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Tlumacz: Location and Locality

by Munio Wurman

Tlumacz was the county seat of Tlumacz Province, a territory which, prior to the Second World War, covered 919 square kilometers (about 300 square miles) with a total population of 118,874. The Province took in 127 village councils and 133 settlements, among them several towns. As the county seat, Tlumacz was the location of the district administration, high school, teachers' college, and the district court.

Tlumacz, which means translator (Tolmacz in Ukrainian and Tolmycz in Yiddish), was named for a military translator Towmacz in the Zaporozhe army. Towmacz's knowledge of languages served the mutual relations of the Poles, Tatars, Greeks and Moldavians. He was also sent to neighboring countries to gather information or transmit secret instructions. Because he was able to dissuade the Tatars from pillaging the town and killing its inhabitants, the latter named the town in his honor. (Another version holds that the town received its name from the fact that many translators happened to be living there).

Before Poland's division (the first one, in 1772) into Russian, Prussian and Austrian territories, Tlumacz belonged to the Province of Halicz. Austria annexed it to Galicia (Stanislawow district). It remained in this district from 1919 to 1939, from Poland's independence to its fall to the Germans.

According to some historians, the Tlumacz community was in existence as far back as the 14th Century, in the days of King Wladislaw Jagelo. It often fell prey to the Tatars. In the 17th Century the town was attacked by the Cossacks and destroyed; in 1661 its entire population was reduced to three souls. The town was rebuilt slowly; in 1765 it already had 102 houses, of which 59 belonged to Jews, with a synagogue of their own. The others were Catholics and Eastern Church people.

The king appointed the governor of the province, to administer the area, collect taxes, and to protect the Jews against attack, according to royal edict. At the end of the 17th Century, the town and the entire province passed into the hands of the influential Pototzki family and remained there until the middle of the 19th Century, when it was taken over

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by the Jahn family. The head of this family built a palace in the center of a large park, and later founded a sugar refining plant, one of the largest in Galicia, which employed more than 1,000 workers. His descendants weren't able to hold on to these properties. The palace and the park went to the Village council, and the sugar plant went bankrupt. The assets were sold, some of them to the Jews of Tlumacz.

Tlumacz also had a river of sorts, a large stream called Tlumaczyk, about 12 feet across, widening to about 40 feet at the point of its confluence with the Dniester River, one of Europe's largest (1,300 feet across, at that point), which separated Tlumacz Province from its neighbors, Buczacz and Horodenko. Important as was the Dniester for transportation and commerce, it also wrought some discomfort: twice a year it overflowed its banks early in March, as the snow and ice in the area melted, and again later in May, when the snow melted in the Carpathian mountains, the source of the Dniester.

The Dniester witnessed many instances of Jewish tragedy. Several days before the German invasion of the area, the Ukrainians living in villages along the river tied the Jews within reach with wire, and threw them into the river. They did the same to Jews who had fled to the area from other localities. But retribution came in the fall of 1941. The entire region was hit by a flood which swept away whole villages. The inhabitants saw in the disaster the punishment for their deeds.

In 1772, Tlumacz went over from Polish jurisdiction to Galician, where it remained until 1914. At the outbreak of the war it was held by the Russian army and later by the Austrian forces. On August 7, 1915, a major battle took place between the Austro-Hungarian army and the Russian forces. After three bloody days, the Austrians retreated to the center of Galicia and Bucovina. As the war raged on, and for years afterwards, Tlumacz see-sawed back and forth between the combatants. The Austrians recaptured the area in 1917. After the fall of the Habsburg Empire the town went over to the West Ukrainian Republic (1919): for the next twenty years it was part of Poland, then back in the Ukraine and later in the hands of the Germans. Since July 1944 Tlumacz's official location is in West Ukraine, Oblast Ivanovo-Frankovska, U.S.S.R.

Situated off the main highway, Tlumacz had little industry and commerce, although it was in the heart of a fertile valley, and its soil was rich and fruitful. On the other hand, for the Jews particularly, being away from the travelled road meant greater safety from bandits and other “plagues”.

Most of the habitations were on one side of the Tlumaczyk stream. On the other was the city abattoir and wide open spaces which served,

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among other purposes, for the Wednesday market and the wagons of the farmers, for gypsy encampments, and for soccer games (the Jewish team, “Hashmonai”, was high up in the inter-town league). Farther out were the pasture and grazing lands. In the spring, when the waters of the Tlumaczyk swelled from the melting snow, those lands were completely inundated: at other times the stream was polluted with sewage.

The Jewish neighborhood centered about Legionov Street, on which was located the two-story government primary school, built in 1902. The smaller streets, branching off from Leionov, led to the Jewish public baths, to several small synagogues, the headquarters of Jewish youth movements, converging on Herzl Square, named for the founder of the Zionist movement. On the Square was the Main Synagogue and the meat markets. Beyond it was the town's only pharmacy, owned by one Shankowski, for many years the Mayor of Tlumacz. He and another man named Kurczaw were the only non-Jews living in that area.

To the left of the market place the neighborhood changed. Here was the Greek Catholic Church, the entrance to the town park, and the distillery. While not many Jews lived in this quarter, several of its buildings were used by Jewish organizations of all kinds “Hashomer Hatzair”. “Betar”, the “Kadima” and “Emunah” Clubs of the intellectuals and the sports headquarters of “Hashmonai”.

On Wednesdays, the market place was alive with buyers and sellers, coming from all over the province. As the wagons laden with produce drew close, some Jews bought from them sacks of grain or other commodities, weighing them on their mobile scales. Then they set themselves up in the market and retailed their purchases to the customers.

Fruit, fresh and dried, was a popular item. The stands were run mainly by women whose husbands worked as watchmen in the orchards or as fruit-driers, all according to season. In the cold of winter, these “market sitters”, as they were called, had to keep their hands warm by holding them over braziers of live coals.

The civic center of the town was at and around the park. Here was the Town Hall, the high school, the water pump station, the town's one and only hotel, monuments to the liberation of the serfs in 1848, the post office and, in the main building, the Ukrainian cooperative bureau and the women's school, conducted by the sisters of a religious order. Arrayed in the vicinity were the institutions of the non-Jewish population. The largest hall in the town belong the “Sokol” organization, which rented it for public gatherings, silent films, dances, and performances by outside theatre troupes, mostly Polish or Ukrainian.

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Past the new Jewish cemetery, on the outskirts of the town, the road led to many spots of interest, among them an artificial reservoir built to supply water through underground pipes to the sugar refinery. The reservoir was surrounded with a high embankment, planted at the top with trees and bushes. The water in the reservoir came from a spring via a small canal. Aside from serving the refinery, the reservoir also formed an excellent duck pond and Tlumacz's one and only swimming pool. In the winter the water froze and was used as an ice skating rink.

Tlumacz had a railway of sorts a narrow-gage road and two passenger cars which traveled to Palahicze twice daily, and every once in a while with freight. The railway went into service in 1910: its inauguration took place on Saturday because the Mayor did not want the Jews to participate.

Tlumacz was regarded as one of the most beautiful towns in eastern Poland, well-planned, partly urban in character but also retaining its country atmosphere. Its main streets were paved with cobblestones and illuminated at night. An efficient drainage and sewerage system kept them clean. Almost all the houses were built of brick and their roofs covered with sheet metal. The houses on the side streets had tile roofs, and the cottages on the outskirts, built of wood filled in with clay, had thatched roofs. Floors were mostly wooden. Every home had a brick hearth.

The earliest houses in the town were, without doubt, the inns. Built of wood and set in spacious courtyards to accommodate many wagons, they later went over to various families and institutions in the town.

The landscape outside Tlumacz added to its beauty. Past the reservoir, the land began to slope upward, on the way to Oleshe and its forests. In winter the entire slope used to be covered with sleds, hurtling down to the foot of the rise. From this vantage point, the smoke spiraling up from the chimneys in town lent the scene the beauty of a painting.

In the spring, the blossoming of the parks and gardens filled the air. The anemones bloomed in the valley while the snow was still on the high slopes.

The summers were hot, but not stifling. At the peak of the heat, the town felt the relief of a torrential rain. And the breeze brought the scent of the fields and pastures, the freshly mown hay and the wild flowers.

The fall was the season of campfires, of potatoes roasted on the coals. The rains in the fall were different moody, gray, frowning skies.

The winter was hard. At times the sleet and storm kept everyone indoors. The frost was on the window panes, and “candles” of ice hung from the edge of the roofs. When the weather was clement, out came the

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sleds and sleighs, plus a few skis. As soon as the thaw set in, everyone turned out to shovel the snow and ice away from the streets. The days grew longer, and soon spring was in the air.

The Jewish Community of Tlumacz

by Munio Wurman

Tlumacz has its origins in the 14th Century, in the reign of Wladislaw Jagelo. Since it had never been fortified, it was subjected at different times to Tatar raiders. In the reign of King Jan Kazhmirezh (1618) it was attacked by the rebellious Cossaks and was destroyed, together with some 700 other communities throughout Poland. Later in the century, in the Cossak riots under the leadership of Bogdan Chmielnitzki, only 10% of the population remained alive.

Testimony to the presence of Jews in Tlumacz early in the 17th Century is furnished by a headstone in the Old Cemetery, on the graves of families massacred in these pogroms. (Ephraim Schreier, YIVO correspondent in Wilno before the Second World War, told me that he had sent a photograph of the tombstone to YIVO in Wilno. I asked YIVO in New York about it, but they had no record of such a photograph). A. Chehowski, a 17th Century historian, writes that only three families survived this pogrom; these had to be Jewish families, since in those days only Jews resided in the towns, in eastern Europe.

Watushinski, in his book The Jewish Population in Poland in the 19th and 20th Centuries, writes that already in the second half of the 18th Century (1765) there were 805 inhabitants in Tlumacz, living in 102 houses. Of these, 59 were Jewish homes, inhabited by 372 souls - 43% of the population.

The following table sets forth the growth of the Tlumacz populace:

Year Total
No. of
No. of
1765 805 102 372 59 43
1800 5,000 736 2,097 329 39
1900 5,600 751 2,082 331 36
1918 5,800 801 2,012 331 35
1931 5,946 812 2,112 341 33,5

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The table shows that even in the beginning of the 19th Century there was a large percentage of Jews in Tlumacz. The reason for the drop was that Jews fled from Poland's western districts, where they were ejected from their positions by the Polish urban class, assisted by the clergy. As their rights were taken away, they wandered eastward, to the districts without a Polish urban society and as yet under the protection of the royal decrees. There they began settling in the sparsely populated areas, building their modest homes and synagogues, as they engaged in trade, locating their businesses around a certain piece of land which in the course of time became the town market place.

The original Jewish Tlumacz was located in the quarter known as “Mexic” and the streets feeding into the market place. The location of the Catholic and the Greek-Catholic Church indicated the concentration of the non-Jewish populace. Some of these streets retained the character of the populace until mid-20th Century.

The Old Cemetery on Slovatski Street was at first quite distant from the urban area, as was the Catholic burial ground.

In the first half of the 19th Century, a sugar refining factory was built not far from the Jewish cemetery, and around it a workers' quarter sprang up. The Jewish cemetery, surrounded by a brick wall, is flanked by the railway and station, Slovatski and Koliova Streets. The New Cemetery was moved far away from the residential quarter, to Lokotki Hill. The Catholic cemetery was moved earlier to a hill in the direction of Grushka village.

Tlumacz expanded by taking in the Slobodka and Gantcharovka communities and extending Horodenka and Gantcharovka Streets. Most of the Jews remained in the Mexic Quarter and the neighboring streets, but by the beginning of the 19th Century some Jews were already living on Kolinietska, Hordenka, Koliova, and Slovatski Streets, which remained predominantly non-Jewish.

In 1910, with the construction of the Tlumacz-Palahicz railway line, a new approach was paved to the station along Koliova Street.

The forging table shows that the general population grew in number, but the Jewish populace dropped. This was due to Tlumacz's location - off the main highway and lacking industry and large-scale commerce. The area was rich in farm produce, but transportation difficulties made connections with the villages in the region very costly. Nearby Stanislawow, on the other hand, situated on the Lemberg-Husiatin railway intersection, developed quickly; the railway extended to the Russian border, from Stanislawow to Colomeia, as well as to Chernowitz (Bucovina, until 1914 the

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natural extension of Galicia). Stanislawow and its large supplies of commodities attracted buyers from all over the province, while Tlumacz was neglected. Had the plans for extending the railway through Tlumacz to Horodenko been realized, Tlumacz would have grown considerably.

There were also specific reasons for the decline in the Jewish population: lower natural increase, fewer arrivals (although late in the 19th Century there was an influx of Jewish refugees from Lithuania and Russia), economic straits, unemployment, a strong current of immigration to America, the hostile attitude of the Christian population, finally the First World War, the harshness of the Russian regime, the deportation of the Jewish males to Zlochow, the flight of Jews from Tlumacz to Czechoslovakia, Moravia, Hungary and even Vienna, after the outbreak of the First World War, the wartime famine and contagious diseases, the lack of medical help, the Petlura raids and destruction of homes and property. After the war, the Poles and Ukrainians set up commercial cooperatives to draw business away from the Jews, under the slogan of “Poles-to-Poles” of the Grabski government and the propaganda toward that end by Sladkowski. Jews were also caught in the “tax vise”, which helped impoverish them. The Polish authorities gave inducements to Poles to settle in the urban areas, and they also encouraged the Ukrainians to populate the towns.

These hardships also led to strong aspirations among the Jews in the direction of Zionism, particularly among the young people. Following the issuance of the Balfour Declaration, all the “Hashomer Hatzair” activists in Tlumacz made their aliya, thereby further reducing the Jewish population.

An attempt to bring industry into Tlumacz was made in mid-19th Century. The fertile soil in the area was most suitable for growing sugar beets. The owner of Tlumacz decided to build a sugar refining factory (later name “Hof”). The Polish General encyclopedia states (Vol. 25, year 1868) that this was the largest sugar refining plant in Galicia. However, faulty administration and the high cost of bringing the raw material in and shipping the refined sugar out led to the closing of the factory, leaving more than a thousand workers without jobs.

At the turn of the century, several Tlumacz individuals attempted to improve the town's economic condition. Among them was a member of the State Council in Vienna, Moise Rosochatzki (apparently a convert) and Mayor Hobodka. They were able to obtain an order for the building of the Tlumacz-Palihicze railroad. They bought the mansion of the former owner of Tlumacz and remodeled it into a high school. The township bought a park for public use. Barracks were built for the cavalry unit. A vocational

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school was organized and a distillery started. These moves led to an increase in the Jewish population, as well.

Tlumacz had good sources of water, with a high calcium content, but there were also springs with water good for cooking. The presence of water a few feet below the surface made it difficult to build cellars. Water was pumped from the springs at a depth of about 40 feet. There was also a large volume of rainwater, which the housewives collected for their laundry. The rain and snow provided enough water for the agricultural needs of the province. They also impeded travel. The rains turned the roads into quagmires; all but the main stone-paved highway were impassable during the rainy season.

The winter blasted the town with winds from the east and the north. Often the town was snowbound. Commuting was by horse-drawn sleighs, as were all deliveries of food and merchandise and logs for the fire; the rest of the year, transport was mainly by railway, in the two daily trips to Palahicze, thence by other conveyance to Stanislawow and Chortkow. Later an omnibus drawn by horses plied between Tlumacz and Stanislawow. In the late twenties, Joel Padner brought in an autobus. The Soviets opened Tlumacz-Stanislawow bus lines.

The forests abounded with wolves, foxes, rabbits, wild pigs. Fruit was plentiful, particularly cherries. The fruit orchards in the province provided cherries, peaches, currants, berries, pears and apples. The orchards, leased by their owners mostly to Jews, furnished the area with fresh fruit, dried fruit and jellies. Part of the fruit was stored in cellars, so that the supply lasted for Passover. In general, the farm produce of the area supplied not only the province, but also other provinces and even abroad. Among these farm exports were wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, groats, beans, peas, beets, cabbage, millet, carrots, poppyseed and other vegetables. Exportation was in the hands of wholesalers who bought the crops from the estates or the farmers. Among the grain wholesalers were Mendl Schwechter (sons are now in the United States), Zelig Fisher, Korn and Flesher.

The pastures supplied hay, clover and straw. After the First World War the province exported to the west large quantities of potatoes, cabbage, beets, fodder and clover. The better produce was sent to the large cities and the rest went to the distilleries for vodka production. Shimon Hutt and Ephraim Wurman bought farm produce and shipped it out in wagons to its destinations.

M. Mendl Bildner operated a grading house for egg exports, morst of them going to Italy and Spain. Several wholesalers, of whom Lepold Friedel was the most outstanding, shipped beef to the west, mainly Mislowitz.

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After the war, vodka and tobacco smuggling to the west also became popular. The tobacco came from Russia, across the border at Zabroch. Pigs were also exported, but no Jews engaged in it.

Spirits were produced in the distilleries out of potatoes and rye. Production was an exclusive governmental monopoly, and the output was shipped by wagon to the governmental refineries.

Although the rural communities had their cooperatives in Tlumacz, much of their needs were supplied to them in the villages by wholesalers. One of them, Schwarzbard, dealt with groceries, plus salt, kerosene and paints. He was also partner in a cigarettes and tobacco concern, which was officially owned by Poles as a branch of the state monopoly, and in a wholesale concern of yeast and salt. Gottlieb and Redner were also in large-scale wholesale and retail businesses. Pini Riesel and Shimshon Zamler operated ironware and iron tools stores. Herman Walfish had large beer stores which supplied the village stores with the beverage. Horowitz was the town's largest dealer in fabrics. He made frequent trips to Lodz for fabrics with he sold to the retail stores, stands and rural shops. Other merchants - Eisner, Lodmer, Weitz, Reis and Haber - obtained their wares in Stanislawow. Shoes were carried by Epstein and Dolberg.

A special role was filled by the Winterfeld printshop. Founded in 1908, it published in German, Polish, Ukrainian and Yiddish, serving the entire province. It grew nicely due to its diligent owner, Aaron Winterfeld. It printed the Official Journal, published by the administration of the province. In 1919, the shop printed the Stanislawow Yiddishe Folks Zeitung; it also put out the provincial organ Ziemia Tlomaczka. It put out many illustrated books, among them How to Behave (in Polish), a kind of small Bonton.

Book stores and libraries were an important element in the life of the community. The first book store was owned by Radner-Urman. Later came Bunio Schweffelgeist's shop: books, stationery, stamps for collectors, cameras and photo supplies.

Hides were sold by Shpiegel and Inzlicht. Two small home plants, owned by Mintzer and Sommer, supplied fish products. Liquers were sold by Schweffelgeist and Herman.

While the Tlumacz area abounded in horses and cattle, it had few sheep, turkeys, geese and chickens. Despite the numerous ponds in the area, fish was scarce; most of it came from the Dniester River.

The few Tlumacz Province industrial plants were distilleries, a water mill and two steam-operated mills, plus the worktools manufacturing plant of Spitzbach. The Weitz family manufactured concrete pipe for wells and bridges, in Horigladi. Near Korolovka village there were large peat bogs.

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Furs and clothes manufacturing centered in Tishmienitza. The mills were in Tishmienitza, Tlumacz and Otinia. There were quite a few restaurants, rut by Schweffelgest, Fish, Weitraub, Hoffman, Abend, Sommer, Weissman, Steinberg. Smaller eateries were open only on Wednesdays, the market day in the community.

Tlumacz had several hotels, of a rather low standard. Most of the few guests were traveling salesmen or wayfarers. The best inns belonged to Schweffelgeist and Fish. Some of the restaurants had a few boarding rooms. For the indigent, there was a hostel near the “Kloiz of the Angels”.

Lumber for construction was brought in by wagon from Broshniova, Nadwurna and Delatin to the warehouses of Fish, Baron and Silber.

The town's watch repairmen were Shemler, Streit and Henig. They also sold jewelry.

Abend and Zeifer manufactured soda. Notions were sold to the entire area in the stores owned by Eisner and Berger.

Meat was supplied by the butchers, concentrated about the Main Synagogue. They bought beef of the hoof in the villages and had it slaughtered. Few more were engaged in raising poultry for winter fat, as did the Jews. The few Jewish housewives who raised poultry used the plucked feathers for making pillows and bedclothes as wedding gifts for the younger generation.

Wiener had a dairy store on Kolinietzka Street, but most of the inhabitant shopped in the market place. Butter was brought in by German colonists, who had several communities in the province.

Tlumacz also had its share of artisans and craftsmen - tinsmiths, tailors, shoemakers, painters and barbers. The tinsmiths undertook large jobs, such as roofing the church towers. They also manufactured laundry and bath tubs, bowls and pails. Yeshayahu Jung and Bibring were the most noted smiths. Among the painters the most talented was Hofrichter, known for his painting of the Main Synagogue.

Tlumacz also had an oil press, operated by the Zelcer family (the son is in the United States). No Jews were plasterers or chimneysweeps or street and sewer cleaners. Nor were they employed in the parks. Mention should be made of the one and only Jewish photographer - Sherf. There was no Jewish druggist, but “Kogotek” for headaches was available at Leibtze Krum's, who dealt in tar, shoe polish and resin, the smell of which was enough to counter the headache.

Wunder, the locksmith, had his hands full, particulary with work in the distilleries.

Horse trading was also a lively occupation. The horses were brought in

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for the market days to Targowitze; the main buyers came from Tlumacz and the neighboring provinces: Stanislawow, Buczacz, Monastezhiska, Tishminitza, Otinia and Obertin.

The Zloczow Episode

by Yeshayahu Jung

The invasion of Galicia by the Russian army in 1914 was quickly followed by the flight of the wealthy and highly-placed families from the area. Most of the Jews, however, remained where they were, to protect the bit of property they had accumulated in the course of generations. The Cossack conquest of Tlumacz set off a series of calamities, of which the Jews were the main victims. The Christians put icons in their windows to intimate that the inhabitants inside were “their own people”. The new rulers lost no time letting the Jews feel their oppressive hand. They began with robbery and pillage, dragged the men off for forced labor, and were not beyond raping elderly women. The younger women and the girls hid in the synagogues; some tried to lose their identity by donning peasant dress. The Cossacks were not daunted by the synagogues nor deceived by the dress.

The situation did not improve until the Russian lines drew nearer and civil government was established. Life returned to normalcy. Jews began to deal and trade, buying from the soldiers things which the latter had robbed from other Jews: silverware, jewelry, leather, fabrics, watches, cigarette paper and the like. At times the soldiers were hired to transport the merchandise from city to city. Officially such transfer was forbidden, but since it was done under “supervision” by soldiers, it was passed as confiscated stuff. In time the populace became used to the new conditions.

Toward Purim, the Russians suddenly withdrew from the town, and the Austrians returned. The inhabitants welcomed them with rejoicing. The houses were decorated with Austrian flags and with the photographs of Emperor Franz-Josef. The celebration did not last long, as the Austrians began sentencing the Russian sympathizers in the town to the gallows. Among the convicted was the woman Czyhara, her mother and brother. They were to be hanged in the square fronting the Ukrainian Church, but were saved by the intercession of Rabbi Ziff, Pessia Zeifer and Dr. Salat.

At noon on a Thursday, the Russian vanguard was seen approaching

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Tlumacz. The flags were quickly removed, but disaster struck again. The men and boys were taken to dig trenches. On the way back from work, they picked up faggots for the fire place. This was early in the month of Nissan. They were lucky enough to find a heap of potatoes stored under ground. Sacks of these potatoes were hauled away.

On Passover Eve a severe snowstorm hit the town. The Cossacks mobilized the entire population to clear away the snow from the roads. As their squads went from house to house, they took the opportunity to exchange their boots and shoes for better ones. Then, without warning, the Russians ordered all the Jews to gather at the Community House, with enough food and such to last them for three days. Panic seized the community. The Jews gathered as ordered, some of them bringing along pillows and bedcovers. Then, as was the Russian custom, the decree was abolished and the Jews were ordered back to their homes, leaving a trail of down and feathers from the split cushions.

Two months later, in early summer, a new decree was issued: every male aged ten to seventy had to register; the penalty for evasion - the firing squad. The registration done, the males, headed by Rabbi Ziff, set out on their way, accompanied by Cossacks who prodded them with whips and rifle butts.

The first stop was Stanislawow. The men and boys were crowded into the theatre building and ordered to strip, on the assumption that no one would try to escape while naked. On the next day the march was resumed. We got to Zloczow. Others went to Zborow.

We arrived hungry and exhausted, half-carrying the aged who could hardly walk. The Cossacks ordered the inhabitants of Zloczow to quarter and feed the arrivals. Our meals consisted of the meager food served in the public kitchen set up by Russian Jewry. For the Sabbath we were invited to the homes of the Jews in the community. Our work was again digging trenches. We had no contact with our families, and each of us worried about his forlorn family.

The situation on the front was fluid. Control passed back and forth. Again it was reported that Austria had liberated large parts of Galicia. Forced to retreat, the Russians proposed that we go to the border and thence make our way back home, if we so desired. Those who did were asked to register. Naturally, all of us did. We hurried to the registry office, for fear that the Russians might change their minds. Some of us were a bit reluctant, however, weighing the chances of remaining where they were and not by liable to conscription, on one side or the other.

The day of deliverance came. Toward evening we were arranged into

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a column, six abreast, the healthy on the right, the ailing on the left. We began walking toward the front lines. We marched all night in the unrelenting rain, in fields pitted with holes, until we were near the front. We had been blindfolded, and only as we drew near the Austrian lines were we allowed to remove the blindfolds. Dawn was breaking. The Cossacks checked our belongings, took away the things we had bought from the soldiers, and told us we were “free to go”. The silence was broken by shots fired in our direction. We tied bits of cloth to saplings and waved them above our heads, as we lay flat on the ground. At sunrise we sent some of our people on a “peace mission” to negotiate with the other side.

The soldiers along the Austrian line, unfortunately were Hungarians, and we had trouble conversing with them. Finally they placed us under heavy guard and sent us back to their headquarters. Again we were interrogated, for the better part of the day. We were given food - biscuits from army rations. A detail on horseback escorted us out of the area. Late at night we reached a village and sought shelter in the stables.

We reached Lemberg on the third day. There we were quartered in the army barracks. Each one was given half a loaf of bread. We had hot cereal twice daily. We were kept in confinement, and only a few managed to get away into the city. The Austrian military authorities ordered a three-man mission, headed by Rabbi Ziff, to proceed to Tlumacz and come back with an official explanation by the authorities about the matter of our release form Zloczow. This seemed suspicious, to them. We waited impatiently for the report, expecting that it would exonerate faithful Austrian citizens maltreated by the enemy.

The mission had no results. No written explanation came from Tlumacz, and we remained suspect. Finally the old men and the boys were sent home, while those of conscription age were brought before the Draft Board. Many were conscripted and taken to Hungary, whence they were dispatched to the fronts. This led the Russians to condemn the Jews as collaborators with the Austrians. They executed nine Jews on these charges. Seven were arrested as they were walking to the barn with lanterns in their hands, and two of them were hanging out wash in the attic. This was the “conclusive” evidence of their guilt.

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The “Safe” Shelter in Hriniowce

by Ephraim Schreier

At the outbreak of the war, in 1914, the Cossacks expropriated many Jewish home for army needs. In our home they quartered a senior officer with the rank of Prince. He was tall, dressed in black, with a belt on bullets across his chest and a tall hat on his head. As long as this high-ranking guest was in our home, not a soldier dared enter the house; as soon as he read the calling card on the gate, he would make off. But one bright day the Prince left without a word of farewell, and immediately our home was taken over by soldiers. I was four at the time, but I well recall the Cossacks with the tall hats who took over one room and the soldiers in the green uniforms who took over the other. I also recall a Jewish soldier who used to put on tallit and tephilin every morning. His name was Sverdlow.

The situation was becoming more precarious. The front lines were drawing closer. People began running away. My Uncle Solomon, then living in Hriniowce, advised us to join him and be safe and serene. He lived in a house owned by Dudiya Reiner, and his home was no more than a room and a bedroom. Later it turned out that the “safe and serene” place was under fire day and night.

All this I recall in my mind, but the episode I am relating was told to me when I was already grown up. It happened at night. The house was dark. No one dared light a candle – dared, perhaps, but there was no candle to be had. Only searchlights swept the area from time to time. The children were lying on top of packs, and everyone was awake except an ailing old woman, Dudiya Reiner's mother, in her bed.

Suddenly a loud knock was heard at the door. It opened, and a squad of soldiers burst in. They lit a candle and demanded to know who was the owner of the house. Dudiya Reiner came near, and at once he was beaten down to the ground. As he stood there, on his knees, one of the soldiers grabbed him by the throat with one hand and waved his bayonet with the other. The soldiers claimed that someone had taken a shot at them from this house and they pointed to the broken window as proof. They were going to slaughter everyone in the house, beginning with the owner.

[Page XXIV]

There was dead silence. No one moved. I hugged my mother.

Just then the old woman slid off her bed and came toward the soldiers on all fours. Weeping, she reminded them that they too had wives and children back home.

Suddenly the house was alight. The soldiers went out and brought back food, seated themselves around the big table, and ordered a meal prepared for them and the others in the house. They gave the children cubes of sugar. Later they searched the house but found nothing.

So ended the episode in Uncle Solomon's “safe” shelter in Hriniowce.


by Prof. Dr. Zigmund Lewittus

The name “Petlura” was on everyone's lips, in those days after the First World War, spoken in abusive tone but more often in wrath and anguish. But as I heard it mentioned in the context of horrible tales and as reflected in the faces of the tellers, I was sure that it belonged to a demonical figure incorporated in the childhood years with the wolf in “Little Red Riding Hood” or with the Midrashic Ashmedai or evil incarnate in Asch's “Man and the Devil”.

Petlura's bands were then operating with the Polish army on the Galician front and the rumors about him traveled with the speed of lightning.

One day, panic seized the town. People's voices in the street were high with excitement. The stores were shut tight, door and windows slammed, the streets emptied, as did the square in front of our house. Father was away in Husiatin on business and Mother, and I were living at my grandmother's.

Mother dragged me off the balcony into the house. I wanted to know what was going on. She replied, “Petlura”.

My curiosity overcame my fear. I had to have a look at him. Did he really have a tail and horns and a long nose? I went with Mother into the house, but I was determined to see him. In the meantime the house began to look as if disaster had descended upon it. Chairs and benches were propped up against the door; pillows were stuffed between the windows and the shutters. I took a hand in the latter operation, thinking

[Page XXV]

that I might catch a glimpse of the outside through a crack in the window. I peered hard. The square was deserted.

Suddenly a bugle sounded from afar, then drums and hoof-beats. There they came! First a rush of cavalrymen, swords drawn, followed by a Cossack mounted on a fine horse, holding on to a blue and yellow flag. I strained my eyes to see the awesome Ataman (chieftain). There he was – and what a disappointment! I saw a portly person on a big white horse, dressed in a white uniform with golden embroidery all over, a sabre at his thigh and a black whip in his hand. His horse was stamping in rhythm with the drums, and its rider was swaying in his saddle as he surveyed the silent houses before him. I thought I saw his eyes resting on our windows, looking to my eyes. Dear God, I prayed, can't you overcome this man? He is the one who claims to have shed more Jewish blood than Chmielnicki”. Suddenly he flicked his horse with the whip. The horse set off at a gallop and behind him came his army of Cossacks each with a whip in one hand and a banner in the other. This was their entry in Tlumacz.

This frightening arrival of Petlura's men had many side effects. The Polish authorities, now in control, demanded that the Cossacks confine themselves to their quarters and refrain from bothering the population. Gradually normalcy returned to the town. The stores opened and business went on as usual. Here and there a single Cossack would show up to buy something, mainly vodka. The rubles they offered had little buying power, so that they and the Jews resorted to barter. The cries heard now and then were either those of a drunken Cossack or a pummeled Jew. At times the sound of breaking glass would indicate the Cossack's dissatisfaction with the deal he got. There was much demand for preserves and other food items, which the Cossacks apparently stole from their canteens.

One day the town herald appeared at the market place. To the gathering that quickly formed around him, he announced that henceforth all trading between the population and the soldiers was to cease immediately on pain of death.

The next announcement by the herald, some time later, was an order from the Town Officer: the Jewish population was to supply the army with 20 laborers each day. The community fell into a panic; the young men began running away. Father was out of town at the time, but Grandma's two sons, Naftali and Yeshayahu, were in the house. Someone told them to burrow deep in the bed and cover themselves to escape the conscription. I was ill at the time. Mother was hovering about, with bitter medicines of all kinds. Suddenly I saw my two uncles creep into the other beds, right in the middle of the day. This amused me no end, but it was

[Page XXVI]

cut short by the sounds of heavy steps outside. The door was kicked open, and two armed Cossacks stood in the doorway. We were breathless with fear. The Cossacks remained standing there and did not enter the room – much to our surprise. They were looking at me, lying there in bed, then they asked why I was there. Mother grew pale but gathered up courage, covered me well with the blanket and said, “He is very ill”. At this, the Cossacks quickly withdrew and vanished. It seems that they were afraid of sickness because it was so prevalent among them.

Thus did my illness save my uncles from conscription. But elsewhere the outcome was not as fortunate. My Uncle Itzi and Aunt Ettie tried to hid Moti, their only son, in a bed stuffed with cushions and such, but it didn't fool the Cossacks. They went up to each bed and thrust their rifles into them. Moti jumped out. The Cossacks grabbed hold of him and whacked him hard – so hard that a can of preserves dropped out of his pocket; he had been trading with the Cossacks. The two soldiers took him to Headquarters, after threatening to massacre the entire family. The news of Moti's arrest spread through the town like wildfire and all the people streamed to Headquarters. There they learned that two other youths were also caught. The town was in a state of panic, particularly our family.

Moti was weak and sickly, and my uncle knew that he would not endure any torture. He went up to the commander and said, “My son is sickly, and will not be able to endure the punishment you will decree for him. Now, since I did not watch him properly, it is only right that I should suffer the punishment.” The Cossack looked at the shivering Moti, then at his robust father, and decided that the latter should be sentenced: one day forced labor followed by 20 lashes.

At the end of the working day the three were brought to the square. They were stripped to the waist and their hands were tied to wooden crossbars. All around them stood the people, stunned, frightened, helpless. We didn't let my aunt and Moti go down, and we watched the scene from the balcony. The order was given, and three Cossack whips whistled in the air. Cries of pain covered the square, but one cry sent shivers up and down my spine. I recognized my uncle's voice – but it wasn't a cry of pain. It was the cry he uttered as he led the service in the synagogue and called on his Maker to witness what was being done to His people: “Shema Yisroel …. Echod” – and the echo remained in the air, prolonged perhaps by the echo rising from the throng, even after the outcry. It seemed to me that the voice of Uncle Itzi reached the very heavens and was returned to earth by the trumpets of the angels. “Shema Yisroel!” I repeated the words, as my hand pressed against my chest to keep my heart from jumping out.

[Page XXVII]

Then I heard one word, “Yisroel” – the Land of Israel, where we would be free and none would make us afraid. I was trembling. Mother drew me away from the balcony into the room, sat down and put me on her lap, then sang the song I like best, “Oif'n pripethchik brent a fayerl”. Learn the aleph-bet, I felt my mother saying, sand you will be able to bear the burden of the “golus” and to draw strength from the Hebrew letters.

My uncle led back to the house, pale, his back streaked with blood, his legs faltering. But his eyes were shining and his face was illumined with a light never seen on earth – a father had saved his son from death.

Uncle Itzi stayed at Grandma's house for weeks, until his wounds were healed.

This was the last occasion of Cossack brutality in Tlumacz. On the next day, without fanfare, they vacated the town. The front moved away. Years later I read about Petlura's assassination by Sholom Schwartzbard. At once I remembered the scene on the square, and I felt that I and all the others had our fingers on the trigger along with Schwartzbard.

My political education went beyond my membership as a child in the “Hashomer Hatzair” unit. In the atmosphere after the First World War, with its slogans about individual freedom, love among the nations, “no war evermore”, Tlumacz also caught the spirit, and the young people sensed a political revival. At any rate, the town was soon split into parties and factions.

Most of my young years were spent in Grandma's house, with her two youngest sons, Yeshaya and Naftali. Post-war Tlumacz held out very little promise. Yeshaya was disabled and therefore learned a vocation that did not require moving about; he became a watch repairman. However, I never saw him working at his craft. He claimed that the work was too exact and demanding, and his nerves were going awry. Today I am sure that he was frustrated to the point of bitterness against the whole world. Naftali, on the other h and, was a good social mixer. Grandma's house was always full of his friends, enjoying each other's company. Grandma had no objection. She also had two daughters to be given away in marriage.

I like those evenings very much. Then, one night, people came to Grandma's house and got Naftali out of bed. The family had no idea why he was taken away. Nor did the police know anything; they were acting on orders from Stanislawow. He would soon be released, they said, after a brief interrogation. In the meantime, they searched the house and took away newspapers, documents, and letters. At police Headquarters we found that Naftali was not the only one place under arrest. The families of the other


young people were also here. Despite the assurances of the police, the youths were not released. After a few days in the Tlumacz prison they were transferred to Stanislawow.

Poland was at that time riddled with revolution and conflict, the Socialist left against the Endek right. As the latter had the upper hand, orders went out to arrest anyone suspected of belonging to the Poale Zion movement, as well. Some of the young people were soon released, but Naftali, being a member of the Poale Zion executive in Tlumacz was kept in the Stanislawow prison for two years. Mother and Grandma used to go there, once every two weeks, with a package for him. After two years of “administrative detention” Naftali returned home with tow items: abstention from political activity and tuberculosis that cut his lifetime short.

I recall another incident in those days of political upheaval. The elections to the Sejm were at their height and certain circles were interested in keeping public participation down. Communities were minority groups, Jews or Ukrainians, were placed under curfew and all assembly was forbidden. Mother was pregnant at the time. When the expected day of birth drew near, Father obtained a permit to go out and call the midwife. One day, toward evening, as he returned from work, Mother let him know that the moment was at hand. He left immediately. I saw Mother in pain and I was frightened. Two hours passed. The pains increased. I prayed, with some success. The door opened and my father came in, the midwife after him. He still had time to explain the delay. It was raining when he left and people were wallowing in the mud as they hastened home from political meetings before the curfew hour set in. The streets were empty. As he walked, he caught up with Advocate Halpern, also on his way home. Suddenly they were halted by a military patrol. Father and Halpern tried to show them their permits, but the soldiers paid no attention. “Down on your knees,” they ordered. They had to obey and the soldiers were much amused to see two respectable Jews on their knees in the mud. When the novelty wore off, they let the two go.

Today, when I hear talk about the democratic proclivities of the Poles, I recall the two Jews kneeling in the Tlumacz mud.

A word about the midwife. She was an unforgettable figure. Stout, with a heavy male voice, she had the heart of an angel. All the youngsters of Tlumacz were brought into the world with the help of her skillful hands, each in his own home, without any complication, to the satisfaction of everyone concerned. Her income was low and her work overwhelming; she also undertook to do the laundry for the newly born. In fact, she stayed in the house for a week to help, and every day she saw to it that cheder

[Page XXIX]

children should come into the room and recite the Shema, so as to drive away the evil powers. Later, when I was studying medicine in Vienna, I learned that these powers wrought havoc among women in childbirth.

Nor will I ever forget another woman – small, stooped, who spoke in the piping voice of the angels. I do not recall her real name, and I don't think that anyone knew it. Everyone called her “the Tzidkonis” – the “righteous woman”. If anyone fell ill, particularly a child, she would be there to drive away the Evil Eye. A child afflicted with vomiting or a headache meant that he was waging a battle with the Evil Eye (virus and pollution were not recognized in those days). She would boil up some lead and, as the patient looked on, she would throw the hot lead into cold water. The emerging shaped of lead indicated the root of the trouble. Having diagnosed it, she would bend over the patient and pronounce an incantation, at which the patient felt much better. She would also place crumbs of bread into a glass of water, pour the water out into a bowl, read the signs of the presence of the Evil Eye. The water, which the patient either drank or used to wash his face, would dispel headaches, lower the temperature, and settle down the intestines, with greater speed and efficiency than would such modern medications as antibiotics or cortisone.

This woman was not content with ministering to the sick. Every Friday afternoon she would stop by the homes of the more affluent. Mother used to prepare a package of food, at times also a bundle of old clothing, and the Tzidkonis proceeded to distribute everything among the needy.

One Friday afternoon we waited for her arrival. She didn't come. Mother had already lit the Sabbath candles, but as she blessed them and lowered her fingers from her eyes, we saw tears rolling down her cheeks. The Tzidkonis, she said sorrowfully, was not coming. She would never come again. God took her to be with him. He had to have good deeds up there too.

The entire town escorted the Tzidkonis to her resting place.

[Page XXX]

Tlumacz: Community Life

by Ephraim Schreier

Like many of Galicia's Jewish communities, Tlumacz was not distinguished for wealthy inhabitants. Throughout its existence it had more than its share of the needy, and the possibilities to lend a helping hand were limited. Social welfare institutions as such were not known. The town had no industrial enterprises other than the sugar refinery, erected before the First World War. After the war, most of the population consisted of artisans. Many Jews had fled, at the outbreak of the fighting, to Austrian provinces farther removed from the front – Vienna, Hungary, Bohemia.

On their return to Tlumacz after the war, people found their homes wrecked and pillaged. The very few grocers who had managed to hang on to their ledgers could not collect the debts owed them by the peasants in the area, although legally these debts were recognized.

The precarious political situation had an adverse effect on the communities of eastern Galicia. The period of Ukrainian independence brought on the calamities of the Petlura invasion, robbery, famine and plagues, economic upheaval, inflation. The situation continued until Poland managed to achieve sovereignty, and the Jews paid a heavy price in the process.

Earning a livelihood was still the main concern in Tlumacz. The town didn't enjoy any of the profits usually garnered in the wake of a war. There was a handful of relatively prosperous merchants or dealers. On the other hand, there were various artisans and craftsmen: the tailors, the cobblers, the carpenters, the tinsmiths (even one candlestick maker); there were members of the free professions: doctors, lawyers, teachers, civil service employees. And there were the itinerant peddlers, bartering notions for grain and hides out on the farms. Quite a few were unemployable, and they depended on the generosity of others.

The Tlumacz community could not afford large charitable institutions, but it did maintain modest free loan funds, hospices for the homeless, societies for visiting the sick, for raising funds to marry off a bride who family was in poor circumstances, as well as a burial society. The lodgings for travelers contained several beds and unbearably poor sanitation, which the town authorities preferred to ignore.

[Page XXXI]

During the first years after the war, the community also operated a “folk kitchen”, subsidized by the Joint Distribution Committee, where light meals were served to the adults and a breakfast of cocoa and rolls to the children.

Tlumacz also had a “Baron Hirsch School”, founded by the noted benefactor. It functioned until the early days of Polish rule. It was then closed and reopened in the early 1920's by the “Bund” as a Yiddish school, but it didn't last long.

Organized Jewish community life in Tlumacz underwent many vicissitudes. The Ukrainians allowed the community to set up an autonomous “National Council” headed by Dr. Bandler. Under Polish rule the Council was appointed by the authorities (headed by a teacher, Sigmund Bloch). It gained autonomy some time later, electing its own leaders. The Council received most of its operating income (it had only one paid worker, the secretary) from the permits it issued for slaughtering cattle and poultry.

It is worthwhile noting some of the Tlumacz “Who's Who” community leaders of that period:

IDL NAGELBERG – A pious Jew of the old school, none too affluent, stout, adorned with a long beard. Family later moved to Romania. Granddaughter now lives in Israel.

SIGMUND BLOCH – First chairman of the Council appointed by the Polish authorities. For many years, head of the birth certificates registry. Assimilated as far as Judaism was concerned; he taught Judaism to Jewish children in the Polish public school. A typical Austrian civil servant: upright, esthetic, courteous, always tastefully and fastidiously dressed. Died before the prime of life.

ELIYAHU REIS – The first elected head of the Council. An intellectual, Zionist, rather taciturn, public-spirited but not an initiator of public service. After he left his post, it came “up for grabs” among the internal political parties.

FABIAN URMAN – Served several times as Council chairman. Came from Stanislawow. Was principal of the “Baron Hirsch School” and a partner with Shaya Radner in a book shop. Later taught religious subjects in the state high school. His son, Dr. A. Urman is living in Israel.

LEIZER SCHWEFFELGEIST – A surveyor before the war, he opened a small hotel and restaurant in the town. He served as its deputy mayor, as well as chairman of the Council, secretary of the Disabled War Veterans Association, and member of the Merchants' Guild. Know for his charitable deeds, he was accepted in Polish circles and was a member of the Sokol Club. Imaginative to the point of fantasy and illusion.

[Page XXXII]

PINYE RIESEL – Last community official before the Holocaust. A Zionist, progressive, a solid merchant of ironware. Not public-minded, he nevertheless fulfilled his duties faithfully.

RABBI YITZHAK ZIFF – Member of distinguished Lemberg family. Scholarly and erudite, he enjoyed the respect of Jews and non-Jews alike. Spoke a Germanicized Yiddish. Tall, with an olive skin, and short curly beard. Wore a long fur coat and broad-brimmed velvet hat. Each word of the prayers had to be uttered precisely. He also loved to sing. Later returned to Lemberg to fill a rabbinical post.

RABBI NOTY SHMUEL EISNER – Born in Tlumacz, ordained at the age of 18. At the outbreak of the war he was one of the deportees to Zloczow, later found refuge in Hungary. Returned with his family Tlumacz in 1917 and served there as religious magistrate (dayyan) up to the ages of 84. Known for his erudition.

ICHALLY HAGER – Last of Tlumacz's religious leaders, a member of the Vizhnitz dynasty. Came from Stanislawow as a young man (see further).

REB ZISIALY – Little is known about him. Priot to First World War lived in Tlumacz, much beloved by the populace. After his death, a synagogue – the Kloiz of R. Zisialy – was founded in his memory. Buried in the Old Cemetery in a “tent” (mausoleum).

REB YISROEL ASHKENAZI – One of the town's spiritual leaders. Handsome, with a long red beard. In the 1920's went to Romania and then to Jerusalem.

REBBE ELIMELECH LAM – Family came to Tlumacz in the 1930's, after living in Eretz-Israel, and gathered his Hassidim about him, most of them from the poorer segment of the population. His son Haim, a prominent Mizrachi leader, perished in the Holocaust.

Mention should also be made of the shohatim (ritual slaughterers) of the community: Haim Shohet, followed by his sons Kopel, Yaacov and Michael. A scholar and a gentleman. Later came Aharon Shochet and his family from Boiberik. Wise and friendly. His two daughters settled in Eretz-Israel before the Second World War.


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