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Fischel Rotenstreich

Fischel Rotenstreich (1882-1938) Zionist leader.

He was born in Kolomyja and was active in the student Zionist movement, first in Galicia and then in Vienna. He graduated from the University of Vienna in German literature and then became a noted economist. He taught at government high schools in Galicia. With the establishment of the West Ukrainian State (1918-19), he was chairman of the Jewish National Council and when the district was returned to the Poles, he was arrested for his Zionist activities and imprisoned for almost a year. From 1922 to 1927 he was a member of the Polish Senate and from 1927 to 1930 of the Polish parliament (Sejm), in both cases representing the Jewish community. In 1935 he was elected to the Jewish Agency Executive on behalf of the General Zionists (B) and moved to Palestine, where he directed the Jewish Agency's department of commerce and industry and did much to strengthen the industrial economy of the yishuv. He was the father of the philosopher, Nathan Rotenstreich.

Date of birth:
1882
Date of death:
1938
Place of birth:
Kolomyia
Personality type:
Zionists
ID Number:
219209
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
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Galicia

Yiddish: גאַליציע (Galitsye); Polish: Galicja ; German: Galizien; Ukranian: Галичина (Halychyna); Russian: Galitsiya; Hungarian: Gácsország; Romanian: Galiţia; Czech, Slovak: Halič

Geographically part of east Europe, in S.E. Poland and N.W. Ukraine. Galician roots derive from the name of the Ukrainian town Halicz (in Ukranian: Halych), in the Middle Ages part of the Kyivan Rus.
 

21st Century

The special life and culture of the Galician shtetl of the olden days remain with us in the history, in the shtetls of the past, and in Hassidic stories and books.

The Galicia Jewish Museum in Kazimierz established in 2004 commemorates the victims of the Holocaust and holds on to Jewish Galician culture.

 

History

Galicia had great significance in the history of the Jewish European Diaspora. The Jews of Galicia formed a bond between the Jews of East and West Europe.

The Kingdom of Galicia was first established on land given to the Habsburg Empire with the first partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of 1772. Six towns amongst them Brody, Belz and Rogatin were close to entirely Jewish populated. Previous to the 1772 partition, Galicia was the Little Poland. The Galician Kingdom as such lasted until the early 20th century. The first chief rabbi (Oberlandesrabbiner) of Galicia was Aryeh Leib Bernstein with seat in Lemberg. After 1772 further lands were acquired to the Kingdom, and extended Galicia to the north and north west. The small Republic of Krakow joined the Kingdom in 1846 with the territory encompassing over an area of 20,000 square miles and this remained as such until the end of the Kingdom (1918). The 1860’s saw efforts toward democratic changes ensued by a period of an autonomous Galicia from 167-1918. Galicia was covered in the Emperor Joseph II (Josef Benedikt Anton Michel Adam), Holy Roman Emperor, statutes for the betterment of Jewish life. Amongst others, Jews were to take on German family names and governmental schools were set for the education of Jews. 

Galicia had historically during its existence under the Habsburg regime, been the land with one of the highest percentages of Jewish populations worldwide. At the time of the region's annexation to the Habsburg Empire in 1772, the Jewish population numbered 224,980 (9.6% of total), in 1857 448’971 (9.7%) and 871,895 (10.9%) in 1910. Distinguishing them from the rest of the Habsburg population was their Orthodox Judaism with distinctive mannerism, clothes and language. Their communities established commercial and trading platforms. In the towns, also smaller ones, Jews occupied retailing and craftsmanship work for household and garment ware such as textile, tailoring, hatters and furriers. Foreign trade was largely Jewish business with Russia, Turkey and Germany.

The last decades of the 18th century already saw the beginnings of the Haskalah with flourishing social and cultural Jewish life in those days and early 19th centuyr with its golden days from 1815-mid 19th century in Galicia with its center in Brody. Euducation and literature blooming in the 19th century, formed Galicia into a center for Judaism in creation and intellect while traditional Jewish learning was nevertheless not neglected in that century. Those days did see struggles between Hassidim and Mitnaggedim, Hassidim and Haskalah. Prominent figures came from the Belz dynasty, Zanz and Ruzhin. In the large cities Reform synagogues were sacred, the Lvov leadership placed a Reform Rabbi Abraham Kohn in the late 1830s who however faced severe adversity in 1848. There were Jewish schools with German as language of instruction and the 1830 and 1840s saw growth and increased influence of Maskilim. This twin striving for Haskalah and assimilation towards German culture took a change in the 60s and 70s, with the reigns shifting to more university oriented representatives alongside a trend accompanied by the strongly Orthodox to an absorption to more local Polish culture and policy. In the revolutionary parliament of 1848 sat a few Jews from Galicia. At the time some adverse policies were revoked by the government. In parallel there was an amelioration in the economic situation of Jews which also saw a heightened shift of Jews into the farming sector including the development of experimental Jewish farms.

From the late 1860s a separation occurred of the Aggudat Ahimm, the Polish assimilationists, from the German assimilationists. The former adherents of Orthodoxy brought together a rabbinical conference in Lvov which ruled that community voting was dependent upon adherence of members to the Shulhan Arukh. In that century there were several weekly and monthly periodicals published in Galicia in Hebrew and Yiddish. There occurred also from the 1860-1880s an anti-assimilationist tendency and new directions in Haskalah. This was greatly influenced by Peretz Smolenskin a Zionist and Hebrew writer. He was concerned with the Halaskah movement, an early and strong proponent of Jewish nation-state building and rejectionist of Judaism’s westernization. A first society for Palestine settlement was established in 1875 in Przemysl, south-east Poland and in the 1880s the Hovevei Zion gained ground. This was accompanied by increasing antisemitism on Polish territory with the assimilationist Aguddat Ahim halting publication in 1884 of written materials and going insofar as declaring the only Jewish future as emigration of Palestine or conversion to Christianity. Early Zionist organizations were established and publications were issued in the region of Lvov. In the early 1890s economic boycotts were imposed on Jews from exclusion on trade in agricultural goods and merchandize, alcohol and more. The Jewish population in Galicia faced poverty. Nevertheless, Zionist movements continued their efforts.

Alongside, the early 20th century saw the development of neo-romantic Yiddish literature mostly coming from the area of Lvov and influenced by a corresponding phenomenon in Vienna. One prominent writer was Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1888-1970) who would come to monument the Galician shtetls. Those days also saw the translation into the Yiddish of foreign literature. Such representatives were the Oscar Wilde, of which one of his most famous works are the humorous ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. World War I saw many Galician Jews flee to Hungary, Bohemia and Vienna, and in particular educated Galician Jews find refuge in Vienna. Those remaining suffered greatly under the Russians entry into Galicia. Ensuing in 1918 with the Polish-Ukranian war the unfortunate situation of minorities on Polish land increasingly led to the crumbling of the once Jewish-inspired Kingdom of Galicia. The Polish Republic took over the Galician land. Notwithstanding, deference to German and Polish culture and to the Polish nation, Hassidism and Zionist striving continued to sprout in the years until 1939, inklings of the Galician world remained with Hassidic communities as in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and New York. 

Galicia had historically during its existence under the Habsburg regime, been the land with one of the highest percentages of Jewish populations worldwide. Distinguishing them from the rest of the population were their Orthodox Judaism with distinctive mannerism, clothes and language. Their communities established commercial and trading platforms. With the mid-19th century nevertheless this population saw beginnings of wearing out. Those were the days of the onset of the Haskalah (Jewish enlightenment) with family life adhering to Orthodox Judaism while modernizing outwardly and seeing an improved standing in society and economy and reduced isolation. The trend was of assimilation of Galician Jews to Germans and then to Poles. This trend of the last decades of the 19th century amongst Galician Jews went in parallel to the Marxist striving for a workers’ revolution.

Kolomyia

In Ukrainian: Коломия; Polish: Kolomyja; German: Kolomea 

A city on the Prut River in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, Ukraine.

Kolomyya was under Polish rule until 1772, Austrian rule until the end of World War I, and then again under Poland until 1939. In 1941 Kolomyya was invaded by Nazi Germany.

There was a flourishing Jewish community in Kolomyya as early as the 16th century. During the Chmielnicki massacres (1648--49) it was destroyed and some 300 Jews murdered; however, the community soon recovered. After 1772 it shared the fate and status of all Polish communities under Austrian rule. The Jews of Kolomyya engaged in a wide range of economic activities, including the retail trade, the leasing of forests, and the wholesale trade in wood; they benefitted from Kolomyya's new ties with Walachia and Moldavia, which became even more profitable when Kolomyya became an important railway junction on the Lvov-Chernovtsy-Jassy line. Besides the many chadarim, a Jewish elementary school was established by the government in 1788. The number of Jews in the town rose from 1,072 in 1765 to 2,033 in 1812; 8,232 (almost 50% of the total population) in 1869; 12,002 in 1880; and 16,568 (again almost 50%) in 1900. From its beginning, the chasidism movement gained adherents in the town, becoming predominant in the community and thus ensuring its extreme orthodox character until the second half of the 19th century. In 1886 a Jewish elementary school was founded by the Israelitische Allianz Zu Wien. During the elections to the town council in 1878, Jews obtained the majority of seats and a Jew, Dr. Maximilian Trachtenberg, was elected mayor. In 1873 a Jew, Dr. Oscar Henigsman, was elected to represent Kolomyya in the Austrian parliament.

Hillel Lichtenstein, rabbi from 1863 to 1891, strengthened orthodoxy in the community.

From 1918 Kolomyya suffered economically as a result of the loss of the Moldavian and Walachian markets and the Jews were further hit by the anti-Jewish economic policies of modern Poland. The number of Jews in the town began to decline, from 18,930 in 1919 to about 15,000 in January 1939. The social and cultural life in the Jewish community was marked by the activities of the different parties.

Especially active among the Zionist organizations were the Ha-Shomer Ha- Tza'ir youth groups, the Hitachadut, and the He-Chalutz. The first group of Chalutzim left Kolomyya for Eretz Israel in 1920. Hakhsharah groups, who prepared their members for life in Eretz Israel, operated in the town. Betar organized a group called "The National Soldier" which led paramilitary activities. Two Zionist newspapers appeared Yiddish. In 1930 a coalition of Agudat Israel and Mizrachi parties elected the politically active Joseph Lau as rabbi.

After the Soviet occupation of the town on September 17, 1939, all organized Jewish life ceased. Jewish economic life was affected by the nationalization of factories and wholesale trade. A sizable number of Jewish pupils studied in government schools where Yiddish was the language of instruction. When the Soviet-German war broke out in June 1941, Kolomyya Jews were drafted into the Soviet army. Many young Jews volunteered, as did Jewish doctors and nurses. On July 4 the town was captured by the German-allied Hungarian army. On August 18 the Ukrainians dragged out some 2,000 Jews in the nearby forest to be killed, but the Hungarian governor intervened and prevented their execution. During the following weeks Jewish refugees from Hungary who did not have Hungarian citizenship were sheltered by the Jewish community in Kolomyya. In September 1941 the town came under direct German administration, resulting in mass murder, extortion of large sums of money, and the kidnapping of Jews for forced labor. The head of the Judenrat, Mordecai Horowitz, committed suicide in November 1942.

The Jewish community of Kolomyya was liquidated in the excuse that a Jewish leader who had been active during the Soviet occupation was hiding on their street; On January 24, 1942 attacks were directed against the Jewish intelligentsia; March 24, 1942 - three separate ghettos were established, each surrounded with barbed wire; April 2, 1942 - 1,000 Jews were sent to Belzec; September 7, 1942 - 8,700 Jews were sent to Belzec; October 3, 1942 - 4,500- 5,000 Jews were sent to Belzec. All the remaining Jews, some 1,500 in number, were concentrated in one ghetto and were subsequently taken to Szeparowce forest nearby and executed in February 1943. When the Soviet army liberated Kolomyya in early August 1944, only a handful of Jews remained alive. They were joined by another small group of Jews who returned from the Soviet Union. They stayed in the town for a short period of time to mark out and enclose the sites of the Jewish mass graves, and soon left for Poland and for overseas. Kolomyya.
Kolomayya Societies existed in Israel and New York. A memorial book, Pinkas Kolomei, was published in 1957. The Jewish population in Kolomyya in 1957 was estimated at about 200 families and at about 350 persons (70 families) in 1969.