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[Hebrew Page 102]

Wood and Other Industries

by Abraham Weber

The translator of this chapter wishes to remain anonymous.
The translation was donated by Karol Schlosser in memory of her father, Joseph.

Like the other towns around the Carpathian mountains, (Podkarpaty) in Bolechov, too, one of the main livelihoods among the Jewish population was in the timber industry. This was due to the huge areas of forest which surrounded the town. In the Northern parts, – towards Satri [?], Pacharsdorf [?] and Tniw(b)a [?] – , there were mainly forests of oak trees, which were used for furniture production all over Poland and were even exported to other countries.

Some of those oak trees had grown for hundreds of years and were often one and a half meter wide. The high grade of their beauty and quality was reason enough to exhibit them at the annual exhibition, called "The Eastern Fares" (Targi wschodnie), which took place at Lwow.

Oak trees also grew in the East, near Czulani. But there the trees were thinner and served rather for wooden base parts and the construction of buildings, train rails or fences. The forests at the South-Western side , which covered the bigger areas along the Carpathians down to the border with Czechoslovakia were entirely different. Those forests were full of pine, which are called in Israel more familiarly "the white tree". The beech tree was also well represented.

The pine tree was prepared in special factories both in the town itself and in its environs. Tables and shelves were produced most of which were exported. As far as it was possible, the beech tree as well was prepared and cut into shelves for the further production of furniture in local factories and in other towns and cities. The remaining wood was cut to pieces of one-meter-length and used as heating material, of which large quantities were sold during the winter months throughout the whole country.

The exploitation of the forests, the lumber industry and its different branches were almost entirely under Jewish patronage. The factories of different size were owned by Jews, except for one. In one of the bigger factories, owned by Grifl, worked up to 2000 men, most of which were Ukrainian peasants or inhabitants from the nearby towns. Those who came from a town were craftsmen. They were often wandering from place to place and lived in the shelter of the factory for the duration of their work. Their nickname was "Barber". Among them were but a few Jews. They predominated rather in the administrative and leading positions. In the management of the big factories were Jews, who were doing their task their whole life, from their youth. They were engaged in the construction of the factory’s building from the very beginning. In the surroundings they were well known as specialists in the wood-profession. The following should be mentioned : Mr. (Reb) Moyshe Bin, who to emigrated to Israel and died here; Zaynvl Rapaport; Aharon Shor and the Shtrasman-brothers. Especially the most responsible person of the factory, Leybtshe Shtrasman, was highly respected for his knowledge, justice and work. Two of them survived and are living with us in Israel. One Mr. Meir Shmuel Shtrasman, living in Petakh Tikva and the second Mr. Meir Fridlender in Hadera.

The territory of the factory included thousands of dunam. Preparation and production were handled by machines, which were quite modern for that time. Big pieces of wood, transported in little wagons (kolejka) from the forests were used almost entirely. Tablettes and shelves were cut in order to be exported as material for ship-construction. First it was brought to Danzig, there it had to be collected in containers and could finally be sent abroad. Grifl himself owned such containers in Danzig, where several men from Bolechov were employed. (Zelig Shtrasman, Leyb Shtrasman, Moyshele Altman and others.)

The factory had a department of box-production as well. For this purpose pieces of wood could be used, which would not be useful for other purposes. These were used mainly for boxes for eggs. There were even orders from orchards in Palestine for boxes in which citrus-fruits were to be kept. The smallest parts, not useful even for the box production, were used as heating material. The employed workers got portions of such heating wood and the rest was used for running the factory’s machines.

Rails leading to the factory itself guaranteed a comfortable transport of the goods straight into the wide world. Trains left regularly, day by day.

As already mentioned, there was a wagon in which wood was brought in from the forests near Polnice, Brzeza, Bsarwow [?] from one direction, and another wagon transporting from the other direction of Cerkovna, Sloboda, Lurzki and Lipa.

Five trains ran twice a day, leaving from the factory and returning to it each of which had between 15 and 20 wagons for goods. In addition to that, there was one wagon transporting the workers from the forests and, during the summer, people who participated in organised trips. Those were set up by the youth movement and took place on Sundays. The rather symbolic fees for such trips couldn’t really finance them.

This factory was successfully run by our Jewish experts for 20 years. In 1931 the contract between the factory and the State, which regulated the rent of the ground on which the factory was located, but which belonged to the Polish State, ran out, and the State refused to prolong it. This caused the passing over of the entire factory to the patronage of the Polish forest ministry. The first change, undertaken by the new directive, was to dismiss all the Jewish employees from work, with only a few exceptions.

Those who remained were forced to work on Shabbat. The newly employed workers, declared as "specialists" came from the so called "Szkoly lesnicze" (forest schools) and didn’t have either experience nor knowledge of what they had to handle. Their "specialized skills" were the reason for more limited and worse production, even up to a partially closing down of the factory. The main "achievement" was indeed the exclusion of Jewish workers. The few remaining Jewish craftsmen – who stayed thanks to interventions by the writer of this article among the new leadership - finally had to go because of the pressure of the non-Jewish majority.

Aside from this big factory, existed some others, which were far smaller and less important. One of them, which was located near the petrol refinery, belonged during the last years to the owner of the refinery, whose name was Baknbart. There all kinds of woods were prepared for further production. They were sent by a number of foreign "wood tradesmen", who paid the owner for working their wood.

In the grounds of this factory a little branch of barrel production was founded, shortly before the Shoah. Oak trees were mainly used.

Near to the railway station were two other factories. One, located between the station, owned by Buchman, and the known villa of Dr. Reifeizn, also specialized in work on woods, which had been brought by different tradesmen. The second, half way from the station, was a cooperative, "spolka stolarska", which belonged to the partners Bunum and Shnur. In this factory the prepared wood would be exported in the same way as it happened in the big factory. A carpentry was founded, here which mainly produced home furniture, especially chairs and armchairs.

Continuing on the way from the station to town was a bridge leading above the river Sokal [?]. On one side was a rather spacious building, sheltering a mill station, a little factory owning one machine and a branch for furniture production. The factory prepared the woods for the furniture factory. The products were of high quality and the furniture of both factories mentioned above, made them famous throughout the whole country. Those factories were concentrated in one huge building in one court. The owners were the following: Kremer, Altman, Loyfer, Shnayd.

On the way to the market place of the town, on the right hand side, was a factory for vinegar and [?], run by the Rand-family. Although the size of this factory wasn’t extraordinary, its success was known, as was obvious because of the quantity of filled [?] which were transported all the time to the railway station.

Another little factory was located on the way to Horzow [?] (Dunki), near what had been once the mill owned by Neuert [Neuoyrt] (Olinik). The last owner had been a German named Rach, "may his name be erased".

Little factories were maintained also in villages, from which goods were brought to town and sold to the Jewish merchants.

To complete the description of the timber industry at Bolechov one further factory should be mentioned: that of cork production for barrels. The corks were made of birch wood, which could also be found in the woods of that area. This factory was owned by the Roznboym family which employed a dozen workers.

The main season for the timber industry was in winter. Wide areas covered by snow facilitated the transport of big pieces of wood even through areas, which were not that accessible for any kind of vehicle. Winter was characterized by traffic jams of thousands of wagons arriving from the different forests at the railway station and making urgent an immediate handling of the goods. Day by day hundreds of train wagons were loaded with beech and oak wood either as heating material or for the furniture production in the factories. The workers were busy at night and even in the worst weather conditions. At the same time other industries, like the leather or candle industry were not less represented by business activities at the station. The latter was concentrated around two factories, one run by Yoel Halpern and the other run by Zishe Vaytsner.

Deliveries of wheat and flour for both mills and shops also took place at the station.

The best known deliveries were those of coal for the salt refinery ("Haslina") and of the salt itself which were brought in the very same wagons. The most responsible persons of "Haslina" for those tasks were for many years Abramczik Shtrasman and Yudel Rat.

Several of the most skilled carpenters who were widely known for the high quality in the field of furniture production or the construction of buildings remain to be mentioned. Among them was Moyshe Goldman who died a few years ago here in Israel and whose furniture was praised in the whole area.

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