by Sara Weiss-Hauptman
Translated by Susannah Juni
Stryy was my birth town. There I lived with my parents and with the entire Hauptman family. There in Stryy I spent my childhood years. There I dreamed and fantasized of a brighter, greater world childish dreams from a time happily spent.
I remember yet well that big Zionist Folk-Fest in the park, Olshina. The sensations from the Fest were 12 cutters from the Land of Israel fields. I was one of them. In white clothes, white head-scarves, white-blue sandals on our feet, scythes in our hands and grasses gathered up in our aprons, we went around the great park, raising our scythes high and sang in Hebrew: How loved and dear you are to us, our earth in Zion.
In the avenues of the park were standing small tables, where we sold various things and onzikhts - kortlakh [?] from the Land of Israel. People called these avenues Jerusalem Avenues. the money went for the K. K. L.
The initiators of the Folk-Fest were Berl Stern, Aron Hauptman, Benyamin Klein, Chaim Dovid Korn, M. Wagner, of blessed memory.
A second event from that time:
A well known woman from Stryy came to my father and recounted to him the following:
A Ukrainian neighbor had accused her husband in court, of spitting on him and his sacred pictures in his home, for not punctually paying his apartment rent. The Christian lived by them [were renters] and didn't want to pay for the apartment. He had devised a frame-up lie on them. His 8 year old boy testified that the Zshid had expressed to his father: I spit on you and your god. The second day a home-agent came and arrested her husband for insulting the Christian religion. The woman cried before my father and asked him to help her.
My father was out to the Jewish Court Counsel, Yanas, whom he personally knew and asked him to be personally interested with the matter.
It's bad, said the Court Counsel, Yanas, 'here we're dealing with problems of people who are religious feeling offended, when it comes to this, some of our Christians are inventive, especially when it's a matter of a Jew. But I am sure and believe that it is a frame-up lie, and I will see about something to do about this thing.
Translated by Daniella Heller
Chaos ensued after the end of the First World War, when Stryj came under the Ukrainian rule. The new rulers had no organized administration and no functioning police. During the first days after the war, the town was a lawless no-man's land. Day and night demobilized armed and unarmed soldiers wondered the streets, trying to get back to their homes.
Various Jewish parties took initiative and approached the Ukrainian authorities asking for permission to create a Jewish militia in order to protect the Jewish population.
According to the agreement each party had to supply certain number of people for armed patrols in the streets.
Some officers took it upon themselves to organize and implement the project. The headquarters of the militia was established near the synagogue, where the weapons' store room was also located. The patrols assembled in the Academic Union hall, where the night duty officer was stationed. A small fund was established in order to cover the expenses of the militia.
The patrols consisted of four men for each one hour shift. They had the authority to detain and interrogate any suspicious person wondering the streets at night. If they caught a thief they had the authority to arrest him. Often they found weapons which they confiscated as most of the thieves were demobilized soldiers.
Sometimes there were violent encounters in the dark streets. As there were no street lights some clashes occurred with Ukrainian military patrols, but luckily no one was hurt.
One day the Ukrainians attacked the headquarters of the Jewish militia and took all their weapons.
Translated by Daniella Heller
During the last winter of the First World War 1917-1918, the discipline in the Austro-Hungarian army started to deteriorate. Thousands of deserters were wondering around. Hunger spread everywhere and demonstrations and riots occurred due to the situation. The war prisoners started to return from Russia after the revolution.
In the spring of 1918 the food shortages increased and hunger was felt everywhere. As the food became scarce the black market flourished. Hunger demonstrations were held in various places against delicatessen stores. Polish organizations took advantage of these demonstrations to inflame their anti-Semitic talk and action.
On April 16th, 1918 a demonstration took place in Krakow during which Jews were beaten and robbed. A man from Stryj who happened to be in Krakow on business was killed in the riots. The murder of Mahler made a big impact on the Jewish community in Stryj. The committee of Poalei Zion decided to prepare for future dangers and appointed people to organize a self defense. A secret meeting was held in which five men were elected to the committee: Shlomo Rosenberg, Leib Teper, Avraham Menderer, Shimon Rosenberg, and Nathan Wunderlicht. It was decided to deploy forty men on the roofs to protect the Jewish population.
Some weeks after Passover it became known that an Austro-Hungarian demonstration was going to take place in Stryj in cooperation with local criminals.
A crowd started to gather before noon in front of the house of Itche Sheinfeld on Potocki Street. The entrance to the yard was guarded by the police. The crowd of about five hundred people was shouting slogans about hunger and bread and marched towards the market square.
The Jewish self defense groups were ordered not to interfere unless there was a specific anti-Semitic action. The self defense groups were armed with sticks and other cold weapons and deployed around the demonstrators.
As the crowd approached a coffee house owned by gentiles, the leaders went up the stairs but stopped and left after the owner came out and said quietly something to them. They went on to a Jewish owned kiosk which was closed and started to break the doors. When it became clear that Jewish shops were the target, it was decided to act and the members of the self defense group attacked the hooligans. The rioting mob started to escape as many passersbys, Jews and gentiles were watching. As stones were thrown by the hooligans, one of them wounded a soldier. The army attacked the mob and they dispersed.
This was the first, and probably the only public action of the Jewish self-defense in Stryj.
By S. Rosenberg
Translated from Yiddish by Ganit Eiron
Translated from Hebrew by Susan Rosin
The Stryj railway station was an important transportation hub of the Hapsburg Empire's provinces with the east. There were north-south and east-west connections in Stryj. At the end of the First World War, Stryj was an important hub for the Empire's trains transporting soldiers from the east and the west back to their homes. This line also transported returning prisoners of war from both sides of the conflict. Since the Przemyl Lvov line did not operate due to the hostilities between Poland and Ukraine, Stryj became a major hub. The multitudes on the trains were a heart breaking sight: Frozen, dirty and hungry people travelling in a variety of cars: first, second and third class cars without the windows' glass, without heat and without any basic conveniences, as well as in open freight cars. Bodies of those who died because of the cold, hunger, and diseases were constantly removed from the open cars. Slowly the town's people got used to these difficult sights.
A well-armed Ukrainian unit was present at the station at all times. They used to stop and search each and every car and disarm those who were inside. Only then, they allowed the trains to proceed. That was the agreement that was put in place for all areas of the crumbling Austro-Hungarian Empire.
An incident caused much worry and stress in town. A train carrying many Hungarian prisoners of war returning from their captivity in Russia in overflowing cars was stopped in town. The train commander refused to let the Ukrainians inspect the cars and disarm the occupants. The Ukrainians brought machine guns and threatened to shoot at the train and its occupants. Instead of white flags, the occupants pulled out their weapons, gun barrels appeared in the windows and they threatened to open fire as well. The town commander brought reinforcements from the barracks and the station was closed. The news spread fast and the more daring young people came to the station to watch the dangerous game.
A negotiation between the two sides did not yield results. The Ukrainians threatened that they would not release the train move. The rebels responded with a threat of their own - they would take the train station by force. The atmosphere became charged. The Ukrainians did not want to get into an armed confrontation with the rebels that numbered about two thousand. In the end, the Ukrainians relented and let the train continue to Munkács (Mukacheve).
Later it became known that Béla Kun, the future leader of the Hungarian communist revolution was on the train with his bodyguards.
First Train with Petliura Forces in Stryj
In the summer of 1919, the Ukrainian army started to retreat due to the pressure from the Poles. The front line lay in a great curve from the San and Bug rivers to Stryj. The fiercest battles took place in the Przemyl region and the Polish army threatened the Boryslaw oil area. Whereas Poland won the support of
almost all the western countries, the Ukrainians had to rely only on themselves. Petliura's great Ukraine was torn apart in the civil war, and his gangs had to retreat towards the Galician border under pressure from the Red Army. In order to gain some ground, Petliura agreed to send some of his forces to the Boryslaw front. These forces, who took part in the pogroms, were corrupt and spoiled and had a thirst for Jewish blood. They had poor morale and barbaric behavior because of the defeats on the various fronts. The Eastern Galicia Ukrainian regime was very careful to prevent pogroms because it needed the recognition and support of the League of Nations, which was supposed to convene and discuss their case. For that reason, the Petliura people were transported unarmed by trains. At the transit stations in the cities, they were not allowed to get off the trains in order to prevent anti-Jewish outbursts. As the Petliura units had to pass through the Stryj station, the local military authorities tried very hard not to let these "heroes" roam the city until the train's departure. Incidentally, delegations of Jewish representatives warned the local authorities against this danger.
On one occasion, the railway to Boryslaw was blocked due to other trains, and the Petliura units had to stay in Stryj for a few hours. Several hundred of them burst into the streets of the city and began to rob local shops. There was a danger of a pogrom. The local military unit was called and with arms in hand surrounded the train station and forced the savage people of Petliura to return to the cars. Fortunately for the Jewish population, the Petliura people were not armed.
By S. Rosenberg
Translated from Yiddish by Ganit Eiron
Translated from Hebrew by Susan Rosin
Stryj was a typical Polish provincial town. Life was mostly peaceful and quiet. There were no particularly interesting places in town that might have made life there more exciting. It was not famous in terms of social diversity or industry. In its industry, such as wood, metal, and matches there was not much agitation. If there were wage struggles or strikes, they were mostly peaceful.
Just like in neighboring Drohobycz during the 1911 elections it was the fate of Stryj to record a bloody chapter in its history. In Stryj, it was bloody Wednesday in March 1926.
This was a year of great economic crisis and high unemployment in Poland. Masses of workers in Poland suffered through a severe winter of unemployment and distress. There was no sign of an improvement in the economic situation. On the contrary, the number of unemployed people only rose to hundreds of thousands in the country. The crisis also affected Jewish professions. The Jewish workers' parties and labor unions convened a conference in Warsaw under the slogan "The right to work."
From the Polish Sejm, and in meetings in the cities, the workers' representatives demanded work and assistance for the unemployed. Under public pressure from the workers, the reactionary government of Chjeno-Piast agreed to grant limited funds to the unemployed. However, the local authorities did not rush to distribute the money.
During the 1925-1926 winter several sawmills ceased operations in Stryj. Other sectors of the economic spectrum saw major cuts as well. The Council of Professional Organizations (Rada Zwi¹zków Zawodowych) that included most sectors (except for the railway workers) and was under communist influence organized rallies and sent representatives to the mayor's office demanding assistance.
The authorities finally agreed for the professional organizations to register the unemployed and be provided with the lists. Since the government ruled that only the unemployed who worked in a factories or workshops with at least five workers would be eligible for assistance, the council refused to recognize most of the Jewish unemployed who were previously employed in smaller workshops. Because of this rule, a conflict arose with the representatives of the Jewish professional organizations that were represented by the Poalei Zion party. The Jewish representatives left the Joint Council and established an independent committee of the unemployed. A delegation from this association visited the mayor's office and informed him that the Jewish representatives would create their independent lists and send them separately.
Many weeks passed but there was still no support for the unemployed. In mid-March, before Passover, the council started to organize a demonstration with the purpose of appealing to the mayor. The demonstrators gathered on Wednesday, March 31st, (second day of Passover) near the trade union building. About 500 workers, including a small number of Jews who belonged to the Communist Party, marched through the streets. Prior to their arrival, the city hall was fortified with an army unit ready for battle. The demonstrators approached the building peacefully, but the entrance was blocked by the police. The police allowed only a delegation to enter the building and they remained in there for a relatively a long time. The people on the street grew impatient and were incensed by the various propagandists. Later there was a speculation that among the crowds were political agitators sent by the authorities. At one point the demonstrators tried to break into the building. The police retreated upstairs. The demonstrators were encouraged and began to climb the stairs. At this point the bloodbath began. The police commander ordered his men to shoot after getting an agreement from the mayor. The barrage of bullets started without warning. The shots were fired into the crowd and many were killed and many more injured. On the street there was a horrifying sight: the echo of the shots created a terrible panic. In a sense of mortal fear, the people fled in every possible direction. Some fell dying on the street; Bloodied people, sought first aid. Soon the size of the massacre became known: Eleven dead and several dozens wounded. Among thedead was the nineteen year old Jewish man Krigger.
This event took place during the noon hours. The shocking news
spread fast and the streets emptied except for the brave and curious few. Armed policemen patrolled the streets. Afraid of riots, the Stryj army unit was placed under the highest alert.
The news of the unscrupulous massacre spread throughout the country. The next day, the newspapers were filled with the news of the bloody Wednesday in Stryj. The city was full of journalists looking for sensational material. The workers' parties in the Sejm strongly condemned the attack and it was decided to establish an inquiry commission. As a result of the investigation, the mayor was removed and the police officer was found guilty.
The funeral of the Jewish victim was conducted by the police. To avoid possible demonstration it was held in secrecy with only the family present.
The other funerals were held three days later, during Passover and were attended by workers and delegations from all three nationalities. The police and the army were prepared to prevent possible disturbances. Policemen and soldiers stood guard during the entire funeral procession of the ten coffins. The victims were eulogized by representatives of all the workers' parties: P.P.S., the communist faction of the Sejm by members of the Sejm Pasztaszok and Pristopa, the Jewish workers and Po'alei Zion by Shimon Rosenberg. In spite of the anger and the tense atmosphere, the funerals passed peacefully.
With these events, some members of the workers' council were arrested, among them the Jewish communist activist Moshe Wagman, who later was sentenced to a year in prison.
The authorities were still very concerned about the workers' possible reaction to the bloodshed that had taken place earlier. To prevent this, they arrested all activists from the left-wing parties on the eve of May 1st, including Shimon Rosenberg of Poalei Zion.
By S. Rosenberg
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
After the great destruction that Hitlerism has brought upon our people, the town Stryj remained one of the innumerable white stains on the great map of the Jewish communities the threeandahalf million Jews of the Jewish settlement in prewar Poland. Of the 16 thousand Jewish souls some 40% of the Stryj population only a few hundred survived Hitler's sword and can give testimony about the years of occupation. However, none of those remnants from the hiding places and bunkers managed to save materials and documents, which would enable to construct a picture of the multicolored mosaic of the social life of the Jewish population in town.
Thus we have to follow the traces of the years and events, based only on our own memory, on which time has probably wiped out details and facts; we must be aware of the fact that we will not be able to create a full picture of the life that existed and does not exist any more.
Among the towns of its size in Austria and later Poland, Stryj was one of the regular, nonspecific towns. In the life of the simple and quiet Jewish community in Stryj one cannot find outoftheordinary qualities. For generations, thousands of Jews lived here, weaved their colorful lives and contributed their part, like a ring to the chain of the great and lively Jewish settlement in Eastern Europe. Like their thousands of brethren, they experienced the years of ramification of Hassidim and Mitnagdim, enlightenment [haskala] and assimilation, religiosity and atheism during the period of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, and entered the times of socialpolitical conflicts brought about by national and political awakening. Through this struggle, they still weaved their ideals, dreamt their dreams, advanced their hopes and found their Tikun [correction, amendment]. In this wonderful rainbow of a pulsating Jewish life, each part, each layer, each individual managed to find his corner, which he nurtured and enriched, cared for and protected. In this colorful reality, the Jewish labormovement found its place as well.
The history of the Stryj Jewish community, as well as of its working sector, will never be written. Its registries were burned, its witnesses gassed, shot and exterminated. What I am describing here are only fragments and pieces of the sixty years' Jewish labor movement in Stryj. The material from the years 19141928 is based on my own direct participation and experience, the rest on tradition. Some of the facts were verified by survivors, who have been members of the movement.
May these notes serve as a memorial for those who died and those who perished in Hitler's hell.
By S. Rosenberg
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
The first buds of the Po'aleiZion in Stryj appeared in the years 19001903, in the time of the first Zionist Congresses. Among the first Zionist Socialists, who were later active in Poalei Zion, we find: Berl Friedman, his wife Berta, Shmuel Horoshovski, Eli Katz, Avraham Tepper, Kirshner Yosef, Saltche Sperling, Lola Imber, Dr. Yoni, Pinye Bloch, Gladstein, Eli and Leibush Katz, Moshe Weiss, Levi Opper and others. From the memories that were related in later years, we learn that the first circles of Poalei Zion in Stryj were influenced by Zionistsocialist movements like SS, Sejmists and PoaleiZion, who, in those years became active in Russia. Later, from these circles the Association Po'alei Zion was formed.
In September 1903, the decree concerning the Association of Po'alei Zion in Stryj was issued by the authorities, giving it the right of cultural and Zionist activity. Later, in the period between the two World Wars, this decree remained the legal basis for the Po'alei Zion activity in town.
The people who, in those years, were members of Po'alei Zion were very different from those who belonged to the Z.P.S. [Jewish Socialist Party, later the Bund]. To Po'alei Zion belonged workers and employees in professions like merchants, watchmakers, etc. as well as circles of the Jewish intelligentsia, while the Z.P.S. contained the assimilated intelligentsia in various professions of physical work, as: carpenters, tailors, shoemakers and others.
During the first years, the Po'alei Zion Association worked in coordination with the other Zionist groups, later it stepped out and became independent. It devoted special attention to cultural activity in the Yiddish language, founded the first library of Yiddish books, organized lectures and courses of Yiddish literature and led a broad political instruction activity. As teachers and speakers served local people, as well
as lecturers sent by the Party Center. Some of the lecturers who visited Stryj, later became leaders of the Po'alei Zion, among them: Zerubavel, Chazanowitz, Kaplanski, Loker, Dr. Schieffer and others. By the initiative of Po'alei Zion, some Yiddish writers visited Stryj as well, among them: Avraham Reisen, Maurice Rosenfeld, Dr. Nathan Birenbaum, Y. L. Peretz, S. Ash, Ch. D. Nomberg and others.
In addition to those mentioned above, the following were active in Po'alei Zion during its first years: Chone Leibowitz, Shmuel Schoenbach, Mendel Polack, Mathias Patrach, Marshal (came from Kalish), Yitzhak Opper, Birenbaum, Yitzhak Rosenberg and others.
In May 1904, the foundingassembly of Po'alei Zion in Austria took place. A delegation from the Stryj organization participated as well, and joined the newly formed party.
In 1905, Po'alei Zion organized in town a series of massassemblies, demanding the right to vote for the Austrian Parliament.
In 19061907, Po'alei Zion, together with the commerce employees, led the close at 8 campaign, demanding that the stores be closed at 8 p.m. At that time, the employees worked in the shops until 11 or 12 at night. This campaign, which was led all over the country, in Stryj was accompanied by stormy streetdemonstrations. The demonstrators would stop near each store and take out the employees who were still at work. If the owner refused to let them go, the demonstrators would begin breaking doors and windows and then massarrests were made. Later, they began using as demonstrators minors, who were not in danger of being punished by the police. A short time later a new law was issued, forcing the stores to close at eight in the evening.
In 1907, Po'alei Zion in Stryj took an active part in the election campaign to the Austrian Parliament, in favor of the candidate Dr. Avraham Saltz. It was the first time that the Zionists acted against the PPS candidate Andrey Moratchevski and the assimilated Jew Ashkenazi.
In 1908, Po'alei Zion led agitations and propaganda activity during the preparations of the Czernowitz LanguageConference.
During the 1910 referendum, the Austrian government expressed its desire that the Galicia Jews declare that their mothertongue was Yiddish. On the other hand, the local government threatened to punish those who did so. Po'alei Zion was very active in the effort to convince the Jewish population to give Yiddish as their mothertongue. This activity turned into a massmovement, which encompassed all parties, and ended in a great success. During the last years before the war, until August 1914, the Po'alei Zion organization devoted time and attention to the Zionist activity among the poor and working population and carried out an intensive cultural and educational work. On Friday evenings, as well as on Saturdays and holidays lectures were given constantly, on literature, art, political questions, social problems, Zionism etc. Particularly active in these projects were Messrs. Eli Katz, Avraham Hauptman, Kevi Opper, Moshe Weiss and others.
In the professional realm, Po'alei Zion supported the struggle of the professional unions, especially the clerks' union.
The Po'alei Zion Youth
Under the influence of Po'alei Zion, a youth organization was active in town. Its central offices, The association of young workers and commerce practitioners Po'alei Zion,
were located in Krakow. This organization conducted a ramified educational work and raised young members in the spirit of Po'alei Zion.
Other two groups in the Po'alei Zion organization were active in Stryj, doing special work, each in its area: the group of university students, named Herut [freedom], connected to the central offices in Vienna, and a women's circle, named Yehudit, whose management was at the party's central offices.
With the outbreak of WWI, the activity of all parties, as well as of Po'alei Zion stopped suddenly. Most of the management was recruited to the army, and later the Russian occupation came. When in 1915 the AustrianGerman armies reoccupied Stryj, there was no person who could resume the work. The place where Po'alei Zion used to meet remained locked until the summer of 1917.
Awakening Behind the Front Line
In 1917, the Jewish Street experienced a beginning of social awakening. The first groups of Hashomer Hatza'ir began their activity. Among one of the groups of Po'alei Zion the idea arose to renew the activity of the organization. Those were days when the fire of war burned in the entire world, and the frontline stretched along the old RussianGalician border.
The initiators of the renewed organizational activity were: Berta Friedman, David Seltzer, Shlomo Rosenberg, Feivel Miller, Sara Hauptmann, Shlomo Rossler and the writer of these lines. After a short preparation, the first assembly was called. The assembly took place in the hall on Batorega Street, which was rented in partnership with the Hashomer Hatza'ir and remained, however, the meeting place and home of the Po'alei Zion organization until the end of the war. The library, which had been stored in boxes in the attic of the craftsmen's association Yad Harutzim was unpacked and arranged, the pictures of Jewish writers and socialist theoreticians were hung on the walls and work was renewed.
After a treeyearsilence, when he Jewish population has remained without any social leadership, meetings or theater performances, the renewed activity of Po'alei Zion aroused great interest in town. To the newly elected committee belonged, in addition to the founding group mentioned above: Chana Rappaport, Hella Bohrer, Aharon Wegner and Aharon Meller. Due to the war, the activity was limited to literary, art and cultural work. Since the Po'alei Zion Club was for a long time the only social corner where people could meet, the activities were visited by people from all layers of life allies and opponents, workers, simple people and intelligentsia. The weekly lectures had great success. People of all levels who happened to pass through town were asked to serve as lecturers: artists, occasional guests in town and members of the military. Since in most cases these were people not known in town, curiosities occurred: For example, it was announced that a lecture will be given on the subject: God the socialist, Moses the socialist and the socialist Jews. The lecturer was a military man, a Jew from Budapest. He began the lecture, said a few sentences and stopped. Apparently he learned his speech by heart and forgot it. After such an event, jokes were repeated for weeks. But there were also very interesting and serious lectures, and it can be said that in general, great cultural work was done.
Later, other areas of activity were added: a choir was established, under the direction of Yosl Altbaumer; courses of the Hebrew language were organized, led by Shlomo Rossler; a drama club was formed, in partnership with the academic association Emuna [faith], which led a very successful activity. This nonprofessional drama club systematically performed on stage plays from the Narodni theater, among them: The slaughter I. Gordin, The village youth Kobrin, Thieves Bimka, King Lear Gordin, The mute Weiter, The mad one, Chasye the orphan Gordin, The Vilner balebossel, Moshe Maimon and others. Masses came to the performances, which often had to be repeated. Sometimes they performed in the neighboring towns as well (Kalush, Skale, Daline).
Permanent members of the drama group were: Mania Hauptman, Sheindl Leibowitz, Mania Igra, Munye Monderer, Avraham (Bumik) Seidenfrau, Boshke Apfelgreen, Max Horowitz, Tania Rosenkranz, Mordechai Bergstein, Rochtche SchillerTzengebatt. The director was most of the times Shlomo Rossler.
On 1 May 1918, after a 3year pause, FirstofMay festivities were allowed again. An assembly of Polish, Ukrainian and Jewish workers took place in the Ringplatz, and a Po'alei Zion delegate was one of the speakers.
On that day, the town looked as if under siege, all the streets were occupied by the 6th Graz Regiment ready for action.
The end of the war, November 1918, brought new life to the organization. The former leaders returned: Berl Friedman and Levi Opper, and with them the entire executive committee. New members joined, among them: Lea Bard (now in Israel), Dr. Ochser and others. In the beginning of 1919 the number of members reached 300.
In Eastern Galicia, the Western Ukraine Republic was established. New ideas spread. The right of national and personal autonomy of the Jewish population was proclaimed, although, due to the war, it was never realized.
In those days, Po'alei Zion conducted intensive and ramified work; it took an active part in the leadership of the community, where the old president, the assimilated Wiesenberg has not agreed to step down peacefully. He was one of the initiators of the Workers' Council, which, however, did not last long, because only Po'alei Zion and Z.P.S joined; other organizations declined, either because they were in dispute with the Ukrainian authorities or because they were busy with other matters.
During the first months of the Ukrainian rule, the Po'alei Zion organization made a great step forward:
Soon after its establishment, the Ukrainian power was involved in a war with the Polish Republic, which considered EastGalicia as an integral part of Poland. The politicalsocial chaos of the postwar period deepened. School education stopped functioning; apart from a small number of Ukrainian schools, inherited from the Monarchy, the other schools, where the teachers were mostly Poles and Jews, closed. Po'alei Zion used this moment and opened an elementary school for Jewish children, where the language of instruction was Yiddish. Several party halls and some apartments were transformed into school classes.
The parents welcomed this activity and registered the children.
In just a few days, all four elementary classes were filled, and many children could not be accepted for lack of space. The school was challenged by a series of difficulties, as: lack of teachers, lack of schoolbooks and, naturally, budget. The problem of teachers was soon solved. Great devotion and energy was invested in this area by Sara and Avraham Hauptman. They worked tirelessly as teachers and mobilized for this work a number of teachers from the former government schools, as well as students. More difficult was the problem of books: the teachers had to prepare the lessons every day, translating from Polish and German books. But most difficult was, naturally, the problem of the budget: the hopes of receiving support from government sources ended in nothing; the Jewish community was not organized for such an endeavor; tuition was out of the question, because Galicia was not accustomed to that, as well as because of the great economic crisis. So we had to resort to taxes and money collected at various assemblies, to cover a minimal part of the needs.
On the third month, however, the schools closed for another reason entirely: under the pressure of the agreement, the Ukrainians opened their elementary schools and closed the Jewish school.
During the short, but stormy Ukrainian rule, the Jewish population managed to create a national leadership the National Council which replaced the old Community. Elections to the National Council were held, right to vote given to men and women over 21 years old. The elections took place in winter 1919. Po'alei Zion led an intensive election campaign on a wide platform and received close to 500 votes and 5 mandates out of 50. The elected persons were: Levi Opper, Berl Friedman, Avraham Hauptman, Shlomo Rossler and Prof. Dr. Achser. Later, the party took an active part in in preparing the work program, which, however, remained on paper due to the fall of the Ukrainian Republic.
During the Ukrainian period, a strong youth organization and an influential circle of students numbering several tens of members were active in Po'alei Zion. The organization established its own consumer cooperative, and made several unsuccessful attempts to create a production cooperative.
The Polish Period
After the Polish army occupied Stryj in the fall of 1919, the new regime began its rule with new antiJewish decrees and sharp persecutions of the Jewish labor parties, expressed in administrative harassment, revisions and arrests. The social work in the Jewish Street lost its impetus that was present during the Ukrainian times. Po'alei Zion opened a worker's kitchen on the Batorega Street with the aim to meet the needs of the workers, and also to serve as cover for the persecuted party activity.
The split of the Po'alei Zion movement in the summer of 1920, reached Stryj about a year later. The ideological differences of opinion and the heated discussions paralyzed all activity.
After the split of Po'alei Zion at the 5th WorldConference in august 1920 in Vienna, local conferences took place in all countries, where the fates of the local parties were decided. The dispute between the Poles and Ukrainians about Eastern Galicia
had not been settled yet, and the Eastern Galicia Po'alei Zion took a neutral stand in this question, guarded its independence and did not join he Polish Party. The party conference in Eastern Galicia took place in March 1921 in Lemberg. Stryj was represented by three delegates, of three positions: Avraham Hauptman right, Levi Opper center and S. Rosenberg left. The Conference decided, on a small majority, to remain neutral, not to join any of the fractions and attempt to attain a reunification. However, two months later, the Eastern Galicia Po'alei Zion was divided as well. In Stryj, due to legal reasons, the party as well as its property the consumer cooperative, the library, the meeting hall, the workers' kitchen and all legal documentation remained in the hands of the Elder Right activists. On the other hand, the young people and the majority of the activist cadre turned to the left, and this fact decided the fate of the Po'alei Zion in Stryj: the right lost power gradually, leading to the liquidation of the consumers cooperative and the kitchen (end of 1921), and the end of all open activity. The left, however, needed only a very short time to heal the wounds of the split and rise to be the strongest workers' group in town.
The Po'alei Zion Left organization was still illegal at the time, yet it obtained legalization for a children's home, named Children's Home in the name of B. Borochov. They founded the home on Ringplatz 31 and it served also as camouflage for the party activity. The activity of the home and the professional work was carried out at first in the same hall, the cover visàvis the authorities being as mentioned above. Only in 1923, the first professional unions were recognized by law, Po'alei Zion rented a place on Lemberger Street 18 and part of the party activity relocated there. In 1923, an evening school for workers and a day school were founded. Due to the special conditions in Galicia, which had a tradition of public government schools from the time of the Austrians, the dayschool functioned only one schoolyear (19231924) and in the middle of the second year it closed. The evening school, on the other hand, existed until 1929 and the children's home until 1930. During the first years of its existence, the children's home met the needs of food for the children with the support of the American YMCA.
The following teachers worked in the Po'alei Zion schools: Chana Gartenberg (from Stryj), perished during the German occupation; Esther Shayko (from Warsaw), died in Canada; Sonia Salfin (from Austria), perished during the German occupation; Yehudit Toptche (from Kolo), perished in Paris during the war; Chana Guttman (from Luck), lives in Israel; Yenna Lamm (from Polaw), perished during the war; Gartenberg Lea and Gartenberg Rutche from Stryj, now in Brazil, Henia Fruchter and Frieda Haber.
During that period, an entirely new group of people rose as activists in Po'alei Zion, among them: Yosef Hass (now in Israel), Michael Opper (perished during the German occupation in Stryj), Yite Bekher (died in 1935), Dolek Baktrag (today a doctor near Paris, B. Streifer (later joined the communists and became a provocateur), Yosef Mauerer (today a Po'alei Zion activist in RiodeJaneiro and leader of the Brazilian Magbit [collection campaign] for Israel),
Leib Nussenblatt (died in Vienna), Shmuel Schwarzberg (a member in Paris), David Seltzer (perished in the Lemberg Ghetto), Yechezkel Laufer (in Israel), Avraham Grossman (in Israel), Chone Seiff (perished in the Lemberg Ghetto), Sender Derfler (in Israel), Hersch Meyer, Leib Lipman (perished in the Stryj Ghetto), Lasst (perished in Stryj), Fruchter Israel (in Brazil), Morbach Yitzhak (died in 1927), Toyb Israel (perished in Stryj), Katz Shmuel (in Israel), Altbauer Shlomo (in Israel) and others.
The activity of the organization was subject to constant police persecution. In order to suppress the financial activity, the authorities removed all permits of the institutions that provided some income. Often Police visited the places of assembly and arrested the active leaders, especially before the 1st of May. All this, however, has not weakened the intensive activity, and the work in the professional areas developed in particular. During the years 19231924 Po'alei Zion controlled all Jewish professional unions, entirely stopping the influence of the Bund.
Political and Cultural Activity
In the course of that period, the Stryj organization in most difficult conditions led a very intense and open political and cultural activity. Open lectures and meetings, which dealt with and reacted to actual happenings in the Jewish life in the country and outside it, were held in the largest meetingplaces in town, with speakers who have visited Stryj in the course of the years: I. Zerubavel (several times), Nathan Buchsbaum (many times), Shekhna Zogan, Yakov Kenner, N. Nier, Yosef Rosen, Yakov Peterseil and others.
In the Po'alei Zion locale (Ringplatz 31, Lemberger 18 and Batorego), weekly lectures were given, on various subjects. In order to enable political lectures, fake subjects were invented (astronomy, geography, mathematics and the like). When Police made a blitzattack on such a lecture, the lecturer would change the subject from politics to astronomy. The audience was accustomed to this and would continue to sit quietly and never give away the hocuspocus.
An active part of the organization was the section of trips and study of the land. A good drama club was also active for many years, as well as a registered choir, and evening performances were given often.
In April 1926, the Po'alei Zion Right organization ceased to exist and merged with Po'alei Zion Left. The two libraries were united and the locale on Batorego Street was turned into a meeting place for Po'alei Zion young members.
In the course of the years, the Stryj Po'alei Zion organization led a very successful campaign for the EretzIsrael Workers Fund and a series of activities for the workers in EretzIsrael.
In 1922, the Po'alei Zion in Stryj appeared for the first time as an independent party in a public political activity the elections to the Sejm. The first place on the list was occupied by Nathan Buchsbaum (Lemberg).
In 1927, elections for the healthinsurance organization were held, where an independent Jewish workers' list appeared for the first time. Two councilmen were elected Yite Bekher and B. Streifer.
The same year, elections for the municipal council were held as well, according to the old Austrian system. Po'alei Zion presented a list and the first candidate (Shimon Rosenberg) received 900 votes.
In the beginning of 1928, a list of Po'alei Zion participated in the elections to the community for the first time. The person elected was Mechl Opper, who later was elected to the executive committee on the Zionist Block list.
In the elections to the Sejm in 1928 the Po'alei Zion participated as well, and it received hundreds of votes.
During the first years after WWII, groups formed in the organization with the intention to make Aliya; later these groups became independent. With the active support of Dr. Malka Leibowitz, Dr. Ada Klein and others, these groups instructed pioneer groups, who, in various stages, made Aliya in great numbers. In 1919, another group of members of Po'alei Zion, under the leadership of David Seltzer, founded a training camp for several tens of pioneers [halutzim] who worked in agriculture and carpentry. Most of the members of this group made Aliya. Later, after the split in the party, when Po'alei Zion Left severed the contact with the world Zionist organization, Po'alei Zion Left did not receive certificates. Due to this situation, only numbered members succeeded to make Aliya, by various means.
In the thirties, repressions and police persecutions against Po'alei Zion began, which paralyzed any legal public activity. This situation lasted until 1932, when, under the pretext of communist activity the police closed the locale and forbade any activity of Po'alei Zion. The illegal period lasted until the outbreak of WWII. The great YiddishPolish Borochov Library, which had functioned 30 years, was confiscated by the authorities, with certificates given to Matchek Horowitz. Based on this, the library remained in his possession until the Russian occupation at the end of 1939. Then the books were transferred to the possession of the town library and were destroyed during the German occupation.
The Association Jugend [Youth]
During the years of the Po'alei Zion activity in Stryj, a large organization of young people, recruited from among workers, clerks and students up to the age of 18 was active in town. This organization followed the ideology of Po'alei Zion. Educationwise, however, it led an intensive, ramified and independent activity.
The leaders during the first years were: Shimon Rosenberg, Mordechai Bergstein and Yitzhak Opper. In later years: Yitzhak Vinik, Leib Nussenblatt, Streifer and others.
Thanks to the strong youthorganization, in particular in the years 19181821, hundreds of new members, educated in the spirit of Zionism joined the professional unions. As a result, in 19221924 Po'alei Zion managed to pull out all professional unions from under the influence of the Bund.
In the beginning of the thirties, the Jugend shared the fate of their older friends and were forced by the ruling power to keep an underground existence.
By S. Rosenberg
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
By the end of the 19th century, a considerable number of Jews were members of the socialdemocratic parties in the AustroHungarian Empire; most of them belonged to the assimilated Jewish intelligentsia. This was true also in Galicia, where the Polish socialdemocratic party (PPSD) was active. In those years, the socialist idea began to penetrate
more and more the Jewish working street. It happened due to the influence of the Bund activity in Russia, as well as to the changes of the Jewish social structure among the Jewish masses in Galicia itself.
Jewish workers the more conscious among them began joining the P.P.S.D. At the beginning of the (20th) century, large groups of Jews were members, and their number grew constantly. The Jewish membership in P.P.S.D. began to be a problem it was not comfortable for the party to absorb such a large number of Jews, whom the Polish members did not accept with a great deal of sympathy. The Jewish members, as well, did not feel at home in the Party. One of the great obstacles was the language. Very few of the Jews spoke good Polish, and in the corners they began sinning by speaking Yiddish. But then the Jewish members found a way out of the problem: they began establishing Jewish Sections, and in some cases they met in a different place. The pretext was that this way more Jewish members would be attracted and join. Several years later, these sections formed a new party, by the name: Jewish SocialDemocratic Party, later known by the initials Z.P S. Only the openly assimilated elements remained in the P.P.S.D., known by the nickname sectionists. Ideologically, the new Jewish party crystallized under the influence of the Bund in Russia. Language and cultural matters were the only Jewish recognizable quality, which marked the difference between the Z.P.S. and P.P.S.D.
During the years 19011902 a Z.P.S. organization in Stryj was established stemming mainly from the Jewish section of P.P.S.D. The organization became legal by the name of the Progress Union and led a broad activity in the cultural, professional and propaganda areas. In the years before WWI, Z.P.S. in Stryj was a strong organization, with a relatively great influence in town. During the two elections to the Austrian Parliament 1904 and 1911 Z.P.S. led an energetic campaign for the P.P.S.D. candidate Andrei Moratchevski and fought against the Zionist candidates Dr. Salz and Dr. Reich. In 1907, Salz lost due to a few hundred Jewish voters, who, following the activity and influence of Z.P.S. voted for Moratchevski.
In the professional area, the Stryj Z.P.S. could mark significant achievements in organizing the Jewish workers in Workers' Unions carpenters, cobblers, housepainters, barbers, tailors and others. For many years, these unions identified themselves ideologically with Z.P.S.
Among the founders and activists of Z.P.S., until WWI, were: Wove Koenigsberg, perished in the Lemberg ghetto; Leib Freilich, perished in the Stryj ghetto; Israel Dornfeld, died before WWII; Rosmarin, Rosenbaum, perished in ghetto Stryj; Binyamin Ber, arrested by the Soviet authorities and died in jail; Fania Horowitz, perished in ghetto Stryj; Yakov Wunderlich, lives in America; the brothers Shiye and Shlomo Rossler, perished in ghetto Stryj; Leib Tepper, perished in ghetto Stryj; Yosef Leibowitz, died before the war; Gitl Tirkel, perished in ghetto Stryj; Friedl Boxer, arrested by the Soviet authorities and died in jail and Moshe Wagman, perished in the Soviet Union.
A sisterorganization of Z.P.S. a women's union, was also active in Stryj,
by the name of Zvyanzek Kobyet. This union was established in the time of the sectionists as a competition to the Zionist women's union Ognisko Kobyet. Zvyanzek Kobyet was intended to be a mixed PolishJewish union, but Polish women did not join, except very few, among them the wife of the member of Parliament Moratchevski. To this Union belonged also the sectionists who had remained in the P.P.S.D. This way the union became sort of a bridge between the two parts of the former friends. Most of the union identified ideologically with Z.P.S.
The World War cut off, for some time, the activity of Z.P.S. and only in 1917 a group of members tried to bring back to life the association Progress, but without much success. It remained weak and was not recognized in town. This situation lasted until the end of the World War.
After the war, the old active members of Z.P.S. returned and the organization was revived with eagerness. The happenings in Russia, Germany and Austria strengthened the feelings for Z.P.S. The old members were joined and helped by the Jewish sectionists from P.P.S.D., which was inactive in the times of the Ukrainian rule. Progress took over one floor of the building on Ringplatz 37 and the work of a series of professional unions was renewed. At the beginning of the Ukrainian rule, the Stryj Z.P.S. issued a weekly paper, edited by Moshe Wagman Di Roite Fon [The red flag]. Together with Po'alei Zion, Z.P.S. organized the workers' council. At the elections to the Jewish National Council, Z.P.S. received over 700 votes and 9 mandates.
After the Poles occupied Stryj, Z.P.S. lost many of its members and much of its influence. The consumercooperative closed, the productioncooperative became a private enterprise, the sectionists returned to the P.P.S. and a decline in all areas could be observed.
A year later, the Z.P.S. dissolved and merged with the Polish Bund. But the organization lost its old brilliance: the youth joined Po'alei Zion, many members became independent craftsmen and due to their new social situation they became passive. The downward movement lasted until 1939.
In November 1922, during the elections to the Sejm, the bund in Stryj obtained almost an equal number of votes as Po'alei Zion. At the elections to the healthinsurance fund, summer 1927, the Bund list was disqualified, because it had not obtained the necessary number of signatures.
In 1928, at the elections to the community, the Bund did not present a list; one of its candidates figured on the list of Po'alei Zion.
At the elections to the Sejm in 1928, the Bund withdrew its list and called to vote for the P.P.S.
The last 10 years before WWII, the Bund in Stryj was almost inactive in public. The remaining group of Bund members kept in contact with the party organs and published a small number of issues of the Bund daily newspaper.
By S. Stryjer
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
The Jewish professional labor associations in Stryj began functioning almost at the same time that the Jewish labor parties were founded. The first who created a Jewish professional organization was ZPS, the Jewish Socialist Party. Although the official aim was social improvement, the associations were formed according to party lines, by the model of the Bund professional movement in Russia.
The first to organize were the carpenters, and the first strikes in that profession occurred in 19031904, led by the ZPS. Since the strike brought some improvement in life conditions, it didn't take long and the tailors formed their own organization, then the housepainters, the shoemakers and the barbers. With very few exceptions, the dominant leaders of all these occupations were Jews. The conflicts would begin at the start of the season: the workers would go on strike, usually achieving some raises in salary; but he raises lasted only during the height of the season, and were later cancelled. Some organizations, for example the housepainters, would dissolve when the season ended.
Still, in the course of the years, better working conditions were achieved: higher salaries, shorter workinghours, sick insurance etc. The activists were usually the same people who were active in the various political parties.
The influential people in the abovementioned occupations were mostly ZPS people. The commercial employees, on the other hand, were closer to the Po'alei Zion, and managed their organizations according to party lines. And although there were a considerable number of ZPS members among the employees, they suffered the fate of the few Po'alei Zion members in the other associations they had to obey the decisions of the majority. The Po'alei Zion tried hard to enter the Workers' Unions, but without success.
This situation continued until WWI and a few years after that. In this way, hundreds of workers were educated in the exclusive spirit of ZPS with an antiZionist inclination.
The situation changed radically only at the beginning of the twenties. The reason of the change was the great influence that Po'alei Zion had on the young workers. In truth, the aim of Po'alei Zion after the War was to gain influence in the workers' unions, with the help of the young generation of workers. This gave fruit in the years 19221923, when masses of young members of Po'alei Zion, who by that time reached the age of 18, began joining the existing occupations. At the beginning, the ZPS people did not pay much attention to that; it was felt the first time in the summer of 1923, at the general assembly of the carpenters' union the largest and strongest Jewish union when the candidates of Po'alei Zion were elected to the management by a large majority. This assembly witnessed a great fist fight between Bundists and Po'alei Zion members concerning the decision that the activity of the Union will be transferred from the locale of the Bundists to the Po'alei Zion hall. The sign of the carpenters' union on the wall of Po'alei Zion symbolized their first victory in the professional field. During a quite short period, Po'alei Zion reached a majority of votes in other professional unions as well tailors, barbers, metalworkers, printing and chemistry workers. In the course of only a few years, the Bund has lost its influence in these areas.
As time passed, the unions changed, but most of the members still were under the influence
of Po'alei Zion, and they were joined by Bundists and Communists. Yet, the antiZionist spirit which had reigned in the past was over. In some of the Unions, groups of Hechalutz movement were formed and they enjoyed the full sympathy of the Union management.
The continuing professional activity was expressed by a struggle of social character. Two strikes of the barbers, after two weeks ended in victory; and a strike of the tailors was lost. In the thirties, Unions were destroyed thanks to the communists' dividing activity and Police harassment.
By Avraham Grossman
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
Among the various Jewish cultural institutions that were active in Stryj, the large library named after B. Borochov must be mentioned. It had a special educational significance among the Jewish population in Stryj.
The library was founded in 1922 by Po'alei Zion left, and its first organizer and manager was Shimon Rosenberg. He devoted much energy to this institution and thanks to him in 1926 it already was the largest and most beautiful public library in Eastern Galicia.
At first it was located on Ringplatz 31, later it relocated to Lemberger Street 18, in the house of the bakery owned by Sauerbrunn.
It must be noted that the Borochov Library was actually a continuation of the Po'alei Zion library, which was founded before the First World War and for a while, before the split, it remained in the possession of Po'alei Zion right, and in 1926 it became again the property of the Borochov llibrary.
Due to its aesthetic arrangement, professional management and rich variety of books, the library attracted hundreds of readers from all walks of life: workers, office employees, students, merchants, young people and also a considerable number of Yeshiva students.
In 1927, a Polish section was opened as well, of about 2,000 books.
The library had a great educational significance for the young workers, who had, usually, only a few years of elementary schooling, or only Cheder education. These workers continued their selfeducation with the help of the Borochov Library.
The rich section of drama and theater literature helped developing the Drama Circles in Stryj, beginning with the Amateur Drama Club in 1917. Later there were: the Shalom Ash Club, the Y.L. Peretz Club, the A. Goldfaden Club and other Drama Circles affiliated with the Zionist organizations. All were inspired by the unforgettable director Prof. Matchek Horowitz.
A characteristic fact, which at the time shook the Jewish as well as the nonJewish population in town should be mentioned here:
Just like other Jewish cultural institutions in Poland, the Borochov Library struggled for its material existence, and was always several months late paying the rent. The landlord, owner of the property, was interested to exploit this situation, to get rid of the library and free the apartment and make a nice profit. He hired a band of hooligans
and, with the silent approval of the Police, in the middle of the night they threw out on the street the library with all its contents. The Police was interested to help liquidate one of the most beautiful Jewish Institutions in town.
The library management had to make a choice: to enter a long judicial process with the risk of meanwhile losing the institution, or immediately react with force. It chose the second way. The Jewish workers were called, through Po'alei Zion, to assemble right after work on the street of the library. The Polish and Ukrainian workers were also instructed to come after work to help the Jewish cultural institution. On 4:39 p.m. the street was full of Jewish and nonJewish workers. They closed all entrances, so that the police would not interfere. In only a few minutes the hired hooligans retreated and the library was soon back in its place. For a long time after that, workers patrolled around the place in order to defend ii.
The Borochov Library later moved back to its first locale on RingPlatz 31 and was active many years, until it fell prey to Police persecution.
In the course of the years, the following were especially active and helping: Sender Derfler (now in Israel), Yosef Meuerer (now in Brazil), Michael Last, Chaim Shamir (now in Israel), Israel Fruchter (now in Brazil), and the writer of these lines.
By S. Hirschorn
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
In the third week after the invasion of Poland, 17 September 1939, the Germans occupied the town. On the 17th day after the outbreak of the war the Soviet Armies crossed the Eastern border of Poland and began occupying the Eastern regions and on 29 September 1939 the two armies the German and the Russian met at the River Stryj. At the time, discussions concerning a demarcation line were conducted between the two Powers: the Russians demanded a borderline, and after a number of arguments and a few days of war of nerves the Germans retreated from our Eastern Galicia corner and the town was occupied by the Red Army.
The Germans have not done much damage to the Jewish population, apart from one bomb on Elner's house, on the Ringplatz, which killed some 50 people.
The Russian occupation was received by the inhabitants of Stryj with mixed feelings: by the Poles with absolute hate, by the Ukrainians with reserve and by the Jews with lesser anger compared to the reception of the Germans.
At first, the new Power was content with issuing various administrative regulations, as the order to return all weapons, the order to open the shops and the prohibition to raise prices.
Little by little, the new order gained stability. However, it didn't help much. All consequences of wartime began to be felt: food disappeared from the market, prices rose to new heights, lines formed in front of the bakeries. Textile shops, shoes, haberdashery and sweets in a few days all stores were empty. The merchants took home bags full of money. Even all cheap merchandise that had remained for months on the shelves was taken. The inspectors watched that the prices will not rise too much and that the merchandise will not be hidden.
The panic was not caused by the town population. On the contrary the inhabitants showed considerable restraint. The buying panic and catchascatchcan atmosphere was caused by the Soviet military in town. The officers began buying whatever came into their hands, without limit. Only later the secret was revealed: the land of the occupants had been, for long years, hungry for everything. The merchandise that they bought was sent as gifts home, to the families. Thus began a period of months of hunger. There were cases when the population, after standing in line for a whole night in the bitter frost in order to obtain a bread, would lose its patience and begin to rob passing military cars full of bread and other baked things, on their way to the army barracks.
Meanwhile, the new authorities stabilized their power and all offices were occupied by Commissars from Ukraine, who came with their families. They managed the town municipality, taxes, commerce, industry, cooperation, militia etc. It must be said, that all were employed of any nation, social class, or affiliation with a party in the past, apart from very few exceptions, following the activity of informers, who were local communists or plain charlatans. The local population learned very fast how to live with the new rulers and the new bosses at work, mostly by the principle of live and let live, with the help of bribe, corruption and common needs.
After the stabilization more or less of the new regime, changes were gradually felt: merchandise that came from Russia was not handled by private hands anymore; central authorities took over the management of commerce and labor; mills, bakeries and other big enterprises were nationalized, and later also houses estimated as worth more than 20,000 Rubles. All this provided a large area for bribes, thanks to which a large part of the houses remained private ownership. In the area of rented dwellings, bribe and nepotism reigned. In the field of handiwork and craftsmanship there were no restrictions about opening workshops; however, such high taxes were imposed upon the private craftsmen, that they were forced to close their shops and work with the cooperation. A considerable number of former merchants adapted themselves during the first days and went to work with the government enterprises. The rest lived for a while from the money obtained by selling the shops.
In general, there was not much persecution. But a series of arrests was made, as for example Levi Oper, a leader of Po'alei Zion. For some time he was in the
local jail, then he was sent away and did not survive. To everyone's surprise, two Jewish longtime communists were arrested as well: Shabetay Ketz and Mechl Ketz. The official reasons for the arrests were never disclosed; about the last two it was later discovered in the Polish Archives that they had been provocateurs. The arrest of the Stryj attorney Dr. Wandel became a sensation, since for many years he had been the defending attorney in trials of communists. Several assumptions were expressed concerning the reasons for this arrest but the truth was never discovered. Wandel died in prison. The two former Bund activists, Binyamin Ber and Friedl Bakster were arrested as well; both perished in prison. A while later Dr. Hoizman was arrested, under the pretext that a book by Trotzki was found in his library [by the way, this was legal in Poland]. The real reason for his arrest was that one of the new Soviet officers coveted Hoizman's beautiful apartment and this way he got rid of him. Hoizman perished as well. Several merchants were also arrested and sent to prison, allegedly for hiding merchandise, among them: Krischer, Kostman and others.
On 22 February 1940, the new regime unexpectedly hit the entire population: a sudden regulation was issued that the Polish currency was out of circulation and only the Ruble remained the legal tender. Ninety percent of the money that was in circulation became thus valueless and thousands of households found themselves without money. Interestingly, several days earlier the government institutions paid their employees the salaries in Polish currency, and so thousands of workers remained without means of sustenance.
The war and the German occupation of Poland were followed by a great stream of refugees, who, at the beginning fled from the Germans to the East and there they fell under the Soviet occupation. In Stryj there were thousands of them; only a few managed to settle there, the rest continued eastward.
In the summer of 1940, there was an unexpected Aktzia, which cruelly solved the refugee problem on all territories of the former Polish Eastern Provinces. In Stryj the Aktzia looked thus: one night they attacked all quarters where Jewish refugees from Congress Poland lived, gave them 1520 minutes to pack the most needed things and took them to the train. This encompassed young and old, men, women and children, workers and nonemployed. As it became known later, this Aktzia was prepared secretly. During weeks they prepared in the station a number of freight cars for long trips. In the cars they arranged cots for sleeping and stoves to keep warm. For the purpose of catching or kidnapping the people they organized in advance, secretly, several brigades of their own trustworthy people who, together with the militia carried out the work rigorously; they took women without the men, if the men were by chance away from home, and men without the women. They also took parents without some of their children if they were not at home at the moment. These refugees traveled for months through the Russian Taiga and Steppe, in the direction of
the Northern regions. On the way, there were many victims due to the inhuman and unsanitary conditions. Later, arriving to the Polar region, the number of the victims increased. The letters that arrived to family and friends were full of cries for help: some of them did not have warm clothes when they arrived in the areas of fearful frosty climate. The food was scarce and they became ill with scurvy and other Polar diseases; also the living and working conditions were difficult.
The Relationship between various National Groups
As is known, Eastern Galicia was declared part of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic, realized through a socalled Referendum. Following this decision, the Ukrainian language became the official language. Naturally, this flattered the Ukrainian population and hurt very much the national feelings of the Polish people. The occupation authorities also made every effort to replace Poles and Jews in leading positions with Ukrainians. This, however, was accomplished with difficulty and was realized only to a small measure, since it was hard to find a sufficient number of qualified Ukrainians for the jobs. Because of the tendency of Ukrainization, all members of the Ukrainian intelligentsia, who were known nationalists and hated the Soviet Union, were employed. There was no antagonism between the two parts of the population mentioned above; the negative attitude toward the occupant has weakened the old national tensions. The relationship between the Poles and Ukrainians and the Jews improved considerably compared to the situation before the war.
Social Life in the Jewish Sreet
The Soviet occupation resulted in a complete liquidation of all political parties and all Jewish social activity. The Jewish charitable, philanthropic, cultural and other institutions ceased to exist. Other institutions, like orphanages, homes for the aged and the like were merged with Christian institutions of the same kind and transferred to the municipal administration. They were emptied of all Jewish content. The official language became Ukrainian. In general, the entire social life turned gray, uninspiring, devoid of any Jewish cultural activity, except some lessons and courses, where the listeners were fed with the history of the Bolshevik Party or the speeches of Soviet officials. Those courses were packed with masses of government officials and employees, who came mainly for fear of the consequences.
The religious life continued without any interruption in all synagogues and Batei Midrash. The religious institutions, however, which before the war were subsidized by the Jewish community did have financial problems. They remained without help and had to resort to selfsustenance.
Notwithstanding the official integration of Eastern Galicia into the Soviet Ukraine, the border between the two parts of the country was closed, until the end of the occupation. The duty of the Eastern Galicia citizens to serve in the Red Army was different as well: the recruited served only in labor battalions and were employed at building fortifications.
The End of the Soviet Regime
One week after the German attack on the Soviet Union (22 June 1941) the Soviet forces left the town. During that week, the soviet institutions in town their personnel, many soviet citizens and others were evacuated by the authorities. Several hundred Jews seized this opportunity and fled to the East.
When the war against the Germans broke out, a great number of Jews was called to serve in the army. If they did not follow the order of mobilization, they were shot for desertion. So was shot Popper and another Jew.
Before leaving town, the Soviets carried out a cruel act: without reason they arrested the Zionist activists: David Seidman, Binyamin Klein, Benye Garfinkel, Yitzhak Meisels and Schwammer Leib.
All, except Seidman, were shot without trial, in the courtyard of the Stryj jail.
By S. Hirschorn
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
|The following letter was sent to the editorial board of the YizkorBook by our friend Zvi Raps now in Tzefat [Safed].
During the war, Raps arrived to Stryj as a refugee. In his letter he describes the aid that the Stryj Jews gave the refugees, who, in the summer of 1940 were cruelly loaded by the Soviet occupants onto freight cars and sent away to the far Northern regions of Russia.
The Editorial Board
It was Friday evening when the Russians began the action of sending us to Siberia. On Saturday morning they loaded us onto freight cars and on Sunday morning our transport arrived in Stryj. We did not know where we were taken but the Stryj Jews knew the secret that we were being sent away to Siberia.
The Russians have not allowed the Stryj Jews to approach the station. So they bribed the NKVD people and received permission. In the course of one day they bought a wagon of bread, challah, cakes, marmalade, butter, herring, sweets and what not? even diapers and clothes for children. They also brought over thirty thousand Rubles a considerable sum at the time.
In addition, people brought to the station cooked food, warm and cold. The Community announced that any luxury planned for that day must be devoted to the refugees. A wagon load full of medicines was brought and divided among the train cars; it was of great help during the journey.
This I shall never forget:
As the train already began to move, a woman gave me a jar full of the finest marmalade and a bag of sugar. She shouted through the window: This is for all!
As the train left the station, several hundreds of Stryj Jews were standing on the platform, weeping loudly. Such a warm behavior as in Stryj I have never seen. For years I am carrying with me the thought that I must meet at least one Stryjer Jew and kiss him with gratitude. Finally I met one of them in Safed and I told him that what they did must never be forgotten.
I hope that many of the hundreds of Jews who have been with me in Siberia will read my letter in your YizkorBook and will add to it more and more. Because what I am writing here is only like a drop in the sea of what the Stryj Jews have done.
May their memory be blessed!
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
The German attack of the Soviet Union, on 22 June 1941, was so unexpected, that in the early morning hours, while the Stryj people were still in their beds, nobody believed that the echoes of bomb explosions and the noise of fire arms had any connection with a real war. Only in the later hours of the morning, after the radio announcements from Moscow, they began to wake up to the situation. They realized that heavy clouds are gathering above the town and a storm in unavoidable.
Stryj was situated in the most dangerous region. The Soviet-German demarcation line extended from the San in Przemysl to Lavochne in the Carpathian Mountains. Hostile mechanized divisions could make the distance Przemysl-Stryj in several hours. The German air force did it in a few minutes and spread destruction over the Soviet military bases in the region.
However, interestingly, the Stryj population did not realize the full meaning of the danger, and never thought of fleeing from the place. The faces of the people showed distress, but not panic.
The Stryj Jews were well aware of the fact that in the course of the last 20 years the Soviets have built strong fortifications along the border. Therefore, during the first two days it was surmised that the border-battles would not last a long time, but, when on the third and fourth days news arrived that in the NE and SE the Germans have broken the lines, it became clear that the fate of the central front in mid-Galicia was sealed and that in a few days Stryj would fall into the hands of the Germans.
Yet, the Jewish population in Stryj was not shaken. No mass-movement of evacuation was observed. How can we explain the relative calm and indifference with which the Jews have met the danger of German occupation? There were three reasons:
The trains that left Stryj in the direction of the Ukraine during the
last days before the Soviet Army left, accepted every one who desired to escape. There was no control or limitation there were two or three such trains. But there was also a possibility to escape in the direction of Drohobitch-Barislav, by trains which passed through Stryj.
Some 300 Jewish refugees from Stryj arrived this way to the Soviet Union.
During the first few months, the Stryj refugees concentrated, in larger or smaller groups, in the regions where they were taken off the train, but mainly in the Ukraine. Later, as the Germans marched out, they spread all over the Asian parts of the Soviet Union.
The few hundred Stryj refugees in Russia suffered the same fate as their brother-refugees in Congress Poland: they worked in the kolkhoz; were employed in factories and workshops; wandered around the wide Russian areas without a roof over their heads, dirty, naked, barefoot and hungry; traded regularly in the black-market; spent time in jail and in concentration camps; died of typhoid fever and other illnesses as a result of all the troubles and finally, in 1945-46 were re-evacuated to Poland. We do not have exact numbers neither of those who escaped from Stryj by train nor of those who did not live to return to the old home. We also do not have the exact number of those who were re-evacuated to Poland. It is estimated to be around 200.
This is the short story of the last remnant [she'erit hapleita] of the Jews of Stryj, who experienced the Soviet Chapter. Most of those who survived live now in Israel.
The following chronicle is an abbreviated form of the story told by Yona Friedler and Yitzhak Nussenblatt, two well-known Stryj Jews, who in 1941-1944 experienced the Nazi Hell in town, witnessing the ruin of the Jewish Community of Stryj.
Eye-Witnesses Tell the Story
On the 2nd of July 1941 the Nazi hordes occupied the town. 10 days from 22 June to 2 July the town was feverish with panic and fear.
The German air force constantly bombarded and terrorized the retreating groups of the Soviet army as well as the civilian population. The Ukrainian Haidamaks, from town and from the neighboring villages, prepared for robbery and murder.
The Soviet Garrison in Stryj evacuated in great panic, and with them went several hundred Jews families and singles some of them by force, some of them by their own will. The remaining Jewish population, numbering over 14 thousand souls, was in panic and distress.
On the first day of the invasion, the Germans opened several mass-graves, in the courtyard of the Stryj Tower. Before the Russians left, they shot in a hurry and buried tens of political prisoners: Ukrainians, Poles and Jews, whom they were not able to take with them to the East. Among those killed were several Zionist activists.
The Nazis exploited the situation and proceeded with a poisoning anti-Soviet and anti-Jewish incitement.
To the exhumation they invited Ukrainians from the villages, priests and people from the press. They began with the anti-Semitic fire: This was done by the Jewish-Communist regime take revenge!
These were the first days of the legalized murderous Ukrainian Bacchanalia. They started beating, murdering and robbing Jews, cursing and humiliating. All doors opened for the Ukrainian underworld. The accumulated Jew-hatred during generations, from the time of Chmielnicki, became overt in his great-grandchildren. It should be mentioned, that they performed the horrible, bloodthirsty work not worse than the Germans.
The first German regulations were:
Jewish Elder Oscar Hatterer. Members: Dr. Wolf Mishel, Moshe Walmut, Dr. Rechter, Dr. Binyamin Millbauer, Lipe Honig, Yitzhak Reich, Shlomo Sauerbrunn, Michael Wang and others.The Judenrat was charged with the following duties: the Jews should carry out all orders and regulations of the military and civil authorities; should deal with all Jewish problems in the Jewish Quarter, including imposing taxes for the activity of the Judenrat.
The Judenrat organized a series of activities, for example: Jewish Police service, food, taxes, apartments, furniture, work etc. The Judenrat offices were situated in the house of the Ettinger family, corner of Pototzki and 3 May Streets.
Right from the start, the members of the militia received a series of privileges, also special uniforms and hats with a yellow band, and were armed with rubber sticks.
One of the first regulations of the Judenrat was to arrange furniture for the apartments of the German officers who lived in town. Naturally, it was done by confiscating Jewish furniture.
The offices of the Judenrat were organized and furnished nicely, with telephones, typewriters, secretaries. The Judenrat also owned property and opened stores in the Jewish region.
During the first days, Jews were allowed to move outside the Jewish quarter formally between 10 a.m. and 12 noon to do their shopping in the general market, but there they were met with the worst offenses, humiliation and beatings by Ukrainians and Poles. Hatred and incitement grew day by day: the quantity of the produce in the market decreased daily, and the scapegoat were the Jews.
In town, the power was in the hands of the Schupo [Schutz-Polizei = Protecting Police], the Kriepo [Kriegs Polizei = War Police], the Gestapo and the Ukrainian Police. The Ukrainian police served as the right hand of the Gestapo. Their cruelty was often worse than the expectation of those who gave them the orders. Their hands were immersed in rivers of Jewish blood.
The first bloody terror act happened in the first few days. Following the notice of a Ukrainian informer, 12 Jews were caught and accused of communist activity and of harassing Ukrainians during the Soviet occupation. They were taken to the village Dolib and shot.
The entire accusation was no more than an invented lie.
The murdered people had never in their lives any connection with communism or with the good deeds of the German authorities. Among the people who were shot: Efraim Buchenbaum, Feivel Dunkel, Eng. Schatzker, the son of Att. Kerner, Freiman, Steiermark, Ringel, Sterski-Klarsfeld (a convert to Christianity) and others.
On the second day after the invasion, they began taking the Jews to the hardest, dirtiest and mostly senseless work, in order to humiliate them and terrorize them with beatings and hunger. The Ukrainians were the first violin of the great orchestra, and made every effort to use all their animal brutality.
Later, the Germans began to introduce Ordnung [order], to best exploit the Jewish force-labor for their needs. With the help of the Judenrat, work-service was enforced on all Jews of the ages of 16-60. Work-Brigades were organized and living quarters were provided for them, in several small camps outside the Jewish quarter. Those brigades worked in food production, building, water, petrol industry, rags, wood and glass production.
The hope of some of the Jews, that the forced labor will protect them from worse trouble, was later proved false. None of them was spared the fate of the rest of the Jewish Community.
The Jewish Quarter the Ghetto
The Jewish quarter, which was created in town right at the beginning, was in fact a ghetto, only not yet hermetically locked. It comprised the streets: Klinski Drohobitza, the Ringplatz to Targovitza and the streets between Batorego and Karzmierska. About 12 thousand Jews were crowded between these borders.
A few months later, the Judenrat received an order to bring to this area another 11 thousand Jews, who were evacuated from the neighboring district.
In December 1942, the size of the Jewish quarter was reduced, cut off from all other parts of town, and locked. Thus it became a real ghetto, crowded in a box between the North of the Ringplatz up to Zhelona-Targovitza and between Batorego and Berka Yoselevitcha.
The First Aktzia
In September 1941, the first Aktzia was carried out, in a most brutal way. Some 1200 Jewish men were pulled out of the Jewish quarter, and after 3 days of torture they were sent to Halabutev, a village not far from town. There they forced them to dig graves, then they were all shot and buried.
The Jewish population panicked and began feeling the danger of death which awaited everyone. In all houses and courtyards they started arranging hiding places every home was looking for a place to hide on the day of attack. They built bunkers, some of them well camouflaged, which gave protection during the first Aktzias.
The greatest danger, in spite of the hiding places, were the local Ukrainians who, together with the Germans took part in all Aktzias. They knew the town very well the streets, the courtyards and all the corners. Even more dangerous was the group of outcasts from the Jewish order-service, who made the Germans' work much easier.
Between the Aktzias there were pauses. And meanwhile, the first winter for the Germans on the Eastern fronts approached, and they needed warm clothing. In December 1941, the order of the fur-Aktzia was issued. Those who did not give up their furs were threatened by death penalty. Moshe Goldfinger was hanged after a Ukrainian neighbor informed the authorities that he hid his fur coat.
In general, the Aktzias of money contributions by Jews and confiscation of Jewish property brought
the Christian population to a horrible moral low: corruption, theft, robbery, drunkenness and murder became the habit of their daily life.
One Aktzia was carried out of deporting the unproductive, non-working Jews. They were pulled out of the Jewish quarter and deported to Smarze, a far and abandoned place in the Carpathian Mountains. We do not have numbers but we know that all deportees died of hunger and frost.
The news that came from the front caused worry and fear. On the Eastern front, the Germans marched forward and on the way destroyed every Jewish settlement. The anti-Jewish propaganda increased, the authorities became more severe every day; life became hell: forced labor, beatings, hunger and murder were the daily bread. And the sword of further Aktzias hung over the Jewish community.
The third Aktzia was not a long time away: it came in May 1942, on the eve of the Holiday of Shavuot. The entire Jewish quarter was suddenly filled with German troops and Ukrainian police. They began opening the bunkers and pull out young and old from the hiding places. There were terrible scenes; children were torn away from their parents and parents from children. All sick people in the hospital were shot.
After each Aktzia, the remaining property was assembled, carefully sorted and sent to Germany.
On 3 September 1942, a new Aktzia was organized, one of the biggest. About 8 thousand Jews were taken to the train, loaded onto cattle cars, without food, without water, crowded and dirty. This transport left for Belshetz.
On the way, several Jews managed to make some holes in the car and jumped off the train. Most of them, however, were later caught in the forest by the Ukrainian police. Only very few, who managed to find their way back home, were saved.
In December 1942, the ghetto was closed off, and only with a work-card could one step out of the ghetto.
The locked up Jews were in a frightful position. Only one bakery, which belonged to Shlomo Sauerbrunn was working in the ghetto.
Electricity and gas were shut off. The sewage was not cleaned. With the hunger and dirt came death. Diseases spread and the ghetto went into a state of dying.
Yet, even in this situation there were some desperate attempts to pull out of the claws of death. Through round-about ways, some managed to get out from the ghetto and run, risking death, toward the Hungarian border. There was one spark of hope to cross the border to Hungary and save oneself. But the ray of hope soon dispersed, because the roads were full of Ukrainians, with and without uniform, who blocked the roads everywhere. Tired and desperate, all of them fell into the hands of the pursuers and shared the fate of their brethren in the ghetto.
There were attempts to escape by other ways as well, but only few succeeded to escape the sword.
A few people managed to find shelter in the Arian part of town, hidden by Christians. The documents were obtained through a messenger from the Warsaw Ghetto.
Very few survived in the forests, fewer still in bunkers, with the help of Christians.
The following perished, among others, in the first Aktzia (to Belzhec):
Schuster Zeide, Dr. Nathan Schaechter and his family, the Esteryung family, the family of Att. Mark Horowitz, Att. Selinger, Prof. Seinfeld, Binyamin Nussenblatt, Pesia Josefsberg and her daughter Yita, Reichman Genia, Chaia and children,
the Appelgruen family (shoe merchants), Israel Nussenblatt and son, Mrs. Appelgruen and daughter, Dr. Fikhmann's wife and son, Moshe Beer and family, the Schindler family, the Robinson brothers, the Kraemer family, the Klinger family, the Hartstein family, Att. Weiss, Rosenberg Feivel and family, Fruchter Haendel and family, the Buchwalter family, Fruchter Aizik and family, the Filtz family, Max Horowitz, the Lerner family, Rosenzweig, Ungar, Hirschhorn Kuba and family, Dr. Ungar and wife, Chava Vizeltir.
In the Aktzia of 28 February 1943 perished, among others: Henia Schatz and daughter, the Shlomo Rassler family, Leib Schatz, Sasha Heller, Hella Preiss, Aharon Meller.
In the Aktzias in 1943, there were cases of active resistance against the police, but they were suppressed with cruelty.
In the camps, there was also some sabotage activity.
In the Aktzia of 22 May 1943, about 1000 people perished. They were caught and locked up for several days in the Great Synagogue, which was situated outside the ghetto. They were kept there without food, without water, without necessary sanitation for their physiological needs.
When they opened the doors of the synagogue, gruesome sights were seen. The Christian neighbors said that their heads turned over and their blood froze in their veins from the horrible sights.
On the walls of the synagogue were found scribbled words, asking for vengeance.
The last liquidation Aktzia started on 22 June 1943 and lasted a month. When they sent away the transport, the teacher Lisa Schwieder addressed the German escort with the following words: Murderers of my people! Bandits! Who gave you the right to murder millions of people? You are a mockery, a shame, you and your crazy Fuehrer! There will be revenge, not only on you but on your coming generations! The blood of innocent children will beat forever and rob your life. Eternal shame be on you!
The Germans stopped in wonder and distress, but soon recovered and proceeded with their work.
In June 1943, the Jewish doctors were killed. They were taken to a house on Potocki Street, from there to the Tower and then to Holobotov.
On the way they were poisoned with Kaliumcyanid gas: Dr. Malka Leibowitz, Dr. Shnir and Nives with the family.
In that liquidation Aktzia, the following perished as well, among others:
Rabbi Yeshayahu Asher Yales, Seidman David, Dr. Eisenstein, Shlomo Toyber and family, Hatterer, Mrs. Ladir and daughter, Nagler Kuba, Yosef Ber Kraan and family, Stoltz Shimon, Manya Haber and her mother, Rachel Broyner and family, Malia Steiff, Shmuel Fruchter and family, Mania Pomerantz, Henia Stoltz, Regina Smarak, Enden and family, Sauerbrunn, the Tzobel family, Dr. Yosef Raat, Dr. Ingber and wife, Dr. Mantel and family, Pharmacist Lianek Sternberg and his mother, Pharmacist Dicker.
All those who were hidden in the Arian side fell into the hands of the Germans and the Ukrainians and perished.
During the three years of German occupation, approximately 14 thousand Stryj Jews perished, and a similar number from the surrounding province.
In 1944, when the town was liberated, there were in town about twenty Jews, who had been hidden by Christians.
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