[Page 9]

Editor's Foreword

Chaim Rabin

Translated by Bat-Zion Susskind
Christchurch, New Zealand

A tragic memory forges us, survivors of Lizhensk, into one. The common burial site of our parents, brothers sisters, friends and acquaintances which made them into one inseparable entity, has turned us into one flesh and one spirit whenever we think about them, about our past, our origins and our vocation here. This common grave does not bear a tombstone. Our dear ones are buried in it nameless. Without a monument to commemorate them, we have no address when our heart turns towards them with true kindness, which we deeply owe them.

Throughout the dreadful Russian Diaspora are, likewise, scattered many of the graves of dear ones. These, much to our distress, were brought about as an additional offering and torment by other villains. These nameless graves shriek with contempt and their manifestation of the disgrace of human dignity.

In this Yizkor Book dedicated to the righteous of Lizhensk, we intend to erect a memorial to our dear ones, a memorial that will dwell within us for generations to come. By doing that we shall eradicate their murderer's intent to erase their memory from off this earth and we shall fulfill the commandment to honor one's mother and father, of brotherly love and to raise our children in the light of this principle.

We will, therefore, list their names one by one and we will unite them in our memory forever and ever.

Our Lizhensk was a fortress for the sublimity of the human spirit and its citizens were dedicated to that spirit. Jewish Lizhensk knew many turmoils and bitter twists of faith throughout its existence and its citizens bore that fate patiently. Its uniqueness as the treasurer of the legacy of Rabbi Elimelech (ZTZ”L[1]) charged it with unrivalled duties and strict obligations which it withstood successfully. It became a spiritual symbol and a valuable landmark in the path of Jewish destiny.

We knew Lizhensk as a thriving community, zealously adhering to Jewish tradition. Yet we also came to know it as an envoy of peace and compromise, with its engulfing pleasant atmosphere that always dwelt among its constituents regardless of their beliefs and worldviews. We remember fierce arguments and polemics always serving as a spiritual purification process and aiming towards the truth and Jewish faithfulness. We don't remember our Lizhensk as a divided city or as a center of brotherly hatred.

It is for these reasons that Lizhensk is so dear to us. We are proud that it is a starting point for us thus singling us out for the duty to continue its legacy.

When we recall the hatred and jealousy with which the gentiles surrounded our city, leaving it an isolated island of kindness in the midst of the sea of evil and degradation, yet still subsisting itself with its rare character, it appears to us as a supreme value of continuous heroism, which we need to imbibe into the ways of life in our country. It is a wealth, which we should bequeath to our offspring. Therefore, we have dedicated this book partially to single out the uniqueness of Lizhensk as it is reflected in its individuals and its life. We have left a sketch for generations to come. We did that through describing its images, its history and the experiences of its people all of which are truth and simplicity, which rise to the grace and glory of memory.

We sadly remember this city, which in its effort to fortify itself inwardly, did not dwell on securing the life of its individuals outwardly, thus becoming a prey to the human beast.

In the dignity of its faith, Lizhensk did not conceive that the day would come in which human creatures would want to destroy it merely for being distinct in its desire to differentiate and raise itself above the level of those gentiles surrounding it. This truth about Lizhensk magnifies the crime of its destroyers. Their abomination is unforgivable. Its punishment is as big as the level of defilement of its perpetrators. And the Judge will judge.

We, therefore, dedicated a large part of this book to personal testimonies, telling sincerely to the ears of humanity and history and the ears of our people and our children after us their hard to believe daunting and heroic story. The Holocaust chapter, occupying much of the Book's content, was of primary importance to us despite the difficulty in gathering the evidence and the efforts that we needed to make in order to bring forth the people to tell about experiences and the memories of which were sad and somber.

We did our best to try and elevate ourselves from any diversions in order to allow the book to reflect the seriousness of the city of Lizhensk, the city of Rabbi Elimelech, and its dreadful fate.

Lizhensk, its singularity, our connection to it and our departure from it as a result of the horrible shock that befell us, charged us with the responsibility to leave its memory for generations after us and to the future generations of a people in search of its past. It was a financial burden and even more so a spiritual one. We did our best to withstand it. If there are any occasional imperfections in this book, we hope to be forgiven. No human deeds are ever free of it and only understanding will bring forgiveness.

  1. Hebrew for: may his righteous memory be a blessing  Back


[Page 12]

Lizhensk: In Sources and in Books

by Chaim Rabin

Translated by Bat-Zion Susskind
Christchurch, New Zealand

Chronicle of the DD”A Committee:

The Year 5478 (Hebrew Calendar)

Geographical Dictionary
Valevski Publishing 1884
Editors: Philip Soliverski
Bronislav Chalibovski
Vladislav Valevski

A major free city – on the left bank of the river San, in a sandy and completely flat area, covered with forests in the district of Lantzot.

A poor city, built densely all of which are parterred homes standing in small yards which are divided into three parts:
The city itself

This last one is overly built and is about 2 km from the city. Its main pride is the adorned monastery.

Until 1494 we hear nothing about this city. However, in that year, the peasants bring their “papers” to Jan Olbricht and he approves them. In this new document already appears the new name of the city “Layzaysko.” From now on, all disasters begin. The Tartars renew their attacks on Poland, reach Lizhensk and destroy it in the years 1498, 1500, 1509, 1519.

In 1524 the Tartars destroy the city again. As a result of that, king Zigmont I published an edict which stated that: 

“Since only a few months ago the Tartars destroyed the city “Lizhenesko” and turned it into ruins, we learned that nearby there is a place which is protected by nature itself and for an additional tax it can be reinforced. I designate this place for the relocation of the city which from this day on, to be called “Zigmontal Lizhaysk.”

To prevent the city from any future destruction by enemy, Zigmont ordered that part of the income of the district office be dedicated to building a protective wall, and ordered that the city be guarded by wooden fences. He, therefore, allowed the residents to cut down trees from the king's forests.

In later years the Tartars completely burned down the city and in the year 1623 took its residents captive.

In the year 1656, the Swedes ruled the city, which is evidenced by King Carl Gustav himself staying in the city for a few days.

The residents scattered and ran away. The following years did not bring any blessings to the city and in the year 1672 the city was again destroyed completely.

In our century, the city was plagued by fires which destroyed it between 1834 – 1873.

Nowadays (that is in the year 1884) the city consists of 8594 people, amongst them… 1985 Israelites (Jews).

Geographical Dictionary 1902

(Editors: same as the dictionary of 1884)

In 1469 it was called Lazisko, in 1509 Leiazysko, a city in the district of Lanzot. According to Kochanovski its founder was Ivan Kostera from Kazashshov, who lived in the 14th century. In the year 1469 Messrs “De Yaroslav” presented letters of king Vladislav Vornenvik stating different amounts that were promised to them in return for this city.

According to illustrations from 1565… “Zigmontal Lizhaysk” was on a mountain without water – free of property taxes…taxes were only paid…for areas, lots and gardens.

The city has 26 bakers, 10 cobblers, 5 butchers, 6 liquor makers, 5 Jews who lease houses.

Hebrew (Jewish) Encyclopaedia

Edited by Dr. A Harkabi and Dr. L Katzenelson. Published in 1908-1913

Lizhaysk – a city in Galicia. Jews settled here already in the period of the Jetchipuspolita (republic-Polish), at which time Lizhaysk was included in the boundaries of the Russian veibodstava (district) of Pashmishel.

In 1765, the Jewish congregation of Lizhaysk, along with its surrounding Jewish communities, consisted of 909 per capita tax payers.

In 1910 – 3000 Jews.

A. Historical-geographical sources:
The Jewish sources are very poor. The only ones that are relevant for our purposes are “The Diary of the DD”A committee” and “The Hebrew (Jewish) Encyclopedia” and these two have been quoted in their entirety. From the Diary we learn that Lizhensk belonged to “Big Russ” and that the committee has to resolve a rabbinical dispute, that Shmuel BR' (ben rabbi – Hebrew, son of rabbi) Shimon Volf from Lizhensk was among the rabbis signing on the document for which “distinguished leaders.” These details, however, do not tell us about the size of the city, the number of its residents and their public occupation.

From the “Jewish Encyclopaedia” we learn that at the peak of Rabbi Elimelech's era in 1765, there were in Lizhensk, including its surrounding villages, 909 Jews paying per capita taxes, that is about 2000 people according to the regulations of the DD”A committee and in 1910, 3000 people. As is well known this Encyclopedia is considered an accurate and thorough source and if it does not give any further details it means that there are no other sources.

Neither can we depend upon the only Polish source, “The Geographical Dictionary,” which though it is considered as a reliable source for general history of different settlements, due to its Catholic tendencies, for which purpose it was established, it does not serve us as a basis for Jewish historical geography. We only use a few general pieces of information in which the Jewish momentum is reasonably prominent and which can be quoted verbatim. To this category belong the facts that:

…According to the last census (this census conducted in Tsarist Russia by elements that are common also to Jews in 1847 – the copier) the city comprised of 4945 residents of them 2539 Roman Catholics, 430 Greek Catholics 1944 Israelite residents.

Other details brought forth in this dictionary testify that the city existed (or as it is known to have existed) since 1397 as ever since then it was the point of personal interest of the famous kings of Poland who regularly come to visit it or reinforce it. It is reasonable to assume that ever since the entrance of Jews to Europe and ever since the Spanish expulsion of 1492, Jews were certain to have lived there. The detail hinting at the “residents (who) are dealing from time gone by in dying cotton etc,” is enough to substantiate our theory that it refers to Jews in Lizhensk “in years gone by” since the cotton industry which is described in it was since then until the last days of Lizhensk only in the hands of Jews.

In the supplement to this dictionary which was published in 1902 and which carries already an absolute anti-Semitic disposition referring to the Jews as “Jidji” instead of “Israelitchi” and is a supplement for economic details which the previous dictionary lacks, there is an interesting data which state that in the 16th century “there were in the city 26 bakers, 10 cobblers, 5 butchers, 6 liquor makers and five Jidim (Jews-translator) who lease houses.” We will not be mistaken if we assume that even the bakers and the butchers were of Jewish origins and that the editors tried to dim their Jewishness due to their shopkeeping professions and in order to blur the tendency of Jews towards manual labour and professional training in the gentile surrounding.

The general picture is that the city underwent many metamorphoses resulting from the turmoils of war and attacks by Tartars and Swedes. It was demolished several times and its residents exiled (and as always to Turkey - copier) and that it moved its setting from the valley to the flat and from the flat unto the hill “which is naturally reinforced.” The fact that Lizhensk was never abandoned and “was established” every time anew, attests that its location was attractive and promising. It is reasonable to assume that this detail did not escape the Jews and they certainly did not slack behind those who kept returning to it.

Its urbanization in 1397 also affirms its “Jewishness” since as it was well known, Jews were the only factor in those days contributing to the industrialization and commercialization of villages and turning them into cities.

As mentioned these are our only sources. From the Diary of the DD”A Committee we learn that during the pogroms Jews were commanded to burn and destroy any document or written testimony about the activities of Jewish communities – a well known fact to any recorder of history.

B. Lizhensk during the era of Hasidism
The Golden era of the city begins with the arrival of Rabbi Elimelech son of Rabbi Eliezer Lipman (who has come to be known as Rabbi Elimelech) to settle in it.

Since most sources are more literary than factual we will not quote them. With their assistance we will try to sketch the image of this city which turned out to be Jewish in all of its aspects, the reason for this process and its origins.

It was a climactic period in the growth of Lizhensk which was brought about, as the history of the Diaspora recounts, because of one exalted, benevolent and modest man who, by coming into its midst, caused the city to become the nest of ideological Hasidism and a laboratory of a deep Jewish social experiment, the results of which were evident in Jewish communities world wide.

Jews from different countries flocked by the thousands to Lizhensk as a centre of redemption and healing for the affliction of the Jewish individual whose pains were inflicted upon him merely by his being a part of this persecuted nation.

After the edicts of 5408-5409 (Jewish calendar year), the downfall of Shabtai Zvi and the set-back in the hope for national unification which intensified the tradition of the young BASH”T (Baal Shem Tov – founder of Hasidism) movement, the roles of the Righteous and those surrounding him were defined.

In Lizhensk, a hierarchy of rabbinical importance was established. This was done in order to create a framework for the rising Jewish spirit by decentralizing “Righteousness” and reinforcing the corroding Jewish social circles.

It was the onset of a spiritual prosperity and reassurance to the Jewish congregation of Lizhensk as well as an economic affluence to its residents.

The throng of people that flocked into the city brought along with it an abundance of livelihood and income to hotels and businesses. Deals were struck between Jews from different countries and Lizhensk became both a spiritual and an affluent centre from which its residents benefited directly as well as indirectly. The tourism industry prospered and though it was not blessed with specific “tourist” activities, the city's economic setting was still different than any other Jewish cities due to this particular attribute. The most outstanding in this setting was the development of the liquor and wine manufacturing industries.

According to the details scattered in the literature of that era, the wine and spirits manufacturing industry could not reach such proportions without the external push of many foreign Jews who congregated in the city, spent days, weeks and even months and sustained their spiritual and social needs at the Rabbi's court and the then capital of Hasidism.

Anyone who is familiar with the history of Hasidism knows that upon the death of Rabbi Dov Bar Ish from Zhiboz, the court of Rabbi Elimelech became the centre of gathering for many inspiration seeking rabbis who attracted along with them many of their followers by recommending an imperative yearly visit to Lizhensk.

During the life of the Righteous we never heard of any major change in the activities of the Lizhensk community as part of its preparation towards becoming a unique Hasidic centre. The residents who were indifferent to this historical phenomenon of BASH”TISM, continued even during the period of the Righteous in their daily activities as if it did not relate to them. They did indeed enjoy the affluence, but they did not change their character and lifestyle when dealing with this ongoing event. We never hear then about mass Hasidism as a trade mark of Lizhensk which distinguishes its residents from the rest of the world's Jewry.

The congregation did not differentiate itself from other Jewish communities. Its centre of activities and occupations remained as it was- attending to the unique municipal matters of this human centre which stem from their religious needs and services that are related to it.

Upon the death of the Rabbi, the scene changes overwhelmingly. This change was evident on three plains:
  1. From this day on, the thronging to Lizhensk is no longer spread over the days of the year as it was during the life of the Righteous. It now focuses on two occasions even though there is a trickle of visitors throughout the year.

    One occasion is the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Elimelech, 21 of Adar (Hebrew calendar). The other – during the period preceding the Days of Awe (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur).

    On the first occasion, many come to prostrate themselves on the Rabbi's grave for a supposedly practical purpose. Prior to his death, Rabbi Elimelech said that whoever comes to spread over his grave is guaranteed to have his heart's wishes fulfilled – something Jews believe in wholeheartedly. Though they don't wish to put his legacy to the test, when there is nowhere else to turn to for solutions to their problems, they come to his grave.

    The second event is less “visited” but since the days of the month of Elul (Hebrew calendar) are holy days for prostrating oneself over the graves of righteous ones, many assume that this is the right period to visit Lizhensk and the burial place of the Righteous.

    From now on these days are not just days of abundance and affluence, they are “yearly market days” to the ailments of the Jewish people, days of utmost importance. It is a kind of a “fair of woes” in which the city is called upon to share in their relief.

  2. It is thus how the city becomes an instrument of “hospitality” according to the pure Jewish tradition. During these days it attends to creating the opportunity for absorbing the multitudes who need their dear Rabbi. It sees itself as obligated to take care of its guests, their accommodations and it begins to face the challenge of its unique role as the eternal resting place of the holy soul of Rabbi Elimelech. The congregation takes upon itself the role of harnessing its members to the big task even if it entails raising more money for investing in hotels and their maintenance as well as recruiting more manpower for the purpose of caring for these masses who honour the city with their presence. And so it happens that not for the sake of the Hasidic ideology, but in the manner in which it treats its followers that the spirit of Hasidism penetrates Lizhensk and inspires its individuals.

    In his death more than during his life, we find that the Jewish congregation of Lizhensk attends to his followers, sees in them a role that stems directly from its location and busies itself with their matters before and after their visits.

  3. The Jews of Lizhensk themselves undergo a fundamental transformation. We find Lizhensk, years after the Rabbi's death, a city of a general Hasidic character. The change is visible in every aspect: social manner, prayers, dress code, a person's value and his social level. The degree of “learnedness” is no longer a determining factor, a man is also, or rather mostly, required, to be of Hasidic standing and spiritual quality, which withstood the test of generations, as well as of proper external appearance.

    It is proper to say that with the death of the Righteous, Hasidism became not only the city's “trademark” to the outside world, but also its individuals' “identifying mark”

C. Lizhensk during the period that is reflected in the Book
At the outset of the twentieth century, one can see the first buds of changes in attitude and ideas as well as social structure in Lizhensk.

The younger generation who comes in contact with the outside world, either through its military service or for other reasons, demands changes in the city's social structure and in its main ideology of Jewish redemption and the solution of its problems.

The city, which is in the midst of a long dormant period both publicly and economically, is suddenly called upon to change which causes turmoils and friction. It should be noted, though, that the youth despite their desire for innovations in their city, do not shake the foundations of their respect for Rabbi Elimelech and continue to pride themselves in his being a “Lizhenskian.”

This creates an ideological maze, which, in order to unravel, requires an unusual social intelligence and tools different than the ones used in other cities.

The testimonies of survivors of Lizhensk about their city portray an image of a city which is zealously adhering to its beliefs. “The cave” of the Righteous, the “tent” or the “ruin” constitute a kind of a protective wall securing it from any attacks, but, for the youth, this same wall of beliefs becomes a barrier between it and the modern world, which cannot be easily overcome. But, on the other hand, they don't intend to undermine its foundations.

Culture, enlightenment and Zionist activities do indeed penetrate the city, but in order to crack that wall, some sublime powers are needed and indeed found by those innovators themselves. The Zionist figures who appear in Lizhensk present themselves as unusual people, talented and eloquent who can realize their dreams despite all the obstacles and difficulties.

Besides Hasidism which is the static basis of the city, Zionism appears as a dynamic movement which carries along with it a change in social values and re-evaluating the existing framework. Along with it, there is a change in the city's outlook as well as a redefinition of its ideas to suit those of the rest of the world. It is at this time that the religious-Zionist and the religious-anti-Zionist parties along with their youth movements are founded as well as secular Zionism which comes into town with its different forms from Social Zionism to BEITA”R (Revisionism).

During that period, following WWI, Lizhensk is also experiencing the revolutionary awakening.

The proletariat, excited by the world-revolution slogans, unite in preparation for changes in their city. It is an exalted chapter in its history. It has all the imprints of courage, novelty, revolution and change of social structures which mark the beginnings of radical socialism. This chapter, however, was short lived due to the lack of ties with other outside movements and it faded before it reached its peak. Its echoes which are heard in the honest account of Abish Reichental, reflect deep sadness for the awakening which was to continue but did not.

D. Lizhensk on the eve of the Holocaust
Lizhensk on the eve of the holocaust was like any other Jewish city in a deep slumber of its faith deprived of any secure future. By being a city of bridged adversities, Lizhensk was aware of the amazing Jewish synthesis of critical soberness and innocent zeal. On the one hand, its youth announced slogans calling for immigration to the land of Israel to realise the Zionist dream. On the other, the blockade of the land of Israel deterred them from seeing the approaching Holocaust at its worst and electing to stay in the city. On the one hand, the old-timers of Lizhensk knew what Hitlerism was, but on the other, they erred into self- relaxation in the shadow of the “tent” (the gravesite of Rabbi Elimelech) and the burning candle of the Righteous and even when they were given the opportunity to escape from the approaching volcano, they ignored it.

And so it happened that when the Holocaust reached the gates of Lizhensk, it found a cruel field of action and the price that was paid was too dear.

[Page 21]

The Jews of Lizhensk

Professor Yosef Depovski, Rzeszow District, Poland – Lizhensk, 1967

translated by Bat-Zion Susskind
Christchurch, New Zealand

Editor's note :

Professor Depovski who nowadays resides in Lizhensk and serves as the principal of the local high school, was known during our times as a Pole who went along with the flow of life and whose attitude towards the Jews did not differ from that of others. The Holocaust seems to have brought some penitence in him and his approach towards Jews changed. When we turned to him and requested that he send us his historical account of Lizhensk and its past as it is reflected in the sources that are familiar to him, he cooperated and even added information about the lifestyle of present day and “Jew cleansed” Lizhensk.

We provide his account verbatim, translated from Polish word for word and preserving in it the direct facts as well as projecting indirectly the image of the city through the eyes of a non-Jew.

Obviously the personal comments of the writer about the “peaceful relationship between the Poles and the Jews” are loyal to the text and were left unedited.
Chaim Rabin

  1. A few important dates in the history of Lizhensk
  2. The flow of Jews to Lizhensk and its surroundings
  3. The Jews in commerce, trade industry and liberal professions
  4. The role of Jews in local government
  5. Memories about Dr. Berger
  6. The wealth of the Jews
  7. Rabbi Elimelech Weissblum
  8. Prominent Jews in Lizhensk
  9. The liquidation of the ghetto by the Nazis
  10. The destruction of Jewish homes
  11. Burning of the synagogue, the Cheder (school for young children- Yiddish) and Jewish library
  12. The destruction of Karkut
  13. The figure of Sapir
  14. Closure
  15. Ending comments

I will begin by summarizing a few facts about the history of Lizhensk. The city of Lizhensk, the county seat, lies in the valley of Sandomir, about 6 km from the San River and 46 km northeast of Rzeszow, near the railroad leading to Przeworsk- Rozwadow- Lublin. We first hear of Lizhensk in a document of King Kizmir The Great in the year 1354. Lizhensk was granted a city constitution in the year 1397 by the King Vladislav Yiglo. In its inception, Lizhensk lay on both banks of the river San where the villages of Stare Miasto and Kurylowka are presently located. {Photo of the City Council building on page 22}. However, following the Tartars looting and burning the city in 1524, old King Zigmont moved the city to its present location, which was easier to protect. The 16th century is the golden era of the city.

Fortunately for Lizhensk, it was geographically located on the main trade route of Lvov-Przemysl-Yaroslav-Sandomir-Gdansk. King Zigmont August permitted the structure of government garrisons and gave the city a permit to build boats for the purpose of transferring produce and other merchandise to Gdansk. Lizhensk had a permit to hold public scales for its merchants and the right to store merchandize. Every Tuesday and Friday Lizhensk held a market day. Additionally, it often conducted big fairs based on privileges granted to it by kings. Lizhensk had commercial relationships with other cities. Trade was operating at full steam. Already then, in the 16th century, there were trade unions in Lizhensk for the following: cobblers, bakers, butchers, blacksmiths, tailors, furriers, barrel makers, carpenters, typesetters, weavers and saddlers.

{ Photo titled: Learning to sew – page 23}

The local weavers wove the thick wool fabric known in Poland as Bia. Already at that time there were in Lizhensk a liquor factory and water mills. The city council building stood in the middle of the city square with stores and stands attached to it. On three sides of the markets there were wooden structures with stores. In the 16th century, Lizhensk had 1100 residents. During that time, that is, the 16th century, while the city was thriving, Jews were flocking to Lizhensk as merchants, traders, leasers of taverns and inns. Jews settled mostly in the city square.

Obviously, many turmoils came over Lizhensk – fires, cholera plagues, attacks, a private war (1607-1610) between the Starosta of Lizhensk Lux Oflinski and between the owner of Lantsot, Stanislav Stadnitski, also know as the “devil.” The Swedish flood in the days of Karol the 12th (1702-1704), the first division of Poland in 1772 following which Lizhensk fell under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian kingdom, WWI (1914-1918), the establishment of the Polish state after three decades of oppression in 1918! WWII and the dark period of the Nazi rule (1939-1944). Lizhensk was liberated from the Nazis on July 22, 1944.

Since the Jews lived and worked among the Poles since the 16th century, it is obvious they shared the same fate, good and bad, in a peaceful co-existence. Even mixed marriages took place and there were even Jews who converted to Catholicism. The role of the Jews in Lizhensk was respectable especially at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th during the rule of the Austrian occupation and later in Poland of the period of between the two wars (1918-1939). They dwelled as one unit around the city square in the one storey stone buildings with stores, which they built for themselves.

All the former Jewish homes in the square which were constructed in the 19th century and which the Nazis destroyed, were reconstructed by the city council and were declared a historical monument will now stay unchanged forever and ever.

Jews also dwelt in the side streets where they owned stores. The Jews built a big and beautiful synagogue in Lizhensk as well as a religious school-Cheder. In the year 1900 Dr. Arnold Berger, a lawyer, established a Jewish library which consisted of 4000 books. In 1928 Leib Reichental established a Communist library, which consisted of 200 books. Jews were also among the members of the city council in Lizhensk. Others such as Dr. Shenbach, Dr. Arnold Berger and Dr. Farshtendig, all lawyers, and the merchant Yizrael worked in the local government offices. Being myself a member of the city council, I have first hand information about this. For instance, it was following the suggestion of Dr. Arnold Berger, an amateur gardener and a member of both the city council and the economic committee that the mayor of Lizhensk the notary Bronislav Novinski planted at the end of the 19th century a 2 km tree boulevard in Lizhensk. It is a true magnificence and a cool place away from the sun until this very day.

This is the place for a personal memory, which I would like to dedicate to the lawyer Dr. Arnold Berger. Dr. Arnold Berger was a brilliant lawyer, a member of the city council, a member of Polish groups such as the elementary school group, volunteer fire fighters and the exercise group “Sokol”. He belonged to my close acquaintances in Lizhensk. He was a lonely man. He had a house with a garden, which spread over a hectare of land and on Mitskevitch St. next to the district court building. The garden was surrounded by pine trees and created a different impression in the local climate and scenery. What was not in that garden? The “matsnes” had a regular crew of workers about whom he used to say that his gardeners are his daily guests. I visited his garden often. Once I found him dusting chrysanthemums with a little feather. After we chatted for a while among the carpets of flowers, he used to accompany me on my way to my house while saying: “now I will accompany his professorship from the unholy Berger up to the statue of holy John.” He always had a pleasant and clever sense of humor. He was also a man of high spiritual and social culture. He always greeted old, young, scholars, laborers and farmers by removing his hat and exposing his head for a long while to the cold, rain and heat. He died before WWII from a heart disease and was buried in Lizhensk, which he so loved and tended.

The richest among the Lizhensk Jews was Itzak Spatz, a banker. He made interest-bearing loans in dollars (US) to different folks, not necessarily from Lizhensk. Second in wealth was the merchant Anfang. In 1939, the German removed from his store and storage house a few truckloads of some of the best textiles. I taught his son and daughter at the high school. He himself was a very talented man. His children were bright and good-looking. I remember that on one Tuesday, a market day, during one of the busiest hours in his store, a beggar walked in and stood depressed at the door. For a while, Anfang pretended not to see him, let him wait and later gave him five pennies. I interfered: “Mr. Anfang, that's all?” “Yes,“ answered Anfang, “if I gave him any more I would have contradicted God's will. There are reasons for his poverty.” What a wise answer!!

{Photo titled: The Anfang family page 26}

The third most prosperous man was Poderboytel. He had an iron shop with abundant merchandise.

The crisis period of the end of the 19th century beginning of the 20th until 1939 was the peak time in the success of the Jews and their increase in numbers in Lizhensk. Spatz, Kalman, the brother of the Lizhenskian banker was a supplier of gravel for road making in the district of Lancut. (During the Austrian occupation and during the period of between the wars, Lizhensk belonged to the district of Lancut). Wolf Stolbach, a representative of a renowned Jewish family, directed a propintzia, that is he had a monopoly on the wholesale of spirits. The Hollander family had a monopoly on the wholesale of tobacco, that is the main trading house in tobacco and the state lottery. The monopoly on sale of salt was in the hands of Yizrael. Hirschfeld held the wholesale of the Lvov liquor and gasoline. Lieberman conducted the trade in firewood and coal, Katz in produce, Greenberg in plaster, Guzik in chemical fertiliser. The trade in cattle over the whole district was in the hands of Tova Tzin from the neighborhood of Podekelshtor on the little river Yagoda. Karf owned one bakery, Tantzman the other. The largest grocery store in the neighborhood of Podekelshtor belonged to the merchant Dominitz. When talking about the neighborhood of Poldekelshtor (at the foot of the convent), I must mention that the little river Yagoda was “the Pale of Settlement” for the Jews in this part of town. Jews were not allowed to plant vineyards in Maritzki Square in which holiday fairs were conducted. This privilege was preserved to Catholics only. On the other hand however, one could not imagine opening a Polish store next to the synagogue.

{Photo titled: The couple Tantzman – page 27}.

Jews owned taverns and restaurants in different parts of town: Nartzisfeld, Shindelheim, Greisman, Poshter, Sobel, Hammer, Auerbach, Vohloshitz. I would like to mention here among the lesser Jewish merchants, the kiosk of Beila Rotman across from the tavern of Poshter on Mitzkevitz St. It had food items, delicacies and its customers were mostly teenagers.

In the period between the two wars the Jews established in Lizhensk, by their own initiative, a small factory for vinegar and brooms. Nussbaum had a brickyard in the village of Stare Miasto. Rotman, in partnership with Zedislav Zvileski, a Polishman, had one in Gdalsova. Alter Melech Belziski had one on Snova St. and Yitzchak Shiff in Jelna, near Lizhensk. This brickyard owner, Yitzchak Shiff, had a wooden house on the Yagoda River and his family managed a store for various merchandise. This house survived the storm of the war and stands there until this very day. The partnership of the Jews Fass and Steinberg leased the big steam station of the baron Alfred Potozki in Lizhensk next to the train station with a rail extension where imported produce was grinded for commercial purposes. Segal dealt with exporting the timber of baron Alfred Potozki abroad. Jews were also involved in the legal profession, which was very lucrative. The following are the Jewish lawyers: Dr. Arnold Berger, Dr. Sheinbach, Dr. Adolph Fershtendig, Mr. Geller, Dr. Volf, Mr. Hess, Dr. Parnas and Dr. Nagel. As doctors served: Dr. Dobshitz and Dr. Ravhoon. There were a few dentists: Steinbach, Hochsteem and Bachar with his dentist wife. Dr. Bardach was the district veterinarian and his son in law, Shimon Shtendig, the teacher, taught Judaism in all of the schools in Lizhensk as part of his role as a state teacher. The Jewish registration office was managed by Drucker. Of the total number of the residents of Lizhensk of 9000 in 1939, 2760 were Jews.

Let us now, however, return in our thoughts to the past. One hundred and fifty years ago, there lived in Lizhensk the Rabbi Elimelech Weissblum. This rabbi was very poor, feared God and was very famous among the Jews. His fame reached far beyond the boundaries of Lizhensk. While he was alive, many Jews from faraway places came to visit him. After his death they used to come to his grave which had an eternal light by it and prostrate themselves over its tombstone. The Jews said that when the light dies, Lizhensk will burn down.

After WWII, the Polish republic built a “tent” in the old Jewish cemetery where he is buried. Nowadays, Jews from all over the world come to this “tent” and put in it request notes for the Righteous. For instance, recently, we had an honorable guest here, David Bloom, from Tel-Aviv – Israel. This year (1967) in the spring, I visited the “tent” of the holy man with a group of Litzium students. We were amazed at the piles of request notes for the Righteous. On one of the notes we saw “Zurich-Switzerland” printed in German.

In Lizhensk, until this very day, they tell about him the following story: Poverty dwelled in the Righteous' house often. Once, there was no food for the Sabbath. His wife came to him complaining while he was praying and asked- what will happen, we have to prepare something for the Sabbath. He answered: “Go behind the house! There is a duck there… take it to the slaughterer and prepare it for the Sabbath. And so it was. From no food, they ended up having a healthy meal. And where from did this duck that did not move from its place come? It was by order of this holy man. In the Righteous' old house now sits the office of the Ministry of Education. They only added another storey to it.

I will now recount the martyrdom of the Jews of Lizhensk. The inferno of the Jews of Lizhensk began immediately following the occupation by the Nazis in September 1939. They burnt the synagogue, the Cheder (school for young children) and the library. The German soldiers would take apart the wooden houses of the Jews and during the first winter 1939/1940 used it as firewood to warm up their dwellings. Indeed that is what they did to the Polish library of the public school. They burnt it to the ground. I must note here that based on the agreement that Stalin signed with Hitler, the Soviet armies were, already in September, stationed on the San near Lizhensk. It is vital for us to know it in order to understand the conduct of the Nazi command (Ortzkomandator) in Lizhensk in its treatment of local Jews.

Well, first of all, the Jews were evicted eastward and were not allowed to take anything along with them. The goal was to rob the estates of the Jews and move it to the Reich. And indeed, immediately would German trucks appear and load merchandise from Jewish stores and take it westward. A mass exodus of Jews began in the direction of Kurylowka across the San. Many crossed to that side from fear of the terror. Among them, in a farmer's wagon, lay the lawyer Dr. Sheinbach who was a paraplegic. However, a German hoodlum pushed him from the wagon into the San. So died in a tragic manner the lawyer esteemed by everyone.

Later, the Nazis established, as usual, a Jewish ghetto in Lizhensk. The head of the ghetto was Vagner and the treasurer was the produce merchant Leib Katz. Following the exile of the Jews across the San and the escape of others, there remained, out of 2760, only 200 Jews locked in the ghetto. From this ghetto, the Nazis would take methodically groups after groups into the Jewish cemetery and shoot them. Some of the Jews in the ghetto died of hunger and natural death.

Here is another comment. Every German was allowed to shoot Jews at any place outside of the ghetto! Initially they shot at Jews in the streets of the city. It was the Jewess Oharova, the wife of an iron merchant, who was one of the first ones to die in that manner in May 1941.

Now I will move on to the liquidation of the ghetto. The first group of 39 people was led to the forest in the village of Vizhovitz[1], near Lizhensk, where they were all shot to death and buried there.

Vagner, the head of the ghetto, was officially invited to the German Strostevo in Yaroslav[2]. He was then taken to the village of Pelkinie[3], near Yaroslav and there he was shot. The following day, his wife and children were shot in their home in Siedlanka [4] in Lizhensk where they were also buried. It was committed by the Volksdeutscher a Gestapo hoodlum, Schmidt from Yaroslav who now lives in Switzerland.

Later they forced a group of Jews from the ghetto to run in a murderous manner towards Belz. It is hard to know how many made it…

In the summer of 1942 they led another group of Jews by train from Lizhensk to Pelkinie near Yaroslav where they shot all of them. Mrs. Drucker, the wife of the manager of the Jewish registration office, who was among that group, wore her most beautiful dress in preparation for death and said: “ I curse these times to which I have arrived.” Among this group was also the manager of the district court of Lizhensk, Ogenyush Yezhoveski, a convert whose original last name was Yezhover. Along with him in the wagon was the butcher Reichental, called Yuka. This was the tragic end of the Jewish ghetto in Lizhensk.

But that was not enough for the Nazis and the Volksdeutsche in Lizhensk. They desecrated the Karkut (cemetery) and laid the city square with the tombstone slabs. This gave it the outlook of a graveyard as most of the stones had names engraved on them. I would like to comment that right next to the “tent” of the holy man, there are a few graves that were left with plaques and engravings. Among them there is, until this day, a grave and on it there is a plaque made of red sand stone with the following Polish inscription:

Dr. Adolph Fershtendig
Died in 1935

The grave and the tombstone of this lawyer were not destroyed since they are next to that of the Righteous. All over the Jewish cemetery are now growing fruit trees as well as ornamental trees…

To conclude these historical notes on the “Jews of Lizhensk” and their martyrdom, I would like to mention the Jew Baruch Sapir who is interesting from all aspects. At the onset of the Nazi invasion, he stayed in Lizhensk some time, later, he moved to the village of Kurylowka across the San and from there to Lovtchov[5]. From there, he was exiled eastward and later to Siberia, to Magden near Irkutzk. He was imprisoned in the Soviet Union during the Stalin era for ten years and nine months!

After WWII, a long while after the war ended, he returned to Lizhensk where he now lives. This is a pure example of suffering, persistence and endurance. He is almost a human symbol. Indeed, Sapir can serve as the hero for a story of martyrdom.

In conclusion I must add that the Jews always enjoyed freedoms in Lizhensk during the Polish kingdom of hundreds of years ago, during the Austrian occupation and also in Poland during the period between the two World Wars. The Jews had the nicest houses, they had money, gold, foreign currency and had a monopoly on commerce. They acquired education and selected lucrative professions as well as enjoyed all freedoms and civil liberties.

Many of the Jewish youth attended Lizhensk high school where I was then a professor and of which I am now the principal. Some of the Jews, especially the rich ones, such a Kirshenbaum, Segal and Guzik who is a rabbinic candidate received private lessons from me. A poor Jew in Lizhensk was a very uncommon sight, unless he was disabled or retarded. In Lizhensk, Jews always lived in brotherly peace with the Polish people. Unfortunately, however, the Poles could not save them all even though they helped them during the dark days of the occupation of the Nazis, the murderers of nations. Even to my house used to come for a long while, Chanah the daughter of Chavah, the peddler from before the war in her search for help. I never denied her bread and even more, nor did I deny any other Jews who suffered hunger and deprivation. Eventually, she was locked in the ghetto and suffered from the same fate as that of her brethren.

Honor and dignity to the victims of Hitler, the murderer of nations!!!

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  1. Spelling is as translated from the Hebrew. This is most probably the village now known as Wierzawice, 2.5 miles East South East of Lezajsk: SJK  Back

  2. 20.9 miles South East of Lezajsk; SJK  Back

  3. 16.8 miles South East of Lezajsk: SJK  Back

  4. 0.7 miles East of Lezajsk: SJK  Back

  5. Spelling is as translated from the Hebrew. This is probably the town of Lubaczow (also known as Lyubachev) 32.4 miles East South East of Lezajsk: SJK  Back

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