[Column 11 - English] [Column 13 - Hebrew]
By Dr. Eliezer Boneh
This book describes the life of the people of Zloczew, the foundation of the town until after the tragedy. Life during the two World Wars has been particularly emphasized, for it was during these decades that Jewish life reached its summit.
Suddenly, at the outbreak of World War II, life stopped and one of the centres of the Diaspora was not more.
Zloczew lies in the south-eastern part of Poland which is called Little Poland. A piece of land which, under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was called Galicia. An agricultural level country partly covered with forests.
The natural borders of the town were in the south, the hills of Vorniaky; in the north the Zloczowka river and in the west and east, the town came together with neighbourhood villages.
Four wooden bridges crossed the river and a railroad, about 2km from town, connected the place in the west with Lwow and in the south-east with Tarnopol. A railroad-branch led northward to the city of Brody. Three paved roads also connected Zloczew with these cities.
The town of Zloczew was surrounded by many villages: Vorniaky, Polorky, Bianiov, Zazola, Jalochoviczy, Chicic, Lacka and a
chain of small towns: Bialokamin, Busk, Sasov, Olesko and Goligory.
Zloczew was a part of the Tarnopol region. In it central institutions could be found which served the whole region: The Governor's offices; the Tribunal Court, Land Registry, Post, hospital and colleges. Since the town was near the frontier, two regiments were stationed there.
Corresponding with the municipal and governmental foundations, there were also Jewish ones which served the Jewish inhabitants: the Communal Committee, rabbis, judges, hospitals, synagogues, schools and social relief.
The town was known for its cleanliness and beautiful appearance. The houses were mostly of bricks and only in the suburbs could wood or clay houses be seen.
The Lwow-Tarnopol road crossed the town and from it a branch led to Brody.
Where the road branched there was the market with its wooden huts, the centre of all retail dealings. This was a Green Market where on the second day of the week, cattle trade took place.
A promenade built on the ruins of a Middle Age wall divided the town. Another part of the wall became a beautiful garden
gathering place of Jewish Youth. There, one could see the younger ones playing and singing Hebrew songs while the older ones discussed daily problems.
The town folk prospered and so did the Jews, especially when Zloczew became a town (for it was not always so).
At the outbreak of World War II the total number of the population was 16,000. The Jews formed the majority (9000) and the Poles and Ukrainians completed the number.
The Zloczewer Jews occupied themselves with all the branches of trade and workmanship. Of course, those of free professions could also be found. Villagers from afar and nearby and the small-town merchants sold their products in Zloczew. As to the Zloczewer merchants, they assorted and packed the products and sold them in Poland and abroad. A big part of the agricultural products found its way to the factories and was used as raw material.
Robinson's meat was world-famous; Ritter's and Shweig mills were well known; Polasiok's leather goods were of the best quality and so was Zimand and Lynwand's sawmill production. And last but not least, Shwadron's Brewery supplied the need of the whole of Poland.
That was Zloczew's situation between both World Wars.
And yet, the youngsters who thought about their future and that of their nation found no place in the town and decided to immigrate to Israel. There were those, of course, who chose other countries across the sea, mainly the United States.
Those who remained in town at the outbreak of the war were mostly killed. Only a few survivors were able to join their brothers in Israel or in other countries.
The immortalization of Zloczew is no longer an idea and has not been so for many years. The Central Committee of Zloczew has seen to it. They helped to create this book and to present it to the survivors. The book appears about 25 years after the outbreak of World War II; a war that inflicted a terrible tragedy upon our people and struck our town in the cruellest of ways.
The chapters of this book tell about the cruel deeds of the human beasts who acquired power over Zloczew and its inhabitants. The place where we were born and grew up was small and beautiful. Perhaps one of the most beautiful in Easter Galicia.
It was blessed with spiritual giants, poets, rabbis, writers, artists, devoted social workers, youth movements, schools, relief foundations, synagogues and houses of study.
This book tells all of this in order to erect an immortal monument on the mass grave of our brothers.
The town of Zloczew is no more. The fountains of life are dry. The spiritual and physical treasures are gone. The busing energy of the youngsters, blessed with talent and deeds, is silenced; cut down is the grandeur of the Zloczewer Jew.
But the memory will live forever. It will remain in the book of Poland's Jewry in the history of our nation in the renewed achievement of our people on the soil of their independent country in the hearts of the Zloczew folk, dispersed in countries of the world.
In their hour of death, our sacred brothers have commanded us to live. So we the living do our best to immortalize the dead.
The Committee together with the Zloczew townsfolk in the United States has toiled and brought the book to its end.
The Committee feels no gratification at the thought of the hard work invested in this undertaking. The Committee saw it as a sacred duty and hoped that the town and its good people would not be forgotten.
We thank deeply Mr. Benzion Zwardling, President of the Committee; Mr. J. Katz, M.K.O; Dr. Altman; Mr. M. Deutsch; Dr. E. Yosefberg and M.J. Imber of blessed memory and many others. The Committee thanks our countrymen
in the United States: Mrs. S. Baumgarten; Mr. H. Baumgarten; Mrs. M. Memberg and all those who have contributed and made others contribute in order to enable the publication of this book. The committee also thanks the Editors and Publisher of the book for their devoted and good work.
A story of compassion translated into deeds
(Compliments of Zloczower Ladies organization)
This is the last chapter of a glorious story. This is the last link between the new world and a world that is no more; a world of noble spiritual values, famous for learning and moral heights which was monstrously annihilated.
This last chapter should not be forgotten. This last link should not be destroyed by the passing of time. We should remember the chapter and preserve the link for the sacred memory of our forebears and for our brothers and sisters the martyrs and for the sake of our children and grandchildren.
Let them know and tell their children and be proud of it. May they learn and apply the true moral of this story in their own lives and deeds.
We cannot comprehend in our thoughts all of the 6 million Jews who perished at the hands of the German murderers; this crime and this tragedy, both the most horrible in al recorded history, are beyond the comprehension of the human spirit. But we can and should think of our own brethren and the city from which we came from.
For this is the place from which we and our forefathers came. This is the ground where our roots were set. These personal ties should be passed on to our children who never set foot there but still may know and learn and translate the tradition in their own lives and deeds.
There were high standards and moral values in the city like Zloczew which should
Not perish with their bearers. There was real piety and learning and reverence for learning. Bread might be scarce but not books.
There was true compassion and mercy and charity in Zloczow. There were spontaneous good deeds there and spiritual earnestness. Life was hard but the light of faith gave the Jews strength and endurance.
Now there is no Zloczow anymore. No Jewish Zloczow, our own community where our roots grew. Our kinsmen, our brothers and sisters, our friends and countrymen were all, with their wives and children, wiped out by ruthless assassins. The old synagogues and houses of learning, where our ancestors worshipped God for countless generations, the Orphans' Asylum, the Old Age Home all these were destroyed. Even the cemeteries, the old one which we helped to put in order and the new one for which we contributed have been entirely erased by the Polish neighbours.
Thus Zloczow, our Jewish Zloczow which is no more, remains only in our memory. Let us, therefore, bear in mind the ties we maintained with the Old Home as long as it existed; our ties of brotherly compassion and love.
This report tells us of a number of men and women who came to this country from the city of Zloczow in Galicia to escape misery. Now we know that it was in order to escape massacre. They struggled hard for a living. They had their worries and troubles but they never forgot the kin and
friends and countrymen they left behind. They remembered them especially in time of distress.
Such a time arrived in 1914 at the outbreak of World War I. On August 1, 1914 the war began and on August 3rd, Zloczow had already been invaded by the advancing Russian army since Zloczow is not far from the old Austro-Russian frontier.
The fate of Jews in a city like Zloczow as in any place in Galicia was never a very happy one. Even in quiet times, a great number of the Jewish population, in fact the majority, suffered want and many were poor; and we should remember that their needs were very modest. But war came no matter whose war it was. The Jews were the first and most afflicted victims, and when peace came, whoever was the victor, the Jews lost the war as well as the peace.
This is what happened to the Jews of Zloczow. This was a community of about 10,000 people. Most of them were small storekeepers. There was a class of artisans and many poor people. The majority struggled hard to extract a meagre living from whatever their occupation was.
Most of the Jews of Zloczow were Orthodox but there were also progressive people mostly of the free professions: lawyers, doctors, etc. The Zionist idea took root among many at the beginning of the century and the Zionist Movement became stronger with the years.
Zloczow prided itself on its famous Rabbis and Talmudic scholars and also on the
Hassidic rabbis of the 18th century. There were many houses of worship, but the main synagogue was a very imposing building. The synagogues and Hassidic so-called Klausen were the centres not only of religious activities but of the whole community life.
This was the situation when World War I broke out. Then the population was suddenly and completely cut-off from the rest of the country by the invading Russian army. Though the Russians occupied only a small portion of Galicia, those who lived there were cut-off from the rest of the world.
The income of the Jewish population, which was never high, shrank to very small proportions. Poverty afflicted large numbers of people. The attitude of the Russian military authorities toward the Jews made their lot even worse. Persecutions and chicanery were the new rulers' rule. In spite of the cutting-off of communications with the outside world, word reached America of the plight of the Jews in occupied Galicia. As to Zloczow, a number of Jews managed to escape from the city before the Russian Invasion. They now lived as refugees, mostly in Vienna, the capital of Austria, but also scattered in Bohemia and Hungary.
It was they who notified the countrymen in New York of the plight of the Jews in occupied Zloczow and also of their own hard lot as refugees without any means of existence.
When these reports reached New York, a number of countrymen from ZLoczow decided to come to the rescue of their countrymen
in the old Country. In the emergency, they acted quickly.
On October 18, 1814 the first meeting was called and a motion was passed to found a Zloczow Relief Verband. This institution was constituted by the delegates of the following societies:
On January 28, 1915 the relief was formally organized and the following officers were elected.
Isadore Friedman, President. Joseph Silberschutz, Treasurer. David Hochberg, Secretary.
Bern acted as secretary at the first meeting and $124 was collected.
The Relief Verband was quite active from the beginning. Its main work consisted of raising funds. For this purpose, no way was left unused. Package parties, mass meetings, balls, theatre benefits, appeals on various occasions as for example: the Slyyum Hasefer in Mahazikei Hadat were arranged.
The Zloczow Countrymen in New York, later also in Philadelphia and in other cities, were most responsive to the need of their brethren in distress.
From the beginning, the main worry of the leadership of the Relief was how to
reach the needy Zloczower overseas. No efforts were spared but to no avail. Zloczow itself remained hermetically closed.
The officers of the Relief did not give up. At the end of three months, a contact was established with the refugees from Zloczow in Vienna. On March 25, 1915 the printed report of the Relief notes, first financial assistance was furnished to Zloczower refugees in Vienna, Austria. From then on, financial assistance was given to Zloczower refugees stranded in various parts of Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Italy and to Zloczower prisoners in Russia.
The report contains an interesting item. On October 2, 1915 a Young Folks' Auxiliary was organized. This shows that the Zloczower in New York not only mobilized everyone for the rescue work, even their young people, but they endeavoured to teach their children the moral lessons taught by their fathers; the qualities of compassion and mercy and the duties to help and give. This lesson was not forgotten. The children of the Zloczower learned to help and give not only for their kin in Zloczow but for every worthy cause everywhere.
The activities of the Relief increased during the war years with the ever-increasing needs of the supported refugees.
After a year of strenuous efforts, the Relief managed to establish contact with Zloczow itself. On February 18, 1916 we read in the Report of the Relief work: First relief money forwarded directly to Zloczow.
This was quite an achievement. The
direct assistance to Zloczow stimulated the Relief to even greater efforts. Mass meetings, package parties, etc. were organized for the purpose of fund raising.
These activities however came to an abrupt end on April 14, 1917 with the entrance of the United States into the World War.
This was, however, only a temporary suspension. As soon as the Wart came to an end and the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918 the relief resumed its activities with even greater devotion. Funds were raised not only through meetings and functions but also through house canvassing. Representatives of the Relief visited the members at their homes to collect funds.
From 1919 on, closer contact was established between the Relief and Zloczow. When Dr. Samuel Margoshes, editor of the Day visited Easter Galicia, the Relief used the occasion to send $500 to Zloczow through him.
From then on, Zloczowers from New York frequently visited Zloczow and on every occasion, the visitor who travelled at his own expense was nominated a delegate of the Relief and various sums were forwarded through him. In the Report of the Relief, this left for Zloczow and Relief funds to be distributed were entrusted to him. (sentence is often repeated: Mr. X.)
During the post-war years and in general between the two World Wars, a number of delegates performed an important task during their visits to the old country.
They stayed in Zloczow for a time and besides distributing the Relief funds, made
approaches to the Polish authorities (in 1920 to the Slavic Occupation) on behalf of the Jewish Population, obtaining important concessions for the benefit of the community. They also performed other tasks which
were of great help to the Jewish population.
During the twenty years between the two World Wars, these visitor delegates were the keepers of the sacred ties between the Zloczower in the Old and New Worlds.
By Sol Katz
In New York City in 1910, a group of twenty-five young men broke away from the Zloczower Young Men's Society and applied to the general office of the Workmen's Circle for a charter. They all passed the medical examinations and the new Zloczower Branch 382 was launched. The charter members were: H. Bettinger, Jacob Chartan, Harry Circus, Morris Circus, Isidore Goldstein, Tobia Goldstein, Louis Green, Morris Green, Max Gruber, Aaron Mestel, Max Pasternak, Harry Patchen, Isidore Pauker, Nathan Roth, Bernard Schorr, Sam Schorr, J. Sobel, Sam Steinbauer, Lippy Tannenbaum, Max Tannenbaum, Harry Unterlag, Willy Weiss, Sam Wittman, Harry Zwerdling and Louis Zwerdling. This original group soon started a campaign for an enlarged membership and quickly managed to enrol over one hundred members. From 1916 to 1919, during which time I served as secretary, we had a membership of over 150 enthusiastic and active people.
The history of the Zloczower Branch actually has two main phases. The early
years of the branch's existence were dominated by the Bundist from Russia and Poland who, in large numbers, staffed the Education department of the Workmen's Circle and were bitter enemies of Zionism and Poale Zionism.
The various branches of the Workmen's Circle received their instructions and ideological direction from this department. The majority of the members of Branch 382 had received their ideological education in Zloczow as members of the Jewish Social Democratic Party. This party in Galicia had been influenced by the Bundist who had fled from Russia into Austria soon after 1905.
The main premise of the Bundist was that the Jewish workers did not need Palestine or Israel or any Jewish homeland. They believed that Jewish workers could build a successful semi-autonomous Jewish life in Europe. The Vorwaerts acted as the Bundist' mouth-piece and made repeated attacks on Zionism. These same anti-Zionist feelings were expressed at many union meetings and lectures dominated by the Bundist.
The spokesmen of Zionism were constantly ridiculed and maligned. When I served as secretary of the Branch, it was part of my job to read the appeals for aid which came to us from all organizations. Requests from Poale Zionist groups were always received with a stony silence. For me, this was a great and painful embarrassment.
The Bundist' dream of semi-autonomy soon exploded with finality. Hitler and Stalin wrote the final chapters in the story of the Jewish Bundist ideal. Those who escaped Hitler found no better fate in Russia where the Bund leaders were murdered mercilessly and where the party was declared illegal.
The destruction of the Bundist ideology had a sobering effect on the Jewish labour leaders in America. The Workmen's Circle began to enter a new phase of thinking. And soon, the Histadrut began to receive substantial help from the newly pro-Zionist Workmen's Circle.
Today, after fifty years of existence, the Branch is known as the Zolkiewer Zloczower Branch 382. This union took place about fifteen years ago and was due to a shrinkage of membership in both branches, partly due to the drying up of immigration after World War I. Our membership is now made of older people with an average age of over 60 years.
At our Fiftieth Jubilee dinner held in February of this year, only a few of the old members attended. Amongst them were: David Hochberg, Izzy Goldstein, A. Wasserman, I. Weiss, J. Pepper, B. Silber, Mr & Mrs H. Kaplan, A. Hoffman and myself.
We are still active in taking care of those of our members who need assistance and in helping Jewish organizations to carry on their good work. And, every now and then, we feel a touch of nostalgia when we tell our children and grandchildren what Jewish life was like, many, many years ago in Zloczow.
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