Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Izio's Zamek

Our dear Aussie friend Jack Fields, who started life as Przemysler Izio Felder, has been kind enough to share another recollection of pre-Shoah Przemysl. What follows is his homage to the Zamek - the Castle and its grounds - that to this day dominates the hillside of our city.

His story holds special meaning for me. I remember my grandmother, Fannie Metzger Silberman, telling me about the Zamek park one night in Miami when I was about 20 years old. She talked longingly about the smell of the flowers, the "pfennig arcades," and most of all of the constant live music from "Gypsies" to Choirs to Austrian and Hungarian Army bands.
The Zamek in the centre of the city of Przemysl??? Whats that???

How well I remember the Zamek (castle) in the centre of Przemysl but what is more interesting is the huge very green park attached to it.

This is my family at the gate of the Zamek a few years before WW2. I am at the left next is my younger brother Munio and my younger sister Dziunia. My father Herman Felder and my mother, Dina Unger.

Our family and many other families particularly Jewish have walked to the Zamek every Saturday morning before WW2 when the air there was fresher and cleaner and cooler. This was the holiday place for those who did not travel to spa resorts.

We always used the entrance from the Rynek, the city square. After about 30 minutes of walking along the steep Grodzka street, we arrived at the Zamek, the meeting place for a lot of Jewish families on shabbos.

This is a photo of the entry to the Zamek from Grodzka street. Please note the difference between the gray city and the very green and leafy trees and plants. It was like entering a paradise...

In that part of the Zamek there was a permanent gardeners cottage. Next to his house was a cieplarnia- a plant nursery in a glassed-in hothouse. The gardener worked there every day, raising many different exotic plants and flowers that were then planted all over the park grounds. The aroma was great.

On the left in the back is the gardeners cottage. To the right is a small zoo. Next to the right is the glass covered plant and flowers nursery. Out of the picture to the right was the Ciurek. In front to the left was a tennis court. During the Soviet occupation the tennis court was dismantled because it was considered by the Soviet authorities that tennis was a capitalist sport... and not for the working class.

In the same area was the ciurek - a concrete cave structure - and inside there was a spigot with very cold spring water running nonstop.

This photo is from before WW1. Inside the concrete structure was a pipe and cold water was running summer and winter. It was said that this water is from the mountains and is full of minerals, and very healthy ...young and old were drinking it and enjoyed it. In front was a man with a basket selling pretzels salty and crispy and soft with poppy seeds. I nagged my mother to get me one and she said I would not eat it after nagging she bought me a pretzel and after 2 bites I would not eat it Today the ciurek does not exist and the water in the Zamek is polluted.

A second entrance to the park was via Katedralna street, so named because half way up there was a big church called The Kathedra.

Entry to the Zamek from Katedralna street. Jewish families very seldom used this approach.

From this approach, a narrow path lead to the highest peak in the valley, the Tatarska gora - the tartars hill. From there the whole of the city of Przemysl and near by villages could be seen. Also near there there were ruins of a part of the stronghold which was build during WW1 by the Austrian army, the Przemysl festung - Fortress Przemysl - the biggest fort in Europe after Verdun.

Only the strongest went all the way up. Usually my father and I made it there!

Tatarska gora was so named because in the middle ages Przemysl was attacked and occupied by the Mongol Tartars from Asia under Genghis Khan. There is a legend that in the hill was buried a Tartar chief, but as far as I know no evidence has ever been found.

The Zamek itself was situated in the centre on a hill 800 meters above the city, generally a 30 minute climb from our homes, depending which of the three entrances we took.

In 1939, control of the city was divided by the San, with the Przemysl side under the Soviets and the Zasanie side run by the Germans. War broke out on September 7 in Przemysl.

My family and many others were in the Zamek that afternoon, listening to a Soviet army band playing beautifully. People were singing and dancing - it was a very happy afternoon which lasted late into the evening. That night, the Nazis started the bombardment of our side of Przemysl. It was completely unexpected - people in the street said that something had exploded in the railway station and thought it was just an accident.

During the German occupation of Przemysl, even before the ghetto was established, a sign was placed on the iron gate leading to the Grodzka street garden entrance that read: FUR JUDEN UND HUNDE EINTRIT VERBOTEN - Entry for Jews and dogs is forbidden.

Many people who visit Przemysl these days are not told how very important the Zamek was for the Jewish people in pre-WW2 years. I suppose it is because the guides were born after WW2 and they simply don't know. Today the walk up to the Zamek is neglected - people go for excursions in their cars - not the same.

The Zamek now belongs to history - one I have bittersweet memories of.

- - Izio Felder


Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Primary School for Girls

From Lukasz:
Below is the 1937 class photo for The Primary School for Girls on Konarskiego Street in Przemysl. The school was bombed by the Nazis just two years later on September 7, 1939.

Jewish children attended almost all schools in Przemysl, not just the Hebrew school on Tarnawskiego. The names below are mostly Jewish and Polish with a few Ukrainian sounding ones.

The description on the reverse:

Żeńska Szkoła Powszechna
przy ul. Konarskiego w Przemyślu. 1937

BUCZKOWSKA Władysława,
BLOK Zuza,
KUC Maria,
KUPFER Blanka,
WEISS Irena,
HANDE Alina,
CWYNAR Danuta,
SPATZ Lusia,
ZIOMEK Danuta,
OSMAK Irena,
....... Zofia,
GÓRSKA Krystyna,
RYCZAK Jadwiga,

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Architecture of the Tempel and the New Synagogues

From our friend Diana Applebaum Muir:
The Reform community of Przemysl dedicated the Tempel synagogue on Jagiellonska, on the river San, on September 18, 1890. It was a substantial brick building in the Romanesque revival derived style known as Rundbogenstil. It was designed by architect Stanisław Majerski (1872-1926,) a graduate of the Lwów Politechnical School. The Tempel had an organ and most of the service was in Polish.

Construction of the religiously traditional Scheinbach Synagogue, also known as the New Synagogue, began in 1910 and completed in 1918. It was even larger and more elaborate than the Temple. The building survives; it has been renovated and is in use as a public library. While it is a handsome building today, the Communist-period renovations stripped so much of the exterior detail that it presents an appearance in marked contrast to the building we see in old photographs.

The synagogue is a free-standing building in the heart of the city with the sidewalk and street tight against it on every side. Like the Tempel, it was designed by architect Stanisław Majerski, and, like the Tempel, it was built in the Rundbogenstil tradition. Unlike the Temple it was embellished with an eclectic array of elaborate rooftop crenellations and molded decoration. Period sources appear to have described the synagogue as “Mauretano-eclectist” in style. Mauritania, the Roman name of a Berber North African kingdom, was used as a synonym for Moorish in the period when the synagogue was built. Building synagogues in Moorish style was a statement of identity, a way of boasting that Jewish lineage could be traced back to ancient Israel. The only apparent Moorish element in the Przemysl synagogue is the roof line crenelation.

The elaborate interior decoration with Biblical scenes and what appear to be palm trees in the old photo reflects an early twentieth-century fashion for decorating synagogues with Biblical scenes and Eretz Israel motifs. The fashion reflected increasing familiarity with and enthusiasm for the Land of Israel at a time of increasing enthusiasm for Zionism. Photographs, posters, lithographs and other images of Eretz Israel hung on the walls of every synagogue in the Diaspora, whether the congregation was Zionist or anti-Zionist.

The New Synagogue in Przemysl was fortunate in being wealthy enough to have such scenes painted on the walls and ceiling and to have a notable set of stained glass windows. The windows and paintings were by a Jewish Przemyśl artist named Adolf Bienenstock (1888-1937,) a graduate of the Krakow Fine Art Academy (like Przemysl, Krakow was then part of Austrian Galicia,) and a student of the notable Polish artist Józef Mehoffer. Bienenstock taught art at the the Przemysl Gymnasium. The interior, in the sole photo that I have seen, appears to reflect the influence of the Young Poland movement of which Mehoffer was part. Young Poland was the Polish version of the jugendstil (art nouveau) movement.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

A plea to Przemysl readers - Please Help

Once a year, and no more, this blog asks it's readers to help out. Not with the blog, and not for me, but for what's left of Jewish Przemysl.

Over the past decade, The Remembrance & Reconciliation Foundation (R&R), led by Dr John Hartman, has taken the lead in the restoration and maintenance of the Slowackiego Street Cemetery in Przemysl. Anyone who has been to the site ten years ago and recently can testify as to the progress - and the amount of work that remains.

We wage a constant battle against the elements in the form of yearly maintenance and repair. In general, the winters in Przemysl are harsh and combined with the hilly topography of the site, there is constant and serious erosion in many places. In addition, there was a windstorm recently that downed several trees, requiring an unplanned, emergency clean-up.

We are lucky to employ one of the very few Jews left in the town, Mr. Jocaim Glettner, a mason by trade, as the general contractor/overseer. Paying him, and just keeping up with maintenance usually costs $5,000/year – but over $8,000 this year as the dollar tanked.

To date, about 2/3 of the money raise comes from Dr Hartman and me. We are barely keeping ahead of the weather, and make precious little progress on actual restoration.

Unfunded priorities for this coming year, each with "naming opportunities" for donors, include:

1) Star plaques commemorating mass-murder victims ($100 each)
2) Jewish historical plaques for the cemetery wall ($500 each)
3) construction of a walkway between the two mass-murder monuments ($7,500)
4) clearing of walks and access paths in the older parts of the cemetery ($1,000)

PLEASE consider making a donation of ANY size to the Foundation.

R & R is a tax-exempt, non-profit 501(c)3 organization. Contributions are used only for projects in Poland. We have no staff or office expenses. You can send funds in US dollars to:

The Remembrance & Reconciliation Foundation
Dr. John Hartman
300 S. Hyde Park Ave, Suite 150
Tampa FL, 33606 USA

Email me if you would like to use PayPal or have any questions or comments.


-- David Semmel


Monday, December 01, 2008

Scheinbach Synagogue - Update

Update to the Scheinbach/New Synagogue Post

Diana points me to the Hebrew University Center for Hebrew Art site for this photo of the New Synagogue's Ark doors:

From the site:
The double-winged door is a vertical rectangular tablet. It is adorned by foliate scrolls stemming from two tulips on either side, and rays radiating from the four corners. The decoration surrounds a rectangular central tablet with a Hebrew dedicatory inscription, engraved in filled square letters, that reads:

"ז"נ (זו נדבת)/ הר' (הרב) אהרן ניסבוים נ"י (נרו יאיר) עבור/ נשמת אמו רבקה ע"ה (עליה השלום) בת ר' דוב/ בערל ז"ל (זכרו לברכה) שנפטרה י"ז תשרי/ תרפ"ד ( 1923. 27.9 ) "

This is the donation of the Rabbi Aaron Nissbaum, may his light shine, for the repose of the soul of his mother Rebecca, may she rest in peace, the daughter of Rabbi Dov Berl, of blessed memory, who died on the 17th of Tishrei, (5)684 (27.9.1923)

The doors were purchased from Mr. S. Kotula from Rzeszow, on 3.8.1971, who claimed that they were originally from one of the synagogues of Przemysl. It is not known in which of the city's synagogues the doors were used. Nonetheless, our object's height indicates that they might not have been the doors themselves, but were probably attachments to larger wooden Ark doors, adjusted to its double wings.