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The History of the Jews of Stanislav {Cont.}

The Jewish council of Stanislav decided to take into its hands the initiative to establish a high national council, whose responsibilities would include the representations of matters relevant to the Jewish population to the Ukrainian government. Dr. Karel Halpern, one of the veteran communal leaders, and the Zionist leader Dr. Reuven Jonas were the heads of the Jewish council. They issued a proclamation to the Jewish communities of the world on November 24, 1918, via the national Jewish council of Vienna, informing of the establishment of the new organization, and its neutrality in the war between the Poles and Ukrainians.

On December 18-20, 1918, the first convention of the national councils from all areas under Ukrainian rule took place in Stanislav. The leadership of 100 communities took part, which represented all of the streams and factions of Jewry. In wide ranging deliberations, they dealt with practical issues of Jewish life, especially with problems of the new organization of the community on the nationalist basis, and the establishment of a Jewish educational network. In unanimous resolutions, a provisional organizational charter was agreed upon, which was written along political lines of the old community. A national council of Jews of western Galicia was established[117] to head the group, with Dr. Reuven Jonas as the head. Fourteen members were elected to the council: 7 Zionists, 2 from Mizrachi, 2 from Poale Zion, 1 from Bund, and 2 without factions. Twelve replacements were also elected (6 Zionists, 2 from Mizrachi, 2 from Poale Zion, 1 without a faction, and 1 from Bund). A secretariat was established alongside the council, headed by Dr. Zvi Epsztejn and the Hebrew writer Reuven Fahen.

On December 25, 1918, the council presented the Ukrainian government with a letter of notification, informing them that the will of the Jewish people was to organize all matters of concern to the communities, education, and general and specific social interest, in an independent, autonomous fashion. On January 6, 1919, the heads of the council, Dr. Karel Halpern and Dr. Reuven Jonas, visited the deputy Prime Minister Dr. Lev Gachinski, and explained to him the neutral stance of the Jews in the struggle between the Poles and Ukrainians. They stressed that the Jews were prepared to participate in the administrative activities of the state and to promote its existence, on the basis of the provisional declaration of the Republic of Western Ukraine of October 19, 1918, which promised all of the national minorities within its borders – Poles, Jews and Germans – equal rights and national autonomy[118]. Obviously, the neutral stance of the Jews instigated the bitterness of the Ukrainians. There were groups that claimed that it was the duty of the Jews to participate with the Ukrainians, and to take a positive stance towards the republic in the full sense of the term; for neutrality did not prevent the Poles in Lvov from perpetrating atrocities against the Jews for three consecutive days.

Dr. Karl Halpern   Reb Avraham Halpern   Dr. Shmuel Shor   Dr. Anzelem Halpern

[See the enlarged pictures by clicking on the images]

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The representatives of the national council of the Jews demanded:

  1. The repeal of all the restrictions that applied to the Hebrew and Yiddish languages during the Austrian era;
  2. The registration of Yiddish as a national language, and the requirement that the government answer in Yiddish all letters sent to it in Yiddish;
  3. The opening of all government positions and educational institutions to Jews;
  4. The hiring of Jewish officials based on justice, and in accordance with their administrative knowledge and professional acumen;
  5. The repeal of all the economic restrictions that existed in several areas against the Jews. Aside from these demands, they also presented some demands in the economic realm.

However, despite the assurances of the Ukrainian government, there was no actual fulfillment. Conditions continued to worsen, for the government did not have the power to overcome all of the difficulties and all of the provocations of the officials out in the field, which included all sorts of persecutions and obstacles to the economic existence of the Jews. This was despite the fact that the government of the Western Ukrainian Republic was interested in the support of the Jews, and its leaders attempted outside the country, particularly in Vienna where there was a large number of Galician Jews, including well-known Zionists, to recruit Jews who would be willing to tour the capitals of Europe and intercede for the well being of the republic. To this end, the delegates of this government in Vienna negotiated with the well-known Zionist from Tarnopol, Dr. Yisrael Waldman, who had been favorable to the Ukrainians even prior to the world war. However, he left the negotiations due to the opposing stance of the Zionist organization for this mission. Due to this situation, the national Jewish council saw fit to send its member, Engineer Naftali Landau to Vienna at the beginning of January 1919, to prevent the Zionists of Vienna from undertaking missions in favor of the national council. After lengthy negotiations, a delegation of the national Jewish council was set up, that began its activities immediately on January 28, 1919. Its main task was to maintain constant communication with the council in Stanislav, to represent it outside the country, to transmit information, and to maintain contact with diplomatic representatives. This delegation consisted of 20 members, and was headed by Adolf Shtend as president, and a leadership committee of 4 members: Dr. Moshe Pechtman, Dr. Yisrael Waldman, Herman Trop, and Meir Henish. Leon Wexler was chosen as secretary, and the information office was given to Dr. N. M. Gelber. One of the first tasks of this delegation was to issue a comprehensive memorandum regarding the Jews of Galicia to the American commission, headed at the time in Vienna by Professor College. This memorandum was written by Dr. N. M. Gelber and was presented at the end of January 1919.

In Stanislav, which became the political center of eastern Galicia, the national council made efforts to ease the living conditions of the Jewish population during the transitional period, and particularly to protect it from attacks and persecutions. Nevertheless, not one day passed without deeds of murder, pillage and robbery in Jewish homes. Most of the activities of the national council were focused about intervening and interceding in these events. The situation deteriorated to such an extent that Jewish commerce stopped in many cities and towns, on account of the lack of safety along the routes, including the railways. An economic recession arrived, which weighed heavily upon all strata of the Jewish population. Furthermore, the Ukrainian officials saw fit to extort the Jews in any manner possible, including the accepting of bribes and the expropriation of merchandise and property. Theft in broad daylight and attacks on the Jews in their homes became commonplace daily occurrences.

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There is no need to state that this type of treatment inspired hatred of the Ukrainians among the Jews, and forced the institutions of the Jewish national council to a double stance: on the one hand to protect the lives and property of the Jews, and on the other hand to stand in defense of the government leaders, who, despite their good intentions, were not able to maintain order and safety, and relate appropriately to the Jews in accordance with the law. In the capital city of Stanislav there were no acts of theft, etc., however in the outlying cities, not a day passed without some attack or deed of pillage.

The difficult situation of the Jews of eastern Galicia caught the attention of the delegation of the Jewish national council in Vienna, which was joined in February 1919 by Dr. Leon Reich, Dr. Michael Ringel, and M. A. Tenenblat, who were freed from their Polish imprisonment through the intercession of the Zionist leaders at the Paris peace conference, and arrived in Vienna on their way to the peace conference. In a meeting of the delegation on February 1, they dealt with the political situation, and the need to send a Galician delegation to the peace conference. After deliberations regarding the status of the Jews in the area of Polish occupation on the one hand, and the areas of Ukrainian occupation on the other hand, a debate broke out regarding the neutrality, and the problems with continuing that stance. There were those who claimed that the neutrality reduced the Jews to lower class citizens, for with that stance, it is as if they are declaring that they are unable to participate in the running of the state, and indeed it is the right and duty of the Jews to participate in activities of the state during the Polish Ukrainian war. Dr. Reich realized that this opinion is the correct one, but he did not see a means of actualizing it in day to day life. Dr. Ringel pointed out that no matter what, the neutrality was set back by the hatred of the Poles, who do not wish to understand the situation of the Jews. Therefore, in his opinion, it was best to make a revision, and to participate in the political life of the Ukrainian section, even if it came with the duty of army service. Dr. Yisrael Waldman pointed out the fact that Ukraine is the only state that was willing to grant to the Jews not only equal rights, but also national autonomy. Despite this, the delegation did not see fit to make a decision to change the political stance.

From February 6-14, the Ukrainian parliament (Natzianala Rada) convened in Stanislav. Its deliberations were permeated by an atmosphere of Jew hatred. Explicit complaints and attacks against the Jews were heard in the speeches of the representatives. The parliament did not relate at all with a spirit of duty towards the requests of the Jews. On the contrary, it requested that the government take measures against the Jews (in matters of agrarian reform, etc.). In light of such developments, the Jewish national council decided to meet with the Ukrainian government. In the meantime, the Jewish national delegation published specific details in the newspapers of Vienna regarding the situation of the Jews in the Ukrainian area of Galicia. These details worried the West Ukrainian consul in Vienna, Baron Vasylko, to such a degree that he saw fit to meet with the delegate of the Austrian Jewish national council, Robert Sztriker. The consul pointed out that it was not within his realm of responsibility, but rather within the realm of responsibility of the Galician council, to deal with matters of Galician Jewry. Herman Trop and Dr. Yisrael Waldman, representatives of the delegation, were invited to a meeting with Vice-consul Dr. Singalwich. They explained to him that the relationship with the Ukrainian government is not satisfactory, and that he should take cognizance of the fact that world Jewry would find means to publicize the lot and fate of the Jews of Galicia.

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Dr. Singalwich admitted that, as a human being and a Ukrainian, he is embarrassed about what is transpiring in Galicia, but he asked them to understand that the bad situation is the fruits of the pervasive anarchy. In the meantime, it was decided in Stanislav itself to open discussions with the Ukrainian government regarding the participation of Jews in affairs of the state. However, political changes overturned the pot.

The Ukrainian public was turned into a cauldron with two extreme streams. One the one hand there was Petlora, who, defeated in Ukraine by the Bolsheviks, arrived in Stanislav and got in touch with the allied powers. On the other hand there was the forces of the left, who preached for the unity of Galicia with the rest of Ukraine. “Poale Zion”, under the influence of Shlomo Goldelman and Revichki, who were ministers for Jewish matters in the government of Petlora, supported the idea of unity. Their press arm, “Der Yidisher Arbeter” in Stanislav published articles in this spirit, and began to attack the national Jewish council for its neutral stance.

Even during these days of confusion and complexity, the stamp of the renaissance of the internal communal life of the Jews was noticeable. There was recognizable effort particularly in the realm of education. The national council turned the attention of the Ukrainian government to the needs of Jewish education, and requested that the government help to establish a Jewish educational network. The essence of the request was that the Jewish schools be placed under the administrative and pedagogical supervision and directorship of Jewish educational directors, even though the schools are communal institutions funded by the government. On January 11, 1919, a meeting took place between delegates of the council and Dr. Artimowicz, the secretary of state for educational matters. He expressed his approval for the educational plans of the national council; but he doubted the possibility of using the Hebrew language as the language of teaching, and he requested explanations regarding such. The convention of Jewish pedagogues, that was convened by the national council on January 19-20 in Stanislav with the participation of 20 enlightened teachers, dealt with all details of the educational network, including the public school, cheders, high schools, from the humanist to the seminarian ends of the spectrum. The debates, especially based on the lecture of Professor David Horowitz regarding “The nationalization of the educational network and its Hebraization”, proved that the community of teachers was imbued with a strong desire to form a new creation in the educational realm, in the spirit of the renaissance of Hebrew language and culture. The most difficult problem was the question of teachers who would be able to teach in the Hebrew language. Indeed, the number of Hebrew teachers was large, but the government was not able to recognize their qualifications, since the vast majority did not have the teaching certificate required by the authorities.

The convention decided that:

  1. The Jewish schools must be public institutions, supported by the state and open to everyone.
  2. The teachers are public employees, who receive their salary from the coffers of the state
  3. Only teachers who completed the required course of study would be hired. However, with regard to the issue of Hebrew teachers, the national council was requested to obtain teaching permits for them, based on their Hebrew education and their license from the Union of Hebrew Teachers. Decisions were also taken regarding the charter of the cheders, and placing them under the supervision of the council of Jewish education.

The Jewish council started to negotiate with the government on the basis of the decisions of the teachers' convention. The Ukrainian parliament decided on February 13 to grant the minorities the right to establish schools in their own languages.

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Dr. Artimowicz pointed out to the Jewish national council on February 20 that the government is not able give a decisive answer, because the Ukrainian parliament does not have a Jewish representative who can bring forward all the requests of the Jews, and that complaints of Hebrew as a language of teaching have been heard from a variety of sources. Despite this, he promised to issue directives that would ensure the possibility of teaching the Hebrew language and Jewish history to Jewish children. This answer was an explicit retraction from the government regarding the Jewish educational network. In the meantime, Poale Zion began to issue strong attacks in their newspapers regarding Hebrew as the language of education, and they demanded Yiddish schools. These demands were published in the Ukrainian newspapers, and the government used them as a weapon against the demands of the national Jewish council. This excuse of the Ukrainian government demonstrated clearly that all of its talk about the granting of national autonomy to the Jews was nothing but idle talk. The Zionist organizations saw a need to open up its own Hebrew public and high schools in most cities. Private Yiddish schools were also established in several cities. The “Hechalutz” movement began, and made preparations for hachsharah (preparation programs) for aliya to the Land of Israel. The opening of national schools encouraged the Jewish youth and intelligentsia in their national awakening. Courses, seminars, debates, lectures, and theatrical presentations in the meeting halls of all of the factions injected variety into cultural life, and was a harbinger of a change of conditions in all Jewish communal life. Yiddish papers were founded during the time of Ukrainian control (November 1, 1918 – June 1, 1919). A Yiddish newspaper “Dos Yiddishe Wort” was published, edited by Leib Shusheim, who was appointed over all journalistic matters in the Jewish national council. “Yiddishe Folks Tsaytung” was published by Chaim Szafund, and “Der Yiddisher Arbeter” was published. On May 13, 1919, a daily newspaper “Dos Yiddish Togblat” was published, edited by M. A. Tenenblat.

Particular importance was attached to the internal reorganization of Jewish life. Instead of the communities that were ruled by families and “cliques”, a national council was established, in accordance with the will of the masses of people. The communal council was annulled also in Stanislav, and in its place a national council was set up with delegates from all of the factions, and set up on a positive Jewish basis. Dr. Karel Halpern and Dr. Reuven Jonas stood at the head of the council.

Dr. Karel Halpern[119], the son of Reb Hirsch Halpern and the grandson of Reb Avraham Halpern, was a native of Stanislav. After he finished his course of studies in universities in Germany, he returned to Stanislav and became involved in agriculture. He managed the Volchinech estate, which he inherited from his father, and employed new work methodologies with it. He refused to flee to Vienna after the Russian armies invaded Stanislav in August 1914. He did not leave his post, and remained with the Jewish population.

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With all of his heart, with all of his soul, and with all of his resources, he organized rescue activities for the Jews of the city who were in straits, and for the refugees who arrived in Stanislav by the thousands from the neighboring towns and villages. The Russians did not leave him in his post for long, and expelled him as a half-breed Russian. Thousands of Jews came to bid him farewell. He was imprisoned in various prisons in Russia for three years. Even there, he was astute enough to maintain contact with the refugee committees in the country. He dedicated all of his time to delivering secret aid to the thousand of Jews who were exiled from eastern Galicia to Russia. After the end of the Russian-Austrian war, he returned to Stanislav and dedicated himself from then on to national-communal work. He established the national Jewish council along with Dr. Reuven Jonas, Engineer Naftali Landau, Dr. Alexander Riterman, the brothers Shimon and Yisrael Reich, Dr. Anzelm Halpern, Dr. Max Zeinfeld, Dov Weiss, and other activists.

Dr. Reuven Jonas was a member of the Zionist movement already from the 1890s, and was one of its activists. He was one of the delegates of Galician Zionist movement to the action committee of the World Zionist Organization for several years. He conducted the Zionist activity in particular, and during his tenure and in his merit, the Zionist movement became firmly grounded in the towns surrounding Stanislav. At his side stood the veterans of the Zionist movement Dr. Anzelm Halpern the brother of Karel, Dr. Alexander Riterman who conducted the local national council with great energy, Dov Weiss, and Dr. Hillel Zusman.


The economic situation was entirely different from the political picture, in comparison to the situation of the Jewish population prior to the war. At the outset, the economic situation was not bad, but a deep recession came during the time of the Ukrainian administration. In March 1919, the number of Jewish residents in Stanislav[120] was 36,000 people, of whom approximately 20,000 (56%) required public assistance. Prior to the war, the percentage of people requiring support was only 11%, and there were 5,000 people (14%) who were without livelihood and work. During the Ukrainian administration, only 30% of the Jewish population earned their livelihood, and even these did so under particularly difficult conditions. However in contrast with other cities, where the number of people in need of support ranged from 61% to 90%, the situation of the Jewish population in Stanislav was not so depressed. This was due to the fact that Stanislav was the capital of the state, and the Ukrainian government restrained themselves somewhat from acting in a cruel manner towards the Jews, as was the situation in other cities and towns. Nevertheless, on March 23-24, the city suffered an invasion of farmers and soldiers, who pillaged Jewish shops and homes. The police and the government also acted cruelly and attacked the Jews. The situation deteriorated from day to day, under the influence of waves of disturbances that broke out in greater Ukraine. The Jewish National Council decided to negotiate with the Ukrainian government regarding the establishment of a department of Jewish affairs in the government.

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Already by April 2, 1919, the chief minister Dr. Holovovits, in the name of the Ukrainian government, informed the Jewish council about its decision to establish a department (Dezernat) aside from the presidency of the cabinet for the purpose of protecting the Jews as a national minority. Dr. Yisrael Waldman was called as a candidate for the Dezernent[24*]. However, after voices were heard against him, he returned to Vienna on March 28. In the meantime, the matter of the Dezernent was dealt with the delegation of the council in Vienna, in the presence of the Zionist leader from the area of Polish conquest Dr. Emil Szmurak. It was decided that Dr. Waldman be allowed to accept the position in the Dezernent provided he place himself under the authority of the Zionist organization. On April 20, the Ukrainian government presented the Jewish National Council with the recommendation to form the Jewish Dezernent alongside the Ukrainian government. In accordance with its charter, crafted by Dr. Yisrael Waldman, the Dezernent would be responsible for protecting the rights of the Jews as a national minority, without hampering the establishment of an organization to protect national autonomy, as was recommended in the government manifest of October 19, 1918. The Dezernent participated in government sittings to the extent that it was invited to do so by the chief ministers, however it did not have the right of voting (paragraph 2). The Prime Minister appointed the Dezernent. The Dezernent was obligated to carry out its duties in accordance with the advice and requests of the Jewish National Council (paragraph 3). All matters relating to Jewish autonomy were included in its duties. It had the right to advise the government regarding the crafting of laws, directive, and ordinances in order to protect all matters pertaining to the Jews in a legal fashion, as well as general ordinances and regulations. It was permitted to express its recommendations, doubts and concerns in such matters. In its hands were the government administration of Jewish institutions, social and economic organizations, and the supervision of the administering of rights relating to autonomous organizations (paragraph 5). Details of the internal organization of the Dezernent were worked out after the appointment of the first Dezernent. The entire budget of the Dezernent was covered from the government treasury (paragraph 7). A large-scale jurisdiction was granted to the Dezernent by this charter, and the Jewish Dezernent had to concern itself with all Jewish issues.

After Dr. Waldman arrived in Stanislav, he reached an agreement with the leadership of the Jewish National Council regarding the relationship between the council and the Dezernent. It was specifically stressed in the agreement that the Dezernent is to fulfil its tasks as a force of the Jewish National Council, and it is to be responsible to it in all matters. It is also to disband in accordance with its demand. It is required to participate in all meetings of the council, to act in accordance with its decisions and directives, and to present to it a report of all of its activities. Prior to offering its recommendations in fundamental or political matters, it is to present them to the council in order to obtain its agreement. The national council will present all of its presentations to the Ukrainian government in writing via the Dezernent. The Dezernent will only actualize its supervision of Jewish institutions with the full agreement of the national council. The Dezernent would set up its own internal organization with the full concurrence of the national council, and it would construct its charter with the participation of the council.

During the time of the negotiations concerning the establishment of the Dezernent, elections for the Jewish National Council took place on May 18, 1919. The voter participation was very high. This was the first time that women were granted the right to vote. Factional activity was very evident during the election race. Fifty representatives were elected to this council, including six women. The composition of the council by party was as follows:

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10 Zionists, 9 from Mizrachi; 6 Zionist women; 6 from the Popular Party;12 Jewish social democrats; and 7 from Poale Zion. The following are the names of those elected: Hirsch Angel, Liza Arber, Hirsch Banner, Kalman Bibering, Leib Blech, Yisrael Greif, Izak Chaim Greifel, Pinchas Derman, Dr. Anzelem Halpern, Dr. Karel Halpern, the gymnasium teacher David Horowitz, Hirsch Horowitz, Yitzchak Meir Horowitz, Regina Horowitz (the daughter of the rabbi of Stanislav), Dr. Yosef Vachman, Mina Weidenfeld (the daughter of the rabbi of Mariampol), Dov Berish Weiss, Dr. Hillel Sussman, Dr. Max Seinfeld, Leon Zeif, Klara Zinger, Dr. Reuven Jonas, Engineer Naftali Landau, Dr. Yaakov Laufer, Phillip Liberman, Yosef Fierman, Bernard Fierstein, Leona Fierstein, Regina Filenbaum, Dr. Eliahu Fishler, Shimshon Fruchter, Leon Parizner, Leib Zweig, Avraham Keish, Mendel Kimmel, Yitzchak Rosenthal, Sara Riterman, Ben-Zion Reis, Engineer Yisrael Reich, Leon Shotenfeld, Aharon Leib Shusheim, Moshe Shrager.

After the establishment of the Dezernent, when Dr. Waldman was supposed to occupy his position, the Polish offensive began under the command of General Haller. The Ukrainian government began to withdraw from Stanislav. The head of state and the entire government left he city on May 25, and went to Chortkov. From there, after the offensive of the Ukrainian army failed completely, they left for greater Ukraine. The head of the Jewish Dezernent Dr. Yisrael Waldman left for Vienna on the day that the government left Stanislav. The dismemberment of the Republic of Western Ukraine was complete.

The armies of General Haller (Hallercziks, as they were known in disgrace) entered Stanislav and began to attack the Jews. Theft, robbery, extortion, and the grabbing and imprisonment of Jews became daily occurrences. With this fortune, the era of independent Poland began.

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Text Footnotes:
  1. Its members: Dr. Maximilan Blumenfeld, Dr. Max Seinfeld, Dr. Karel Halpern, Yitzchak Meir Horowitz, Dr. Reuven Jonas, Dr. Yaakov Laufer, Engineer Yisrael Reich, Dov Berish Weiss, Dr. Anzelm Halpern, A. L. Shusheim (all from Stanislav), Dr. Emanuel Karua (of Chortkov) as the delegate from Tarnopol, Aryeh Drimer (Kolomyya), and Dr. Meir Bienenstock (Stryy). Return
  2. Dr. Mikhail Lazinski: Haliczina, W. R. 1918-1920, Vienna, 1922, page 42 (Ukrainian). Return
  3. He was born in 1870. He completed his studies in the gymnasia in Stanislav in 1888, and traveled abroad. He studied agronomics an national economics in the universities of Berlin and Halle. He married Sabina Sussman in 1897. Return
  4. According to a census from the archives of the delegation of the Jewish National Council in Vienna. Return

Translator's Footnotes:
[24*]    “Dezernent” [Ger.: “head of department” (OR)] Return    

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