Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Scheinbach Synagogue

Writer and historian Diana Muir Appelbaum, a friend of this blog, has pointed me to an interesting write-up on Przemysl's Scheinbach Synagogue, also known as the New Synagogue, at the Przemysl Library site

The Ignacy Krasicki Przemyśl Public Library is located in the younger of the four existing before the war Przemyśl synagogue. This synagogue was currently called the "Naje Schul" (New School). It belonged to the Przemyśl New Synagogue Association which members were in favour of the "Askenazy style" prayers. The planning of this building was initiated in 1905 by the well known Jewish Przemyśl activist Moishe Scheinbach. The construction began, with the financial help of the City Council and different Jewish banks, in 1910. It was planned by the Polish architect Stanisław Majerski (1872-1926) from the Lwów Politechnical School who was very popular at that time in Przemyśl. The main works were finished just before the beginning of the First World War but the construction was not ready at that time.

It was built in the mauretano-eclectist style. It is a two-stories building made of bricks and separated from neighboring buildings. Its entrance is oriented to the West. The building has a basement and its rusticated ground-floor is separated by a mould with a range of decorations. All its windows are closed by a complete arch. Pilasters are indicating the axis. The extreme ones and the central one are indicated at the level of the roof by complete arches and the central one is also indicated by a round window with the David star. The synagogue is covered by a steel roof with a rectangular platform construction. In the roof, there is a range of little windows and moulds. In the interior of the synagogue there is a big prayer room with galleries for the women in the West and the South.

The finishing works were made only in 1918. In this purpose, the Jewish Przemyśl artist Adolf Bienenstock (1888-1937) was employed. He was graduated from the Cracov Fine Art Academy and was the student of Józef Mehoffer. The polichromies he made on the walls and the roof of the synagogue were linked with biblical themes and Jewish legends. He also planned the very beautiful stained-glass windows according to original Jewish motives. They were giving to this synagogue a unique attractiveness and its decoration was considered to be the most beautiful Jewish monument of the religious art in the inter-war Poland.

During the Second World war the synagogue was not destroyed by the Germans because they used it as a stable for their army horses. After the war the synagogue was first changed into a textile warehouse. Later it was taken over by the State which tried to adapt it for school purposes. At the beginning of the sixties, after a consultation with Jewish organizations of Poland, it was decided to transfer the building in the hand of the City State Library. The works to adapt the building were finished in 1966 and from the 1st march of 1967 the building is used by the Library. In 1978, after having obtained the agreement of the Union of Jewish Religious Associations of Poland, the building including the place, was given to the property of the State Library. Now more than 133 000 books and reviews are contained in its walls. There are inside the main reading-room, the children reading-room, the hiring department. The Library is carrying exhibitions, lectures and publishing activities and several other forms of cultural and educative activities for the city of Przemyśl and its region.

- - Stanisław Stępień.
The synagogue/library stands today at ul. J. SŁOWACKIEGO 15, just up from the Plac na Brame.

Below is a scan from the Sefar Przemysl showing the ceiling of the New Synagogue. It must have been stunning...


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Roma's Story - Onward

I can't really express the profound joy, the sense of discovery, the nachas that has come from being a small part of Roma Baran's journey of discovery. It has been a pleasure and an honor to have chronicled her uncovering of not one, but two hidden families. Her long-lost flesh and blood, some murdered and others surviving casualties of the holocaust, and he other one: her ever widening circle of newly found friends - researchers, kindred souls, brothers,and sisters - all scattered across the globe yet woven together as one by Roma's openness, curiosity, and love.

Now, after a dozen posts, hundreds of emails, and not just a little sorrow, it is time for this blog to return to its core mission - telling the story of Jewish Przemysl.

But Roma's story is an important and unfinished one - and will go on - at a new blog site:

Click on the above link and bookmark it.

I will try to keep up with the frenetic pace of discoveries from New York, Canada, Poland, and Israel on the new Blog... And all of the old Roma posts will remain here at the Przemysl Blog.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Roma Baran - Uncovering the hidden past

Posts in this thread: Most recent first:

Roma's email that started this remarkable saga:
I just ran across the Przemysl blog and wanted to ask your advice. I just discovered (at the age of 61) that I am a Jew, that my parents survived the Holocaust under assumed names, and that I lived in Israel between 1949 and 1951. I am now in the early stages of trying to reconstruct my parents' real history. A summary of my father's reparation file states that he was interred in the Przemysl ghetto in 1942, liberated in Uzhorod in 1944, and was in Przemysl and Bytom after the war...


Saturday, November 08, 2008

In Memoriam

Mary Baran/Roza Kluger

Dear friends,

I am very sad to tell you that my mother died in Montreal on Wednesday, October 22. The night before, she watched "Tootsie" (for the umpteenth time) with Angela, a caring staff member at her nursing home, and they laughed uproariously. On Wednesday she was well and cheerful, read a magazine, and enjoyed every last bite of lunch. Afterwards, she lay down for a nap on a golden fall afternoon, and had a fatal arrhythmia. She was 87.

I have spoken of her in the context of our recent revelations and my history with her in that regard, as well as my first reactions to the discovery. I wanted to tell you a little more about her and her life, and how much of what I value in my own life I learned from her. She was born on March 11, 1923 in Przemysl, Poland. She was an outgoing, vivacious, very attractive and intelligent young woman growing up before the war. She learned many languages fluently, English, Polish, Ukrainian, Czech, Russian, German, Italian, French, ancient Greek, Latin and, I recently discovered, Hebrew and Yiddish. (My uncle just gave me her book of off-color Yiddish jokes, where I found a number of grammar corrections in her hand). She played the accordion amazingly, dancing with a big 120 bass Scandalli like it was made of paper. She was also a virtuoso whistler -- she had practiced under the covers at night when she was a child. She was close to her handsome and gentle brother, Zygmunt, two years her junior, and to her parents, Dorka (Halpern), an incomparable cook, and Bernard Kluger, a powerfully built machinist with an almost Zen aura of peacefulness. The family was not deeply religious, but they observed the holidays and traditions of a Jewish household.

Mary was eighteen when the war broke out, but still went to Lwow and studied medicine until the Germans invaded Russia. She returned to Przemysl where she was interred in the ghetto, and did forced labor. She met my father Jakub Cytryn around this time, a civil engineer whose mother's brother was the revered David Guzik, JDC Director in Poland. Around the time of the first set of Aktions she and her parents escaped with forged documents and new identities, surviving the war by hiding in a dirt floor hut owned by a Polish man named Sawitzki in Mogila (outside of Krakow). She supported her parents by bicycling many kilometers every day to work in a tobacco factory. Zygmunt survived the war, too, fighting with the First Polish Armored Division under General Maczek that became part of the First Canadian Army. Many other relatives were lost in the Holocaust. My father was the only one of his large immediate family who survived.

After the war, Mary lived with my father, now known as John Baran, in Silesia, where she ran his construction office. I was born in Zabrze in 1947. In 1949 we emigrated to Israel. We fled Poland with almost no possessions, but Mary would not leave without our enormous black Giant Schnauzer, Peter, a German messenger dog whom she rescued at the end of the war when he was about to be shot by the retreating army. Peter was undoubtedly the only Nazi-trained dog to make Aliyah. Later Peter drowned off the beaches of Tel Aviv, and my parents walked up and down the sand for weeks looking for him.

We emigrated to Montreal in 1951, and Mary taught Kindergarten and finished a
Ph.D. in Classics. She worked hard, raised me, struggled with anxiety and
depression, and also struggled in a sometimes difficult marriage. My father's
war experiences had wrought their damage on him, too, but she was devoted to him for life.

She was a natural teacher, and had immense patience, with me, and with the hundreds of Kindergarten students fortunate enough to start their school careers in her "magic kingdom" of a classroom. She taught me to love learning, and to
approach the world with intellectual curiosity. She taught me to love music, not just passively, but with hands-on gusto. Even when she stopped recognizing people and didn't speak, she could sit down at the little keyboard in her room and play through a Gershwin tune, in time and with all the complicated chords. She taught me to fall madly in love with animals, starting, of course, with Peter. She had a wicked sense of humor, and even when rendered non-verbal by Alzheimer's, she'd make sight gags with small props. She taught me to find humor in the detail of everyday life. And she tried to teach me, not altogether successfully, to be "a mild judge of others," as her beloved father Bernard had put it.

Like her father, Mary had endless stories and sayings, an "apropos" for every occasion. When someone proposed an activity she had decided not participate in, she would say "Include me out!" I hear myself using the phrase now and then, in her intonation. After a long, complex life, Mary included herself out. I feel the loss even more keenly having just found a large piece of her life she had successfully hidden for so long.

-- Roma Baran

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