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[Page I]


After many years of great effort, we have been able to publish a book in memory of the Jewish Communities of Sambor and Stari-Sambor, which were and are no more.

It has fallen upon us, the few who survived. To put into the pages of a book the story of the extremely active life of our Communities before their destruction, and to memorialize our dear ones – parents, brothers and sisters, colleagues. The book will be a literary monument to them, the chain will not be broken and there will not be forgotten the values that were a light until our generations, those values owing to which we have reached our goal.

It is with great reverence that we have approached the publication of a special testament of this kind to all those who were uprooted, murdered, burnt – all those whose life was extinguished.

For this is not only our obligation to our past. It is, no less, necessary for the sake of our future, for the future of our children and all our descendants, that they may learn a lesson from our dispersion among the nations, a lesson of a homeless people in the past, whose future lot and even its existence depend on the future and existence of our ancient-new homeland. Only then will they understand that all the efforts of the past generations to establish their independence were not in vain, that any sacrifice is not too great to safeguard of independence and to guarantee our existence in the future.

Despite all our attempts, it is obvious that not the whole history of Sambor and Stari-Sambor – their organizations and institutions, and the people who lived there – have been given full and comprehensive expression in this book. We do not believe that we have exhausted the subject and arrived at a complete picture, although, sparing no efforts, we did everything possible to carry out the task that we placed before us. We applied to all former inhabitants of our cities, in Israel and abroad, asking them to provide us with records, recollections, documents, photographs and material of any kind pertaining to our Jewish Communities. Only a few, however, responded to our unceasing appeals.

The editor of the book, the writer Alexander Manor, therefore, was faced with an incomparably difficult task, to glean information, line by line, bit by bit, from the material found in archives, libraries, old letters, and articles in different languages that had appeared in the distant and near past. In addition, it was necessary to interview several scores of former Sambor people scattered all over the country, and then to add letter to letter, fragment to fragment, chapter to chapter, so as to paint a faithful picture that would reflect the history of our Jewish Communities before the Holocaust, during and after it. With all this, however, it is clear that not yet has all been done. The book is finished, but it is still incomplete.

The Editorial Board

[Page II]

History of the Cities Sambor and Stari-Sambor

Stari-Sambor to Novi-Sambor

The history of the cities Sambor and Stari-Sambor, situation in Galicia, in the Lvov district by the Dniester, begins where today there is the place known as Stari-Sambor. This was founded in the 12th century and served as an important center of the Halich princedom. In the 13th century, the Tatars destroyed it, and in the year 1241 it was burnt down.

Part of the Stari-Sambor population, especially the weavers, moved to a village called Pononicz, at a distance of some twelve kilometers from the old town, and it was called Novi-Sambor (new Sambor) to distinguish it from old Sambor. The latter began to be called Stari-Sambor, or the old city.

The village of Pohonicz was first under the rule of Russia; in 1340 it was annexed to Poland.

The foundations of the future city of Sambor were laid in 1390 by the governor of Krakow, Spitko from Melstin (Spytko z Melsztyna), a companion and adviser to the Polish king Vladislav Yagelo (1396-1434) in his war expeditions. The king granted his loyal companion, for his military services, enormous pieces of land, from Dovromil to Stri.

Spitko, evaluating the importance of Pohonicz, left a document dated 13 December 1390 addressed to the Wojt (Mukhtar), Henrik from Landshut, permitting him to establish a city in Pohonicz to be called Novi-Sambor, granting it the rights of Magdeburg.

It is not possible to determine exactly when the village of Pohonicz was founded because of the lack of historical sources. It may be assumed that, it being on the important commercial and strategic crossroads near the Dniester and its tributary Mlinuvka, it served as a worth center for fortification and defense. Despite the fact that the village of Pohonicz was raised to the status of a city and its name changed to Novi-Sambor, we find in official documents up to the year 1450 that the city was called by two names: Sambor or Novi-Sambor, formerly Pohonicz.

Sambor is situated on what is almost an island formed between two parallel rivers, the one distant from the other by a few kilometers – the Dniester on one side and the Strwionz on the other – which come together after Sambor in the vicinity of Dolubova. In the pre-historic period the Dniester, at a distance of about three kilometers from Sambor, created a special kind of tributary called Mlinuvka, which, separating completely from the Dniester, falls into the river Strwionz. The Dniester and the Mlinuvka add a natural charm to Sambor.

The grant of municipal rights led to people flocking to the city – Poles, Germans, Russians and Jews.

From the city's founding, Spitko saw to its development and granted it many rights. In January 1394, King Vladislav Yagelo, at Spitko's request, exempted the inhabitants from paying various taxes. Not for very long, however, did Sambor benefit from his actions for the good of the city. In 1399 Spitko participated in the war against the Tatars, in which he was killed on 12 August 1399 near the river Worskla. After his death, the Sambor properties passed to his wife, Elzbieta Melsztinska.

In the earliest times, Sambor had natural conditions for development of commerce, lying as it did on the important commercial route where the Baltic Sea, through the river San, and the Black Sea, through the river Dniester, are connected. The Dniester had already played an important role as a natural water route leading to Akerman near the Black Sea. From there, the Greek merchants reached the land of Scythia with their products. Through Sambor, an important dry land route also led to Hungary, and by this passage to the borders of Poland, merchandise was brought such as timber, salt, cattle, fox and bear skins, honey, and from Hungary, particularly wines. The Sambor merchants would purchase from the Hungarian merchants wines, horses, leather, cloth and various fruits.

From Sambor there was also a road to Lvov through Rudki and Komarno, which connected it with the commercial center of goods from the east, making Sambor an important commercial juncture.

[Page III]


History of the City

Sambor was rebuilt several times. In 1498, when Poland was attacked by the Turks and the Tatars, it was burnt down completely. And before the population had recovered from this disaster, the city was threatened, in 1515, by an invasion by the Tatars.

In the 16th century, a new Sambor was established on the ruins of the burnt out wooden houses.

In 1530, in view of all the invasions and attacks on the city, the Starosta (district governor) Kzistof Odrovonz Shidlovski surrounded it with a thick wall and deep trenches, to enable it to be defended. For two hundred and fifty years Sambor, thus enclosed, was compelled to shrink, limiting itself to narrow streets, without any possibility of expanding and developing naturally. The city was frozen into restricting borders until the first years of the Austrian conquest, on which we shall dwell later.

The city's walls, gates and towers were of much concern to the city fathers, who imposed heavy taxes on the population to cover the costs of safeguarding them for defense. Furthermore, each of the eleven artisans' guilds in the city had to take upon itself the obligation to guard and defend a certain part of the wall, as well as to provide arms at its own expense.

In the center of the market place stood Ratusz (City Hall), with a clock tower on it. This building, the most important in the rebuilt city, was entirely destroyed in 1637 in a fire that wiped out almost all of Sambor. The new Ratusz was completed only in 1668, and then, for the first time, at the top of the tower the city emblem was unfurled: a deer with an arrow in its throat.

The Royal Palace

Second in importance for defense was the royal palace, which was situated outside the city walls, in the suburb of Blich. At first it was built of wood and was burnt down in 1498. When the Starosta Shidlovski rebuilt it in 1530, near the Dniester, he built it as a fortress, surrounded by moats, behind which were earthen walls.

In the royal palace, which was the seat of the Starosta, there was, besides the service workers numbering sixty-five in 1569, a garrison composed of infantry and cavalry. This army was intended not only to protect the palace, but also to safeguard the peace and security of Sambor and the vicinity. Furthermore, it was needed to stamp out gangs which would infiltrate from Hungary and spread panic in the neighborhood.

The royal palace of Sambor had the honor to host within it almost all the kings of Poland and heads of state; many splendid receptions were held there with the participation of the city's notables.


Sambor, concentrated in a small area within the walls surrounding it, experienced many fires, some of them accidental. In 1585, an accidental fire broke out which destroyed almost half the city. The fire in 1637 was even more terrible, with nearly the whole city, except for one street, being burnt down. On 19 October 1779, a huge blaze razed 144 houses.


The city was also hit by floods, the worst in 1688 and 1700. The waters of the Dniester rose and overflowed its banks. The streams of water from the hills swept away whole houses, drowning corpses of humans and cattle. The people climbed trees to save themselves.


From time to time, mainly in the summer months, epidemics raged in the city which took their toll of many lives. In 1705, about two-thirds of the inhabitants died of cholera. The cemeteries were filled to capacity and it was necessary to bury the dead in parks. Barely some 1300 people remained alive in Sambor. The epidemic of 1771 first broke out in the Jewish quarter of Blich, claiming 400 victims. From Blich it spread to the city, taking over 3,000 lives.


In 1846 and 1847 one of the greatest misfortunes befell Sambor: famine. The population was fed on wild grass and leaves, and many died of hunger.

The first school

From Sambor's founding, there was a Church school there, the language of instruction being Latin.

The first printing press

The first printing press was founded in about 1617, in the village of Uherec, near Sambor. In 1618 the first Russian book, entitled "Sobranje wokratce slowec w Uhercach" was published in Uherec.

The population

Up to the 19th century there were no official statistics concerning the number of residents in Sambor. The researchers therefore rely on the records that were retained about the number of houses in the city, and according to that number, they ascertain the number of residents.

In 1568 there were 536 houses in Sambor and its suburbs. According to the researchers, an average of seven persons dwelt in each house, so that, in the aforementioned year, the population apparently numbered 3,752. The researcher and historian A. Yablonovski determined that in 1568 there were 4,015 persons in Novi-Sambor and 105 in Stari-Sambor. The researcher and historian A. Prohaska concluded that Sambor had 4,130 inhabitants in 1578.

According to the calculations, there were 3,486 inhabitants in 1760. The number was smaller in the 18th century than it had been in the 16th and 17th, due to the diminution of the population in 1705 as a result of the cholera epidemic.

Official statistics exist, however, from the 19th and 20th centuries, according to which Sambor had, in 1828, 1,281 houses and 8,616 inhabitants, and in 1869, 1,900 houses and 11,749 residents.

According to religion, there were in 1880:

Roman Catholics 7,049
Greek Catholic 2,073
Religion of Moses (Jews) 4,427
Various religions 37
Total 3,586

Population from 1890 to 1935

1890 14,324
1900 17,039
1906 17,093
1910 20,257
1921 19,417
1931 22,269
(54% Poles, 28.7% Jews: 16.5% Russians)
1935 25,000

Sambor in the History of Poland and Russia

In the royal palace in Sambor the Starosta, Yezi Mnishek, hatched a plan to set upon the throne of the Russian Czar his daughter Marina by marring her to the future Czar of Russia. Dmitri the First, Dmitri the Impostor.

This was one of the most daring plots in history, which was liable to effect a complete change in the history of Poland. It was supported by the Polish king and important statesmen, in the hope of acquiring the Moscow Orthodox Empire for the Catholic Church, and creating, under the scepter of the king of Poland, a mighty Slavic kingdom. At the beginning of the 17th century, the names Sambor and the Sambor Starosta Mnishek were on the lips of all the diplomats of the European states. The Catholic Church and the Pope in Rome followed the course of events with bated breath, in the hope that the success of this Polish policy would bring much benefit to the Catholic Church in the East.

Days full of dramatic tension and a tragic end inspired writers, poets, sculptors and painters to create important works woven around the fate of Marina Mnishek, the Czarist [sic] of Russia, and Dmitri the Impostor, the Czar of all Russia on the background of the romantic royal palace in Sambor on the banks of the Dniester.

Following is a brief account of the course of events.

In 1603 there appeared in Poland Dmitri the Impostor, who claimed that he was Dmitri the son of the Russian Czar Ivan the Terrible, who had escaped from the murderers sent by the Czar Boris Godunov. Dmitri found himself supporters among the rulers of Poland, who saw in him a tool to serve them in their policy toward Moscow, as well as among Jesuits in Poland, who hoped, through him, to have Roman Catholicism rule in Moscow.

Dmitri the Impostor was brought to Sambor, where he stayed in the royal palace, together with the Starosta Yezi Mnishek, for three months, December 1603 to February 1604. Dmitri was received by the king of Poland, Zigmunt the Third, and at the beginning of 1604, returned to Sambor. Here he signed a document in which he undertook, after his assumption of the throne of the Russian Czar, that he would marry Marina, daughter of Yezi Mnishek (Starosta of Sambor and governor of Sandomiez), that he would aim at a merger of the Russian Church with the Roman Catholic Church, and that he would reimburse Mnishek with all the expenses incurred in connection with his journey to Russia.

During four months, from May until 14 August 1604, the city of Sambor became a center in which European politics were concentrated. From the royal palace, emissaries went out to various states; proclamations were issued to the Cossacks, epistles sent to the capital of the Pope, in Rome.

Refugees from Moscow, those opposing Czar Boris Godunov, the leaders of the Cossacks and sundry spies arrived in Sambor, and the troops of the Polish army were also concentrated in the city.

On 28 April 1604, Dmitri and Yezi Mnishek left Sambor on their way to Moscow at the head of an army and volunteers. En route, they were joined by additional units and on 23 October 1604 crossed the Polish-Russian border. But here they met with opposition from Czar Boris Godunov's army. For several months, battles took place between the Polish and Russian armies, which were indecisive. On 13 April 1605, however, after the sudden death of Boris Godunov, who had been poisoned, Dmitri, with the support of Poland and the Don Cossacks, conquered Moscow, killed Fyodor the Second, son of Boris Godunov, who had been crowned Czar and had reigned after his father.

Before Marina Mnishek left for Moscow to place the crown of the queen of Russia on her head, she came to Sambor on 11 February 1606, to spend several weeks there in the company of her family and friends. On 2 March her bridal journey left Sambor. The entourage, headed by Yezi Mnishek, numbered some thousand persons. On crossing the Polish-Russian border it had already numbered about 2,200.

On 18 May 1606, Marina was crowned queen and on 19 May the wedding took place.

However, throughout all the days when the splendid parties and magnificent celebrations were continuing in honor of the invited guests, a conspiracy to murder Dmitri and the Poles was being hatched by Dmitri's opponents, headed by Prince Bazili Shuiski, who had previously been pardoned by Dmitri. Riots broke out in which Dmitri was killed, three-quarters of a year after having been crowned Czar.

The image of the Czar Dmitri has been perpetuated in Russian literature by the greatest of Russian poets, Alexander Pushkin, in his play "Boris Godunov," and in German literature by Friedrich Schiller and Friedrich Hebel, the latter presenting Dmitri the Impostor not as a cheat (as in Schiller's play) but as a noble misguided man with an exalted view of the mission of a ruler.

Queen Marina's father died in Sambor on 16 May 1615, and was buried there in the church of the Bernards.

Period of the Austrian Conquest

On 5 August 1772, the three Powers, Russia, Austria and Prussia, signed an agreement for the first partition of Poland. Austria received most of Eastern and part of Western Galicia, and Sambor was included within the Austrian borders.

With its transfer to Austrian rule, tremendous changes occurred in Sambor. It became a center for important Austrian offices, with German or Czech officials. An Austrian infantry regiment settled there. In the public places and during the royal festivities there began to be heard more and more the sounds of the German language.

Demolition of the City Walls

Because of the change in warfare methods and in views regarding the importance of defense walls, an end came to the city's enclosure within walls. In accordance with a royal decree of 1784, the city walls, which had so hindered its development and growth, began to be demolished. The inhabitants were permitted to make free use of the bricks and stones from the walls. In place of the wall, new roads were laid, which aided the city's expansion and its release from the restrictions of the Middle Ages. The Austrian rulers were also not interested in preserving the royal palace, whose walls began to crumble. In 1792, they sold the palace, with the surrounding houses, to the city government. The latter turned the palace into a brewery, which was liquidated at the end of the 19th century. From the bricks of this factory, the city hospital was built some time later.

In 1788, King Joseph the Second of Austria raised Sambor to the status of a royal free city, left it within its previous borders and reorganized the administrative and judicial government.

The city continued to develop; in the second half of the 19th century, it grew numerically, industrially and commercially. From an average of five thousand residents in the 18th century, the population increased to an average of eight thousand in the first half of the 19th; in the second half of the 19th century to 12,000-14,000, and in the first half of the 20th, from 17,000 to 25,000.

A threefold increase in population during several decades was due, in the main, to the fact that the village population had moved to the city, and to the development of transport with the building of a railway, which aided in the growth of commerce and industry. The railway made possible important connections with almost all parts of the world, and Sambor was given the opportunity to send its agricultural produce to the industrialized countries of the Austrian Empire. It began to export considerable quantities of grains, cattle, poultry, eggs and also timber.

In 1889 there were the following industrial, commercial and artisan enterprises in the city: matches, oil and soap factories, an enterprise for refining alcohol, a brewery, an enterprise producing wines and liquers, two flour mills, an iron smelting plant. There were also 39 haberdashery and leather shops, 107 various other shops, 85 taverns, 7 popular restaurants, 2 delicatessens, one café. Artisans included 65 shoemakers, 38 tailors, 22 coopers, 8 tinsmiths, 7 blacksmiths, 6 builders, 6 tanners, 6 watchmakers, 4 locksmiths, 2 saddle makers and two photographers. The city had 26 slaughterers.

As the population grew, more industry and commerce developed, and the number of houses and public buildings increased.

Hospitals and Pharmacies

In 1889 there were two hospitals, one that had been established in 1825, with 50 beds, and opposite it the Jewish hospital, built by Yehoshua Gothelf, with 12 beds. In that year, too, the city had six physicians, all general practitioners, two surgeons and seven midwives.

In the city's records, mention is made of a pharmacist in 1588, and another one in 1660. In 1889 there were two pharmacies.

Period of the First World War

Sambor was under Austrian rule from 1772 to 1914. In mid-September 1914, with the advance of the Russian army, the Austrian troops left the city. Some of the inhabitants left together with the Austrian army. The majority remained, anticipating with fear the entry of the Cossacks. And, indeed, their fears were not unfounded. Immediately on their entry, the Cossacks spread out in the streets, broke into the houses, raped women and robbed everything that came to hand. They looted homes and shops and left great destruction after them.

From one Rule to Another

In October 1918 Sambor was occupied by the Ukrainians and government all over the city's institutions was transferred to them. But their stay was a brief one, lasting only seven months. On 16 May 1919 the Ukrainian army left the city and on the morrow the Polish army entered it. Sambor became part of independent Poland, and remained under Polish rule up to the outbreak of the Second World Was in 1939.

On 1 July 1941, Sambor was conquered by the Germans. In August 1944, with the Soviet conquest, it was annexed to Russia and became part of the Ukraine.

[Page X]

Jewish Sambor over the Various Periods

As far as can be ascertained from documents of the time, the first Jews arrived in Sambor at the beginning of the 15th century. First mention of the Jews there dates to 1447; twelve Jewish families lived there in the years 1447 – 1450. In 1507 the Jews of Sambor paid fifteen pieces of gold to the king on the occasion of his coronation.

In 1519 King Zigmunt the First notified the Starosta of Sambor (among others) that he was granting the Jews the right to live in any place they chose and to conduct their own affairs. On 10 April 1540, Zigmunt issued a decree ordering all customs collectors not to collect from the Jews more customs duties than the law permitted.

The freedom granted the Jews to dwell in the city and to do business there aroused the wrath of the Christian merchants, who regarded the Jews as hard competitors. Without the ability to compete successfully with them, they began to complain to the king, demanding that the Jewish merchants be sent outside the city walls and be forbidden to engage in commerce. In 1542 they succeeded in obtaining from King Zigmunt the First a royal decree forbidding Jews to be within the city walls and to do business there on regular market days; they could do so only during fairs. Since it was not said clearly in the royal decree that they were not allowed to live within the city, the Jews continued to be found there and to engage secretly in commerce. This led to new complaints to King Zigmunt August by the city people, which resulted in a new royal decree in 1551, forbidding Jews not only to engage in commerce, but also not to be found within the city except on regular market days, when they were permitted to come there.

This last decree compelled the Jews to leave the city and to dwell outside the walls, in a separate quarter called Blich. The suburb was named after the king's building situated near the palace which served for bleaching cloth (Blichowanie) made by the weavers engaged in its production.

In the 16th century, several cities and larger town were ordered by royal decree not to permit Jews to dwell there. These decrees were called Privilegum de non Tolerandis Judaeis (privileges pertaining to non-tolerance of Jews). Sambor, too, was included in the orders.

These cruel decrees, however, and the city people's war against the Jews were not able to slow down the constant growth of Jewish settlement. The Jews would take advantage of every legal and semi-legal opportunity. Jewish merchants, for example, were permitted, under the decrees, to visit fairs in the cities.

The cities themselves realized that the fair would not achieve their purpose without the participation of the Jewish merchants and artisans. The Jews who had access to the cities, aided by rich Christian merchants who were in business contact with them, would invent all kinds of tricks to remain there also after the fairs.

In smaller cities the Jews would settle in the suburbs, estates which were owned by the Starosta, the gentry, priests and monasteries, and which had been allotted to them by the city or town and were declared juridicus, that is, quarters not subject to the city's judicial authorities. Sambor was an example of this kind of intermediate royal city. From these quarters the Jews spread out in time to the adjacent streets and quarters which were administered by the city.

After the Sambor Jews had settled in the suburb of Blich, they later penetrated into the city itself and in time created there a relatively large Jewish Community. And if, in 1542, Sambor, too, was still subject to a royal decree forbidding Jews to live in the city. In later royal decrees Jews were specifically given the right to enter it for the fairs. With the protection of the nobility, the Jews settled within the city as well during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Undoubtedly, the Jewish population in Sambor grew from year to year, despite the royal decrees to leave the city and live outside its walls. At the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th, Jewish settlement in Sambor was second in size and importance in all the Pszemishel area.

In 1569, there were 170 Jewish houses out of a total of 536, that is, 31.7 percent. The Polish researcher, Alexander Yablonovski, suggested calculating the number of Jews by multiplying the number of houses by twelve. He thus reached the conclusion that there were 2,040 Jews in Sambor (12x170) – about 50 percent of the total population, which was then 4,000. On the other hand, the researcher Alexander Kutchera opposed this estimate. On the basis of various combinations and calculations, he concluded that the number of persons in each Jewish house was at the most nine, and therefore the number of Jews in Sambor was 1,530 (9x170). According to his calculations, the Jewish population in relation to that of the entire city was 37 to 38 percent.

From 1551 to 1648 there was practically no change in the number of the city's inhabitants and the number of Jews, the relation between the Jewish and Christian populations remaining the same.

In 1588 the Jews of Blich entering the city paid a stop-over tax. Many of the local Jews rented flour mills and breweries, having reached an agreement with the city leaders against payment. But the city's masses and church leaders constantly incited against them. Of the leading Jewish tenants of these enterprises the following are known: Avraham Moscovitz, Eliezer Paskovitz, and Zandel, who rented breweries which produced beer for Sambor and the vicinity.

A lessee of flour mills in that year, Yitzhak Zelikovitz, submitted a complaint to the king blaming the nobleman, Michal Wongzyn, of confiscating merchandise from him. Another lessee of a flour mill, Aharon Yacubovitz, in 1631 complained to the king that one of his officials, the Starosta Hernilaus, drove him away from the place he had rented, imprisoned him and his son-in-law, confiscated his houses and caused a lot of damage to him and other Jews.

In 1682, an attempt was made to expel the Jews not only from the city but also from the suburb of Blich, but the expulsion was avoided when an agreement was signed between the Jews of Blich and the city of Sambor under which the Jews were permitted to come to the market days and the fairs taking place on payment of eight thousand zloty. The Jewish Community of Pszemishel, to which the Blich-Sambor Jewish Community was subject, gave a guarantee for this sum, and the Jews of Sambor undertook to pay this debt, half in annual payments and half collected from every Jew in Sambor who came to the market in Pszemishel.

In 1724, the city dwellers in Sambor and its suburbs protested that the Jews were producing alcohol and trading in it, under the sponsorship of the administrator of the royal estates. In 1732, the Jews of Blich applied to the king to cancel the royal privilegum of the 16th century on "non-tolerance" of the Jews, claiming that the 1532 document had been forged. The king did not accept this argument, but permitted the Jews of Blich to come to Sambor all days of the year and to market their products there freely. Under this decree, too, they were allowed officially to maintain a synagogue and a cemetery in Blich, and one butcher for their needs. They were further permitted to reside on the lands of the fortress belonging to the king and under his jurisdiction. In 1740, this permit was renewed by the Polish king who followed him.

In 1742, senior members of the City Council protested against the citizens of Sambor who made commercial agreements with the Jews.

In 1763, the Sambor Jews received a permit to build a new magnificent synagogue which, apparently, was completed only at the end of the 18th century, and, with repairs made from time to time, existed until the destruction of the Jewish Community.

Printing Press

During the reign of August the Third (17235-1763) two Jewish printing presses were opened, which received royal privileges. One of them specialized in printing calendars.

Rise and Fall in the Number of Jews

According to the official census of 1764, the Sambor Jewish Community numbered 513 souls from the age of one. At the end of the 17th century, the number had been more or less similar to that in the middle of the 16th and the start of the 17th. After the cholera epidemic of 1705, however, when two-thirds of the Sambor population died, the number of Jews fell, to the extent that in Blich there remained barely 37 Jewish homes where the people living there were not affected. In the following years, the number rose. In 1889, the most fruitful period, there were 4,427 Jews – 32.6 percent of the total population of 13, 586.

Structure of the Jewish Community

With their move to the suburb of Blich, the Jews of Sambor set up a separate Jewish Community. At its head was a committee of twelve dignitaries or "heads of the community," who were elected each year by members of the community. Until the end of the 16th century, the committee required the approval of the governor – it was under the patronage and supervision of the governor.

The committee members were sworn in by an oath of loyalty to the Polish king and were responsible to the authorities. Every month, one of them, the "leader of the month," was head of the community. Also included in the committee were three to five "good" Jews, who fulfilled judicial tasks in the district courts. The committee members held various posts in the independent government of the Community, dealing with such matters as religion, jurisdiction, health, collection of funds, ransoming prisoners, and so on.

The personality of first rank in the Community was the Rabbi. He signed decisions, dealt with all sorts of elections, children's education, and so on. The Rabbi was a paid official. Up to 1551 he had to have the king's approval; later, he was elected by members of the Community with the approval of the governor. The Rabbi's house, as well as several public buildings, the synagogue, the hospital, the shelter and some others were exempt from taxes.

In the second half of the 18th century the Blich-Sambor Jewish Community became a Community standing on its own, with all the institutions of an independent authority, as accepted in Poland in general and in Galicia in particular.

The Ancient Jewish Cemetery

The old 15th century Jewish cemetery in Sambor was preserved up to the Second World War. Then it went out of use.

One of the graves in it was that of Rabbi Yitzhak Charif (Eisenberg), who died in 1813. Alongside his grave, there was a tombstone from the year 1794 and over it the Polish eagle; according to the Hebrew writing on it, this was the grave of Moshe Shmuelevitch, an officer of the Polish army, in the Jewish Legion, named after Berek Yoselevitz, who fell in the Polish war of liberation and independence in the period of the Kosciuszko.

Also in this ancient cemetery was the tombstone of another Jewish officer in the Polish army who served in the guard of the Polish king, August the Third (1735-1763).

[Page XIII]

Period of Austrian Rule

In the first partition of Poland, in 1772, when Sambor, together with all Galicia, passed into the area of Austrian rule, the situation of the Jews deteriorated. Under an Austrian decree of 1781, the Jews' status was only that of tolerance (geduldet), for which they had to pay a protection tax (Schutzgeld) of four gold rubles for each family.

This tax was replaced in 1787 by a "kosher" tax, a "Torah" tax, and the most difficult of all, a "candle" tax, all of which were collected by the tax-collectors, who were notorious for their cruelty.

The royal decree of 1786, it is true, permitted the Jews of Sambor to build a synagogue, but for that privilege a one-time payment of two thousand gold rubles was exacted from them, and later an annual tax of a hundred gold rubles. The increasingly poorer Jewish Community in Blich was exploited by the Austrian regime as a source of income. The Polish prohibition against their settling in the city remained in effect.

In 1780, part of Blich was burnt down and the Jews were obliged to crowd into the other part of the suburb. This cruel decree, making Blich a sort of ghetto, was in effect until 1848.

Furthermore, in the 18th century and the first part of the 19th, an order existed forcing Jews to take on German names in place of their Polish ones. Strange names were given them, those paying more to the official assigning the names receiving nicer and more important ones. It was then that such German names as Ber, Wolf, Blumenduft, Blumenkranz, etc. came into existence.

Means of Livelihood

According to the regime's calculations of 1777, in all Galicia there were no more than 315 Christian merchants of any importance. Commerce in Galicia, for the most part, was in the hands of the Jews. Since they were more industrious and more economical than the Christian merchants, it was difficult for the latter to compete with them. They fulfilled a central economic function. They were in control of the wholesale trade as well as the retail.

"If it were not for the Jews," complained the head of the Sambor district, in a memorandum to the government, in which he called the Jews a necessary evil, "it would be impossible to obtain an ordinary thread or a silk thread in the cities for a few pennies; if not for them, owners of estates would not be able to sell their grains or their cloth; the farmer would not be able to buy on credit to obtain his necessary provisions. In this country, which is lacking in industriousness, they revive the economy and serve all strata of the population."

In the vicinity of Sambor, there were some 500 weavers of cloth; Jewish dealers would bring their goods to the farmers in the neighborhood of Brod. Jews had the monopoly of the hard drinks trade in Sambor and the vicinity. In 1820, a Jew established a private bank.

Plan to Transfer Jews to Agriculture

In 1851 Rabbi Shmuel Daitch of Sambor submitted to the Austrian government a plan to reform Galician Jewry by transferring some of the population to farming and establishing Jewish agricultural settlements. He also asked that the Polish way of dress be done away with by force and European dress be introduced; that a conference of dignitaries be convened for consultation and for determining matters of religion and conduct of regular education for the youth in Galicia; that the Hassidim be repressed and especially the rule of the Admorim, who, he said, slowed down the process of Haskalah among the Jews; that welfare institutions for the poor be established; and, in particular, that agricultural associations be founded.

The Ministry of Religion replied to this memorandum indicating that the government would investigate as how to settle religious matters in Galicia, and would examine the proposed reforms. However, although the Ministry greatly encouraged the plan initiated by the rabbi from Sambor to transfer Jews to agriculture, nothing came of it.

A New Spirit

With the new spirit awakened among the nations by the events of 1848, the Jews of Sambor gradually broke out of the ghetto. They began to move to the city, until, at the end of the 19th century, they owned almost all the houses in the market square. The change in the political situation also brought about a change in the economic situation. Thanks to the equal civil rights that they won, they began quickly to organize and to become prominent in the fields of commerce and industry.

After the Jews had been permitted to reside in the entire city, despite the opposition of the city people, and the suburb of Blich became a part of the city of Sambor, Jews established there various enterprises, such as sawmills, furniture factories, small textile, china and glass enterprises, flour mills, factories for the production of oil, and even a small oil refining plant.

In the middle of the 19th century there were already several well-known rich Jewish merchants. In the 'fifties, when three Jewish Chambers of Commerce were set up in Galicia, Sambor's representative, the merchant Gerbsheib, was a member of the Chamber in Lvov – it had seven members, three of them from Lvov.

The connection to the railway network in the 'seventies contributed to the development of the city. It became in important economic center in this part of the country and one of the largest cities in the Lvov district.

Later, despite the fact that the Jews has been granted equal rights and permission to reside in all parts of the city, the Christian residents regarded them as strangers, and there was sharp competition between the two groups. For instance, in 1905 a Jew opened a cinema in the city. After a short time, Christians set up two competing cinemas. During that entire period, they carried on damaging propaganda against the Jews. Even those Jews who attempted to assimilate were not accepted in Christian society; they set up a Polish-Jewish society of their own. When several of the assimilated Jews tried to engage in a duel against Christians (challenging to a duel was a custom prevalent among the Christians) the latter refused their challenge, claiming that the Jews were inferior to them and therefore there was no sense in their engaging in a duel with them. Hence, the Jewish assimilationists began to challenge each other to duels.

Among the Jewish intelligentsia in Sambor at the end of the 19th century there was a considerable number of assimilated Jews who professed that only Poles of the origin of the religion of Moses would be able to help the Polish government solve the Jewish problem. This group also initiated a plan to raise the cultural level of the Jews by spreading Polish ideas among them. The most prominent representatives of this assimilationist philo-Polish group were the Jewish lawyers Dr. Yosef Steurman and Dr. Alexandrovitch.

But these assimilate Jews were met with strong opposition on the part of the Zionist movement, which began to take root in Sambor at that time, and on which we shall elaborate later. And not only was there friction between them and the Zionists, the Austrian government, in the proven method of divide and rule, also planted sees of division between the Jewish population and the Poles.

At the outset of the 20th century, when Jewish refugees from Russia arrived in Sambor, the Christian citizens informed on them and caused their deportation. In 1911, during a trial in Sambor against a Jew who had gone bankrupt, the prosecutor referred to him as "of the seed of crooks and cheats."

Occupations of Sambor Jews

Details concerning the occupations of the Sambor Jews can be learned from the membership of the Kupat Milve (loan fund) established in the city, apparently in 1910. The members comprised: 576 merchants, 255 artisans, 41 in the free professions, 145 others (these, apparently, laborers and clerks) – a total of 1,017 breadwinners. These figures, it would seem, represent the majority of the breadwinners, since the Jewish Community then numbered less than 5,500.

In 1867 a Chamber of Advocates was established in Sambor. Later, and for twenty-six years, its president was a Jew, the lawyer Dr. Yosef Steurman, who was also mayor during a lengthy period.

Religious life

Of the rabbis who served in this period in Sambor, the following are known: Yosef Moshe Charif, who, at the end of his days, emigrated to Eretz-Israel and died in Safad in 1781. His son, Rabbi Yitzhak Charif-Eisenberg, succeeded him, serving the rabbinate until his death in 1815. After him cam his son, Rabbi Yaakov Naftali Eisenberg, who died in 1825 . He was followed by Dr. Yosef Ari' Hacohen Rappaport. At the end of the 'thirties or the beginning of the 'forties of the century, Rabbi Meir Zvi Witmeir occupied the seat of the rabbinate until his death in 1875. He was followed by Rabbi Yosef Ari's son, Rabbi David Hacohen Rappaport, and after him, by the latter's son, Rabbi Yosef Hacohen Rappaport.

When Rabbi Meir Zvi Witmeir served as Rabbi of Sambor, Dr. Shmuel Daitch was officially Rabbi of the district (Kreisrabbiner), the appointee of the district Jewish Communities, and in practice registrar of marriages, births and deaths. Rabbi Daitch may be seen as the first known Jewish Maskil (enlightened person) in Sambor.

At the end of the 'sixties and the beginning of the 'seventies, and attempt was made by the members of Shomer Israel, a Jewish association centered in Lvov which at first preached education in German and later education in Polish, to establish a secular Jewish school. This attempt did not succeed.

In 1869, some 300 children studied in three large Heders, and the rest in fifteen smaller ones.

In 1876, Shomer Israel already exercised influence in Sambor, their newspapers Haboker Or and Der Izraelit were distributed in the city in a considerable number of copies.

In 1904, Rabbi Aharon Levin was accepted as Rabbi of Sambor.

Admorim (Hassidic rabbis), too, dwelt in Sambor. In the years 1831-1848, the Admor Moshe Eichenstein resided there; he was the author of the book Tefila l'Moshe, and the brother of Rabbi Zvi Hirsch from Zydatziuv. His son, Rabbi Yehuda Zvi, moved to Rozela and founded a dynasty there. His second son, Rabbi Yehiel Michal, author of the book Atereth Zkainim, served a certain time as Admor in Sambor.

At the end of the century, Rabbi Uri ben Rabbi Ephraim Zvi Yolles, author of the book Imrot Thorot, renewed the Admorite. Rabbi Zvi was not a descendant of rabbis . In his youth he studied with Rabbi Shalom Rokeach, the Admor from Belz, and was ordained by Hassidim as Admor. Rabbi Uri died in 1910 and was succeeded by his son, Rabbi Yehuda Zvi, who passed away in 1919. The dynasty was continued for some time in Sambor by his grandson, Rabbi Eliezer ben Rabbi Yehuda Zvi, at first served in the rabbinate in Bucharest, whence he moved to Montreal, Canada, and there renewed the Sambor court.


At the end of the 19th century, a progressive Heder (Talmud Torah) was established in Sambor, with David Miller the teacher. When he died in early 1902, he was deeply mourned by the Jews of Sambor. In the 'eighties, Jewish children began to study in the city's public schools. In 1905, Rabbi Aharon Levin allowed the Jewish pupils to attend the gymnasium also on the Sabbath, obtaining for them approval from the school administration not to be obliged to write on that day. In 1910, 150 Jewish children studied in that gymnasium.

In 1891, the philanthropist Yehoshua Gothelf founded a commercial school for Jewish children under the administration of Mr. Weiberger. This school included a one-year business course, in which were taught accountancy, correspondence and the Hebrew, Polish and German languages. Attached to it was a half-year course for adults conducted in the winter months. In the course of time, the years of study in the one-year course were increased to three.

In 1907, a comprehensive Hebrew school was set up by the society Safa Brura, its first teacher being Miss Tepper. The school suffered from lack of teachers, and the studies there had to be interrupted from time to time. In 1908, a Heder was founded in which "Hebrew in Hebrew" was taught.

The schools in Sambor, both the public schools and the Jewish commercial school, were attended by Jews from outside Sambor as well. At the end of the 19th Century, a boarding facility called Brura was provided, with several scores of places.

Health and Welfare Institutions

At the end of the 19th century, Yehoshua Gothelf founded a Jewish hospital in a building of his, with 12 beds. In 1907, the Bikur Holim society was founded, with large public backing. In 1908, an attempt was made to establish a Jewish orphanage, but failed because of opposition on the part of the Jewish mayor, Dr. Steurman, who went so far as to distribute a proclamation in the city stating that the Jews should not separate themselves, that the welfare institutions in the city ought to be general, and that there was place also for Jewish orphans in the city orphanage. Because of his opposition, and that of circles of rich people in the Jewish Community who supported him, a Jewish orphanage was not established at that time.

Braterstwo (Brotherhood)

At the end of the 19th century, there existed in Sambor a political organization of assimilationists called Braterstwo (brotherhood). In 1895 this organization disbanded, some of its members entering Polish parties, some of them the Polish Socialist Party (P.S.S.).

The Beginning of the Zionist Movement

In Mordechai Ehrenpreis' article, "The Zionist Movement in Galicia," which was published in Hamagid l'Israel (1894), a statistical table appeared on "the national societies" in Galicia, the number of their members, and the time of their founding. In this report it was stated that a Zionist organization was founded in Sambor in 1894 called B'nei Zion, with 120 members. Mention is also made in the periodical Przyszlosc (future) of 1894 (No. 22, p. 259) of the founding of this Zionist society in August 1894, the initiative having been taken by the student Rozensweig, who spoke at the founding meeting, where 120 became members. In this periodical of 5 December 1894 (No. 4, p. 30) it was also stated that at a general meeting on 24 November 1894 a committee was elected with Aharon Laden – president, Shaul Weinberg – vice-president, Natan Becher – treasurer, Henrik Kitai and Yaakov Menkes – secretaries, Benyamin Latke, Yitzhak Meir and Alter Lieberman – members of the committee.

In the German language newspaper Zion of 1895 (No. 10, first year) we read that on 8 November 1895, the second meeting of B'nei Zion took place. Present were almost all the members (115), and a new executive committee was elected with the following officers: Aharon Lader – chairman, Yaakov Menkes – vice-chairman, Leon Finsterbusch – foreign languages secretary, T. Tiger – Hebrew language secretary, Yaakov Berger – treasurer, and another six committee members. A control committee of three members was also elected.

From the aforementioned, it can be learned that even before the World Zionist Organization was founded, and before the convening of the First Zionist Congress, a Zionist organization had already been founded in Sambor.

In the first issue of the official Zionist weekly Die Welt (4 June 1897), founded by Herzl, on the eve of the convening of the First Zionist Congress, there appeared among the reports from Vienna, Krakow, Paris, London and other cities, also a report from Sambor, telling about the initiative taken by the Jewish lawyers and candidates for the practice of law in Sambor, for the protection of their rights. They appealed to all their Jewish colleagues in East Galicia to attend a protest meting in Lvov to warn and to take a stand against the discrimination against them on the part of the government.

After the Third Zionist Congress, in 1899, there already were in Sambor two Zionist societies, Ahavat Zion and Klub powzrechny (general club). The local pharmacist, Bardash, was president of Ahavat Zion.

In August 1905, when Herzl traveled to Russia, to ensure that country's support for the Zionist Organization's claims, he passed through Sambor and there participated in a Zionist meeting.

In 1905, a Women's Zionist Organization was founded in Sambor called "Yehudit." Later, several youth societies were formed: Moriah, a girls' group Kolo Panien, and an academics group Judea.

In 1908, the youth societies established a library with some 3,000 books in Polish and a thousand in Hebrew and Yiddish. It was one of the richest Jewish libraries in Galicia.

Connected with the Zionist Organization was club Joinb-halle, similar to the clubs customary in Galicia then, and twice a week lectures were given there on various subjects. Since there were many Jews in Sambor with higher education, the club functioned successfully, with almost no need for lecturers from outside.

The Hebrew school founded in 1907 served as an encouraging factor in the development of the Zionist movement in the city. In 1911 it had 160 pupils.

Paolei Zion

In 1901, the Jewish employees in commercial enterprises organized themselves in a trade union, and on 21 October 1903 it became a branch of the Poalei Zion party in Sambor, with Shaul Reichman as its chairman. This branch expanded its activities, mainly among the school pupils. In 1908, a women's organization, a youth organization Jugend and a library were affiliated to it. The branch conducted diversified cultural and social activities (in March 1914 it even elected a beauty queen – Miss Miller).

In 1911 the Poalei Zion party celebrated May first in Sambor and they were the only ones who appeared in a demonstration in the city streets.

On 30 June and 1 July 1912, the fifth conference of Poalei Zion gymnasium students took place. Twenty-eight youth delegates from ten cities, among them Sambor, participated – Lvov, Krakow, Pszemishel, Tarnow, Drohobitz, Stanislavov, Novi-Sonc, Kolomya and Sambor. The conference was opened by Yitzhak Kandel, who emphasized that it was up to the youth to liquidate the process of assimilation among the Jewish and Zionist intelligentsia.

Zeirei Zion

In 1911, a branch of the Zeirei Zion movement was established in Sambor, with 77 members, This youth movement developed and deepened the world Zionist viewpoint.

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