Among the educated, the landlords and the common people, there were many who were courageous, independent, and willing to provide civil and political defense, throughout all the periods of enslavement to the Starosta (the district governor) and his servants in the community and the town, in the taxation and municipal tax offices.
In all the local elections, there were representatives of the opposition to the community and town rulers, although the famous electoral system in Galicia, and particularly in Buczacz, prevented any hope of victory. But in the elections for the parliament in Vienna, too, Buczacz was united with the town of Kolomei, one of the Jewish districts, because there was a slight hope for Jewish victory there.
It is worth noting that while in Kolomei, the national Jewish factors and the independent citizens had to wage their war for the Austrian parliament against powerful organizations of merchants and artisans, Chassidim and intelligentsia, who supported assimilation and the regime, in Buczacz the mushkim and their followers only existed thanks to the support of the district governor, with most of the Jewish population in town opposing them.
And this is why the Jews in this district were successful even decades earlier, when the reactionary electoral system was prevalent, in electing a Jewish representative, despite the severe pressure from the authorities in Israel and in the district.
The well-known Rabbi Moshe Sofer (Shriever) of Krakow was elected as the Jewish representative of the Buczacz Kolomei district in the Viennese parliament. After he resigned from this office, Dr. Josef Bloch, a famous national activist among Austrian Jews ran in the bi-elections. Dr. Bloch was the editor of the newspaper Jüdisches Wochenblatt [The Jewish Weekly] in Vienna, and he served as a rabbi in the town of Baden near Vienna. He was originally from the town of Sanz in Western Galicia. The opponents of the national candidate, Dr. Bloch, were the known assimilators Dr. Bik and Meisel, whose traitorous role was to break the unity of the Jews and thus enable the victory of the Polish Szlachta representative, Dr. Starzinski.
The Jews fought tirelessly against threats, coercion and persecution by the authorities, and Dr. Bloch was elected to parliament as the representative of the Jews of Kolomei and Buczacz, among whom were many notables, such as Yankel Farnhof and others.
This victory also strengthened national awareness and the fighting spirit of the Jewish masses in Buczacz, which lead to the re-election of Dr. Bloch as their representative again in the following elections, against Dr. Starzinski, whose influence among the authorities in Galicia and Vienna was powerful. When Dr. Bloch ran as the Jewish candidate for the third time, the authorities realized that it was not likely that the Jews of Buczacz and Kolomei would betray a Jewish national candidate in favor of a Polish Christian, and they ran a Jewish assimilator against Dr. Bloch Dr. Trachtenberg of Kolomei who was, incidentally, a fine man and had excelled in his position as mayor, in the many good deeds he did for the area Jews. After the authorities increased their pressure on the Jews and endangered their economic status, Dr. Bloch decided to withdraw his candidacy, in protest.
The Jews of Buczacz did not lose their spirit, and in 1906 many townspeople joined the Jewish students and the Zionist intelligentsia, along with socialist and radical groups among the Poles and the Ukrainians, in a campaign for democratization of the electoral system. The elections for the Austrian parliament were therefore held in 1907 based on the new democratic law. But the Galician Poles artificially installed an electoral map system, in order to achieve mandates in Eastern Galicia, at the expense of the Jews and the Ukrainians. They had united under a joint protection pact, which gave the Zionists, with the help of the Ukrainians, two mandates from villages and small towns (from the Buczacz area, Dr. Gevel, an attorney and Zionist activist from Lvov, and from the Czortkow area, Professor Mahler, a scientist and Zionist activist from Prague). Together with the head of the Galician Zionists (Adolf Stand, who was elected in the Brody district) and Dr. Straucher, the Jewish leader of Bukowina, they created the National Jewish Club in the Viennese Parliament.
The Buczacz Jews in 1907 took upon themselves the difficult task of achieving victory in Buczacz for the national candidate, Dr. Nathan Birenbaum of Vienna (a different Matityahu), the well-known author and formerly the first secretary of Dr. Herzl.
In these elections, the Poles selected as Dr. Birenbaum's opponent the wealthy landowner from Wisa, and they attached the towns of Zaleszczyki, Sniatyn, Borszczow and Tlumacz to Buczacz, and they added many villages to this municipal district, in order to weaken the Jewish majority in the district.
In the picture in this book we see the enthusiasm of the masses, among them Jewish students and farmers, including Ukrainians. Next Dr. Birenbaum stands Leon Weksler, the political activist and longtime Zionist in Buczacz and Lvov (secretary of the central election committee) and secretary of the Jewish Club in the Austrian parliament in Vienna, as well as secretary of the national club of Eastern Galician Jews in the Diaspora. Leon Weksler, who passed away in Jerusalem roughly a year ago, was leader of the activity in Buczacz at the time.
The pressure applied on the voters from the municipality and the Starosti, the Gendarmerie and the tax offices, was harsh. In the elections, they used both physical force and the military: in Drohowitz the army attacked the Jewish voters, and over the bodies of three Jewish victims, the assimilator Dr. Lewenstein entered the parliament instead of the Zionist candidate Dr. Gershon Ziper. This happened in Buczacz as well. Army troops took control of the main bridge over the Stripa river, which leads to the municipal offices where the elections were held, to close off the route to the Jewish voters. In the town hall offices and the nearby firehouse, they gathered two-hundred people, mostly rabble, who drank brandy and ate sausage all day, and went in and out of the voting booth every five minutes and voted in place of other voters, who were detained by the bridge. They also voted in place of hundreds of deceased voters, who the mayor had placed on the voting list. And we recall Jakob Grosfeld's call in the city hall courtyard: Cohens, come out, for the dead are coming. Many Jews dared to defy the army and forced their way over the bridge.
Dr. Birenbaum sent telegraphs to the interior ministers and the army in Vienna, protesting the fraud and the army units, but Galicia was abandoned to the Polish rulers, and Dr. Birenbaum received most of the votes, but was left out of the parliament. The protestations presented by Buczacz Jews to the parliamentary election committee were never reviewed. But in the second area of the Buczacz district, the election activity was run by the Zionist youth from Buczacz, including the author of these lines. With the help of the Jews in the towns and the village Ukrainians, we managed to elect a Zionist representative, Dr. Gavel. We also assisted the district of nearby Czortkow to elect Professor Mahler, as stated previously.
This situation engendered an increase in anti-Semitism among Polish teachers and students in the public gimnazjum. The students created a club with an explicit anti-Jewish agenda, and began to inform on their Jewish classmates' Zionist activities and on the distribution of Zionist newspapers and pamphlets in the school, as well as on their active participation in the elections. The gimnazjum administration organized disciplinary action against the heads of the Zionist Jewish youth, who happened to be our classmates such as Zvi Heller, Laiser Gottfried, Haim Kriegel and others. The school administration received a Jewish informant's report from Jaslowicz, whereby the gimnazjum student Heller had given a speech there in the Beit Midrash during the elections, against the authorities and supporting immigration to Eretz Yisrael. The Jewish students went into defensive mode, and obtained the protocol book from a Christian student, a member of the club who opposed anti-Semitism and demanded that the educational authorities in Lvov prosecute the anti-Semitists. This counter-attack managed to weaken the anti-Semites' boldness, and the trial against the Jews ended with one student being expelled to a different gimnazjum, and light punishments for three others, even though it was known that the Zionist student organizations were located right across from the gimnazjum. During World War I, when I was on the Russian front, I met my acquaintance from Jaslowicz, who confessed to me, being as no one knew what the next day would bring on the front, that he had informed on me to the gimnazjum headmaster, because he was afraid that my Eretz Yisrael propaganda would damage his livelihood as an agent for tickets to America. In the town and the vicinity, we continued our political campaigns and national education, and in 1910, when the national census was held my friends in Buczacz and I campaigned in support of registering Yiddish and Hebrew as our languages, in contradiction to the authorities' requirement that the Jews should record Polish. Although our activity was illegal, because one was permitted to record only one of the official languages, the Jewish speechmakers and the citizens performed their national duty and received administrative penalties, detentions and fines. Together with my friend Haim Avner, an attorney and a leader of the movement in Czortkow, I once traveled late at night in December 1910 to the distant towns of Wisnjowczik and Zlotnik, between Buczacz and Podhajce, and we got stuck in a frozen lake and only reached the town at midnight. All the local Jews were waiting for us anxiously, and when we arrived we went straight to the synagogue, where we lectured to all the town residents. In the gimnazjum, too, during that period, the Jewish students wrote in their declarations that Hebrew and Yiddish were their languages, despite the coercion and threats against the students and their parents, and despite the risk of expulsion from school or the danger of losing a year of study. There was also, of course, pressure on the part of the authorities, by means of influential Jews. Thus, for example, the Jewish mayor contacted Moshe Weisser, who was not involved in political activism at all, but was a decent and educated Jew and could serve as an example for others and informed him that he had been elected, with his assistance, to the city council and that he would have to declare that his language was Polish. Moshe Weisser refused, of course, and did not receive the mandate offered by the squire.
In such an atmosphere of national tension, the year 1911 arrived, the year of the parliamentary elections. In order to prevent the claim of the Poles, that the Zionists are traitors and enemies of Poland, who bring German candidates from Vienna, the Zionist center in Lvov decided to run only Galician candidates this time. Dr. Birenbaum and Dr. Raphael Landau, both from Vienna, who had left the Zionist movement and become unaffiliated activists, arrived in our district without permission from the Zionist center, but they were turned away. The center set as candidates for our three districts: 1) the Buczacz town district (comprised of five towns, including Sniatyn, Zaleszczyki, Borszczow and Tlumacz), the central Zionist activist Dr. Michael Ringel, who was then a young lawyer in Lvov; 2) the district of Buczacz and the vicinity Dr. Saltz, the longtime Zionist lawyer in Tarnow, who was a Hovevei Zion leader and founder of the first Galician settlement in Eretz Yisrael, Machanayim in the Upper Galilee; 3) the district of Czortkow and the vicinity Dr. Shmuel Rapoport, a religious Zionist activist, religious scholar and philosopher.
I was responsible for coordinating the affairs in the three districts and this was not easy, because of the scope and the amount of locations, but also because of financial reasons. Apart from the Czortkow district, where the candidate himself covered his own expenses, being a wealthy landowner, and apart form the final weeks in the Buczacz district, when the expenses were taken over by Dr. Ringel, who owned a fresh dowry I had to raise large loans and bear this cost too. It is interesting that after a few weeks of activity, the chairman of the center, Dr. Gershon Ziper, came to Buczacz to prepare the declaration of candidacy for Dr. Ringel, who was completing his law exams at the time. When I came as the head of a delegation of the town elders and notables, to welcome Dr. Ziper at the train station, he was amazed that this Heller, with whom he had been corresponding for several weeks, as the coordinator of the three districts, where he was also obtaining large loans and using the Hebrew name of Zvi was not, as he had thought, an elderly educated man and a wealthy merchant, but rather no more than a studentil of roughly 21 years of age.
Since Dr. Ringel happened to be related to the ruling family in Jewish Buczacz the government was afraid that it would lose the family's traditional support and they had to run the head of the family against him, the mayor of Buczacz. And although he was not considered a serious or threatening opponent, he was an old expert at electoral matters of the known type. The army did not interfere this time, but local coercion gangs were formed, mercenaries and thugs and protection men, whose job was to create an atmosphere of pressure and terror against the Jewish and Christian population. They used to pickpocket the voting certificates from the voters, without which they could not vote. We had to organize defense groups and attack forces against these gangs, from among the youth and the people. Groups of students from academic societies in Czernowicz and Tarnow were sent to help us. One of them, Dr. Eliyahu Tish, is now in Jerusalem. Another person who came to assist Buczacz was the old representative Ernst Briter, a liberal and radical Pole, who was a friend of Israel, who received the mandate in Lvov with the help of the Jews. He brought with him his entourage, which was known from the popular electoral war in Lvov. He was not afraid to barge into the offices of the authorities and the voting booth locations, and object to the many forgeries. He set up his headquarters in the restaurant belonging to our townsman Leib Roll, now in Israel.
We managed to gather most of the voting cards, but before our voters reached the voting booths, the gang members voted by means of forgeries of these same cards. And when my late father, Alter Heller (Haim Yehoshua) objected forcefully to these forgeries, as the representative of the Zionist party in the voting booth the representative of the authorities threatened him, telling him that there was to be no shouting there and that if he personally knew the people who were repeatedly voting under false names, he should write down the facts and the objection in the protocol, and this would serve as the basis for an appeal.
The central regime, Count Bowzinski, was still afraid of the election results, and especially wanted to prevent a Zionist Ukrainian alignment in Easter Galicia, and Jewish voting against the government candidates in Western Galicia. He therefore made an agreement with the Zionist center and promised it 4 or 5 mandates, including one for Dr. Ringel in the Buczacz district and also for the candidates Adolf Stand, Dr. Reich, Dr. Ziper and Dr. Tohn. But the Count simply cheated the Zionist center, and after the Zionists did not receive the Ukrainians' assistance in Eastern Galicia and cancelled their separate parties in Western Galicia the noble Count violated the agreement, betrayed the Zionist center, and by means of force, forgeries and threats, the Poles caused the Jewish candidates to fail, including Dr. Ringel, by appointing Stern Brish as the Buczacz representative to the parliament. He did not do anything and continued to fulfill this honorary role for a short while in independent Poland, because in Eastern Galicia, which was not yet an official part of Poland, election manipulation was not permitted and the government asked the Polish representatives from Galicia to participate in the first Sejm as a founding meeting.
In 1922 the first democratic elections restored the Jewish national representative to the Buczacz district (which was called the district of Tarnopol, Czortkow, Buczacz).
It is worth noting two characteristic details. When the Zionist parties in Galicia united with the economic unions and the professional unions with a Zionist affiliation, into one list and divided the districts between them, only the Buczacz district candidate asked to appear in his own town. Incidentally, he was the representative of the Zionist labor party Hitachdut haPoel haZair Ze'irei Zion . It is interesting that the ruling family accepted the fact that during that period only a Zionist could be a candidate, and they did not object to their townsman being the candidate. However, their dynastic approach led them to claim that their family also included Zionists. Most of this family voted, as Jews and good Zionists, for the official candidate for their town and only a few could not overcome their tendencies and during the first months after the elections they regarded their chosen representative coldly. But gradually, all the circles of the town and the district, including the representatives of the authorities, got used to their representative, the young Zvi Heller.
The Buczacz Landsmannschaft in Vienna also reached a decision to congratulate their town, which had achieved a national representative. They sent a congratulatory letter to their townsman and the friend of their youth, for his election as parliamentary representative of his community and the district.
In 1927 there were elections in Poland again, this time under the reign of the Sanacja people, who had decided to obtain a majority in the elections, at the expense of the Polish opposition parties and the national minorities including the Jews.
The Jewish club at the Polish Sejm, which comprised 34 representatives and 12 senators, decreased its presence significantly under this electoral system, and in Eastern Galicia the Jews were left with only 4 districts: Lvov, Stanislaw-Kolomei, Tarnopol-Buczacz, and Zaloczow-Brody.
However, since the author of these lines, as the candidate for Tarnopol-Buczacz, was known as an opponent of the ugodah (compromise) with the Grabski government, and as the oppositional representative against the Andke government and the Sanacja, there was a plan in the government to lead to his downfall and to appease the general Zionists in another district. However, after notice reached all the towns and villages in our district from the local and district authorities, that this could cause riots, because all the circles and activists from the moderate parties and the opponent parties support Heller, they were forced to abandon this plan, and the result was that the candidate in the Tarnopol district received more votes than any of the Jewish candidates, namely, over 30 thousand votes. A Zionist was elected in Krakow with 15 thousand votes, in Stanislaw with 25 thousand, and in Zloczow with 20 thousand. When the government counted the votes, they determined that the Tarnopol-Buczacz candidate had received all the Jewish votes, and in addition some 3,000 votes from Christians in various locations. This was proven by the excess of votes which the Jewish list received in the same places, which was more than the total number of Jewish voters. The Christians voted for the Jewish list as invalids, retirees, laborers, artisans, government and private clerks, and so forth, all of whom benefited from representative Heller's proposals and his parliamentary fight for their basic interests.
At the end of this term I did not run again, and the district of
Tarnopol-Buczacz was left without a Jewish representative the whole time. World
War II broke out and the town and vicinity were occupied by the Nazi forces and
later annexed to the Ukraine as part of Soviet Russia.
During the Hovevei Zion period as well, Buczacz was one of the first places in Galicia where the movement found support both in circles of the elderly, the Chassidim and the educated, and among the youth and the intelligentsia. During this period, a Zionist union was created, with two purposes: to assist the Yishuv in Eretz Yisrael, for which purpose it was in contact with the center in Tarnow under the direction of Dr. Saltz, and it also had a social cultural purpose. The establishment of the society created a sort of revolution in the town. Apart from Zionists such as Shmuel Teller, Yitzhak Hirsch Weisser, Hirsch Stern and his sons, Yakov Leib Alfenbein, Yisrael Shlomo Stern and others, the society was also joined by young intelligentsia, some of whom remained Zionists their whole lives, such as Dr. Sigmund Goldsteub (son of Israel Ber) who lived and was active in Sniatyn and his brother Leon (who is in Haifa), Dr. Farnhof, who was a representative at the First Zionist Congress and even young men such as Anshel Mosler and Dr. Rosenbaum, who did not have an ideological affiliation with Zionism, joined the first society in the town, and like Dr. Diamant Herman in Lvov, who later moved to the P.P.S. Dr. Mosler moved from the P.P.S to the Z.P.S as the founder of this movement, which was later succeeded in Galicia by the Bund. In this society there were lectures on Eretz Yisrael subjects and on general cultural affairs. It was located in a private apartment in the Rink and was abolished in 1902. After two or three years the Zionist society opened again, under the name of Zion. Following the great shock of the Kishinev pogroms, there was another great national awakening in the public. There was a mourning and protest gathering in the synagogue, the students sung Eli Zion ve'Eria. During the gathering organized by the community in the synagogue in 1905, in honor of the Polish holiday on May 3, the Zionist youth stood by the gates and did not let the people inside. With calls of all those who believe in Adonai, go home, the youth entered the synagogue, led by the student Sigman (now named Menatseach) and dispersed the audience, and Yosef Tischler (now an engineer in Jerusalem) and others collected contributions for the pogrom victims. The new Zionist society opened on Koljowa St., opposite Meir Torton's house. They had a Zionist minyan, including Ansel Friedman (whose son is in Eretz Yisrael) as a volunteer cantor, and on the Sabbaths and the high holidays, some of the Zionist landlords and the Zionist youth prayed there. Libusch Freid was chosen as the society chairman. He later lived in Vienna, and died on his way to Eretz Yisrael in 1939, on the shores of Haifa onboard a ship that was expelled to Mauritius.
The society was inaugurated with Libusch Freid's lecture on the Rambam. Local and guest lecturers came to the society, among whom was Dr. Avraham Silberstein, who was later an important activist and assistant chairman of the Zionist Congress tribunal. He died two years ago in Geneva, where he was active throughout the war years in assisting Hitler's victims in the occupied countries, as well as Jewish refugees. He came home often from Lvov. The lecturers also included many local students. Dr. Hillel Susman was sent to lecture by the local committee in Stanislaw, and he was received by a large audience in the house of Avraham Shomer. The anti-Zionists from the P.P.S society made demonstrative appearances at the gatherings, led by Dr. Ansel Mosler and Gotwald. Chairman Loser Eisenberg was chosen as president (whose wife is now on Kibbutz Mishmar Ha'Emek), and his assistant was the tailor Hofinger. After Dr. Susman referred to the Kishinev pogroms in his lecture, Mosler and others shouted a worker was killed there. In all the commotion, the P.P.S people tried to disrupt the gathering and their deputy began to conduct the meeting. The student Matityahu Weinrab (later a lawyer in Snook) objected to this profusely, explaining that as long as there was a chairman, the deputy had no right to conduct a meeting. Eventually, the Zionists moved the lecture to the Zion society auditorium. During this period there were also many lecturers at the time of the World Zionist polemic in support of and against Uganda. And of course, the vast majority of Buczacz Zionists objected to the Uganda program. One special event should be noted. An anti-Zionist by the name of Speigel, who was a Hebrew teacher in the area villages, together with his friend B. Sigman-Rodes (father of Dr. Menatzeach), came to the society. Speigel had immigrated to America and became one of the Reform rabbis there, who were anti-Zionists at the time. Several years later he came to Buczacz as a guest and gave a lecture at the society, where he spoke of the need to disseminate the Jews and of the destiny of Judaism among the Gentiles. The well-known preacher Avramson (father of the poet Avramson from America) also came to Buczacz as a guest and Zionist lecturer.
And another odd occurrence: in the village of Osowcza, near Buczacz, lived a wealthy Jew by the name of Fikholz, who had an educated daughter who married a young yeshiva student, a great prodigy. One of his classmates at the Beit Midrash was originally from Buczacz, and was later to become the Professor of Semitic studies in Vienna, Dr. Heinrich Miller. Fikholz's son-in-law suddenly left his wife and ran away. Many years later it was learned that he came to Rome, where he converted to Christianity, and some say he was known in the Catholic church as Houston Bramen. According to this rumor, in the infamous trial of Dr. Bloch against the anti-Semite Rohling, he provided our enemies with Talmudic material against the Jews.
The Zion society was also active in supporting Eretz Yisrael, and its activists bought and sold shares of the Colonial Bank in London. The youth, led by student Naftali Ben Dov (now Menatseach) collected contributions for the JNF. And thus we find in the Zionist newspaper Wschod, from 1905/6, lists of fund-raisers, donors and donations which were collected from individuals in the Zion society and in the Klois and from the JNF blue boxes.
The society was also active in cultural endeavors and in disseminating the Hebrew language, as well as in political areas, both local and national. According to the instructions from the central committee in Lvov and the regional committee in Stanislaw, protest gatherings were called for in Buczacz and in Oscjia Zialona (where the Hatikva society operated), to protest the conspiracies of Dr. Bik against Zionism. They sent the prime minister, Baron Geutsch and the Zionist leader Dr. Shalit in Vienna, resolutions calling for democratization of the parliament elections and for the assignment of an autonomous borough for the Jewish voters, in order to assure the Jews full representation and to prevent them from having to become involved in the national strife in Austria between the Poles and the Ukrainians, and between the Germans and other Slavs. It is worth noting that at the congress of Jewish official delegates in Lvov, even Brish Stern, the mayor, objected to Dr. Bik's offense against the honor of the Zionist movement, even though he was usually a supporter of the regime.
In around 1907, the Zion society moved to its new premises in Yosef Bergman's house (next to the Polish church), under the direction of Loser Eisenberg, who was later removed from office because he propagandized for his relative, the chairman, in the city hall, and in the 1907 elections he came out against the national candidate. All the Jews who were disloyal to the Zionists' political war also left the society at that time. The society began Zionist activities and acted under the direction of Leibusch Freid. They organized many lectures and assisted the youth in learning Hebrew. They also had guest lecturers such as Dr. Silberstein, Rosenman and others who studied outside of Buczacz. After the 1907 elections, the rabbi from Stanislaw and the Zionist leader Dr. Mordechai Broide (who later moved to Lodz and died recently in Jerusalem), came to lecture at the Hanukah ball in the Ukrainian Besside hall. When he gave details of his fight against the assimilators, who laid obstacles for our political fight, he hinted at the presence of the government representative, with regards to the role of the traitors in Stanislaw and in Buczacz in the Austrian parliament elections. He said that as far back as the Hellenization period, anti-Jewish actions had occurred not only under the duress of Antiochus Epiphanes, but first and foremost under the initiative of the Jewish assimilators, the traitors and the sycophants.
The Zion society also met at Wolf Horn's house, and at the time of the victory of the Young Turks party, they held lively arguments about the effect of this Turkish revolution on the Zionist aspirations for a Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael. Dr. A. Dretler (later an attorney in Lvov) lectured on this subject.
The Zion society then moved to the Sternberg house (in the Anderman Hotel). During this period the society chairmen were Bezalel Herzas, Zalman Hoenig (whose son is on Kibbutz Gan-Shmuel) and my father Haim Yehoshua Heller (Alter), who continued his position until the beginning of World War I and the escape to Vienna. A group of youngsters was very active at that time, including Hirsch Balin, who was known as Gospodarz, because he took care of the society's economy. Paul Eidelstein (now in Haifa) and Shalom Weinstock (who now lives with his family on the moshav Beit-Shearim near Nahallal, and whose name is now Yosef Heller) and Yakov Halpern. The latter planned his aliya together with myself. This pioneering plan came to us not only under the influence of my father, of blessed memory, and the Eretz Yisrael newspaper, Hapoel Hatzair, but also probably from the fact that there were three of our townspeople in Merchavia, in Eretz Yisrael, at the agricultural cooperative which was conducted according to Dr. Openheimer's system. The farm manager was Shlomo Dik (who came back to Israel after Hitler and worked as an expert on large agricultural plans, and died in Paris), and two graduates of the agricultural school in Slowodka in our area. They were sent to Israel by the Baron Hirsch fund. Their names were: Fritz and Moirer, and I do not know what became of them.
In 1912/13, appointed by the Buczacz district committee, we collected a large
sum of money which was enough to obtain two seats in the Tenth Zionist
Congress, which was held in Vienna in 1913. We gave one of the seats to Shlomo
Schiller, the well-known writer and teacher who was at that time in Eretz
Yisrael. My participation in this congress in 1913 in Vienna and in the
conference of Russian Zionists which was held there as a very young man
suddenly introduced me to the world Zionist movement and its activists,
and to the labor movement representatives from Eretz Yisrael. From there, I
went directly to the military service in an officers' training school in
The "Hashmonaim" Association
When a Galician minister (Namiestnik) once came to Buczacz, young Chlebek and his friends organized a political demonstration against him outside the district council building. The demonstration was dispersed by the police, and Chlebek was expelled from the gimnazjum. Prominent among the Ukrainian youth, was Nazaruk (son of a furrier), who later became a minister in the Ukrainian government. Together with Dr. A. Mosler, he organized the first agricultural workers' strike in the entire area, and they published the newspaper Sluzba Dworska and even caused severe welfare riots. Austrian army troops were then sent in to oppress the revolution and save the Polish landowners, the Paritz.
However, at the end of that year, in which the Jewish members of the Promien organization graduated from high school, a great turning point occurred among the Jews. There was a national, Zionist awakening among the Noar HaLomed, which began to organize Zionist clubs for education and independent studying of Jewish affairs and Hebrew. The student Matityahu Weinraub, who was knowledgeable in Hebrew from his father Haim Weinraub, a great scholar, was active in Buczacz in this area. Our townsman Dr. Avraham Silberstein often came from Lvov, where he was active in the youth movement Zeirei Zion, and he imparted to the youth of Buczacz knowledge of Hebrew and Jewish history, which he had written himself but not published, because the manuscripts had been destroyed during the Russian occupation and the First World War. Silberstein also lectured on various Jewish and Zionist subjects. Sigman-Menatseach, who inherited the Hebrew spirit from his father, the learned teacher, organized a group of friends, including Bleukopf, Smeterling (today an attorney in Jerusalem), and the students Schitzer and Schecter, who came to Buczacz from the village of Strosow as a hospitant in the gimnazjum. The youngsters would meet in Tischler's private room. Later they met the student Katz, who had moved from Zloczow to his relatives in Buczacz, and with his help they expanded the club, whose chairman was Tischler and his deputy was Manio Pohorile (today a government clerk in Jerusalem). Matityahu Weinraub organized different clubs for adults in Munisch Heller's apartment, and a club for youngsters, including Gottfried Laiser, Zvi Heller and their friends from the intermediate classes. Our meetings were held in the storage cellar of Y. A. Gottfried in the Ashkenazi house next to the Weksler Hotel. The third club was led by Yonah Heller from Bozanow, who was a prominent member of the orchestra in the gimnazjum, run by Professor Geziov. Heller, Tischler, Menatseach and Gottfried later moved to the gimnazjum in Brzezany, which for some reason became the destination for expelled Buczacz students. Silberstein administered courses in Hebrew, Tanach and history, in the apartment of the Pohorile brothers, Emmanuel and David (now Dr. Pohorile, an attorney in Tel Aviv and chairman of the Buczacz Landsmannschaft in Israel). There was also a club for self education with lectures and discussions on various scientific topics. A student named Tau came to Buczacz from Kolomei, he was a learned man and organized a club for lectures and sing-alongs. Young people who knew Hebrew, such as Tischler, Menatseach, Halfon, Zvi Malex (now a rabbi in America), Yosef Shneor and others visited the Ivria club on Shabbat, where they spoke only Hebrew for one hour with the adults, or taught Hebrew in the community soup kitchen. After all the difficult beginnings during the stormy period, the Zionist youth movement shifted to organized action in twelve clubs, eight for gimnazjum students according to age and class, and four clubs for young girls. The movement was directed by a local committee, whose chairman was Zvi Heller. Haim Avner was the deputy and Yitzhak Shneor was secretary. The movement was affiliated with the Zionist organization of the Noar Ha'Oved in Lvov, Tzeirei Zion, and some of us would participate in the movement's national conferences in Lvov, which were called wiecy and which were a sort of seminar for ideological and practical studies for the counselors. Most of the Zionist leadership in all the parties in Galicia and Vienna stemmed from this circle, because these conferences were also the arena for the first signs of the ideological differentiation in Zionism. Our twelve clubs in Buczacz conducted extremely broad organizational and cultural work. The members were required to learn Hebrew and to read the newspapers HaShachar and Moriah and to study from the textbooks on Zionism written by Czaczkes-Kirton (now named Dr. Kosta, a physician in Herzliya), the book The National Existence of the Jews (Byt narodowy Zydow) by Shlomo Schiller, the history of the Jews and Eretz Yisrael issues, and the literature of Jews. The students of the upper classes also read Wschod, Welt, HaOlam and Hamitzpeh. The members were examined on all this material by a member committee, and this was a condition for acceptance into higher clubs. Throughout the year there was also systematic organizational activity, in order to introduce the students from the lower divisions into the movement.
The movement concentrated its activity in the rooms of the Hebrew school Safah Brura, which was located at first in the house of Freid and Eisenberg in Garbarnia, and then in the Kaner house, which also served the Zionists as an election office because of its proximity to the city hall. And finally it was in the rear house of Abish Dik near the Stripa river and opposite the public gimnazjum. Every Shabbat all the members of the movement congregated there and heard different lectures and interesting debates, which demonstrated the level of education and progress of the participants. The youth leaders and various Zionist activists came from here. The movement also operated a large library in different languages for different ages, and once a week the young boys and girls exchanged their books, and by means of pop-quizzes we tested whether they had read and understood the books. In the soup-kitchen there were Hanukah parties, beautiful plays and literary balls.
When we graduated from the gimnazjum, we founded an academic society named Hashmonaim, which was affiliated with the Hasmonea society in Lvov. Our society took upon itself a large part of the Zionist work in town, and developed lovely social and cultural life. In the Hashmonaim society we created a large scientific library, which helped members, friends and supporters to deepen their knowledge of Judaism and Zionism, knowledge of Eretz Yisrael, Hebrew and Yiddish literature, and general sciences. The society parties gathered all the circles of town and the intelligentsia from near and far towns. I recall the grand Eretz Yisrael ball in the halls of the Ukrainian club, with the presence of famous Zionist economist David Treisch, who developed the special system for settlement and agriculture in Eretz Yisrael. The society members the youths Miller and Heller-Anderman, who died in World War I; Dr. Yeshayahu Hecht, head of the Hitachdut party and its representative in the Buczacz community and city hall; Dr. Eliyahu Nacht, an attorney and Zionist leader in Drohowitz; Dr. Yosef Somerstein (a doctor in Vienna); Hindes, Nussbaum, Attorney Isio Spirer, Judge Cook and others were killed during Hitler's time. Yitzhak Tischler and attorney Poldzie Marangel and our friend the activist in Buczacz, Haim Sinzia Frankel, died before the war. The well-known activist in Buczacz, Lvov and Vienna, Leon Weksler, died in Jerusalem. Dr. Avraham Silberstein, a delegate to the Sejm and deputy-chief of the congressional court, died in Switzerland. Dr. Avraham Halfon, the old Hebrew, a founder of Hathiya in Vienna, died in Hadera, after having managed to live in Israel for a short while, as a survivor.
If we are discussing the academic youth in our town, we should mention an
amusing fact: since the Austrian system of law studies meant that the students
of that division were only examined once every two years, some 100 law students
in Buczacz also spent most of their time in Buczacz. In order to overcome their
boredom, they created a club named Ha'alaburda, whose
members would gather in the evenings at Pyotrowicz's
confectionary in Dr. Alter's house. The club, which ran for two or three years,
was led by Waksler, Reiss, Frankel and others. The Ha'alaburda
was organized on the foundations of a state: a government, with a royal
court and a Chancellor at the head of the government; courts and legislation;
university and examinations, in which exam fees were paid with
confectionary cakes. In the exams, which had an amusing scientific nature,
questions on legal problems were presented humorously. They were very
interesting and attracted a large audience. But we finally recognized that this
club did not have a positive influence on the academic youth and was
distracting them from Zionist and cultural activities and from studying for
serious exams. With the help of our Zionist society Hashmonaim
and under its influence, we stopped the activity of the Ha'alaburda
and its existence, even though most of its members were not
party-affiliated and did not want to give up this social occasion.
We shall not mention here all the various cheders, some of which had outstanding teachers and pedagogues such as Pesach Beuler, who was an expert in grammar, Tanach and literature, and whose daughter Khaye Rol Beuler, of blessed memory, who was married to Arie Rol died prematurely in Tel Aviv. She was very active here in assisting immigrants from Buczacz, and was the living spirit in the Buczacz organization. Other teachers included Baruch Koenigsburg, Haim David Becker, Leib Yazlowitzer, Barisch Rodes-Sigman, Mendele Melamed, and the teaching assistant Shalev Eliyahu, who we see together in one of the photographs with the students: Loser Heller, Nathan and Benjamin Anderman, Zelig and Leiser Gottfried, Osia and Shmuel Zeifer, Holtzstein (the photographer's son), Moshe Bertsneider, Shmuel Cohen and Shlomo Weisser, the son of the butcher Fischel. And it is a well-known fact that they did not dare to take photographs of the cheder students in every place in Galicia.
In most of the Batei Midrash and the kloises, individuals and groups studied Torah all day, and in many evening classes. The old Beit Midrash was an especially important place for the study of Torah and Jewish studies. The mitnagdim were concentrated there, prominent scholars led by Rabbi Mordechai Spielberg. They prayed there throughout daylight, and there were valuable books in the library. Interestingly, the library rules stipulated a special department whose books were accessible only to adults, and youngsters under the age of fifty were forbidden to read them. A notable scholar in this mitnagdim group was Avraham Freid, grandfather of Ze'ev On, a member of the Tel Yosef kibbutz and manager of the workers' society.
Among the students of this Beit Midrash were also porters and butchers, and also a few of us students, and of course there were landlords and young men knowledgeable in the Torah. Some of the volunteer lecturers and teachers who excelled in conducting their classes were Asher Miller, who taught Mishna on week days, at Mincha and at Maariv; Chaim Weinraub and others who taught Ein Yakov and Akedat Yitzhak, and others who taught Tanach and literature. All these studies were conducted in the evenings and particularly during the winter months, on Shabbat evenings, while Midrash was taught on Shabbat mornings.
The Hebrew language, especially grammar and Tanach, was taught by several teachers and private tutors, who taught Hebrew, general education, classic German literature and calligraphy. Many students studied in the primary schools and in the Polish gimnazjum, at first in the Basilian monastery building and later in the beautiful government gimnazjum. Progressive Buczacz had long been notable for its professional Jewish intelligentsia, which was the fruit of independent, local nurturing: the physician Dr. Nacht and his sons, Dr. Stern, Dr. Marangel, Dr. Peller and others who were teachers, senior government officials, and even one female physician, Dr. Frankel (daughter of Aharon). And during the last fifty years there were hundreds of Jewish academics in Buczacz, including many young women (and many of them now work in their professions in Israel and America).
The pioneer in the instruction of the Hebrew language was Yosef Rosenman, and one of the first activists was Ms. Shindel Segal, who also taught Hebrew in her apartment in the house of Haim Neta Anderman Brink or in the soup-kitchen. At that time, Dr. Silberstein came from Lvov and began to teach in the public kitchen according to the Hebrew in Hebrew system.
During the years 1906-1907, the Hebrew enthusiasts from the Zion society, led by Yitzhak Hirsch Weisser, Yakov Leib Alfenbein and Matityahu Weinreib, as well as the youth movements, decided to create a Hebrew school named Clear Language (Safah Brurah), modeled on the schools which existed in other places in Galicia. They contacted the center for Hebrew teachers in Lvov, which was directed by Raphael Soferman (now a teacher at the Gymnasia Herzliya in Tel Aviv) and Zvi Sharpstein (now a teacher and writer in America), and asked to bring the well-known author and teacher G. Shofman, who lived in Galicia at that time, to Buczacz as the headmaster of the school. However, the teaching center recommended Berkowitz, a Hebrew teacher from Eretz Yisrael, who had evidently been in a position in Rohatin until that point, and is now a teacher in Hadera. The school was located in the Garbarnia house, in the Eisenberg-Fried house behind the Ukrainian church next to the market square. It then moved to the Kaner house near the post office and city hall, and later to the Abisch Dik house, opposite the gimnazjum. As headmaster, Berkowitz managed to expand the school, which was at first a school for kindergarten children and evening classes for the young people who studied at the Polish governmental, general-primary and secondary schools. Yisrael Farnhof (who was related to the author Yitzhak Farnhof) was appointed as a second teacher, and Berkowitz also acquired students from the senior classes in the gimnazjum and the students of the senior course.
Due to a severe conflict which developed among the teachers, part of the school board was opposed to Berkowitz. At that point, Farnhof, with the help of Yitzhak Hirsch Weisser, founded a separate school and Berkowitz moved to the court of Moshe Weisser, a Hebrew scholar (whose son Matityahu Weisser is in Tel Aviv), where he managed a school for young people. After a while Berkowitz returned to Yavniel in Eretz Yisrael, but he returned to Buczacz after a short period, married a wife from the Friedman family and opened a school in the form of a kindergarten. He then moved to Lvov as the director of a Hebrew kindergarten, and after not long he retuned to Eretz Yisrael. The Hebrew school deteriorated, and only after the war, during the realization of Zionism and the pioneeringaliya, the study of Hebrew began to develop again, both in the pioneering youth movements and in the school directed by Farnhof and assisted by Haim Kofler and the teachers Ms. Gottfreid (daughter of Shmuel), Ms. Glanzer (daughter of the judge Glanzer and wife of Knobler) and others.
As I write of all these events, it is impossible not to mention the dear, kind young man, who was like a pleasant riddle to everyone in our town. I am referring to Shmulik Czaczkes, the famed author Shmuel Yosef Agnon, who lives in Jerusalem. His father was a learned man with great knowledge and a Chassid in the Czortkow kloise. Shmuel Yosef's uniqueness was evident from early childhood. He internalized knowledge and Torah in his father's house and in the kloise, but this framework became too narrow for him, and he desired spiritual and mental expanses in other places and in educated and progressive circles in Zionist organizations and clubs for studious youth. In the general great Beit Midrash for the landlords in Buczacz (directed by Rabbi Itzi, named after the tzaddik from the Wharman family), where my father, of blessed memory, was a gabbai for a long time Agnon's grandfather, Reb Yehuda Farb, of blessed memory, and my own grandfather, Reb Mordecahi Heller, of blessed memory, would sit nearby a large window and pray. In this place I myself sat, as did little Shmuel, on small, low chairs during the High Holidays prayers, and we internalized the tunes and the beautiful prayers sung by the cantor and the shochet Getzel Golberg (his sons Alter and Yehosha and his daughters are in Eretz Yisrael, and his son Moshe, who was learned in the Talmud and known for his journalistic articles, was killed by the Nazis). In this Beit Midrash we both later met with Zionist landlords and young men, apart from my student circles and the young men from his kloise. In this Beit Midrash and in the nearby Fritzhand house, we initiated the custom of pledges for the benefit of the JNF during the aliyot on Simchat Torah. Shmuel Czaczkes liked to come to the Zion society often. He was friendly with a group of young men, such as Paul Edelstein, Shalom Weinstock, Yakov Halpern, Yakov Fischer (his daughter in Israel is married to Dr. Kornblit-Korn from the Kupat Cholim [sick-fund] center), and he was also close with the heads of the Zionist Noar Lomed, and particularly the Hebraists, including Yosef Tischler, Menatzeach and others. In the Zion society he published a newspaper named Shabbat-Oivest (Fruits of Shabbat), which was published in handwriting and in print. This paper contained discussions of the Messiah and Messianic beliefs, as well as poems and articles on other topics. When he came to the youth parties and especially to the Chanukah celebrations, Shmuel Czaczkes would secretly bring one of his poems, which would be read to the audience by a student. This may have been done out of modesty or perhaps out of fear from the klois. I recall that a poem of his was once recited by the student Halpern (brother of Ms. Salzman, who is in Tel Aviv), who drowned in the Stripa river. Many people at that time suspected that the young Shmuel Czaczkes was presenting poems written by his father, for who could believe at that point that this child was destined to become Agnon.
When he walked with his friends, Agnon would often break away from them for a few moments and disappear through the gates of one of the houses. When he returned, he would explain that he had suddenly been overcome with thoughts and ideas, and had gone inside to write them down in his notebook.
During that time there was
a cantor and a choir in the Great Synagogue in our town, where the youth
took singing lessons. Towards Passover, the cantor was preparing a new
tune and he asked young Czaczkes, who had already become famous for his
ability in this area, to write him a small poem for a melody he would compose.
If I am not mistaken, the song was approximately as follows:
Pesach was there.
And if there are no more matzot and wine in my house
But the bread is no more.
Agnon was also involved in a different society of older intellectuals, such as Mordechai Kanfer (who teaches in the Baron Hirsch's school) and his son Moshe; Moshe Gotold (the local socialist); Teuber the old teacher; Itzi Farnhof, who was a Hebrew teacher in the village and then found acclaim with the publication of amusement books. There was also Fischel Engelstein, who later lived in the colony of Buczaczers in the town of Metz in Alsace-Lorraine. Farnhof also published a pocket dictionary of Grazowski with translations into Polish, German and Yiddish, called New Hebrew Dictionary. It was printed in Stanislaw, by Robinzon (now a book publisher in Tel Aviv). With the help of his son (now Dr. Farnhof, a doctor in New York) and his relative Dr. Kopel Schwartz, of blessed memory, our friend Yisrael Cohen published the late Farnhof's books in Israel. Young Czaczkes also published his articles and poems in Hamitzpeh [The Observer] and the editor of that paper, the author S. M. Lazar (whose son the journalist Dr. Lazar is one of the editors of Maariv in Tel Aviv), came especially to Buczacz to meet Czaczkes, whose articles made a great impression on him. When Rokeach came to Buczacz, Agnon was given an opportunity to expand his literary work. The author Rokeach came from Eretz Yisrael to Galicia via Romania, where he stayed and worked for a while. He began his activity in Stanislaw and then moved to nearby Buczacz. Rokeach and Czaczkes became very friendly, and they cooperated in publishing the Hebrew monthly Hayarden and the Yiddish weekly Der Wäcker, both of which were printed in Stanislaw and in Buczacz at Helberg & Dretler's printers. These periodicals published many poems and articles by Shmuel Czaczkes. Yakov Kaner, who was later active as secretary of the youth movement in the Poel HaTzsair party in Galicia, was a technical assistant. Hayarden also published caricatures of Buczacz personalities. One of them had the following caption: I am a tailor, I make clothes, whoever wishes shall wear them. Rokeach was also assisted by many people such as Kanfer, author Yitzhak Farnhof, and others. Rokeach moved from Buczacz to the town of Stri (due to financial difficulties and printing debts) and eventually returned to Eretz Yisrael.
Shalom Aleichem came to Buczacz on his literary tour, invited by Moshe Kleinman, editor of the Yiddishes Tagblatt in Lvov. He was supposed to visit Agnon, who also published his poems in this publication of Galician Zionists. However, the visit did not take place, and Shalom Aleichem left his card for Agnon before he left. He apologized for leaving without saying goodbye, but left a friendly suggestion: Learn, learn a lot, for your actions will be rewarded. Rokeach also gave many lectures in Buczacz on literary and philosophical topics.
Three other societies were active in Buczacz until the First World War: a women's Zionist society called Rachela, directed and activated by Ms. Dr. Peller, Gizella Stern (wife of Dr. Moshe Kanfer), the sisters Regina and Rosia Stern (daughters of the young Abisch), Toni Eisenberg, nee Edelstein (now in Haifa), and the young women Herzes, Hecht, Primazia Weinrab, Chana Blein, Hagar and others. It was a very active society, which arranged Hebrew lessons, parties, in which students and Zionist youth also participated, lectures by members and by students (Weinrib, Weksler Heller). Once they even brought Shlomo Schiller, the author and writer from Lvov. The members of Rachela collected donations for the JNF at weddings. The society met at Yakov Stern's house. It is worth mentioning a tragicomic incident, which occurred due to the cooperation between the members of Rachela and the students. Avramtzu Spirer (later a lawyer and head of the community in Jaslo), who was known as a practical joker, once arranged a game in which he placed a ring on the fingers of twelve Rachela girls, adding the phrase with this ring I take you as my wife according to the law of Moses and Israel. It is hard to describe the panic and the scandal in town following this funny event, since the Rabbinate asserted that he must give an official get [divorce] to each of these young women.
For a number of years, there was also a society of trade assistants, within the Poalei Zion party, in Ehrlich Bringplatz's house, under the presidency of Berzio Frankel – son of Yonah (who was later director of the Joint in Munkatz and a lawyer in Lvov). Members included Yonah Kopfer from Monasterzyska, who was an accountant for the Eisenberg brothers, and a man from Tarnopol named Zalman Hertz, who worked at the Dretler printers and helped the Poalei Zion, and died in Eretz Yisrael. Among the activists were Anshel Czaczkes, Agnon's brother (now in Jerusalem) and others. The Poalei Zion party had ties with similar societies, such as Achva in Stanisalaw and Lvov. AfterPoalei Zion left the national Zionist movement and became an independent party with a class-based and Yiddishist character, the Zionist intelligentsia left it, and the Buczacz branch was closed down.
There was a workers' association for many years in Buczacz, named Bertrestwa-Briderlichkeit (unity), whose residence in the period before the war was in a house on Podhiezka St. It was a general workers' association with a cultural, social nature, for the class whose members felt the need for a special social framework, as they thought they had been excluded from the society of landlord-like youth (Zionist and Hassidic youth and the Noar Halomed organizations). This association developed and became a socialist organization affiliated with the Z.P.S. Since its members were only Yiddish-speaking Jews and their spiritual leader was Dr. Anslem Mozler, founder of the Jewish sector in the P.P.S. named Z.P.S. the Buczacz association also moved to the Galician Z.P.S., which later united with the Bund. The association was very active, mainly in the social and cultural areas. Among its leaders and activists were Moshe Gotwald, Zleznik, the members of the Duchovny family (one of whom is now in America and his wife is chairwoman of the Buczacz women's assistance organization), the Kitenflon brothers, Yonah Rosenblum and his wife, from the Kitenflom family (now in America), Zeifer and many others. Zlaznik Herman once organized a tailor workers' strike and set up a kind of cooperative a joint workshop for all the strikers. However, this cooperative did not last long, because the workers went back to their tailors. Zlaznik remained in the cooperative as an independent tailor. After the war, Zlaznik was chairman of the society of artisans, Yad Charutzim, which existed many years before the war and whose main role was to elevate the social standing of the artisans and obtain representation for them in all the elections for the municipality, the community, the tax board and the professional union, which was directed for many years by the Jewish tailor Nussi (Nathan) Pik. The artisans had welfare assistance institutes, both separate from and joint with other citizens, and they had a beautiful, large synagogue next to the Ezrat nashim of the Great Synagogue and opposite the old bathhouse, which was called Das sneiderishe shilachil. This synagogue was directed by Shimon Hecht, Fischel Skelka, A. V. Yurman, Fischel Kitenflon, Mordechai Winkler and others. Not far from there, on Mikolei Street, stood the Jewish hospital in a separate beautiful building. After the war, the hospital was directed by Arie Rol and his wife Khaye, nee Beuler (she died in Tel Aviv) and the physicians Dr. Nacht, Dr. Chalfon and Dr. Hirschorn. The latter two came to Israel as Holocaust survivors, and died here.
The butchers and carriage-owners represented separate ranks, and they included people knowledgeable in the Torah, and with social and cultural knowledge and aspirations. Some were also financially successful. Among the butchers were the Weisser and Peper families, and among the carriage-owners was the Goldberg family. Meir Goldberg provided his sons and daughters with an education, and his daughter is now a teacher in America, and is married to Professor Schotsman, also one of our townsmen who is active in America, who visited Israel to acquire knowledge of the land and the country at Beit Berl.
There was also an anarchist group in Buczacz, led by the brothers Sigmund and Monia Nacht (sons of the doctor), Dr. Kanfer (who was later a teacher in Chelm and a journalist in Krakow in the Zionist Novi Dezianenik and moved to the Poalei Zion party), young intelligent store assistants, who gathered secretly in the forest near the Stripa river, opposite the black bridge, and once in a while they would include us students of the lower classes of the gimnazjum in the meetings. The Nacht brothers were known as pillars of the world anarchist movement and were active in Spain. The youngest, Monia (Max), still lives in America and recently gave a scientific lecture at the club of former Buczacz residents.
There were some individuals with vague socialist leanings in the Zionist movement and among the young men and landlords. My father, who was a merchant, gabbai of the Beit Midrash and chairman of the Zion society, also had a socialist outlook. This fact had a great influence on my characteristics and my way in life. The people also sensed this and presented my father, the commoner landlord, as their candidate for the community elections, and he was their representative on the tax board and the local sick fund management, although he himself was distant from these things due to the worries of earning a living. He chose to devote his spare time to writing essays and poems in Hebrew, Yiddish and German, although he never revealed this in public.
The occupation of Buczacz by the Russian army during World War I and the Cossack reign over the town for several years, destroyed most of the houses and businesses. Many Jews died in the typhoid epidemic. Many died on the fronts, in deportations, or from starvation. Many went to Stanislaw or Lvov and other places, or moved to the Western areas of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, such as Hungary, Czech, Moravia, Graz and Innsbruck. Some two-thousand people arrived in Vienna the capital and managed there. At the end of the war and after the further suffering during the small wars between Poland and the Ukraine, and between Poland and Soviet Russia, the soldiers began to return to our town from the army and from captivity and many returned from their places of exile. Hundreds of Buczaczers gathered in a café on Overdonau Street in Vienna, after I posted small announcements in the Jewish prayer houses and cafés, inviting them to the meeting. The participants included people from all ages and classes, including those who had lived in Vienna even before the war the presidency was occupied by respectable activists from our community. The meeting had two purposes: a) to explain to our brothers in Vienna that they must return to the destroyed Buczacz to start a new life there. It was after the Balfour Declaration and the San-Remo Conference, where Eretz Yisrael was declared as our real homeland and it was waiting for enterprising, willing groups of people. There was great enthusiasm and understanding. We knew that Galician soldiers from the Austrian army, including some from Buczacz, were still in Eretz Yisrael: engineer Wildman (a senior clerk in the Mandate government), Dr. Smeterling (now a lawyer in Jerusalem) and Dr. Gutman from Stanislaw (now a lawyer in Jerusalem and former assistant mayor) and of course Agnon, and others. But the prohibition against aliya dictated by the Zionist executive cancelled this initiative. b) to establish a Buczacz Landsmannschaft in Vienna, in order to provide for those who returned and those who stayed. The organization was established, because some one-thousand Buczaczers remained in Vienna, and it was led by Leibisch Freid and others, and during the years before Hitler, our friend Yehezkel Ederer was elected as chairman.
After we returned to Buczacz, we began to work toward the restoration of the town and its Jews, and to rebuild the ruins of public life and the Zionist movement. This was a period of festiveness in light of the San Remo Conference resolutions, which the Jews interpreted as the establishment of a Jewish state, and the days of the great awakening of the national spirit under the regime of the Ukrainians, who were interested in the Jewish national movement and in establishing Hebrew schools, in order to release the Jews from the Polish influence. In the democratic elections, national councils were elected instead of the religious communities. These were lead by Tze'irei Zion circles and representatives in Czortkow and Buczacz, which were established in the area under the influence of the movement in Russia and the Ukraine, and which were pillars of the Zionist labor party, Hitachdut, in Eastern Galicia.
Due to reasons of worldview and from bitter experience, we decided to prevent the Bund's control over the workers and the folkists and among the artisans. We established a popular, inter-class Zionist association, which united within it both the workers and proletarian youth, and the popular ranks, who had been distanced from Zionism before the war, as it had been a movement of landlords and intellectuals and their children, and they therefore found their place in the anti-Zionist parties. We rented all the rooms on the ground floor of Dr. Auschnit's house on the gimnazjum street, and began the work of social merging of the boys and girls from all levels, by means of various activities: lectures, parties and communal studying in meetings, lessons and conversations. To our regret, the reluctance was mutual. The parents' objections on the one hand, and mistrust on the other, were an obstacle for us. Due to this lack of success, the path was reopened for the activity of non-Zionist circles and their followers among the Noar HaOved, with the help of salon-communists from among the students and the red rabbis, graduates of the Beit Midrash, especially after our first pioneers from Hashomer HaTzair made aliya, as we were left with deficient resources.
The first Hashomer Hatzair groups from Buczacz and nearby Czortkow made aliya with the large wave of aliya of this youth movement from all of Galicia. They immigrated after spiritual preparation and agricultural hachshara [training]. We made many efforts to help them with the hachshara. I lived in Czortkow at the time, and I would come to Buczacz often, of course, to assist this pioneering movement. Our hachshara place in Czortkow, for example, attracted important figures among the youth, such as Dr. David Meletz's daughter and Gershon Ziper's daughter, who has been in Israel for a long time, and whose name is now Dr. Helena Flaum-Ziper. She worked at first at the National Library and now works for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This group of Hashomer Hatzair pioneers left Poland illegally, without passports, and was delayed for a long time in Slovakian Pressburg and worked hard to make a living, until they arrived in Israel and began immediately to work in road-paving and various public works. They worked on the Haifa-Jeddah road, under very harsh conditions, along with Egyptian laborers, and they suffered from dysentery, rheumatism, malaria, and so forth. Most of the group's members were the founders of Kibbutz Beit-Alpha, and some later moved to Ramat-Yochanan. This group included Zvi Neuman (now in Beit-Alpha, an agricultural expert and member of the agricultural center), Ze'ev Eiserzon (now named Ze'ev On), Ish Tel-Yosef, who moved to the Gdud Avoda and was among the founders of the large Kibbutz Ein-Harod and later among the founders of Kibbutz Tel-Yosef, together with his wife Yonah of the Budinger family, one of the first pioneers in Czortkow and now a well-known and experienced vegetable grower. Ze'ev Eiserson-On is one of the central figures in the labor movement, and director of the Workers' Society; Yehoshua Hoenig one of the founders of Kibbutz Gan-Shmuel, who was the manager of the Na'aman factory and is now a manager of Hamashbir Hamerkazi; the agronomist Yakov Bleukopf, a teacher and agricultural counselor, and now director of a division in the Ministry of Agriculture. Yosef Held, Masha Antler and her husband Milek Hirschorn, who died defending his group in the War of Independence, all moved from Beit-Alpha to Ramat-Yochanan. Other settlers there included Hirschorn's brother, the physician Dr. Hirschorn, who died after a short life in the homeland, and my brother Mila (Shmuel) Heller, of blessed memory, the youngest member of the group. He fell prey to the harsh reality during an all-night guard duty near the camp on the Haifa-Jedda road, and was buried in Haifa in the old cemetery, at the age of 17 or 18. Yodenfreud now a managing director of Ha'Ogen and the Solel Boneh shipping works in Haifa; and Leibel Ze'ev, one of the managers at the Kibbutz Artzi's Na'aman factory, who lives in Kiriat-Haim; Dov Kaner, who moved from road-paving work to Tel Aviv as an experienced construction worker, and the member Schopler (in Jerusalem). Some did not make it and left Israel: Samet and Nirenberg returned to Buczacz, Zelig Anderman went to cure himself of the severe malaria, came back to Israel after Hitler's Holocaust and worked in his profession as a pharmacist. Yisrael Neuman went to America, where he continues to be active as a friend of working Eretz Yisrael. Neuberger and Segal, who lost their Zionist faith, are now in Poland. From among the hachsharah members who did not make aliya at the time, Ze'ev Goldberg came to Israel later, and Willa Torton and Dr. Rega Zahler came as new immigrants, and are both government clerks in Tel Aviv. It is worth noting that even before this group, which was one of the pioneers of the Third Aliya, Buczacz pioneers made aliya during the Second Aliya, including Gershon Gafni (now a farmer in Israel) and Fritz and Moirer, who worked in the Openheimer farm in Merchavia, directed by our townsman the well-known agronomist Shlomo Dik.
After the first group immigrated,
a young group of pioneers remained, and they continued their hachshara
at the quarry works belonging to Itzi Hirsch Weisser. There was a group
of 5 or 6 young candidates who worked at Folkenfolk in Nagorzanka,
and another group of Weksler and Yisrael Neuman (Zvi's brother, who was
later a lawyer in Buczacz), who cleaned produce for the Buczacz landowner
A. Zelermeier. In one incident during their work, the group of pioneers
mostly gimnazjum students were surrounded by Polish scouts,
called Harcerze, with Professor Michelski from the public gimnazjum.
Many were then expelled from the gimnazjum and others were tried
in court for treason. But in the meantime, the war between Poland and Soviet
Russia broke out, and the town was occupied by the Bolsheviks, and then
they managed to destroy all the prosecution's material. When the Poles
returned, the court was forced to release the defendants due to lack of
evidence. These events weakened the movement. However, at the Shomer Hatzair
conference which was held, if I am not mistaken, in 1921 or 1922, the anti-Zionist
group appeared with anti-British slogans, and although the central leadership
tried to silence this movement, it completely destroyed the Shomer Hatzair
branch, and consequently the pioneer movement in Buczacz. Only after a
certain period, during 1923-4, was there a reawakening of the aspiration
to train pioneering aliya. This time it came from the Hitachdut
party circles, under the welcome initiation and guidance of Yisrael Cohen
(whose brother Asher Cohen is also in Israel), who is now editor of the
party weekly, Hapoel Hatzair (it is worth mentioning at this point
Yisrael Cohen's elderly mother, eighty years old, Ms. Gitl Cohen, wife
of the Shochet and Bodek Yitzhak Cahn, who is in Israel).
The "Mizrachi" Activists, 1934 The Commitee of Young Merchants, 1939 The Noar Lomed Movement, "Tze'irei Zion-Hatikvah" The Poalei Zion (Ichud) Association, 1934 The Hebrew teacher Yisrael Farnhof with a group of students The Zionist organization, "Achva" Hebrew course for trainees at the "Safa Brura" [Clear Language] School The "Hechalutz" [the Pioneer] Organization in 1928 The "Hechalutz" [the Pioneer] Organization in Buczacz in 1930 The "Hechalutz" [the Pioneer] Organization in 1924 Pioneer Kibbutz "Solel" The First "Shomer Hatzair" Group (1920)
Following is the Yiddish
announcement which the Meshulash group published in Buczacz, calling
upon residents to contribute to the aliya fund:
Buczacz, 21st day of Tishrei, 5675
After the group made aliya, Ze'ev Goldberg gathered some 20 young people who were not party-affiliated, and along with the remaining members of the Cohen group, organized a new pioneer hachshara. In 1925 these pioneers went to four hachshara locations. At the same time, the Shomer Hatzair also recovered and began its organizational pioneering activity.
There was also a sports club in Buczacz, Z.K.S., in which Zelig Anderman (now in Israel) was very active. Ze'ev Goldberg was secretary, and was sent by this club to Lvov, to train as a certified sports instructor. While there, he also made organizational and ideological contacts with the Hitachdut party and the Gordonia youth movement, and when he returned to Buczacz he became active in both these organizations, particularly in the area of pioneer hachshara for the youth, in the framework of Gordonia, together with his wife Rosia Genzel and others Yisrael Cohen's students.
Our town also had a branch of Ezra the society for assisting pioneers whose center in Lvov and whose leadership were mainly in the hands of the Zionist labor party, Hitachdut. The chairman of Ezra in Buczacz was Sher (a member of the movement in Kopyczynce, who married the daughter of the shoemaker Zeideh Sternberg, and died at a young age). The secretary was Goldberg, and activists from all the Zionist parties began to collect money to help the local pioneerhachsarah and the members of the Meshulash kibbutz, who managed to reach Vienna after being smuggled over borders, and then arrived in Israel. The Gordonia pioneers made aliya in 1929, and at the same time as the members of Hashomer Hatzair, who included Shumert, Schwartz, Karbas and others (in Ein Hamifratz and Mizra).
The Hitachdut was directed by the lawyer Shico Hecht, Haim Sinzia Frankel, Hirsch Nirenberg, Yosef Hornstein (son of Shimon), Gustav Flenboim, Rol and others. The Hitachdut was at first concentrated in the Zionist association in Dr. Auschnit's house and then moved to Zeide Sternberg's house, and from there to Yosef Gotfried's house, and finally to Hirsch (Hanzis)-Ginsberg's house (the Yitzhak Schulman house). The party was active in the fund work, in assisting pioneer hachshara and in the local elections, and its representative Dr. Hecht was elected to the community and Dr. Frankel to the municipality, Ze'ev Goldberg to the sick-fund management. In affiliation with the party, there were also departments for artisans and hired workers. The latter established a professional organization for egg-packing workers, of whom there were many in Buczacz.
The General Zionists party had public value in Buczacz because of its long-time activists. They were active in the funds, in assisting the pioneers, in providing for the Hebrew school. The representatives of this party were also in the community, the municipality and the merchants' union. Among its activists were the Knobler brothers, Pinchas Weinstock, Zvi Kalman, Pinchas Weinstock's brother-in-law (now in Petach Tikva, as Zvi Hinter, representative of the Zionist labor in the Petach Tikva workers' union), Yakov Halpern and Asher Katz, Yitzchak Katz, the son-in-law of Nissan Pohorile, Yisrael Farnhof, Medwinski (whose son is in Israel), Patznik, and Dr. Engelberg, who was the party chairman during the last period. The youth movement, Achva, was lead by Dr. Geltner (now a doctor in Rehovot and director of the government hospital in Tzrifin), Shmuel Horowitz, Bleukopf, Kaner and others. Achva provided hachshara activities for its members.
There were also old-time activists in the Mizrachi party, such as: Yisrael Shlomo Stern and his son Abish, Mendel Reich, Munisch Frenkel, Yisrael Katz and others, who were active in various areas and particularly in the community. There was no Agudath Yisrael in our town, nor a unified Hassidic sect, and they represented all the orthodox people in the town. Silberstein and others were active in the Mizrachi pioneering.
The Revisionist party, which was established in 1926/7, was active in its separate areas and in its youth movement, Beitar. The party chairman was the notary clerk Leib Zeifer, and among its activists were Hirsch Alner, attorney Yozek Stern, Anderman, Gottfried, Medwinski and Kirschner (the latter two are in Tel Aviv). This party was also active in pioneer hachshara.
Hesio Shetchel, Yosef Knobler, the Wizo representatives, and the youth and women's organizations, were active in the JNF committee. Dr. Henrik Gross was chairman of Keren Hayesod and its activists were Pinchas Weinstock, Medwinski, Farnhof, Haim Frankel and others. Wizo was lead during that period by Ms. Medwinska, the physician Dr. Wolftal, Ms. Khaye Rol and Ms. Bazner-Eisenberg (who is now on Kibbutz Mishmar-Ha'Emek with her son Bertek Bazner, one of the kibbutz founders).
The parties Poalei Zion Yamin [Right Zionist Workers], lead by Bernard Herzes, and Poalei Zion Smol [Left Zionist Workers], lead by Yitzhak Shtachel, were weak in terms of numbers, and therefore they had few activities and their existence was only slightly noticeable during elections. There were also Bund representatives. The communist group was stronger, mainly because its members came from the academic youth, particularly those who had returned with this spirit from the university in Prague, and also from among other students and even the local Beit Midrash students. They also included many salon communists, who joined at a young age under the influence of friends, with no self awareness, and they quickly distanced themselves from any activities. But there were also those who stayed loyal under all circumstances and even when their lives were endangered. These young men, who came from wealthy and middle-class families, suffered intensely from the regime's persecution. Some of them left for Soviet Russia and others continued to be active underground in Buczacz, or reached Russia during the Holocaust and returned to Poland or Israel. Many came back from there disappointed by their ideals and the party. The communists, the Bund members and even Poalei Zion Smol, created a neutral framework internally and externally, in the form of a cultural organization named Peretz Farein, which was located on Branzki Street and which had a Yiddishist, combative, leftist image. They built a library and organized lectures, plays and parties. The members included Aharon Kopler and Yakov Klemper, but it was clear that the communists in this society overpowered their Zionist and Bundist adversaries and they controlled it.
The Yad Charutzim artisans' association was one of the oldest in town and encompassed craftsmen from all professions. The association was lead by Yitzhak Freund, Zelznik Herman, Sternberg Zeideh, Yakov Margolis and Alter Goldberg and his son. The association was also active in welfare activities and special institutions: a hostel for the poor, support for the needy and so forth, as well as in the professional field in the form of apprentices, distributing licenses for independent workshop owners, work relations and professional training for craftsmen and workers. During the elections they always sent their representatives to the community, the municipality, and the sick-fund, where their representative was once the chairman (Nathan Pik) and more recently the assistant chairman. During the last period before the Holocaust, a severe disagreement arose between the two leaders, Herman Zleznik and Freund and the craftsmen ran separately for the community elections and split the association into two societies of artisans.
The Committee of Young Merchants, 1939
The Merchants' Association encompassed many merchants and shopkeepers and they met in the cooperative bank, Bank Zaliczkowy, at Yakov Stern's house. The association was led by Yitzhak Katz and the bank, which gave loans for all types of commerce and craft, was directed by Katz, Michal Kornovelia, Yakov Margalit, Alter Goldberg, and the manager and secretary was Haim Frankel, M.A. The merchants' association was very active in defending its members from the taxation burden during the Grabski period, on issues of licenses and so forth.
During that period there was also a wonderful Hebrew school directed by Yisrael Farnhof and Haim Kopler, Ms. Gottfried-Sapir and Ms. Lustgarten.
All the youth movements and pioneer movements gave Hebrew language lessons. Some of the teachers were volunteers. There was also a drama class, led by Kalman Freidman (who tried to work in his profession as a soap and candle manufacturer in Eretz Yisrael, and returned to Buczacz), the pharmacist Zelig Anderman (now in Israel), Herzas Bernard and his wife from the Shenberg family (now in Israel), Adella Pines and others. In our town there were several public libraries during that time. A Zionist library, whose books came from the community, from the pre-war libraries, and it was probably located in the Zion society or in the Kehila [community] halls; a Hebrew library, which was located in the kehila corridor, and was given special care; a Hitachdut and Gordonia library and internal libraries in each of the other Zionist associations, such as the Peretz library and the Shomer Hatzair branch library. This branch was called For the Shomri Youth, and it operated as a branch of the association center, which was located in Lvov for legal reasons, Opieki nad mlodzierza szomrowa,Tow. It functioned as an association of adults in support of the youth, and was directed by attorney Yosef Koch and Dr. Zvi Heller. Although they themselves were members of other parties, they gave their names officially, in order to enable the Hashomer Hatzair its legal existence and activity.
The hospital operated until the period of the Holocaust, as it was constantly an exemplary institution and a pillar for the people's needs in times of sickness. It was directed at that time by David Neiman, Arie Rol, Ms. Paula Marangel, Manish Frankel, Zvi Nirenberg and others. The physicians were Dr. Nacht, Dr. Hirschorn and Dr. Chalfan.
The orphanage, which was created for World War I orphans, operated in Buczacz until the Second World War broke out and was an exemplary institution. It was located on the Pedor Mountain in a beautiful and hygienic environment, in small pretty houses and excellent air. The public committee was directed by Professor Yitzhak Flik, Ms. Paula Marangel (Dr. Marengel's wife), Ms. Dr. Gross and a few activists who were dedicated to their welfare duties. The household was managed by Ms. Weissinger (whose sons and daughter are in Israel). The pedagogic administration was run by Ms. Pepa Anderman, who is married to Neiberger, and they are both still in Poland.
The children were given national Eretz-Yisraeli education and learned Hebrew. All their spiritual and physical needs were taken care of. There were, of course, other welfare institutions, including the society for dissemination of hygiene among Jews, Tow. szerzenia hygjeny wsrod Zydow, a branch of the center in Lvov, which was active in Galicia in similar ways to the activities of Oza in Poland and the entire Jewish world. The association was given educational materials for the masses and hygiene means (sheets, soap, etc.) from the center, and it distributed them among the needy. It also received sports and exercising equipment, and arranged lessons for both youth and adults. Herzes, Goldberg and others were active in this area.
In this context we should mention the beautiful recreational places in our town, of which there were many, however they were seldom used due to the concepts of time and lack of understanding on the part of parents. The town was in a valley between the two ends of the Stripa river, and the crowdedness caused poor hygiene conditions. On the other hand, the town was surrounded with beautiful mountains and forests, a wonderful view and clear air. Apart from the Basta mountain (formerly a Polish fortress), with the train bridge under which the beautiful river ran downhill there was a poor Jewish neighborhood and the Jewish cemetery. Opposite this was the other mountain, the Pedor, which the river surrounded on three sides. The Christian cemetery was on this mountain, as well as an area of villas, mainly owned by clerks and the Polish intelligentsia. There were lovely forests there. All this area was a wonderful place for hikes and for the social life of the youth and its organizations, a place for adults to take walks in the evenings, and a place for recreation and convalescence for people suffering from lung disease and exhaustion, during the day. The Stripa river at the foot of the mountains was a place for bathing and ocean sports, for sailboats and even bathing. The other beautiful place was in the city park, Topolki, near the large flour-mill belonging to Count Potozki. This mill was leased by Jews Moshe Gottfried, Avraham Freid and others. It was the only sports area for the Jewish youth, where they played Semal and Palstra, to which the parents severely objected as they saw it as mischief on the part of the children, who played instead of learning, and even placed themselves in physical danger by the beatings they would give and receive during the game. There were also regional exhibitions organized in Buczacz. In 1905 there was a large and successful agricultural exhibition. The exhibition hall a large wooden building was later purchased communally by the Jews Shlomtzi Schulman, Pik and others. Another building which was open for purchase by Jews in the town was a large building for performances and gatherings and a theatre auditorium, in the beautiful place in the town park. A dramatic detail is worth recounting: after the Yiddishist conference in Czernowitz, the authors Shalom Esh, Y.L. Peretz and Nomberg came to our town, following the recommendation of the famous conference initiator, Dr. Nathan Birenbaum. A welcoming party was gladly arranged for them, in the form of a literary ball in the aforementioned auditorium, even though the town was mostly Hebrew in its spirit, and Zionist in its ideology. For many years a rumor went through our town, whereby Shalom Esh, who did not know the character of the town or the organizers of this ball, supposedly attacked the Hebrew language in his speech, which caused one academic, a fanatic Hebrewist, to jump up on the stage and slap Esh on his face. This rumor has not been sufficiently confirmed.
This park was also a place
for recreation, especially for the Jews, who organized celebrations of
various kinds there. A coffee-house, which was established here by our
friends Arie Rol and Medwinski, served as a fine committee-house for our
public meetings and gatherings.