“Borysław” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Poland, Volume II
(Borysłav, Ukraine)

49°17' / 23°25'

Translation of “Borysław” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem


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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume II, pages 92-99, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem

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[Pages 92-99]



Translated by Miriam Beckerman

Edited with notes by Valerie Schatzker

  Year Population Jews
  1880 9,318 7,363
  1890 10,424 7,752
  1900 10,690 5,950
Including approximate figures from Tustanowice, and Mraźnice 1910 12,767 5,753
1921 31,166 10,149
1931 41,496 11,996
1939 ? 13,000
1941 ? 14,000

The Jewish population from its beginning until 1919

Until the 1840s, Borysław was a village at the foot of the Carpathian mountains. After wax and oil were discovered in Borysław and the surrounding areas, the town, and the Jewish population in particular, developed rapidly. In the second half of the 19th century, the petroleum industry began to develop. Borysław became the centre of the industry and the processing of its by-products for the Austrian Empire. In the period between the two World Wars, Borysław and its surroundings supplied around seventy-five percent of Poland's oil needs. During that time, the supply of natural gas began to be used for industrial and domestic purposes. Between 1939 and 1941 and after the German occupation in 1944, the Soviets turned Borysław into an important industrial centre because of its petroleum resources.

At the beginning of the 19th century, there was just a small Jewish community in Borysław. Until 1860, Jews from the surrounding area came to work in the wax and oil industry there but most did not settle there. At the end of the 1860s, there already was a permanent community in Borysław with a main synagogue and smaller houses of study and prayer. However, the Jewish community of Borysław was not independent but instead connected to the Drohobycz kehilla. As it grew in size and importance , the Jews of Borysław made an effort to become a separate kehilla. In 1908, they appealed to the Austrian government to recognize them as a separate entity but because of the reaction of the Drohobycz kehilla, the request was postponed. Finally on March 18, 1928, the Polish government granted permission for Borysław to have an independent kehilla. The Jews of Borysław had already laid the foundations for their independence by the end of the 19th century. In 1886, a Jewish cemetery had been established on property that had been donated by the Lindenbaum family. It was enlarged in 1913. In addition, there was a ritual bath house that had been erected for the kehilla's use. These religious institutions preceded independence. At the end of the 1980s, Reb Shmuel Yitzhak Terler was the chief rabbi and at the beginning of the 20th century, Reb Meshulam Rokeach. Starting in 1897, a Bikur Kholim[1] was established. At the same time, an Agudah Hakhneset Kallah[2] was founded, as was the Linat Tzedek[3] for those who needed a place to sleep and there were other welfare groups that provided for the needy and looked after widows and orphans.

The Jews were pioneers in the oil industry in Borysław. The first attempts to dig for oil in Borysław were made in the 1820's by a well known Jew called Hecker, however, without success.[4] A few years later, Abraham Schreiner,[5] a Jew from Borysław, tried to create a business from the natural richness found in the town and its surroundings. He produced wax for wagon-wheels.[6] Later, oil became much more important. Abraham Schreiner sent the liquid petroleum he produced to a Łukasiewicz, a Polish chemist in Lwów. He examined it and started the demand for oil.[7] After this in 1858, oil refineries began to be built in Drohobycz and this was the beginning of the oil industry in the region.

Until 1880, around 2,500 Jewish men and 500 Jewish women were employed in the oil industry. However, the majority did not reside in Borysław. These were Jews from Drohobycz, Bolechów, Skole and other places in the area who would return to their homes for the Sabbath.

In the 1860s and 1870s, the need for oil grew. Most of the productive land and most of the labour force were in the hands of the Jews of Borysław and its surroundings. This resulted in an increase in the number of Jews who were digging for oil and transporting the distilled product. The managers of the oil wells and other associated enterprises were mainly Jews. At the same time, the number of Jewish workers in the industry grew greatly and a large number of paid workers came to Borysław from the surrounding area to earn a living. These workers were called kasirers[8] and worshipped their own house of prayer called Kasirer Baismidrash that existed until 1914.

In Borysław, small oil businesses were established by Jewish men and their sons: Liebermann and Mermelstein, Schutzmann and Partners, and another company called Borysław, most of the shares of which belonged to the Hartenstein family.

At the end of the 1890's and the beginning of the 20th century, there was a change in the method of production and in the ownership of the oil wells. The Viennese Länderbank and one of the central banks of Galicia bought up some of the small plots that had oil wells and began to manage them. They installed new production methods using steam and electricity. The small producers could not compete with them and were forced to sell their property. As a result of this, Jewish employees were dismissed from their positions and the streets of the kehillah of Borysław experienced a severe economic crisis. The banks and the new owners preferred Gentile workers, claiming that Jewish workers were not reliable. However, anti-Semitism rather than fact was behind this, for the Jews had reached a high level of competence in the oil industry. In 1899, 700 Jews were fired. In the same year, 500 Jewish supervisors and directors were forced to undergo examinations in the Polish language. Only three passed the examination; the rest were dismissed.

In order to save Jewish families who, by losing their livelihoods, were devastated by this crisis, aid organizations were set up in all the kehillot in the area. The central Jewish aid organizations, such as IK'A and Galitzianer Hilfsfarein, undertook a special campaign for the benefit of the Borysław Jews who had lost their jobs. In 1898, Baroness Hirsch[9] donated a large sum to support about 240 families in the town. This crisis also caused an increase in the number of Jews from Borysław who emigrated to the United States. Public charitable groups even contributed to the travel expenses for those who needed help. In the fall of 1898, forty families were aided. The Galician Zionist organization, Ahavat Tzion,[10] realizing the desperation of the Jews of Borysław, helped many families make aliyah[11] to the Land of Israel.

In order to be able to compete with the Viennese Länderbank, the richest Jewish oil well owners organized their own bank to support their projects. However, even these efforts did not prevent the failure of many middle-sized and small Jewish companies. In spite of this, the Jews did not completely forfeit their share in the petroleum industry and continued to play an important role in it.

In Borysław and its surroundings, a great amount of natural gas was discovered along with petroleum. A sizeable number of Jews were also engaged in gas production. A gas pipeline was built by the entrepreneurs Dienstag and Motl Pomerantz. In 1910, the architect, Joachim Hausmann began to improve on the method for drawing larger amounts of gas.

Dr. Freund of Borysław began to produce gasoline from the natural gas. His first efforts were very primitive but before World War I, the Jewish architects, Weitzmann and Landes from Borysław improved the system and laid down the foundation for the development of this industry.

Since so much oil was pumped from the wells, it was often impossible to collect all of it with the methods they knew. Some of the oil would run out into the ditches and rivers in the town and the surrounding area. Many Jews, called lebaks[12] were occupied in collecting this oil. This was a communal effort, only one of its kind in the kehilla of Borysław. Most of those who were involved were grown or elderly men who scooped up the oil into pails and sold it after processing it in a certain way so that it could be used for heating fuel. Thus, with much hardship, they earned their living.

As oil production increased, it was necessary to find a method of storing petroleum before it was refined. For this purpose, a company called Petrolia was founded in Borysław. Many Jews were employees and managers in this kind of work. The Jewish men of Borysław had to learn and perform the following roles between 1880 and 1918.

Technical workers 2.9 %
Supervisors and owners 15.5%
Office workers 4.4%
Sales people and agents 42.4%
Labourers in the industry 9.1%
Workers without trades 12.3%
Service/maintenance 13.5%
Total 100%

In 1914, there were around 750 Jews working in the oil industry in Borylaw. In 1887, the first organization of the Lovers of Zion was established and shortly after, it had 112 members. Because of the pressure from the very orthodox groups, this organization disbanded. Another attempt to establish a Zionist organization was made in 1891 with the encouragement of the Hebrew writer Zvi Eliezer Teller and in 1892, the B'nai Zith organization was founded. Near its offices, a library and a reading room were established. In 1894, a united Zionist organization was established, joined by 300 members. In 1897, there was a clubhouse near the Irgun Ahavat Zion (Lovers of Zion Organization) where courses in the Hebrew language were given. In 1902, a town branch of the Histadrut[13] was established and in 1911, a branch of Mizrachi[14] was formed. In 1908, a branch of Poale Zion[15] was founded where socialist ideas were spread. At the end of the 19th century, Jewish workers' clubs were formed: Forverts Glaykhheit (Towards Equality) and Briderlichkayt (Brotherhood). The groups that joined these clubs were active in protecting Jewish workers' rights, especially during the unemployment crises in the 19th century.

In 1908, the Jewish Socialist Party became the largest group. With the support of this party, the workers demanded an eight-hour work day as well as improvement in working conditions. Before World War I, because the number of Jews who worked in businesses and shops grew, a Council Hagana (Overseers) was founded to see to the interests of apprentices.

In 1890, the Austrian government established a school in Borysław, a public school for Jews where 353 students were enrolled. By 1896, the number of pupils had grown to 403 and by 1901, to 554. Afterward, this school became part of the network of Baron Hirsch schools[16].

In 1893, a Hebrew school was established for children who attended public school. At the beginning of the 20th century, this school became part of the Safa Brura[17] school system. In 1906, there were forty-seven male students and fifty-six female students in attendance. This school was closed in 1907 but reopened in 1908.

In 1910, a modern Hebrew school was built in which 300 children were registered. In its first stage, six classes were started for every 150 pupils. This school was run by the Council of the kehilla and the City Hall. Children from poor homes were given hot meals and clothing. In 1912, the Merkaz Hamorim b'Galicia (Centre for Hebrew Teachers) was opened in Borysław.

Two people stand out among the Hebrew and Yiddish writers in Galicia who were active in the field of education in Borysław: Yitzhak Even and Tzvi Eliezer Teller. Yitzhak Even (1861-1925), born in Rozwadów, lived in Borysław for quite some time. He earned his living as a teacher and published books under the imprint of Makhzicai Hada'at. In 1893, he was a regular contributor to the Hamagid[18] in which he published articles, translations and stories. In Borysław, he taught Hebrew and worked on behalf of the Zionist cause among young Jews. In 1895, Even moved to Lwów, where he established a Hebrew School. In 1909, he emigrated to America where he published articles in the Yiddish press. He also wrote khasidic stories. Zvi Eliezer Teller (1840-1920) was born near Zloczów but came to Borysław in 1892. He worked as a Hebrew teacher and gathered around him groups of the maskilim[19] Jews of the town. Among his writings are a translation of Lessing's The Jews into Hebrew, a collection of songs called My Lips Sing[20], and many other works.

The Hebrew writer, Michael Berkowitz (1865-1935) was born in Borysław. He was the head of the Zionist organization, Zion, in Galicia. He translated The Jewish State by Theodore Herzl and was his Hebrew secretary. He was one of the founders of the weekly, Der Yud[21] in Krakow, as well as a significant contributor to Die Welt[22] The list goes on and on, including the translation into Hebrew of the Zionist writings of Theodore Herzl, as well as bringing to light the writings of the Zionist, Aaron Liebermann.[23]

Among the maskilim born in Drohobycz was Avigdor Mermelstein (1850-1925). In 1875, he was one of the founders of Khevra Yishev Eretz Yisroel b'Galicia, group that promoted settlement in the land of Israel. He was a teacher in Przemysl, where, between 1879 and 1891, he participated in the editing of a Hebrew weekly Ha'ohev amo v'eretz moledeto.[24] From 1882 on, he was one of the outstanding Hebrew educators in Galicia. Mermelstein was one of the first who taught according to the system Hebrew in the Hebrew language.

After the outbreak of World War I and the Russian army's advance to the west at the end of August 1914, hundreds of Jews fled from the city. Many of them found refuge in Kraków and some of them as far away as Vienna. At the time when the Russians occupied the city, from September 1914 to June 1915, the Jewish population suffered both physically from the attacks of soldiers and economically. When the Austrians returned, some of the Jewish refugees also returned. In the spring of 1919, the government of the Ukrainian Republic made things much more difficult for the Jewish population of the town, especially in economic matters. Taxes were raised and special contributions had to be made.

Between the Two World Wars

During Word War I the economic situation had deteriorated so much that the Jewish population felt it had come to a crisis. In 1919, forty percent of the community was in need of assistance, Hundreds of meals were distributed in the public kitchens that had been set up in the twenties.

In 1921, Jewish workers constituted 18 % of hired workers in the town and 16.4% of workers in the oil industry. In 1921, there were 1,218 Jewish workers in the petroleum industry divided into the following categories.

Technical managers 126
Diggers and their helpers 66
Repairmen in the oil wells 28
Steam container managers 204
Other professional workers 34
Workers without trades 494
Total 1,218

Information regarding the workers who married between 1919 and 1935 can be gleaned from the following division of labour:

Technicians 3.5%
Supervisors and owners of businesses 16.2%
Merchants and agents 38.4%
Employees in trade and industry 16.8%
Untrained employees 22.3%
Services 2.4%
Total 100%

Sales and merchandising was mainly in the hands of the Jews of Borysław although they were in stiff competition with Poles who benefitted from the official support of the government. Between 1919 And 1939, an organization of small merchants was established. In 1936, there was an attempt to unite these groups into one organization. The meetings of the Jewish merchants' organization were conducted in the Jewish Merchants' House In 1929. A cooperative bank was established to serve the merchants. There was also an organization in the town that helped merchants when they were in great need.[25] At the beginning of the 20th century there was an organized aid group for Jewish tradesmen called Poaleh Yeshuot, that extended assistance to salesmen and tradesmen who were in need. In 1926, yet another benefit organization was established, Yad Harotzim, which had a fund to aid the sick. The chart below shows how it spent its funds:

Year Number
1928-29 27 2,500
1933-34 319 26,000
1935-36 212 16,316
1936-37   28,342

However, the ability to distribute aid depended almost exclusively on the economic conditions of the Jews of Borysław. People applied for aid mainly because they had no work. The unemployed in Borysław also received aid from Agudat Yisroel[26] and the Bund.[27] It is impossible to know the real numbers of the members of the illegal Communist party, not the numbers of Jews accused by the Poles of Communist activities, who were brought to trial and sentenced. These numbers were significant. Among the Communist activists in Borysław was Mark Ratner, a medical student in Prague, who received a six-year sentence. He was freed by the Soviets in 1939 and became the deputy mayor of the city from 1939-1941.

The 1930's were very tough years for earning a livelihood. Hired workers were greatly affected. Also, many small merchants were forced to close their businesses. In 1931, there were Jews in the town who fell upon wagons delivering bread to the shops. Only sixty of the 1,200 hired by the town to do menial work were Jews. When World War I ended, the Zionist Histadrut organization became the major promoter of Zionism among the Jews in the town. Leon Schutzmann was its leader. In 1923, all the Zionist groups united to form a branch of this organization. At the beginning of the 1930s, this branch joined with Poale Zion and in 1934, there were 180 members listed. The General Zionists had around 150 members at the beginning of the 1930s. The work of the Mizrachi organziation that had been reactivated in 1920s grew stronger in the 30s. In this period, there was also a branch of the Revisionist Party. There was a women's WIZO group that gave basic assistance to education and culture. There were also Zionist professional groups in Borysław.

An extensive chain of youth groups existed in Borysław. At the beginning of the century, Hashomer Hatzair[28] was formed. The government disbanded this group for a period in the 1920s, claiming that it was spreading anti-government ideas. In 1930, a branch of Noar Hatzioni[29] was formed. There were also a groups of Akhva,[30] Akiva,[31] Betar,[32] Gordonia,[33] Hechalutz,[34] and General Hechalutz.

We can determine the relative influence of the Zionist organizations from the elections to the Zionist Congress.

Year General
Mizrachi Hitakhdut League
Revisionist Medina
1927 33 1 104 -- - - - -
1931 63 31 238 -- 116 -- 1 --
1933 497 14 8 723 133 6 17 68
1938 1,033 40 -- 1,033 -- 214 40 --
1939 942 137 -- 283 24 -- - --

Between the two World Wars, the majority of Jewish children in Borysław studied in public schools, even though in some of them they experienced anti-Semitism on the part of both teachers and students. Jewish religious studies in the public schools were greatly reduced. In ten public schools in 1936, there were about 1,500 Jewish children, for whom there were only three teachers of religious studies. In that same year it was announced that there would be no religious classes for Jewish students in the towns surrounding Borysław. In Tustanowice, Mraźnica, Bania Kotowska, no religious instruction was given, even though there were large numbers of Jewish students in these schools. In 1922, in the Talmud Torah[35] that had been established in 1911, there were 652 students from the age of five to fourteen in approximately five classes.

There was also Bais Yaakov, a Hebrew school that reopened and joined the network of Tarbut[36] schools after the war. This school, together the organization Theodore Herzl, also gave Hebrew courses for adults. Hebrew lessons were also given in the orphanage of the kehilla and within the framework of the Zionist organizations.

The kehilla and Jewish women's groups organized a chain of kindergartens in which the children also received a Jewish education.

Because of the general economic crisis that occurred between the two World Wars, Jewish instiutions of learning became important conduits for distributing aid to needy students. In these institutions, hundreds of hot meals were distributed daily. Clothing, books, and learning materials were also freely given. The school named after Leon Reich[37] was used as a cultural centre in the town. Concerts and theatrical productions that came from all over Poland were presented there. At the end of World War I, the kehilla of Borysław decided to separate from the kehilla of Drohobycz and be independent. Leon Kaufmann led this movement and gathered around him all the representatives of Borysław in the Drohobycz kehilla. In 1924, an appeal was made to the government for three kehillot to separate from Drohobycz. However, the request was refused at this time. The same year, the va'ad[38] of the Borysław kehilla decided to establish a Jewish cemetery and Jewish hospital in the town. The Jews of Borysław felt that it was time for them to attend to their own needs rather than being part of the Drohobycz community.

It was only in April 1928 that the government gave Borysław permission to separate. The head of the kehilla was Leon Kaufmann and the head of the secreterial committee was Leon Schutzmann. In the elections for the Council in 1930, ten different Zionist groups gained ten of the twelve seats. In the elections of 1934, Leon Schutzmann was elected chairman of the Council and Eliyahu Klinghoffer as Vice Chairman. Leon Schutzmann occupied his position until the outbreak of World War II.

The Council of Borysław improved the vital services of the kehilla, however, it ran into financial difficulties. In 1936, the budget of the kehilla was 107,020 zlotys and in 1937, 98,105. The Council's income was steadily decreasing just as need in the kehilla was increasing.

The Council of the kehilla looked after a number of communal institutions, among them an orphanage for about sixty children. In additon, these sixty children, who went to school there, also benefitted by reciving free meals. In 1936, this orphanage supplied more than 30,000 lunches and around 10,000 breakfast and evening meals. During the summer months, the Council operated a summer camp for needy families, particularly for the unemployed. Between 1934 and 1938, there were between 150 and 200 children in these summer camps.

For the needy in Borysław, there were various charitable groups: Bes Lekhem, Bikur Kholim, Hashgakha, and Moadon Khevruti. The operators of these institutions were principally women who raised funds, colllected and distributed clothing, opened kitchens, and supplied medical care.

The community was very active in promoting health. A branch of Taz[39] opened a station for fighting tuberculosis and a station for mothers and children. Medical care was provided by the Talmud Torah and the Bais Yaakov.

During the 1930s, the Chief Rabbi was David Schreiber. After his death in 1936, Rabbi Yaakov Avigdor[40] was Chief Rabbi. At the beginning of the 1930s, he was also the rabbi of Drohobycz and the entire region.

The Jews tried to guarantee themselves representation in the City Council. In the elections of 1927, a joint Jewish list was presented and nineteen Jews, twenty-two Poles and seven Ukrainians were elected. In 1939, two Jewish groups also competed for election in the City Council. One was a group without any party affiliation; it won twenty-three seats and eleven of these seats were held by Jews. Before the elections, the Polish leaders of this group promised to appoint a Jew as Deputy Mayor but they did not keep their word.

In the 1930s, the increase in anti-Semitism resulted in pogroms. Attacks on Jewish merchants who traveled in the surrounding areas became more and more frequent. In reaction to this, young people organized themselves to fight their tormentors.

World War II

In September 1939, a few days after the war broke out, many people entered Galicia and began to move in the direction of the Romanian border. Hordes of them were escaping from Western Poland as the Germans were advancing.Among the refugees were many Jews. The local kehilla provided help to those who decided to remain in the town and also to those who stayed only a short time and then continued to flee.

On September 12 1939, divisions of the German army reached Borysław. Jews were rounded up. German soldiers seized Jews for slave labour and stole Jewish property. Ukrainian nationalists followed the German example. They attacked Jews in the outskirts of the town where the Ukrainian population was in the majority. There were cases of physical harm to the Jews of the Borysław kehilla. Only when the troops of the Red army apeared at the end of Yom Kippur did these atrocities cease. Two days after Yom Kippur, the Soviets took control.

The Jewish population coonsidered the arrival of the Soviets to be an improvement since it put an end to the Nazi occupation. With nationalization, the oil wells, refineries and other industries no longer remained in Jewish hands. The kehilla ceased to function and the Jewish organizations fell apart. In the spring of 1940, Jewish community leaders and leaders of Zionist parties and the Bund were arrested. Among the important figures was: Leon Schutzmann, the head of the kehilla and a Zionist leader.

Local Jewish Communists took up positions in the City Council, industry and education. In 1940, the local Ukrainians and Soviet functionaries took charge. A significant number of Jewish Communists in Borysław continued to work with them, occupying important positions in the town. A large number of Jewsh refugees from Western Poland refused to accept Soviet citizenship and were taken away by the Soviets.

At the beginning of 1940, the Soviet government started a propoganda campaign for volunteers to work in an area that was described as very enticing and a group of young Zionists responded to this appeal. However in time, masses of them returned to Borysław because the working conditions were so difficult and the promises made were unfulfilled.

Jewish youth in Borysław availed themselves of all the educational opportunities and even left for higher education in the central cities in the area. A school was opened in Borysław in which the language of instruction was Yiddish. Private Jewish businesses started to shrink and because of heavy taxation, only a small number of them managed to keep going. Tradesmen organized cooperatives. All the Jews who suffered for different reasons ended up working in local or state positions, in a network of supplies and marketing and in industries connected with oil and wax. The large number of Jews who remained in educational institutions and participated in the cultural life of the city was noticeable.

No interference was felt in regard to religious life. Synagogues continued to exist legally and religious Jews filled them, particularly on relgious holidays. The Jewish community also organized illegal services that were necessary for observant Jews, for example: the baking of matzos for Passover, maintaining the Jewish cemetery, Jewish ritual bath houses, and Jewish bath house. Jewish orphanages and kindergartens were turned into institutions for general use.

On June 22, 1941, when war broke out between Germany and Russia, Jewish young men were called to serve in the Red Army. However, because of the rapid advance of the front and the German approach, only a few of them were able to enlist and move east. Some Jews, most of whom had worked in the institutions of the Soviet government, fled with the Russian occupiers.

The town was captured by the Germans on July 1, 1941. On that day, bodies of prisoners who had been killed before the town was captured, were found. The Ukrainians claimed that the Jews had joined forces with the Soviet government and therefore it was necessary to take revenge upon them for the murder of the prisoners. On the following day, Ukrainian farmers from the area gathered together with the local Ukrainians. A group of Polish locals joined them, led by German soldiers. They viciously murdered around 300 Jews and wounded dozens more. The mob also burst into Jewish homes and stole property.

A number of days after this pogrom, the Judenrat was established. At its head was Michael Herz who was not known for any communal work before the war. In the beginnning the job of the Judenrat was to provide people to distribute the meagre supplies that were allowed for the Jewish population, gather contrbutions for the tax that was imposed on the kehilla and organize aid for the needy.

In order to conscript people for this work, the Judenrat organized the town into sections. One Jew was put in charge of each section and was responsible for compiling a list of those who were capable and duty-bound to work. The heads of each section compiled the work list and unless someone was able to pay a bribe to be taken off the list, all Jews were organized in this manner.

In August 1941, a Jewish police force was established as a department of the Judenrat. The first chief of the Jewish police was Yonas who had formerly been a captain in the Polish army.

Between August and October 1941, many hundreds of Borysław's Jews were taken for forced labour, paticularly to repair the roads and brdges that had been badly dammaged by the Soviets during the conflict. During the work on one of the bridges, the Germans and Ukrainian police forced several hundred Jews to jump into the river. This resulted in many dead bodies floating on the river afterward.

From November 29–30 1941, Jews began to be transported in trucks for killing. The Germans and Ukrainian police rounded people up according to a list that had been prepared in advance by the local Ukrainians. There were 1500 Jews on it. They were taken to a forest nearby, unloaded, lined up and shot beside pits that had been prepared and into which their bodies fell. These pits had been dug a few days before.

One of these killing places was a forest next to a suburb of Tustanowice, near the town of Truskawiec. The majority of the victims were families suspected of being Communists. Among them were also members of the intelligentsia and community activists.

In the fall of 1941, Jews began to be rounded up for forced labour from the towns surrounding Borysław: Popiele,[41] Skole and Stryj. At first, the Judenrat tried to find young people who would be prepared to go to labour camps but when people began to hear of the terrible conditions in these camps, they would not go. As a result, the Jewish Police had to fill the German requirements by force.

The winter of 1941-1942 was very hard for the Jews of Borysław. Hunger and the war took a great toll on them. Many contracted typhoid fever. A few managed to stay in their homes and receive medical help. However, because of the extent of the epidemic, it was possible to give only minimal care to the suffering. The Judenrat's department of social assistance and a branch of the Jewish police force in the area organized public kitchens that supplied hundreds of meals daily consisting of warm soup and liquids.

In the spring of 1942, the Jews of Borysław undertook imitiatives to obtain permits that would protect them from being sent to forced labour camps. For example, they set up a number of large carpentry shops to construct furniture for the German captains who were lodged in Drohobycka Street.

At the end of July 1942, the Judenrat was instructed to provide a list of a large number of Jews for transport from the town. The Judenrat was told that these people would be taken to the east. However, the Jews of Borysław quickly understood that this meant exposure to great danger. An argument arose in the Judenrat as to whether or not it should comply with the German demand. Among those who opposed following the Germans orders was a member of the Judenrat, the architect Alsner, who was among the first victims of the round-up that took place shortly after. The Germans did not wait for further lists and they and the Ukrainian police began to act on August 4 1942. The Germans and the Ukrainian police forced themselves into the homes of the Jews and took them to an open square near the railway station. On August 5 1942, the Germans attempted to give the impression that this Aktion was finished, thereby misleading the Jews of Borysław so that they came out of hiding.At this time, further round-ups occurred and by the time the Aktion was finished on August 6 1942, there were 5,000 Jews who had been sent to their deaths in Belźec.[42]

After this transport. Two separate ghettos were established in two districts of Borysław: in Potok and in Wysypy.[43] The poorest element of the Jewish population lived in these areas; their health and living conditions were very bad. Within a few days the non-Jewish population of these areas was told to evacuate and make room for the Jews. The ghettos were open, not fenced-in, and the crowding within them was very severe.

In 1942, after he was found hiding among non-Jews, Michael Herz was replaced by Goldmann as head of the Judenrat. At the same time, many of the Jewish policement left the force. During the Aktion of August, they had tried to join the German and Ukrainian police in their search for Jews in hiding. It was decided to change the police. Volk Eisenstein was head of the Jewish police at that time and was looked upon with suspicion by the kehilla. However, the Germans agreed to his appointment and later, he had domination over the Judenrat.

In October 1942, there was another Aktion; about 1,500 Jews were sent to Belźec. After thie Aktion, the ghettos were closed and no one was allowed out. At the same time, the Jewish labourers in both ghettos who worked in the oil industry, were sent to separate labour camps in the town. Most of them worked for the Carpathian Oil Company.

At the beginning of November 1942, the two parts of the ghetto were subjected to an Aktion that lasted for about four weeks. Groups of Jews were herded into the Coloseum cinema that was located outside of the ghetto. There a selection took place. Those who could work were separated and the elderly and women and children were sent to be killed in Belźec. Small groups of those separated were sent to Janowska[44] and many others were murderd in the town itself. At the end of this Aktion around 2,000 Jews became victims.

Between the 16th and 17th of February 1943, around 600 Jews in the ghettos were shot into pits, many of which were near the kitchens of the town. By March 1943, only tradesmen, who were essential workers for the Germans, were left in the ghetto with their families. After this, there were a few central houses from which these men would go to work, accompanied by a strong force of Ukrainian policemen. There were still around 1,500 Jews in the labour camps of the town. From April 1943 on, a steady stream of Jews was taken from the remaining inhabitants of the ghetto to be killed. This continued until the end of June 1943 when the ghetto was emptied. The last essential workers were relocated to the labour camp in the town.

After the Jews realized that they all would be wiped out, especially after the Aktions of 1942, they stepped up their efforts to escape. Groups of young men and other individuals tried to reach the Hungarian border in order to enter that country where conditions for Jews were still relatively peaceful. However, many of them were caught on the way because the local farmers reported them. Some were murdered by the peasants and others handed over to the Germans for slaughter. The Jews also started to build bunkers, some in the ghetto itself but mainly in the surrounding forests. Those Jews who worked in the oil industry in the areas near the forests used the opportunity to build bunkers and stock them with supplies. Thus, in the last stage of the ghetto and also after it was emptied in June 1943, Jews began to hide in these bunkers and to establish themselves there permanently. Only those who had connections or who were responsible for food and water would go out to the city and to the labour camps where there were still some Jews. However, the Germans and Ukrainians pursued them from the beginning of 1943 until the town was liberated in August 1944 Most of them were caught and killed at the hands of the nationalist Ukrainian group under Bandera,[45] who were active in the forests around Borysław in the first half of 1944.

In April 1944, the Germans emptied out the labour camp in the town and on April 13,1944, around 600 Jews were transferred to the Plaszów[46] labour camp. In May and June, additional Jews were transferred to Plaszów and Mauthausen[47] from the camp in Borysław.

In Borysław, there were pockets of resistance in the labour camps to the Nazis and their helpers. One of those who led the resistance was L. Hoffman.[48] He was killed in his attempt to use a weapon to kill a German who was in charge of the camp. Also, among the groups who hid in the forests, there were Jews who were outfitted with weapons which they used against their pursuers.

When the city was liberated by the Soviets on August 7, 1944, about 200 Jews who had survived by hiding in bunkers came together. During the following few months, they were joined by another 200 who had served in the Soviet army, as well as those who had survived the Nazi concentration camps. These remaining Jews of Borysław began to build memorials to those who had perished. The places where Jews had been led to be killed in the town and the surrounding areas were fenced off. There was a search for those among the local population who had collaborated with the Germans in order to bring them to justice. In 1945 and 1946, most of the remaining Jews left and went to Poland. From there they continued on their way to the Land of Israel or to other countries.In the 1950s and '60s, there were just a few Jews in Borysław, most of whom had not been born there.


  1. Bikur Kholim: to look after the sick Return
  2. Agudah Hakhneset Kallah: assistance for needy brides Return
  3. Linat Tzedek: for those who needed a place to sleep Return
  4. Joseph Hecker: was born in Prague. While working as a salt mine inspector in the area around Borysław around 1810, he began to distil oil that he found in the area. His distillate was used to light streets in Drohobycz and the army barracks in Sambor. He entered into a contract with the City of Prague to supply his distillate to light the streets of the city but was unable to fulfill the contract and lost his business. Return
  5. Abraham Schreiner (1805-1898): Schreiner experimented with distilling crude oil and managed to create a liquid that could be burned. It was not perfectly clear and odourless. He sold his distillate to local pharmacies, including one in Lemberg owned by Piotr Mikołasz. There, two of Mikołasz's apprentices purified the distillate and created a pure naphtha. Schreiner dug for oil and sold large quantities to the Austrian Northern Railway for lighting. He also operated a refinery that twice was destroyed by fire. Schreiner ended his life in poverty. Return
  6. The mineral wax, or ozokerite, that was mined in the Borysław area, was usd to make candles. Schreiner would not have used boiled wax as a lubricant for wagon wheels. He would have boiled crude oil for this purpose as the local peasants had done for centuries. It is said that in the process of boiling the crude oil, he collected the liquid that collected on the lid of the vessel to create his first distillate. Return
  7. Ignacy Łukasiewicz (1822-1882): was a pharmacist's apprentice in the pharmacy belonging to Piotr Mikołasz in Lwów. When Abraham Schreiner sold some of his distilled crude oil to the pharmacy, Łukasiewicz and his associate Jan Zeh were asked by Mikołasz to use it to make oleum petrae, a substance used in pharmaceutical preparations. Jan Zeh, who had worked in a pharmacy in Sambor, was familiar with the distillation process and began to work to find the correct fraction to produce a purer naphtha. He succeeded with the help of Łukasiewicz, who then worked with a tinsmith to make a lamp to burn the oil. Łukasiewicz is credited with the discovery of naphtha. Return
  8. kasirer (Polish): originally a person who accounts for the money in a business. In a wax enterprise, it came to mean “technical chief”. This term refers to the management level in the mining business. Return
  9. Baroness Hirsch: Mme Baroness Hirsch (née Clara Bischoffsheim, 1833-1899), the wife of Baron Maurice de Hirsch and a wealthy woman in her own right (being the daughter of the principal partner of the International Bank of Bischoffsheim & Goldschmidt), was responsible for the personal philanthropic activities of the Hirsch family. Return
  10. Ahavat Tzion: Lovers of Zion. The organization was founded in Tarnów in 1897 with the aim of promoting settlement in the Land of Israel.Return
  11. aliyah: meaning “ascent” refers to immigration to the land of Israel. Return
  12. lebak: a person who gathered the crude oil that collected on the surface of water or leaked from the pipelines into the nearby Tysmenica river. They skimmed the oil from the water and sold it to make a meager living. Return
  13. Histadrut: Zionist Workers' Union Return
  14. Mizrachi: The Mizrachi, an acronym for Merkaz Ruhani or “religious centre” is the name of the religious Zionist organization founded in 1902 in Vilna at a world conference of religious Zionists. Bnei Akiva, founded in 1929, is the youth movement associated with Mizrachi. The Mizrachi philosophy considered Jewish Nationalism as a tool for achieving religious objectives. Return
  15. Poale Zion: Poale Zion or Workers of Zion was a movement of Marxist Zionist Jewish workers' circles founded in various Russian cities about the turn of the century after the Bund rejected Zionism in 1901. It believed not only in the Marxist view of history but also in Jewish nationalism. Return
  16. Baron Hirsch Schools: Primary schools established in Galicia in 1888 as part of Baron Maurice Hirsch's program to aid the Jews of Galicia. Return
  17. Safra Brura: clear language Return
  18. Hamagid: Hamagid was the first Hebrew newspaper established in Europe in 1856. It was published initially in Odessa and in 1872 moved to St. Petersburg. Return
  19. maskilim: maskilim or enlightened ones were adherents of the haskalah movement that began in the late eighteenth century and advocated adopting enlightenment values, pressing for better integration into European society, and increasing education in secular studies, Hebrew, and Jewish history. Return
  20. My Lips Sing, Drohobycz, 1892 Return
  21. Der yud: “The Jew” published between the years 1899 and 1902 was printed in Kraków but edited by Yehoshua Hana Rawnitzky in Odessa. Return
  22. Die Welt: “The World”, a weekly Zionist newspaper in the German language published between the years 1897 and 1914, was founded by Theodore Herzl. Return
  23. Aaron Liebermann: has been described as the “Father of Jewish Socialism,” and was also a leading anarchist philosopher, active in Russia and England. Return
  24. Ha'ohev amo v'eretz moledeto: One who loves his people and the land of his birth. Return
  25. The Hebrew name of this organization means pursuers of justice. Return
  26. Agudat Israel: World Agudath Israel was established in 1912 at a conference held in Katowice after the Tenth World Zionist Congress had defeated a motion by Torah Zionists Mizrachi for funding for yeshivas. It gained a significant following, particularly among khasidic Jews and even won seats in that Poland's parliament (Sejm). Return
  27. The Bund: Jewish Labor Bund (General Jewish Labour Union of Lithuania, Poland and Russia), was a Jewish political party that flourished mainly between the 1890s and the 1930s. Return
  28. Hashomer Hatzair: Hashomer Hatzair, the first Zionist youth movement, was founded in Eastern Europe on the eve of the First World War, the result of the merger of two groups, Hashomer (“The Guard”) a Zionist scouting group, and Ze'irei Zion (“The Youth of Zion”) an ideological circle that studied Zionism, left wing socialism and Jewish history. Hashomer Hatzair believed that the liberation of Jewish youth could be accomplished by aliya (“emigration”) to Palestine and living in kibbutzim. Return
  29. Noar Hatzioni: “ Noar Hatzioni “Zionist Youth” is a pioneering Zionist scouting youth movement that was founded in Poland in 1932. Return
  30. Akhva: Akhva means brotherhood. Return
  31. Akiva: The youth section of the Mizrachi movement, Bnei Akiva first came into existence in the late 1920s, following World War I, when the League of Nations granted Britain the mandate over Palestine. Return
  32. Betar: (the name is formed from the intitals of Brit Yosef Trumpeldor) is the educational youth movement of the Revisionist Zionist Organization and subsequently, the Herut movement, founded in 1923 in Riga, Latvia, by Ze'ev Jabotinsky. The ideology of Betar included the establishment of a Jewish state in all of the territory of Palestine, in gathering of the exiles, in Zionism without a socialist component, in a just society, military training for self-defense and a pioneering spirit. Return
  33. Gordonia: was a Zionist pioneering youth movement named for Aaron David Gordon, a philosopher of Labor Zionism who idealized physical labor, cooperation, mutual aid and human values. Founded in 1925 in Poland, it gradually became a worldwide movement. Return
  34. Hechalutz: a worldwide federation of Zionist youth, embraced various movements that encouraged young people to settle in Palestine and trained them for labor and rural settlement there. Return
  35. Talmud Torah: Talmud Torah schools were created throughout the Jewish world as a form of public primary school for boys of modest backgrounds, to give them an elementary education in Hebrew, the Scriptures and the Talmud. This was meant to prepare them for Yeshiva or later, for Jewish education at a high school level. Return
  36. Tarbut: Tarbut ran a Zionist network of Hebrew-language educational institutions, mainly in Poland, Romania and Lithuania. It was founded in 1922. Return
  37. Leon Reich: Dr. Leon Reich (1879-1929) born in Lemberg, joined the Zionist movement in his youth and founded the first Zionist students' union in Galicia. After studying in Paris he became known as a lecturer and writer. As head of the Galician Zionist movement he was also involved in the political struggle for the civil rights of Jews and was a candidate for the Austrian parliament in the elections of 1911. Return
  38. va'ad: executive committee. Return
  39. Taz: an organziation dedicated to health. Return
  40. Rabbi Yaakov Avigdor (1896–1967): Born in Galicia, he was ordained at the young age of sixteen years. Later he attended the universities of Kraków and Lwów, obtaining a Ph.D in Philosophy. He was named Chief Rabbi of Drohobych and Borysław in 1920, where he officiated until the Nazi occupation. After his liberation from the Buchenwald concentration camp, he emigrated to the U.S. in 1946, to take a position in Brooklyn, NY. In 1952, he was offered the rabbinate of Mexico which he held until his death in 1967. Return
  41. Popiele: a town to the west of Borysław that had five Jewish families. (Thanks to Mordecai Markel for this information.) Return
  42. Belźec: was the first of the Nazi German extermination camps created in 1942 to implement Operation Reinhard, the extermination of the Polish Jews. It was situated in occupied Poland in the Lublin district of the General Government. Return
  43. Wysypy: also called Derby, was a very poor neighbourhood close to Potok that had been a place where miners lived. In Polish, wyspy means tailings or waste from mines. (Thanks to Mordecai Markel and Alex Sharon for this information.) Return
  44. Janowska: was a Nazi labor, transit and concentration camp established in September 1941 on the outskirts of Lwów. Return
  45. Bandera: Stepan Andriyovych Bandera (1909–1959) was a Ukrainian nationalist leader who headed the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). Although condemned to death for the murder of the Home Secretary of Poland in 1934, his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Released by the USSR when the Soviets occupied Lwów in 1939, he led a revolutionary group that broke away from the OUN and formed a separate organization known as the Banderivtsi. From July 1941 to September 1944 he was imprisoned in a German concentration camp. After the war he was elected head of the OUN. In 1959 he was murdered n Munich by Soviet agents. Return
  46. Płaszów: was a Nazi German concentration camp near Kraków. Return
  47. Mauthausen: Mauthausen concentration camp (known from the summer of 1940 as Mauthausen-Gusen) grew to become one of the largest camps that was devoted to extermination through labour. Return
  48. Lonek Hoffman Return

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