Compilation of Memories (Memoirs)
Pogrom in Galicia – Dalatin
In one of the years, it was either 1930 or 1935, when I was in Dalatin, I saw a frightening event. In the previous pages I wrote that the head of the Kehillah Committee was R’Shmaryahu Bloch, זל, who managed to set up three large buildings for the refugees of the war. The plot of land was in the middle of the town near the canal and belonged to the town. All around it were Jewish inhabitants. One night the refugees in the building were awakened from a deep sleep and in front of these buildings was a large wooden cross with an image of Christ. They were horrified and frightened. They ran to notify the head of the Kehillah and his friends who hurried back with them. When they saw what was there, they cried out from their hearts “this is a despicable act against the Jews that has been used against the Jews throughout the ages”.
R’Bloch gathered the elders of the town to an emergency meeting where they were informed of this act which was carried out by the Ukrainian and Polish priests. This was with the agreement of the anti-Semitic Polish head of the town and his friends, in order to anger and defame the honor of the refugees and all the Jews.
It was decided at the meeting to immediately approach the minister of the province in Nadvorna. S. Bloch and two chaverim were chosen to go to the minister and to describe the aggravation caused by this incident and the insult to the honor of the young Zionists. The young people in their rage took matters in their own hands and did something extreme.
One night they pulled out the cross, broke it into pieces, burned them and spread the ashes on the waters of the Prut River. They refused to wait for the appeal to the province minister. Most of the young people were full of hope that the minister would satisfy their appeal for justice. Five shocked youngsters reacted and defended their rights to live in this small corner.
The following morning, the Ukrainian workers went to work and were shocked at what they saw. “The child is not there” they screamed. The non-Jews went wild and started by breaking windows in the refugee area. Their yells and noise woke up the neighboring Jews who called the police. They came with their guns and dispersed the rioters who were throwing rocks. It did not end there and the rioters continued in all the Jewish areas breaking windows and attacking anyone in their way. The police were called again but showed no interest in stopping the rioting. The delegation that was chosen the day the cross was put up did not get to meet the minister. After the action of the young people, another delegation was chosen and met the minister the same day. Zionist young people and others came to the defense of those attacked. Some of those wounded were helped and found courage to take revenge on the non-Jews. When some of the rioters were wounded, the armed police interfered to quiet the battle. Five of the young Zionists were arrested and brought to the office to be investigated and then to jail.
On the second and third day, the fighting renewed between the Jews and the non-Jewish Ukrainians and Poles. There were wounded on both sides until the government had the armed guards keep order and stop the fight.
The Polish anti-Semitic head of the town called a local committee meeting expressing sorrow about the incident. He decided, based on the decision of the non-Jewish members, (the Jewish members were not present) to appeal to the Polish minister in Nadvorna. They demanded that the Jewish hooligans who desecrated a holy statue, rioted against their innocent and honorable brothers, be brought up on trial. The minister gave an order to replace the cross in the same place and have it guarded day and night by armed guards with an order to shoot any Jew who approached or touched the statue.
There was a protest at the courthouse in Dalatin, as well as in the higher court in Stanislau, to bring to justice and severely punish those who desecrated a holy image and rioted against the innocent, quiet inhabitants of the town.
The Jews on their part chose Jewish lawyers to defend the accused. The Zionist Dr. Sharf was the leading defense attorney. Their plan was: 1) To bring to trial before the judges of the court, the rioting non-Jews who were known; 2) To recommend to the court, that Jews found guilty of having despoiled a holy image would lead to pogroms; 3) To appeal to higher authorities protesting that this holy statue that was put on land that belonged to Jews where there never had been one before.
The Jewish community committee met and chose a delegation led by the chairman Mr. Shmaryahu Bloch זל to bring their complaint before the minister of the province who had a favorable relationship with Bloch. Their complaint was against the Polish head of the town whose authorization allowed the cross. This brought trouble to all the Jews and the riots between Jews and non-Jews who lived in town.
The minister refuted their complaints, scolded them and threatened them with harsh punishment. The delegation was very disappointed but it did not stop them from appealing. They went to the high governor of Lvov as well as the higher authorities in the capitol of Warsaw. Their lawyers argued to the criminal court that it was against the law for the town to put up a cross without higher authority and without agreement from the citizens committee.
The five youngsters and several of the refugees that were jailed by the police were brought before the judges of the court and the hearing against them began. Since the lawyers had a good standing with the judges, they succeeded in freeing without bail all those who had been jailed, until the day of the trial. The investigation continued for months and years. The court case was transferred from Dalatin to the Court in Stanislau. In the meantime, some of the accused disappeared and went to other countries. I was already in Eretz Israel and if I am not mistaken, the investigation continued until World War II and all was cancelled.
The economic situation in Dalatin was very good in the days of the Austrian Empire. All kinds of business ventures were open and especially the wood business. Some Jews were even given the right to deal with the government forests and according to their standing were able to buy a certain amount of wood and trees for business. The small merchants got left over amounts of wood for heating, planks, roofing tiles, etc. The owners of the sawmills got rich receiving thousands of cubic meters a year at reasonable prices. The brothers Bloch, owners of sawmills, especially Mr. Yehoshua Bloch, had a friendly connection with the head manager of the government forests. Each year he received from several places large amounts of trees. When the Polish government took over, the trees were sold to Poles who competed with the Jews. Most of the Jewish merchants of trees lost their source of income. The Jews did not despair and hoped that better days would come and their economic situation would improve. There were as yet no signs of the impending Holocaust.
I include here a copy of the letter that I received from Rabbi R’Naftali Ehrlich, Rabbi of Dalatin, from twenty years ago, due my close friendship with him. I also include my answer to his letter.
Soul mate of my life, the innocent wise man, my Abraham Keusch,
With regards and love from this chair, I give you my thoughts and desire to leave the city and country of my birth and to establish an apartment in the city of Safad in our holy country. Until now I was unable to talk about this since my younger daughter Tchia reached the stage of marriage. Now with God’s blessing she is marrying a suitable man who will fill my place and was well received by the people of the city as the Rabbi. I said the time has come that with God’s blessings, he will help me fulfill my desires and spend the rest of the days left to me in the holy land. I reached the age of 70 this year and for the last 40 years, I have worked here as the head of the rabbinical court. Surely, the community will continue to give me 200 Polish gold pieces every month for this service.
I heard that a big apartment is expensive and on this I cannot compromise. I and my wife can cut back on food and other needs but we are accustomed to a large space.
I am not requesting any financial help. My two requests are that I be allowed to come without showing a large sum. Many people cannot come because they are required to show $4,000 and that is impossible for me, not even a half or a quarter of this sum. I am not knowledgeable about the law and the difference between home owners and Rabbis. In America, Rabbis were not required to show monies or assets as did a home owner.
Is it possible to get a promise or guarantee from someone or a Rabbi in Eretz Israel. Could the Rabbi HaTzadik from Kosov שליטא (May he have a long and good life Amen) promise them that as soon as I come I will return the guarantee. I really have no desire to work any more in the rabbinical court or any other task. I just want to sit and enjoy the Torah until the end of my years in the holy land.
My second request is for the Rabbi to go and rent me a three room apartment that is not endangered by Arabs. How much will the rent be for a year?
I will reimburse him for all the costs. More important is that he honors me by giving me an answer. If he cannot help me on this request, I ask his advice, who should approach with my requests. I look forward to an early answer.
You will forgive me that I bare my soul and put such a heavy burden on כבוד תורתו a man who is such a Torah scholar. All things are clear and true and your advice will guide me and your words will be as a candle to my feet and a light to my path.
With humility that I impose, may my requests be fulfilled with a pure and good heart.
With the words of a loving friend for eternity,
Comment by Grandfather: The original handwritten letter will be at the end of my memoirs. The Hebrew language is the שפת הלשון קודש old holy language used by most of the Rabbis and many old people. The writing is wonderfully beautiful and clear.
(*Note—Grandfather was very close to the Kosover Rabbi was his financial advisor according to our cousin Rabbi Flintenstein, the Admor of Kupitchiuk.)
With the help of God כב טבת תרצד (22 Tevet 1934) Tel Aviv
To the Rabbi who is the Chasid with an honorable dynastic pedigree, a brilliant and wise teacher Rabbi Naftali שליטא (May you have a long and good life Amen)
I received “Crown of Torah’s” letter and was joyously happy reading it “in the form of the Torah” full of elegance and charm. The fruit of Naftali is satisfying and full of the blessings of God with this good news. “Crown of Torah’s” younger daughter is going under the chuppah, the beautiful vessel of a grape branch joining a grape branch. (In this letter grandfather does not use the word “you” but “Crown of Torah” for Naftali Ehrlich)
(Note* We will use CT for Crown of Torah until the end of the letter. RDK)
The second bit of good news was CT reached the age of 70. CT received my blessing, Mazal Tov to the marriage of CT’s daughter and that you have reached 70 years, years of הגבורות the heights of heroism.
In addition to the two pieces of good news, I was happy with the news that the CT has decided to come to our holy land and fulfill the hopes of these thousands of years. He will not come to build and plant but in his holy way, Torah and study, to enjoy Eretz Israel.
From the depths of my heart may the wishes of CT be fulfilled
In regard to the two requests of the CT in the above letter, I will not start at the beginning but rather סיפא לרישא (From the beginning to the end or the end to the beginning). The CT requested that I go to Safad and prepare an apartment for him but I think there is no reason to be concerned. There are always available two and three room apartments with all the conveniences on the outskirts of Safad. There is enough time to find an apartment when all the arrangements are completed and the scheduled time of departure is known.
The main question is the most serious one and the solution is difficult. One does not get clear answers on questions which causes disappointment. According to the British Mandate law there is no difference between ordinary people and Rabbis. Everyone needs 1,000 lei cash in order to receive permission for Aliyah. There are several levels in the immigration law: 1) Those who have money and a 1,000 lei in cash 2) Those who have a special trade and work in industry need only 230-500 lei in cash 3) Pioneers with certificates come in without money (some without Torah) 4) The Chief Rabbis, some of whom who are special Rabbis, are given the rights to come in with the condition that they have a secure income.
Until last year, there were other combinations for Aliyah, ways to circumvent the law. My son and several friends made Aliyah in those ways. The Mandate Authorities are constantly creating new barriers to Aliyah. The reason for this is the many protests and demonstrations of the Arabs against Jews coming into the country. Some demonstrations led to the spilling of blood, several Jews were killed and some badly wounded and there was extensive damage. The hatred of Esau against Jacob “שונא עשו ליעקב” is a sin well known and the British continue the hatred. The British look at the Jews, the pioneers, with troubled eyes and are jealous. Independence is developing and growing. The country is being built with the speed of the man, the Chasid, who built the castle in one night and with the help of God, we will fulfill the vision of our home.
There is no possibility for the CT to make Aliyah on the first three levels but only on the fourth level as a Chief Rabbi with a secure income which is most problematic. That is if they will believe that there is permanent work. One cannot depend upon a miracle. It is unlikely that the Dalatin Community can or will guarantee you a steady salary that you will receive on time. This would be a sum of 7 lei and you will not make a living from that. In Safad the cost of living is not as high as in the rest of the country, not even the rent. An apartment of two rooms suitable to the CT would cost at least 4 lei a month and with what remains it is impossible to live. It would be good if we could be sure of the backing of the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, R’Abraham Yitzchak Kook שליטה, the head of the Rabbinate and the leader of the Mizrachim. This Tzadik does not have it in his nature to do this. Let us not have any illusions. If the question should arise about the selection of a Rabbi for a new settlement, who will be chosen? Without doubt the Rabbi, who was in the forefront in the fight for Mizrachi, with work for Jews and Eretz Israel, for the last ten years will be chosen for Aliyah.
I ask forgiveness and pardon for raising a painful issue. If there is a negative comment against CT and some of his Charidi friends, I have no responsibility. The CT sinned along with most Charidim in all of the Diaspora. They rejected Aliyah and the building of Eretz Israel. They put out a declaration of “הבדלו”. (Separation from the main body of Jews). The Mizrachi came and looked down on the Charidim. These Mizrachi youngsters came inexperienced in life but with a new idea and grabbed the reins of government and ruled. The youngsters have the majority in the entire Jewish world touching body and soul. These are not questions of dreams and identity but of acting, achieving, doing and realizing the Mitzvoth which means, getting up and doing (בקום ועשה).
There is still a big need in Eretz Israel for Chasidim and Charidim from the Diaspora. There is conflict between the Mizrachi and the Charidim in the country and in the Diaspora. We need Charidim to make Aliyah to help to carry out religious law. The mistakes of these Charidi refugees from abroad in not recognizing building our home in Eretz Israel, did not lessen their value and their rights. We hope that they will quickly repair their differences and conflicts and come to build the country according to Torah and tradition.
In conclusion, my advice to CT is to personally contact the Chief Rabbi R’Abraham Itzchak Kook שליטא, and request from him the certificate for Aliyah. CT should also make a direct request from the Admor of Kosov that the Admor contact in his name Dr. Joseph Rosenkranz in Jerusalem. He venerates old people, and R’Joseph should make a recommendation in the Admor’s name to Rav Kook.
I, on my side, am ready to help in all of CT requests trying to fulfill all his wishes. I hope that success will light up CT’s face and the requests will be fulfilled. I am sure that Aliyah and settling in Eretz Israel will be honorable. I hope a job as a Rabbi in a moshav will be found with a secure income.
I now end with blessings and with God’s help will receive our friend and quickly see his face in our land. With blessings
Hacohen Abraham Keusch הכהן אברהם קיש קויש
(We repeat CT is short for Crown of Torah. Grandfather writes in a third person. RDK)
I did not receive an answer to my letter and do not know if Naftali Ehrlich approached anyone about Aliyah. In the month of Alul 1946, I visited the son of Rabbi R’Naftali זצל, who told me that his father died in 1936 or 1937 before the Hitler murderers took control of Poland. He also told me that he saw what happened to the inhabitants of the town by the murdering Nazis with the help and cooperation of the Ukrainians and Poles. On the day of Hoshanah Raba 1942, about 400 Jews of the town, men, women and children, were gathered and brought outside of town in an area where a slaughterhouse was built. This was under the hill on the road that went up to Nadvorna where there was a deep wide pit that was about eight meters square. A small number of those killed were shot by the murdering Nazis. Most of those killed were by the non-Jewish inhabitants of the town and the surrounding areas. They were killed with axes, sharp knives, sticks and some were thrown live into the pit. In the winter of the same year, several hundred Jews from the surrounding area were brought to Dalatin. They were brought to the shores of the Prut and their clothing and shoes were removed.
They were kept under guard by soldiers, naked and barefoot, not being allowed to move for three days. They did not get food or drink. Many of them died from the freezing cold and those who remained were drowned in the river. Whoever tried to run away was shot.
How did the son of R’Naftali save himself? He was hidden in the basement of someone he knew and succeeded to run away at night with several youngsters to the Carpathian Mountains. For several weeks he wandered and hid in the Karashmachi Mountains bordering Romania. After months of struggling he came close to the shore near Constanta. Some of the Zionists of the city helped him and his friends to board a ship to Eretz Israel.
He told me that he met my daughter Taube, Benjamin Bloch’s wife, who was still alive after the slaughter. Before he left the city, he met my son Aaron זל who was full of hope that God would keep his wings over his family, protecting them day and night and they would survive the murderers. To my sorrow, his hopes were not realized.
The son of R’Naftali did not succeed in our holy land. He could not find work and left the country for America. From what I heard, he died young. תנצבה
The fourth station on the track (Stanislau-Varachta-Karashmachi) was Dara, a small village with about twenty Jewish families. Near the station was the house of a man R’Joseph Moshe whose family name was Aaron, who fulfilled the task of Gabai in the courtyard of the Admorim of Kosov. When he left this task, he returned to his house and family in a different village, opened a general store in his house where he made a living. He had several rooms and in the summertime he rented to visitors. In his house he set aside a room for prayers on Shabbat and Yomim Tovim. During the summer, most of the people praying were visitors who came for the fresh mountain air and those who came to bathe in the salt waters in the big bathhouse in Dalatin, a few minutes away by train.
In this village, the Jews made their living partly from summer visitors. Most of the Jews that came rented rooms with non-Jews and took their meals with the Jews. The local Jews had business contacts with the non-Jews.
R’Joseph Moshe Aaron was known as knowledgeable. In the village he was the leader of the Jews in Dara and was appointed to the community committee in Dalatin. Dara was under the authority of Dalatin and had to pay annual taxes. Rabbi R’Naftali Ehrlich was the rabbinical authority on what was allowed and forbidden in Dara. He would come every year to visit in Dara, spend Shabbat and give his sermon on the portion of the week. He would stay with R’Joseph Moshe and was warmly received and was not permitted to leave with an empty pocket.
Content last updated Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 08:16 PM Mountain Daylight Time