concentrated among the Jews who dwell around the market place and who were compelled to use river water for their homes because of the fact, that the well pump situated on the market place was out of order and their non-Jewish neighbors did not allow the Jews to draw water from their wells.

Upon the recommendation of the city physician, orders were issued by the local authorities prohibiting the use of the river water for consumption and that all private wells should be free for public use. We furnished the Jewish community, under the supervision, of the local Jewish physician, a supply of lime, carbolic acid and corrosive sublimate for disinfectiom...also a supply of 5O suits of underwear, 50 sheets and 50 pillow cases and soap for the use of the patients and their families, also 15,000 Mk. in cash.

We furnished 300 doses of antityphoid vaccine to the Jewish physician Dr. Siegel for the purpose of Inoculating all the contacts, thereby immunizing them against the disease. Upon my request the Health Commissioner of Krakau furnished Krosno two trained nurses Misses Dobrsanska and Szulgenia who together with our sanitarian Mr, A. Mlrowski, visited the affected families giving than instruction to the care of the sick and how prevent the healthy persons of becoming contaminated and infected

We also requested the local Jewish Communily to prohibit, for the present, the use of the Mickvah by all persons convalescent from Typhoid fever. The Community was also requested to prepare a plan and budget for the construction of a bath house in Krosno, thereby promising them support in the undertaking.

signed, Dr Irvin Michlin

The report is an excellent historical document describing the Jewish community at the time. Notice the discrepancy between the figure of Jews given by the Joint and those of the official Polish census. The Polish historian Elzabeta Raczy that did extensive research on Jews in Krosno and published her findings in a historical series on Jews in Krosno calls our attention to the discrepancy of figures. The census only registered legal residents while the Joint figure represents the actual total Jewish population as in the community. Furthermore , the document describes the poor health conditions of the Jewish population in the city, and also the financial poverty of the community that needed underwear for the sick and poor Jews. The AJDC not only helped Krosno to overcome the epidemic but also helped build a bathhouse to improve the health situation of the Jewish community.

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The AJDC organization also provided financial help to the following Jewish families in Krosno.

Bobka, Breitowitz, Burd,

Englehardt, Findling, Fleischer, Freff, Fries,

Hornik, Kempler, Krill, Kurschner, Kurz,

Lindenberg, Michlin, Muschel, Oling,

Ranozy, Reizer, Rettig, Rezmovits, Rubenfeld,

Sauer, Schildkraut, Spira, Steifel, Steiner, Szklint, Stolina,

Tag, Trenczer (multiple),

Weissman, Zeman

The above stated document revealed the extent of Polish resentment toward the Jew, his neighbor. Of course not all Poles were bitter anti-Semites but there was a sizable percentage that made Jewish life very unpleasant to say the least. Unfortunately, the latter group grew in strength as time passed. They organized the boycotts aimed at Jewish stores or commercial enterprises. Polish students frequently broke show case windows of Jewish stores. Jewish students were frequently mistreated or verbally abused by the Polish students. Some of the Polish adults did not behave better, Dr.White writes in his book entitled “Be a Mentch” that he and his uncle were transporting glass for repairs and suddenly the coach driver pulled sharply to the right and then to the left, he repeated the sharp movements several times while driving until the passengers and their glass fell to the floor. The glass splintered all over the place and the passengers were cut in many places. The driver claimed that the horse panicked. Here is an other simple event as told by the late Shimshon Lang, the son of Chaim Lang of Krosno. One Saturday, Chaim Lang dressed in his Hassidic garb with a shtreimel or fur hat \was walking home from the synagogue followed by his sons. A pair of Polish military air force cadets from the Krosno air base passed them and demonstratively knocked off the fur hat from Chaim Lang's head. Shimon and Shimshon Lang, sons of Chaim Lang lounged at the attacker and his friend and beat them mercilessly. They ripped of their shoulder epaulettes and left them on the floor. In the ensuing commotion both brothers made their escape and hid at the apartment of their sister Seril Lang-Leibner. They would remain for a few days in hiding. Both brothers were well built and had an appetite to go with the size. They could finish between themselves all the rolls that were backed for the Sabbath for the entire family. They also tore the insignias of the shoulders of the Polish fliers, something unheard of in Poland. During the confusion, both brothers disappeared prior to the police arrival The police intervened and looked for the attackers who were hidden in a closed at their sister's apartment, Seril Lang- Leibner.

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The matter was subsequently hushed up when money was placed in the right pocket. These type of incidents continued until the outbreak of WWII.

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Shimshon Lang,
son of Chaim and Feige
Reisel in the Polish Army
  His brother, Shimon Lang

 

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