Compilation of Memories (Memoirs)
Part 41

Mikolitchim – Wood Business

The sixth station on the track Stanislau-Karashmachi was Mikolitchin. It was a large village similar to all the other places on the Carpathian Mountains. The Jewish inhabitants of the village lived there since the time of the building of the railroad. They made their living by being in business, building, renting, contracting, etc. All of them built large spacious houses surrounded by flower and vegetable gardens. They had rooms available for summer visitors which gave them a sizeable part of their income. There were about fifty families, may they grow and multiply.

The general economic situation of the inhabitants was good. In addition to the income from the summer visitors, the village did a large turnover in the sale of wood dealing with small and large businesses.

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There were two sawmills, one of them large. They cut planks and wood in huge quantities, day and night and even exported to several countries in Europe. The big sawmill was built by the Austrian government and trees were brought from their forests. The mill was leased by a Jewish company from Budapest. Their choicest products were for export. Jews in the business got the lesser quality wood and wood for heating. The smaller sawmill belonged to R’Tzvi Arie Sobel זל who was a relative of the wife of my son Aaron זל. I was a friend and did business with Arie for many years. I also had a close relationship with his family. When I came to visit my son in Dalatin in 1937/38, Mr. T. Arie invited me to be with him several weeks. With the agreement of my son, I accepted. I was received with open arms by him, by the sons of Mr. Shmerl זל, an engineer, by his brother Mr. Zalman זל and especially by their brother-in-law, the writer Mr. Yehoshua Preminger, someone I knew for a long time. I knew Preminger from when I was a child in Kuti and we met each time in my Uncle R’Joseph Shatner”s house.

Sobel had a large house with many rooms, renting them to guests for the summer (without food). He had a large piece of land for the sawmill and a garden for flowers and vegetables. Railroad tracks were built near the sawmill to transport the wood.

They gave me a large, light, airy room on the second floor. They prepared special food for me, primarily dairy, fruit and vegetables. It was very pleasant to take part in discussions with his cultured sons. In particular this was so with Mr. Preminger who was very knowledgeable, a devoted Zionist and was in contact with Dr. Carlibach in Eretz Israel. I spent a month there, enjoying everything spiritually and physically. R’Chaim Fogel, the father of my daughter-in-law Naomi זל wife of my son Aaron זל, came in the summer to visit his daughter, the wife Mr. Shmerl Sobel. When I left this house, families, loved ones and friends, I had hoped to see them the following year, if not in Eretz Israel, at least in their homes.

To our great sorrow, we never met again. An eye witness survivor of the killing in Mikolitchin told me what happened when he came to Eretz Israel in 1946/47. As in every summer, in the month Alul 1939 R’Chaim Fogel and his family came to Mikolitchin. At the end of the month, WWII began and as in every place where the destroyer Hitler set his foot, the pogroms and killing of Jews began. The Nazis also arrived in Mikolitchin. One night a Nazi officer and most of the gentile Ukrainian inhabitants of the village, attacked the large house of R’Tzvi Arie זל with axes and other sharp weapons, killing all who were in the house including the visitors. Among those killed were R’Chaim and his family as well as twenty or twenty-five others. All that belonged to Sobel and those killed was stolen. תנצבה

Mikolitchin was the center of Charidim, Rabbis and educated Jews that spent their summers there. Among them were the genius Rabbi R’Arie Leibish Horovitz זצל from Stanislau, the head Rabbi who was the founder of the “הישיבה אור תורה” (Yeshiva Light of Torah), Rabbi R’Pinchas Horovitz, the Rabbi of Bratshani זל, R’Chaim Bloch, and other Rabbis. Everyday in the afternoon, they would walk in the hills to a permanent spot under the branch of a tree. They would sit around the Rabbi from Stanislau. The Rabbis had the opportunity to hear words of the Torah from him and stories of Tzadikim from others.

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As in Yaramtchi some restaurateurs came and rented places. Most of them came from large cities with an extensive kitchen and menu, opening luxury restaurants in their houses for guests and visitors. One restaurant owner was R’Nathan Haber (the grandson of my teacher and Rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Kressel זל) and his wife Tova, daughter of my teacher David Tzvi Gross from Zablotov. She was an exceptionally good cook. The dining room was filled with visitors every day for all meals, from morning until night, with fresh delicacies at fair prices.

Nathan Haber educated his sons in Torah and Haskalah. His oldest son finished university as a chemical engineer. His second son was the administrator of the citizen’s committee of his town despite the fact that most members of the committee were Ukrainian Gentiles. His relationship with them was friendly and honorable. They helped him acquire a plot of land to build a big house for his family. Woe to them who get favors from evil people. These Gentiles, who were the doers of good, were the first to destroy his and his father’s house and property. The rest of his sons and daughter were also educated in Torah and Haskalah. His son, Zelig, made Aliyah and in the War of Independence was killed by an Arab bullet in Haifa.

Teachers and their students from Hebrew schools in Stanislau came to Mikolitchin to set up summer camps. In 1939 I found my grandson Menachim זל in one of those camps. He was killed by the Nazis in 1943 in Stanislau.

Hooligans from the high schools in Lvov and Krakow also had summer camps in the same area. These hooligans with a theoretical higher education, managed to terrorize the inhabitants of Mikolitchin as well as the vacationing visitors. They broke windows in the houses and attacked any Jew they met. The police and the authorities did not interfere with them.

In regard to spiritual matters, the inhabitants here were like all those in the hills. Very few of them were learned and those who were, prayed every day with Talith and Tfillin. There was already a Beit Knesset, a bathhouse and a kosher Mikvah from earlier times. Rabbi Naftali Ehrlich from Dalatin was the authority for questions dealing with religion and law. The Rabbi came every year for a Shabbat weekend, to give the sermon, to be paid for it, to judge and answer questions. In the years before WWII, the town together with Tatarov and Varachta rebelled against Naftali and chose a young Rabbi in his place.

The young Rabbi was the son of R’David Knalel from Stanislau. The Rabbi S. Knalel was a student from the Yeshiva Light of the Torah in Stanislau that was under the guardianship of the genius Rabbi David Horovitz זצל. After the Tzadik Rabbi Leibish Horovitz died, D.Horovitz inherited the chair of the rabbinate in Stanislau. From his hand the young S.Knalel received rabbinical authority to rule on the Law, what is permitted and forbidden. He was accepted by three villages. This caused a serious dispute with Naftali Ehrlich, who had influence with the provincial minister in Nadvorna and tried to cancel this appointment. The other side did not stop fighting and they won.

Rabbi Naftali, who was the provincial Rabbi of Dalatin-Varachta, found that the choice of Rabbi Knalel as the Rabbi of Mikolitchin-Varachta unacceptable. He lost part of his income and appealed to the main Rabbis in Stanislau, who did not help him.

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The young Rabbi S. Knalel did not make a satisfactory living. “A slave did not run in front of him on his way to the Beit Knesset, meat and other dishes were not on his table to feast upon”. There was just enough to exist. Rabbi Yacob said “Eat bread and salt and drink water for your needs, etc.”

Rabbi Knalel was a wonder. This son of simple Jews was rewarded with a Talmud Chacham, who became part of the Rabbinate, a Rabbi in Israel. There is great joy and honor to be so rewarded, to raise and educate a son, so talented as to be a Rabbi in Israel.

Was the young Rabbi rewarded with this high position? To our great sorrow, he was one of the victims that were murdered by his evil neighbors, most of whom were inhabitants of the town. תנצבה

The seventh station on the train line Stanislau-Karashmachi was Tatarov. The majority of the inhabitants were Ukrainian with about twenty Jewish families. It was like all the other villages on the train line, with high mountains and forests where a person could walk and breathe the fresh air. Few visitors came to spend the summer and those that came found accommodations in the hotels Hirsch and Lecker-Lipa זל. There were furnished rooms, tables set with all kinds of food and drink. Some found room and board with friends.

In 1929 I came to visit my daughter Taube, wife of Benjamin Bloch זל. I spent time with his father R’Yehoshua Bloch זל and his partners who were in the wood business. For a number of years, they bought a large amount of trees from the government forests. Bloch’s son built a sawmill with several cutting machines. They asked me to stay in the village several months to check their books. I agreed and was there for four or five months. While I was there, Dr.Dov Hausner זל, who was then the Polish Government commerce representative to Eretz Israel, came to vacation. In time he advanced to become the Polish Consul in Eretz Israel. I visited him in his hotel in Eretz Israel and he helped me to import a large number of Polish crates for oranges. May his name and memory be blessed. תנצבה

In addition to the sawmill mentioned above, M. Roisner built another one in the neighborhood. Most of the Jews in the town earned their living as workers in these mills, as wood merchants and in the government forests. The Admor R’Aaron Rokach שליטא, came with his helpers, in 1936 or 1937, to be a guest with M. Roisner for several weeks. At this time, many visitors came for medical and spiritual help from the Admor. Many Chasidim came to spend the Shabbat. The Admor is now in our country, having been rescued from Belz and his big house is on Rechov Achad Haam. Even though there are only a small number of Jews in Tatarov, they have a small Beit Knesset for men and women, a small bathhouse and a kosher Mikvah. Most of the people are simple but there are several who know Torah and are capable of leading the community during the holiday reading of the Torah. Everyday there are morning and evening prayers. There is a kosher butcher, two general stores that have everything that one may need and they all make a living. The Jews were in business contact with the Gentiles. Sometimes there would be disagreements and disputes over money and other matters.

Where are these naïve and innocent Jews? Their fate was the same as all the others.

May their names and memories be blessed. תנצבה

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Four or five of the Jews from the village traveled from time to time to visit learned Rabbis in Host, Hungary and in Galicia. Every year some Rabbis would come to spend Shabbat and were received with honor and were given gifts when they left. Rabbi R’Naftali came every year for a Shabbat to give a sermon and receive his money. Then it was the new Rabbi R’S.Knalel who took his place.

The eighth and last station on the train line is Varachta, a large village, further up the hills than others in the Carpathians and on the border between Poland and Germany. Until 1918, when WWI ended, the train line went to Hungary, Romania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, etc. and was open to all citizens of Austria. After the war, the area from Karashmachi and further went to Romania. In order to cross the border and come back, one needed documents giving permission from both governments. Many times in the past, I traveled this way to Budapest, without documents or a passport. In the days of WWI, I was in Agram, Belgrade and as far as Mostar in Herzegovina.

There were only ten to fifteen Jewish families in this village and very few visitors came during the summer. The Jews made their living in the wood business and had business contacts with the Gentiles. I was in business contact with the owners of the two sawmills.. In 1939 I sent a large shipment of orange crates to Eretz Israel by way of Danzig. The Germans did not send them on during the month August as was promised and I lost all the money.

As I wrote, Jews did not come during the summer, but many Gentiles came. On a high hill, there was a hospital for TB patients that had room for several hundred. The hospital accepted patients throughout the year. Visitors came to the village for the air even in the winter.

R’Mordechai Halpern lived in the middle of the town. He was a Charidi Jew who was the son-in-law of R’Y.Menachim Gaster זל. Mordechai was a rich man with a big house. He lived with his family and enjoyed life. He owned several fields and a part of a forest. He had court cases against some of the Gentiles in the village. Who knows if those evil ones had a hand in ending the lives of him and his family, a son and three daughters? תנצבה

I want to remember other places on the Stanislau train line, where I had business contacts with merchants and friends. These places were Kalus, Brashnov, Bolechov, Stryj and Susnavitch up to the border of Hungary, afterwards the border of Romania.

In Kalus, near the train track, there were two sawmills. One of the owners was a friend of mine from Cheder, R’Moshe David Holder, Chared, studied a page of Gomorra, and succeeded in his business until he became rich. I lived in his house a few years while in Stanislau. From his mill and the other one, I bought pine wood for the market in our country. I only knew one or two people in the town like the head of the Rabbinical Court Rabbi Moshe David Ashkenazi זל. He was the father of my good friend R.Yona. Both of us were clerks in the sawmill of his father-in-law and his partners in Atania. At my son David’s Brit-Mila, I invited Rabbi R’Moshe David to be the Sandak. He came and celebrated with us. The second son of R’Moshe David was R’Mordechai, the son-in-law of Rabbi R’Abraham Hager, the Rabbi of Zablotov. His father-in-law was at that time the head of the Rabbinical Court. Both of them were victims of the Nazis in 1942.

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I met another important Jew in Kalus, R’Abba Milstein. He and his brother-in-law, R’N.Shpindal was the father or the grandfather of Dr. Shpindal, a known Zionist who made Aliyah about thirty years ago and died in Tel Aviv two years ago. The company Milstein and Shpindal set up a big distillery in the forest of Broierei. They were famous for the drink they produced and distributed in all of Galicia. All the clerks and workers were Jews who lived in the city and made an honorable income. R’Abba had a mansion in Stanislau. After WWI I rented the third floor in his house to reestablish the school “שפה ברורה” (Clear Language) and I was in contact with him for several years. He was a hard man in respect to money but a smart Jew knowledgeable in research. This firm was well known for its good deeds, generous contributions and community activities. There were about 2,000 Jewish families in Kalus and as with most parts of Galicia, they made a living but there were poor people. Since there were no large forests in the area, there was no need for more than one sawmill and trees were brought from other places. This quiet town also had Jews who studied Torah, etc and fell victims to the holocaust in Galicia from 1941-1943. תנצבה

After the town Kalus, my biggest and most important contacts were in the village of Brashnov. A large sawmill with several machines was built on a large plot of land near the train station. On that same plot there were buildings, for tens of clerks, a special house to receive guests on the first and second floor. Some distance away smaller houses were there for the permanent mill workers. This operation was managed by a Czech Jew, Pach Glasinger, who founded this company many years ago. After he died, Dr. Joseph Silberstein who lived in London inherited the company. This large company was managed by an assimilated Czech Jew, Carl Paar, who was an expert, honest and professional. Under his management were tens of clerks both in the office and in other jobs. In addition to the mill there was a large carpentry shop. A number of carpenters built furniture. There was also a blacksmith and metal shop that made rails for the train line to the forest to bring trees to the mill.

There were no forests here or in the surrounding area. For twenty years the firm Glasinger bought trees from the Carpathian forests from an agent. This forest, belonged to the Greek Orthodox Church, and was under the guardianship of Cardinal Shapdtski who had his palace and offices in Lvov. This forest, twenty kilometers from the mill, produced each year about 120,000 cubic meters of wood from fir trees, 1,000s of cubic meters of beech wood for heating, a large quantity of oak wood for panels for home, trees for roofing, etc.

This organization had many functions outside of clerks and common workers, which came to over 1,000 families; there were welders, engineers, blacksmiths and other professionals. All of these families needed living quarters according to the level of their position. The compound was a few kilometers in length and about a kilometer wide. It was situated on the right side of the train track going in the direction of Stanislau- Stryj. On the left side, the road ran in the same direction. It was all surrounded by a high fence with many gates that were closed. Entrance was only with the permission of the guards. Armed guards were there at night and strangers were forbidden to enter at night. There were several hundred Jewish families in the town of Brashnov.

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Each of the workers, most of whom were Gentiles, had their own small house built on both sides of the road by the manager. The management of the company wanted all the workers to be satisfied with their work and get a good salary. All purchasers including Jews who wanted to buy merchandise were given help and good prices.

The office workers of the firm Glasinger had a warm, friendly, humane relationship with all the inhabitants of the town. All the top management, director Paar, treasurer Herman Sapir, manager of the forests Mr. N. Robinson, several bookkeepers and accountants, were not religious Jews. They did not have a drop of Torah and did not fulfill Mitzvot. As is written in חזל' (May our wise men be blessed), “אף הריקנים שבך מלאים מצות כרימון” (Even your emptiness is filled with good deeds like the seeds of a pomegranate). The top management built a large Beit Knesset in the center of town, made of stone with a metal roof. The inside was furnished and on the western wall was a marble plaque with the name of the volunteers and the name of the founder of the firm, Pach Glasinger. If I am not mistaken, it was as if they all participated in writing the Torah. They arranged for the payment of a Shamash and a guard. In the Beit Knesset, there were morning and evening prayers.

These managers were responsible for several hundred families. Most of them worked in sales and commerce, as agents in the forest and loaders of trees on to trains. Tracks had been built from the station to a large area near the mill. There were twenty cars had to be loaded with planks and different kinds of wood from agents. These agents also bought grain and flour for the workers as well as the low quality wood that was sold in the town and in the country.

Content last updated Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 07:16 PM Mountain Standard Time

Zabolotiv, Ukraine
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