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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘WWI’

Before The Deluge: The Jews Of Turkey (Part Two)

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

The stories in this column are translations by Mr. Nollet from Die Juden In Der Welt (The Jews in the World) by Mark Wischnitzer, a long out-of-print book published more than seven decades ago in Germany. The book examines Jewish communities, one country at a time, as they existed in 1935 – a time before the Nazis began their extermination campaign against the Jews and before there was a state of Israel.

The Jews Of Turkey
(Part Two)

The French traveler Nicolay, who in 1551 accompanied Jews exiled from France to Constantinople, depicted the life, activities, trade and traffic, culture, and the social setting of the Jews in the following manner:

“Particularly astonishing is the immense number of resident Jews in Turkey and Greece, and particularly in Constantinople. Their number is continually on the rise, which is attributable to the fact that they almost everywhere are operating trade and goods and money, so that different kinds of products from all lands and peoples are brought either by land or sea and are promoted here. One can safely say that the traffic in trade and finance throughout the Levant currently, in great part, can be found in Jewish hands. In Constantinople, the biggest commercial zones with the most variety of goods in filled-up warehouses belong to Jews.

“Also with them one can encounter, and not seldom, artisans and skilled workers who were recently Marranos who fled from Spain and Portugal. They manufacture for the Turks the most varied of war armaments that have yet been discovered and developed, for example, cannons, arquebuses [Translator’s Note: an early, primitive musket], powder, munitions, etc. In the same manner, there are Jews here who have built publishing plants, which were heretofore unknown among the Turks, that print books in Latin, Greek, Italian, Spanish, and Hebrew. Related to this is the fact that Jews know many languages, so that many are happy to employ them as translators.”

Another Frenchman reported in a travel book that appeared in Paris in 1555 about Spanish Jews who worked in mines not far from Salonika alongside Jews from Hungary who arrived earlier, and who were called “aleman” [Germans]. He ascertained that the Jews built the main force behind all the commercial traffic, and that the Turkish government esteemed Jewish financial acumen.

The court physician Moses Hamon, whose father also had been a personal physician to the Turkish court, accompanied Sultan Suleiman II [Suleiman the Magnificent] on his military expeditions. Joseph of Naxos placed his entire worldwide connections at the disposal of Sultan Selim II, and worked for Turkey’s benefit. A relative of the duke of Naxos, and his successor in the diplomatic service to the Turkish court, was Don Salomo Abenjaex, who was also known as Chevalier Alvaro Mendez. Spain had exhausted Turkish neutrality against England, and Mendez thwarted their intentions by seizing Spanish warships in Italian waters and in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and rendered them harmless.

The discovery of America led to a shift of the trade with the Orient to the waters of the New World and caused a gradual decline in the Turkish economy (since previously it had all flowed to Europe through Constantinople). The Jews shared in the fate of this hospitable land.

In the 17th century Jews looking to escape [what had become a] hopeless reality were drawn to the false messiah Shabtai Zvi. The masses sank into superstition and ignorance.

In 1927 the current state of Turkey undertook a census for the first time, and in the European portion of Turkey counted about 55,000 Jews, about 4.7% of the total population. Mostly they lived in Istanbul – 46,700 – and in Edirne [formerly Adrianopolis] – 5,700. The reduction of the Jewish population can be seen from the 1908 estimate of the Jewish population. At that time, Constantinople [the name was changed to Istanbul at the end of WWI] had about 60,000 Jews and Edirne 25,000.

The masses of Jews busied themselves with shipping, piloting and captaining boats, freight hauling, small artisanship, and fishing. In the European quarter of Istanbul and in the suburb of Pera, the middle and upper classes predominated, occupying themselves as lawyers, doctors, and merchants.

The Peace Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 guaranteed Jews minority rights. The new Turkish republic promoted the assimilation of all into the state. Turkification of minorities was systematically carried out. Turkish became the official language of instruction in all the minority schools.

Poland And WWI

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

     Growing up in the U.S. during the second half of the 20th century, I, along with most people, know very little about the First World War. The little that I did know was about the trench warfare in France and Belgium. The Eastern Front was barely, if ever, mentioned and usually stated that it ended with the Russian Revolution and overthrowing the Czar.

 

      Traveling around Poland, I would come across signs saying that a battle took place here or there. In some cemeteries there is a section for soldiers killed during WWI, from both sides, but facts are lacking.

 

     I recently came across a book called, The Enemy at his Pleasure: A Journey Through the Jewish Pale of Settlement During World War I, by S. Ansky, which describes the situation of the Jews living in the Pale of Settlement, Galicia and Poland in great detail. S. Ansky, (1863-1920) whose real name was, Shloyme Zanvel ben Aaron Rappaport, was a Russian Yiddish, historian, journalist and writer, best known for the play, The Dybuk. Ansky started out life rejecting Judaism and the Yiddish language but in 1905 he became a champion of Yiddish culture.

 

       The early 20th century was a time of chaos for the Jewish community in the Pale of Settlement, Poland and Galicia. The pogroms, especially in Kishenov, were brutal with many Jews emigrating to try to escape rampant anti-Semitism. Ansky set out to preserve what he could of Jewish and Yiddish culture. He undertook an expedition throughout the Pale and Galicia in 1911, where he gathered books, manuscripts and varied artifacts of Judaica that were deposited in the Ethnographic Museum in St. Petersburg.

 

     At the start of WWI, Ansky took up the cause of the Jews that he had gotten to know so well during his trips. He traveled from town-to-town – shtetl-to-shtetl setting up relief committees distributing money and recording everything he saw.

 

     He described the atrocities he witnessed as the worst afflicted against the Jewish people since the destruction of the Second Bait HaMikdash.He writes about whole towns being burnt to the ground, with only the chimneys remaining.

 

     In Galicia that had been under Austrian-Hungarian rule for over a hundred years the Cossacks were especially brutal. They accused the Jewish population of being spies, using telephone signals, fires and other means of passing information to the enemy.

 

       Dressed as a Russian officer Ansky was able to travel in areas that were closed to civilians and often heard remarks not intended for Jewish ears. “Everyone knows all Jews are spies,” was the refrain he heard over and over again. Wherever he could he would adamantly deny these accusations and would at times come between the marauding Cossacks and their victims.

 

    Starting in St. Petersburg, Ansky traveled to Brody, then to the frontlines at Tarnow, then to Lvov, Preszmyl, and Sokol. He mentions trips to Rawa, Ruska, Bukovina, Kaminetzand Sadegura, where the Russian Revolution caught up with the Russian Army.

 

     The Russians attacked the Jewish population and they stole, beat up, and burned whatever they could find. While Ansky was not religious he shows compassion to the plight of the religious community. He would seek out the rabbi of each town he visited and would often report about the status of the synagogue. Passover food was one of his special concerns and he was even influential in getting matzah to frontline troops as well as a furlough for troops in the rear.

 

           In Sadegura he described the Rebbe’s court in great detail. “There was a 24-piece band that played at every meal and his carriage was drawn by six horses. His home and synagogue were like palaces and the Rebbe himself was a miracle worker.”

 

      The Rebbe’s home as well as the synagogue were used as field hospitals but when he entered the synagogue he found that someone had put a Christian icon in the Aron HaKodesh. He also discovered that the cemetery had been desecrated and the grave of the Rizhiner Rebbe had been dug up and the bones stolen.

 

      Just 25 years before the Holocaust, the Russians exiled approximately 600,000 Jews and over 100,000 were killed in a three-year time frame.

 

    In The Enemy at his Pleasure: A Journey Through the Jewish Pale of Settlement During World War, Ansky gives a detailed first-hand report of all that happened to the Jews during WWI. The details are quite fascinating. The notes on every person he met, every town he visited, his personal reflections, small tidbits of history, along with his tremendous fervor to bring to light the subject of Jewish victims of WWI, are not found in any other book.

Poland And WWI

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

     Growing up in the U.S. during the second half of the 20th century, I, along with most people, know very little about the First World War. The little that I did know was about the trench warfare in France and Belgium. The Eastern Front was barely, if ever, mentioned and usually stated that it ended with the Russian Revolution and overthrowing the Czar.

 

      Traveling around Poland, I would come across signs saying that a battle took place here or there. In some cemeteries there is a section for soldiers killed during WWI, from both sides, but facts are lacking.

 

     I recently came across a book called, The Enemy at his Pleasure: A Journey Through the Jewish Pale of Settlement During World War I, by S. Ansky, which describes the situation of the Jews living in the Pale of Settlement, Galicia and Poland in great detail. S. Ansky, (1863-1920) whose real name was, Shloyme Zanvel ben Aaron Rappaport, was a Russian Yiddish, historian, journalist and writer, best known for the play, The Dybuk. Ansky started out life rejecting Judaism and the Yiddish language but in 1905 he became a champion of Yiddish culture.

 

       The early 20th century was a time of chaos for the Jewish community in the Pale of Settlement, Poland and Galicia. The pogroms, especially in Kishenov, were brutal with many Jews emigrating to try to escape rampant anti-Semitism. Ansky set out to preserve what he could of Jewish and Yiddish culture. He undertook an expedition throughout the Pale and Galicia in 1911, where he gathered books, manuscripts and varied artifacts of Judaica that were deposited in the Ethnographic Museum in St. Petersburg.

 

     At the start of WWI, Ansky took up the cause of the Jews that he had gotten to know so well during his trips. He traveled from town-to-town – shtetl-to-shtetl setting up relief committees distributing money and recording everything he saw.

 

     He described the atrocities he witnessed as the worst afflicted against the Jewish people since the destruction of the Second Bait HaMikdash.He writes about whole towns being burnt to the ground, with only the chimneys remaining.

 

     In Galicia that had been under Austrian-Hungarian rule for over a hundred years the Cossacks were especially brutal. They accused the Jewish population of being spies, using telephone signals, fires and other means of passing information to the enemy.

 

       Dressed as a Russian officer Ansky was able to travel in areas that were closed to civilians and often heard remarks not intended for Jewish ears. “Everyone knows all Jews are spies,” was the refrain he heard over and over again. Wherever he could he would adamantly deny these accusations and would at times come between the marauding Cossacks and their victims.

 

    Starting in St. Petersburg, Ansky traveled to Brody, then to the frontlines at Tarnow, then to Lvov, Preszmyl, and Sokol. He mentions trips to Rawa, Ruska, Bukovina, Kaminetzand Sadegura, where the Russian Revolution caught up with the Russian Army.

 

     The Russians attacked the Jewish population and they stole, beat up, and burned whatever they could find. While Ansky was not religious he shows compassion to the plight of the religious community. He would seek out the rabbi of each town he visited and would often report about the status of the synagogue. Passover food was one of his special concerns and he was even influential in getting matzah to frontline troops as well as a furlough for troops in the rear.

 

           In Sadegura he described the Rebbe’s court in great detail. “There was a 24-piece band that played at every meal and his carriage was drawn by six horses. His home and synagogue were like palaces and the Rebbe himself was a miracle worker.”

 

      The Rebbe’s home as well as the synagogue were used as field hospitals but when he entered the synagogue he found that someone had put a Christian icon in the Aron HaKodesh. He also discovered that the cemetery had been desecrated and the grave of the Rizhiner Rebbe had been dug up and the bones stolen.

 

      Just 25 years before the Holocaust, the Russians exiled approximately 600,000 Jews and over 100,000 were killed in a three-year time frame.

 

    In The Enemy at his Pleasure: A Journey Through the Jewish Pale of Settlement During World War, Ansky gives a detailed first-hand report of all that happened to the Jews during WWI. The details are quite fascinating. The notes on every person he met, every town he visited, his personal reflections, small tidbits of history, along with his tremendous fervor to bring to light the subject of Jewish victims of WWI, are not found in any other book.

The Old Shtetl Lipno

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

There is evidence of Jewish presence in Lipno as early as the 18th century. The beginning of the 19th century saw the rise of an organized Jewish community; it was then that a synagogue was built and the Jews were allotted land for a cemetery. A decree dated May 25, 1824, limited Jewish residence to a specific quarter of the city, but not an enclosed ghetto.


Prior to 1913, the majority of Jews made their living on minor trade and craftsmanship. A few Jews made their living fishing. The Jewish bakeries and kitchen houses were owned and staffed by Jews. During the second half of the 19th century, the Jews of Lipno erected a second synagogue, called Ha’gadol (The Great), and several shtiblach were built for various groups of chasidim. The new synagogue could accommodate several hundred worshippers. The town also supported a chevra kadisha (burial services), a hospitality charity, and a charity that provided firewood. A bikur cholim group was established in 1889, and in 1903 a gemilut chasadim charity was established.


Among the first Lipno known rabbis is Rabbi Michael Berlin, who served the town throughout the mid-19th century. In 1877 Rabbi Yehuda Leib Schwartzberg was appointed as the municipal rabbi, eventually to be replaced in 1895 by Rabbi Shlomo Wingate. Wingate, in turn, was replaced by Rabbi Shmuel HaLevy Bradt. The latter served Lipno until 1928, when he was elected rabbi of Tomaszow Mazowiecky.


Up until WWI, most Jewish children studied in cheders. About sixty Jewish children studied in the Russian public school for Jews, which only had two classes. When WWI broke out, the Lipno Jewish community dwindled, as many Lipno Jews fled to Warsaw, never to return.


In the first years following the war, the Joint assisted with the rehabilitation of the Lipno Jewish community. In 1921 a soup kitchen for kids was established with assistance from the Joint. The kitchen served hot meals to 250 Jewish children. Many Lipno Jews had difficulty finding work in the first years after the establishment of independent Poland, and were assisted by the Joint. In 1929 the Joint contributed 200 dollars to the gemilut chasadim charity, allowing them to significantly increase the size of loans that were given to the needy.


In the period after WWI, almost all Zionist organizations operating within Poland had offices in Lipno. The first Zionist organization offices were established early in the 20th century. In 1920, the Aguda Ha’Zionit (the Zionist Company) renewed its operation. In the following years, offices were established by the General Zionists, the Workers of Zion, the Mizrachi, and in 1933 the Tzahar. During that time, several Zionist youth groups set up chapters in Lipno, such as Ha’Shomer Ha’Leumi, Ha’Shomer Ha’tzair and Beitar.


During the period between the two World Wars, Lipno Jewry developed education for Jewish children. Most Jewish children continued to learn in cheders, but modern educational institutions were established as well. The Ha’Shomer Ha’Leumi youth group held evening classes in Hebrew throughout the 30′s. There was a library that housed books in Hebrew and Yiddish. During the 20′s a Maccabi sports collective was established.


In the years prior to the outbreak of WWII, the Lipno Jews suffered from continuous anti-Semitic propaganda. In 1938 the local anti-Semites set up watch outside Jewish stores to support a boycott of Jewish businesses. The income of Jewish storekeepers was damaged significantly and many had to turn to charity and public assistance.


As WWII broke out and divisions of the German army approached Lipno, many Jews fled the city and escaped to the East. The flight continued even after the Germans occupied the city. Many of Lipno’s Jews escaped to Warsaw. In November of 1939 the German army banished the remaining Jews to the major cities, particularly Warsaw. The fate of Lipno’s exiles was the same as that of all Jews in those places. Today there are no Jews left in Lipno; any remaining survivors of this once thriving Jewish community are scattered around the world. (www.zchor.org/lipno/lipno.htm)





Shmuel Ben Eliezer can be reached at jpolin2@aol.com


Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/the-old-shtetl-lipno/2006/03/22/

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