Sunday, January 13, 2008

Izio Felder's life in Przemysl

Izio (Izaac) Felder is a Przemysl native who survived the ghetto, transport, and the holocaust. He immigrated to Australia after the war. He was kind enough to share some of his recollections of pre-Shoah life in Przemysl with us:
How well I remember the Alte Shul (old school) and the place in front of it called "Rybi Plac," the fish-place. I passed that place every day; it was the center of Jewish life in Przemysl.

To the left of the synagogue, about 3 houses away, was the "Kahal," the building of the Jewish community of Przemysl. Another 2 houses to the left was my Polish school. To the right of the synagogue was a small lane where there was the entrance to a room in the Alte Shul which was called the little Beth Hamidrash. Further to the right was Ratuszowa Street which was also a very Jewish street. Opposite the Alte Shul was the Jewish bath house which was quite large and was owned by the "Kahal," the Jewish community of Przemysl. There were separate tiled bathtubs, a steam bath, and a mikvah. (see a map of Jewish Przemysl here)

My mother and other Jewish mothers have gone to the Fish place to make shopping. The peasants come there very early in the morning with such goods as butter, green vegetables, eggs, chicken, ducks, geese, potatoes, etc. Przemysl did not have greengrocer shops; it was all purchased directly from the peasants.

There was no such thing as buying dead plucked chickens. They had to be killed by the religious shohet. On Thursday and Friday there were live fish sold there, mostly carps and pike - in Polish language szczupak fish. My mother bought those fish live and kept them home in a tin bath with water for several days.

The Fish place was a very lively and busy place. I bought there ice cream for 2 groszy and apple juice called cider, also 2 groszy. And hot cooked broad beans for 2 groszy per portion and roasted pumpkin seeds.

To me Przemysl looked a large city but now I can see that by world standards a population of 65 000 is not large. However, Przemysl was an important city because during the WW1 there was a large fortress there - the biggest after Verdun - and there was a big army there with lots of officers and officers aristocrats. In that Austro-Hungarian army there were also Jewish officers.

In the fortress there were 100,000 horses and a big demand for services. After WW1 there were too many doctors and lawyers in Przemysl and Przemysl became poorer because the demand for goods and services has dropped.

Przemysl had a lot of religious beggars and at least 15 of them came to our house every day. Each got 1 groszy. There were also some rich Jewish people and some in the middle.

In Przemysl the Jewish people made about 30% of the population but there was not a single Jewish policeman , railway official, in the fire brigade, postman or in the government office. Yes there was a lot of anti-Semitism, particularly after 1935 when Jozef Pilsudski died and the government in Poland was taken over by the anti-Semitism. Life became still harder every day.

- - Izio Felder
If anyone wishes to ask Izio about his recollections of Przemysl, email David and I will get you his email address.

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