The Jewish Health Organization

Arie Roll, Translated by Jessica Cohen

During 1919-1929, a severe epidemic of typhus fever spread through Buczacz and left many victims. Apart from the Jewish hospital, which was in an extremely neglected condition since the war, there was no other hospital in town, and certainly not one for contagious diseases. The Jewish hospital took in people who were convalescing from the illness. There was a military hospital for contagious diseases in the courtyard of Count Potozki, which took in also a small number of private patients, however the Jewish patients in town avoided going there. All told, there were two or three Jewish patients there.

I recall that once we went with Dr. Khalfan to visit “the Count's” hospital. I was already “immunized” after having been gravely ill. During one general assembly, Dr. Khalfan announced that only two people out of all those who had been seriously ill were still alive: Roll and Alter Goldberg (who is now in Haifa).

At the same time, a committee was established by the name of: Tow szerzenia higeiny wsrod Zydow. Dr. Nacht was appointed as head of the committee, however the practical management work was assigned to myself, with the help of Mordechai Rotenberg and Baruch Shechter. We were provided with a shack in the “Square of Pigs” and the committee's activities were managed from there. The Joint sent us soap, soda, tooth-powder and toothbrushes, which were distributed to the needy. Every day we purchased large amounts of milk, which we gave out to the poor people in town. We also used to visit the homes of sick people, together with Benjamin Tziring, who was also “immunized,” and help in whatever way we could. The convalescents would receive wine and various nutritious items from us. Through its meager means, the committee did all it could to help the victims of that terrible epidemic.

It is worth mentioning an interesting episode from the same period. We once learned from the newspaper that Dr. Cohen would be coming to Lumberg, sent by the Joint. Of course, we immediately contacted the center in Lumberg, with which we always maintained close ties, and asked them to inform us whether Dr. Cohen would also visit Buczacz. We received an immediate reply via telegraph from Dr. Martin Seltzer, the chairman of the center, in which he informed us that Dr. Cohen would visit all of eastern Galicia. This telegram was sent to the address of Dr. Nacht, who transferred it to me, and I transferred it to Dr. Khalfan. At midnight, I heard someone pounding on my door and when I opened it, several police officers and military secret police officers stormed in and investigated me regarding the telegram and who was Dr. Cohen, and other such questions. In order to spare Dr. Khalfan from any unpleasantness, I did not want to tell them that he had the telegram, since they already knew its content from the censorship anyway. I only showed them the newspaper and the correspondence in the matter, and they soon realized who this Dr. Cohen was. The whole fuss ensued because at the same time, another Dr. Cohen – a known communist – had moved to Poland, and the police were searching the whole country for him. Since our Dr. Nacht was known as someone with “leftist” opinions, they justified all their suspicions.

After Dr. Cohen from the Joint arrived, I went to welcome him. He was on duty and wore an American military physician's uniform. On that occasion, I told him about my visit from the police during the night. It turned out that he know exactly who he was being mistaken for and he was intending to go to the police to present himself.

Arie Roll