Clothing to Corona, the Life and Legacy of Sir Montague Burton of Leeds

Born Moshe Dovid Osinsky, he was a giant of industry, welfare and charity knighted by the king

Montague Burton's Sun Room. Courtesy: West Yorkshire Archive Service

The photo comes from the West Yorkshire Archives and shows the Sun Room in the 1930s – at Montague Burton’s factory in Hudson Road, Leeds.

Who was Sir Montague Burton, what was his story and – perhaps most importantly – what can we learn from his legacy today?

Leeds, city of men’s clothing

First a bit of history – West Yorkshire used to be the textile manufacturing heartland of the UK. Leeds was men’s clothing; Bradford was wool; Halifax was carpets; Huddersfield was high quality cloth and engineering, especially for textile machinery; and Batley and Dewsbury were for shoddy – the recycling of rags.

The Jews came mainly to Leeds and it was a good partnership – Jews brought with them tailoring skills and Leeds was the expanding centre of the UK men’s clothing industry.

Production had moved from one individual making an item of clothing to a factory system with a distribution of labour – workers doing an individual task in the factory.

Montague Burton’s clothing factory, the largest in the world. Courtesy: West Yorkshire Archive Service

From Moshe to Montague

Sir Montague Burton, born Moshe Dovid Osinsky in the Kovno Province of Lithuania in 1885, came to the UK in 1900 aged 15 along with thousands of other Jews. He opened his first shop in Chesterfield in 1904 and when he was naturalised in 1910 he became known as “Morris Burton” living in Sheffield, but the shops were called “Montague Burton”.

Burton built up a chain of men’s clothing shops and by 1919 he had 40. In 1921, he acquired the land at Hudson Road, Leeds where he built his factory, which at its height employed over 10,500 people, the largest clothing factory in the world.

The photo from the 1930s of the Sun Room was when production was at its height. Burton, as a factory owner, was conscious of the need to look after his staff and the Sun Room was an example of a facility provided for the staff. There was a doctor, a dentist and medical facilities on site – it was a complete factory-town where staff were looked after.

Burton built a huge empire, was knighted in 1931 and died in 1952 aged 67.

Newspaper headline announcing Burton’s knighthood, published in The Sentinel on June 12, 1931

He was buried in Leeds but wanted to be buried in Harrogate – fifteen miles from Leeds where there was a Jewish community but at the time no Jewish cemetery. By 1964 there was a Jewish cemetery in Harrogate and Sir Montague and his wife, Lady Sophia, were reinterred in the new Jewish cemetery in Harrogate as the first burials.

Burton’s tombstone in Harrogate Cemetery. Photo: Nigel Grizzard

A legacy of industry and philanthropy

So what was Sir Montague Burton’s legacy?

Burton wasn’t the only clothing manufacturer in Leeds – there were many others, large and small, and the large players such as Burton were key players in the UK clothing industry.

From an employment perspective he built a huge manufacturing and retail empire. He gave the opportunity of working in a large factory to many first-generation Leeds Jews who became part of a Jewish industrial proletariat in Leeds.

He was a very generous funder of many institutions – he endowed a chair at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and he funded charities and Jewish projects in Yorkshire.

His legacy lives on through the Jewish Museum in London, in Raymond Burton House, and his descendants were key arts funders in Yorkshire.

Letter from Montague Burton, signed in Hebrew, to the renowned poet Shaul Tchernichovsky regarding Burton’s support for a Hebrew University scholarship. Shaul Tchernichovsky Archive, National Library of Israel, image from the Genazim Institute: TSHERN-31378/2. Click image to enlarge

Clothing to corona

I arrived in Leeds in 1976 when the tailoring industry was still functioning, the next decade saw the decline as manufacturing was shipped overseas.

When I took young Jews round the former tailoring areas it wasn’t even a memory – it was too far removed from their current families.

Burton’s Factory today. Photo: Nigel Grizzard

Recently, I went down to the Hudson Road Complex where 10,500 people were employed. It is in Harehills, Leeds and the huge factory still stands. Only when you visit it do you realise how enormous it was. Today it is a clothing depot for Arcadia – a UK clothing chain store, a centre for ESOL (English as a Second Language) and additional small work places.

Most interestingly, during the PPE – Personal Protective Equipment – crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic in April and May this year – the subject of the Leeds clothing industry was resurrected.

I go to an online morning service at the United Hebrew Congregation in Leeds and one of the clothing manufacturers now in his 90s lamented with a former colleague how they could have turned their factories into production centres for PPE rather than send RAF (Royal Air Force) planes to Turkey and China, as the British government opted to do given contemporary circumstances.

The photo of the women working in the factory harks back to a previous era when Leeds and the North of England was a manufacturing base.

The last few months have taught us many lessons and perhaps the most important one is that it would serve the United Kingdom well to restore its manufacturing base rather than be hostage to overseas suppliers.

Montague Burton would have agreed with that sentiment.


The story of the Montague Burton Sun Room is one of many featured on the recently launched “Hidden Treasures: Celebrating Jewish Archives in Britain” website. It has been published here as part of Gesher L’Europa, the National Library of Israel’s initiative to share stories and connect with people, institutions and communities in Europe and beyond. 

The Nazis Failed to Destroy the Artist David Friedmann

Now his daughter is searching for his Nazi-looted and lost artwork

Since childhood I watched my father paint with an intensity and passion that struck a chord within me. I was intrigued about his successful prewar career and the fate of his Nazi-looted art. He had little to show from a collection of hundreds of paintings, drawings, lithographs and etchings. This fueled my passion to find these works and to rescue him from obscurity.

David Friedmann in 1936 in his apartment at Paderborner Strasse 9, Berlin-Wilmersdorf. In the background his painting of the Berlin Cathedral appears. After World War II, it was found in his sister-in-law’s apartment. Friedmann’s painting of the Schlossbrücke und Zeughaus (castle bridge and arsenal), today the German Historical Museum, also appears. These paintings are among hundreds of Nazi-looted and lost artworks.

David Friedmann was born on December 20, 1893, in Mährisch Ostrau, Austria-Hungary, now Ostrava, Czech Republic. He studied etching with Hermann Struck and painting with Lovis Corinth in Berlin. He painted some of the most important events in modern history, surviving World War I and World War II as an artist. Friedmann produced late impressionist landscapes, still lifes, interiors, nudes and achieved acclaim as a painter known for his portraits drawn from life. He exhibited at the Akademie der Kunst, Berliner Secession and numerous galleries throughout Germany and Czechoslovakia. His use of light and dark, his ability to convey expressions on faces, the composition, are all hallmarks of his work. With pencil and paper, he captured the great chess champions of the 1920s. In 1924, his quick-sketching skills launched a secondary career as a freelance press artist. He sketched hundreds of famous contemporary personalities from the arts, music, theater, sports, politics, and industry, published mainly in the Berlin newspapers and the radio-program magazine, Der Deutsche Rundfunk. Among the portrayed luminaries were Albert Einstein, Arnold Schoenberg, Thomas Mann, Max Liebermann and Emanuel Lasker.

“Richard Réti at the Chessboard”, Lithograph, 1923. This appeared in a portfolio entitled “Das Schachmeister Turnier in Mährisch Ostrau” and alternatively “Köpfe berühmter Schachmeister”. Five portfolios have been found. (© Miriam Friedman Morris; image courtesy of the National Library of the Netherlands)

Friedmann’s flourishing career in Berlin was terminated in 1933 by the Nazi regime. As each of his options narrowed, he continued to produce art illustrating the events and his personal experiences of the time. In 1938, Friedmann fled with his family to Prague, escaping from the Nazis with only his artistic talent as a means to survive. He depicted human fate as a refugee in Prague, as a prisoner in the Lodz Ghetto, in the Auschwitz subcamp, Gleiwitz I, and as a survivor. His wife Mathilde and little daughter Mirjam Helene were murdered in Auschwitz.

In 1941, the Gestapo looted his left-behind oeuvre in Berlin. He lost his studio furniture and materials, hundreds of oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, etching prints and lithographs. After Friedmann’s deportation to the Lodz Ghetto, Nazi authorities looted his Prague art production. In 1946, when mail service from Berlin to Prague was finally restored, Friedmann received portrait prints and photos of his work in an album. The Prague portraits dated 1940 to 1941 gave face to numerous known and unknown victims — historically significant evidence of a dynamic Jewish community destroyed by the Nazi regime. Additional portrait prints were found at the National Museum in Prague, Beit Theresienstadt in Givat Haim (Ihud), Israel, and in two family-owned collections. Numerous works, including portraits and landscapes, surfaced at the Jewish Museum in Prague.

Surviving photos of still lifes painted by David Friedmann in 1939 and 1940 in Prague. His last residence before deportation to the Lodz Ghetto was Dušní 10 in the city’s Jewish Quarter.
These portrait prints by David Friedmann of Jakob Edelstein, František Weidmann and Herbert Langer were produced in 1940-1941 in Prague. The album was later gifted to the Yad Vashem Art Museum.

Artwork was systematically confiscated and sold at auction by the Nazi regime. The whereabouts of the remainder of Friedmann’s looted art is unknown.

Descriptive title: “At the Water’s Edge”, Oil on wood panel. Signed Dav. Friedmann lower left and dated 1932.
This was one of several paintings to later emerge in France with the red number “6198”, suggesting an auction sale reference number.

From his incarceration period, a portrait drawing of a Polish prisoner in Gleiwitz I was discovered at the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. Evidence also surfaced of Friedmann’s work in the ghetto. His 1942 etching of the Lodz Ghetto bridge appeared as a header on pages of The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto, 1941-1944. A handmade album with thirty-three drawings documenting the activities of a hat-manufacturing workshop (“ressort“) in the Lodz Ghetto in 1943 is also held in the collection of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.

This colorized drawing is from a 1943 album by David Friedmann documenting the activities of a hat-manufacturing workshop (“ressort“) in the Lodz Ghetto.
(Photo credit: E. Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw; Inventory No. MŻIH B-419/24)

Liberated at age 51, an age significantly older than most survivors, Friedmann believed there was a reason he lived. The responsibility to bear witness weighed heavily on his conscience even before deportation. His burning desire was to show to the world the ruthless persecution and inhumanity as practiced by the Nazis, in the hope such barbarism would never happen again. Friedmann captured the scenes he could not erase from his memory — forced labor, torture, killings and the death march. He called the series, Because They Were Jews!

“Death March from Camp Gleiwitz I to Camp Blechhammer”, Oil, 1947. David Friedmann depicts himself as the prisoner with the eyeglasses as a reminder that his art is a first-person witness to evil. He was liberated at Blechhammer by the Red Army on January 25, 1945. (© Miriam Friedman Morris)

Friedmann continued to paint throughout his postwar journey. In 1948, in Prague, he wed Hildegard Taussig, a survivor of several concentration camps. Their marriage began at a refugee’s pace. One year later, the couple fled communist Czechoslovakia to Israel, where their daughter, also named Miriam, was born. He worked in a sign shop and contributed to the founding of Israel’s commercial art industry.

Every spare moment he painted for himself. Friedmann’s color palette changed to brighter, sun-filled hues as he left behind his old dark world to explore his newly adopted country. After two years, he established his own advertising business and freelanced for the newspapers, permitting more time for artistic pursuits. Besides portraits, he painted landscapes of Lake Kinneret, Jaffa, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Netanya, Naharia and Tiberias. Some works are signed “Dfri” in Hebrew letters Daled, Peh, Resh, Yod.

He also enjoyed painting the Yarkon River views and Hadar Yosef, where we lived. Sympathetic to the impoverished Jews who had emigrated from Yemen, he portrayed beggars on the streets to express their plight. David Friedmann had captured the landscape of the beginnings of the Jewish state. Decades later, I had immense pleasure tracking down the dramatically changed scenery he painted, now difficult to find or nonexistent.

“Yemenite Jewish Beggar”, Oil, 1950. From a private collection
“Street between Tel Aviv and Jaffa”, Oil, ca 1950. From the Miriam Friedman Morris Collection

Israel was a new state in poor economic circumstances. Undeterred by his being 61-years-old, Friedmann set his ambitions on America, arriving in New York in 1954. He had to forget what was hidden in his heart, the paintings from the concentration camps and make a living. Straight from the boat he auditioned for the billboard company, General Outdoor Advertising (GOA). He painted as fast as possible, because only this would save our family from poverty. GOA did not care about his age or that he barely spoke English.

They were impressed with an accomplished artist who painted with astonishing speed — the same skill that saved his life in 1944 in Gleiwitz I where Friedmann had improvised with primitive materials, making his own paints and brushes out of camp supplies to paint a mural across a barrack’s wall in order to show the SS officers his artistic ability and spare him from death. What could he produce to impress them? He thought of the Havel River, painted in Berlin with “white clouds in the blue sky, trees, and in-between a few small houses with red roofs, water, white sailboats and their reflections on the surface of the water.”

“Havel River Landscape, Berlin”, Oil, 1923. This painting hung for decades in the home of Andrea Kress, who became curious about David Friedmann. She learned about the artist’s daughter’s pursuit for lost art and sent this photo.

GOA moved the family first to Chicago and then to St. Louis. After only fifteen months in America, Friedmann had been appointed to the top artist position at this branch. Instead of pictures from the concentration camps, he painted the iconic Clydesdales and happy folks selling beer on two-story tall billboards. The new career brought recognition and satisfaction with life in America. In 1960, the Friedmann family became proud United States citizens and symbolically dropped the double “n” spelling of the surname.

After retirement in 1962, his art would not be silent. He produced a second series of Holocaust art to fight antisemitism and race hatred of all people. The David Friedman Exhibition opened in Baltimore, Maryland in 1965, marking 20 years after liberation, and was even reported in the Israeli press.

David Friedmann adds final touches to his charcoal drawing, “Liberation?” The artist depicts himself as the prisoner with eyeglasses. (Photo: Peter Rosvik, St. Louis, Missouri, 1964)

Friedmann died at the age of eighty-six on February 27, 1980. He is recognized internationally with works on permanent display at the Holocaust History Museum, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem; the St. Louis Holocaust Museum & Learning Center; and the Sokolov Museum in the Czech Republic. His works are in the collections of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland; and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, among other institutions and museums. Exhibition venues include the Berlin Philharmonic Hall in Germany, the Terezín Memorial in the Czech Republic, the United Nations Headquarters and the German Consulate General in New York.

In 1954, Friedmann was among the first to win restitution from Germany for Nazi-looted art. The sum incorporated claims for all his looted property. He continued to fight for justice. In 1961, the International Supreme Restitution Court in Berlin adjudicated an upward adjustment.

This painting by David Friedmann was found in a 2002 catalog for auction house Joseph Weiner. Although titled “Stilleben”, the appropriate title is: “Vase mit Anemonen” / “Vase with Anemones”, Oil, 1923. Last known location: Haidhausen Kunst und Antiquitäten GmbH, Munich, Germany
“Liegender Häftling” (“Lying Prisoner”), Charcoal, 1945.  Last seen in Israel, the location of this drawing of a Gleiwitz I concentration camp prisoner is unknown. The drawing, one of eight from the collection of Zeev Shek, was intended as a donation by his widow Alisa Shek to the Yad Vashem Art Museum, Jerusalem. Three drawings from this collection are on permanent display at the Holocaust History Museum, Yad Vashem.

David Friedmann was a successful artist with both Jewish and non-Jewish clientele. Art was sold privately, at galleries, exhibitions and auctions. Fleeing the German Reich, most emigrants found it necessary to sell their art to finance an escape. Others managed to flee with their art.

Artwork often continues to find new owners — sold at auction or through private sales — purchased by people who are not known as collectors. Pieces are displayed on walls of family homes for generations, art they enjoyed all these years, not knowing the paintings have a history and the artist’s daughter is searching to find them. David Friedmann artwork has surfaced all over the world — the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, Belgium, England, France, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Poland, Israel, Australia, China, Canada and the United States. I have started to find his prewar art just over the last two decades.

Every painting to emerge is a victory against the German Reich. David Friedmann made important contributions both in the realms of 20th century art and in the creation of materials that play a powerful humanitarian role in educating people about the reality of the Holocaust.

My goal is to publish a catalogue of his works, evidence of the brilliant career the Nazis could not destroy.

Painted by David Friedmann in 1915 in the student atelier of Professor Lovis Corinth, Berlin, this is a rare surviving work from before World War I. After a decades long search, the author had the fortune to connect with the owner’s family and see the original painting in Israel in 2012.


For more about David Friedmann and to provide information you may have about existing works, please visit: or the “David Friedmann—Artist As Witness” Facebook page.


This article has been published as part of Gesher L’Europa, the National Library of Israel’s initiative to share stories and connect with people, institutions and communities in Europe and beyond.


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The Siddur That Survived the Nazis

This prayer book was published by Schocken in 1937, a year before Kristallnacht. Decades later, a reader at the National Library was surprised to find in it a clearly visible Nazi seal featuring a swastika...

A stamp featuring a Nazi "Imperial Eagle" clutching a swastika - the "Reichsadler", found on the siddur's title page, photo by Udi Edery

The synagogue in the current National Library of Israel building is located on the top floor. Observant visitors and employees gather here throughout the day to pray. For this purpose, the nearby reading rooms have siddurim (Jewish prayer books) available on their shelves. And so, not too long ago, a student working in the Music Department asked for a siddur so that she could take part in prayers.

Seder Avodat Israel, Schocken, 1937, the National Library of Israel collections, photo by Udi Edery

The young woman was given a siddur that was thicker, heavier and larger than usual, and began to pray. But as soon as she opened the book, she was utterly shocked to see a complete, perfectly clear stamp of the Nazi eagle, its claws clutching a swastika underneath it, surrounded by a caption in German – the Nazi Reichsadler. The seal appeared on the siddur‘s title page below the Hebrew caption which read: “Seder Avodat Israel, including prayers and blessings for the entire year, Shabbat portions and additions, selichot and additional prayers, with Yakin Lashon commentary, authored and edited by Rabbi Seligman Baer (Isaac Dov) Bamberger.”

The title page states that it is a revised edition, published by Schocken in the Hebrew year 5697, or 1937. A year later, the “Night of Broken Glass” – Kristallnacht – would take place, while the racist Nuremberg Laws were already in full effect at the time of publication. The Nazi stamp belonged to the Reichinstituts für Geschichte des neuen Deutschlands library, namely the “Reich Institute for the History of New Germany.”

The title page of Seder Avodat Israel, featuring the Nazi Reichsadler seal, Schocken, 1937, the National Library of Israel collections, photo by Udi Edery

Librarians at the National Library of Israel are very familiar with the stamp and with the Reich Institute, as the seal appears in many books in the library’s collections. The books were brought here immediately after World War II, following the Holocaust, by the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, Inc. organization. The group’s logo – a Star of David and the JCR’s name in Hebrew – also appears in the book.

The Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, Inc. logo in the siddur‘s bookplate (ex-libris), photo by Udi Edery

The siddur contains another piece of history: a Hebrew label indicating that it was printed under a contract with the M. Lehrberger and Co. publishing house in Frankfurt am Main, “who had the good fortune of publishing the first edition of Seder Avodat Israel.” The Schocken publishing house continued to operate in Germany even after the Schocken family immigrated to Mandatory Palestine, when this was still permitted in Nazi Germany. Books such as this one were printed right up until the beginning of the Holocaust. Like many books belonging to Jews in Germany and in German-occupied countries, they were looted and collected as part of the Nazi plan to document the culture which they were simultaneously systematically destroying.

“Printed under a contract with the M. Lehrberger and Co. publishing house in Frankfurt am Main, who had the good fortune of publishing the first edition of Seder Avodat Israel“, photo by Udi Edery

The original copies of Seder Avodat Israel were published in Rödelheim (a Frankfurt suburb) in 1868 and hundreds of editions were published throughout the years. Seligman Baer was a grammarian whose work focused primarily on prayers and piyyutim (Jewish liturgical hymns). The siddur was also designed to appeal to “modern” Jews who could read Hebrew but spoke German, thus the instructions do not appear in Yiddish but rather in German spelled with Hebrew letters. The commentary on the prayers and piyyutim is philological and summarizes modern research in addition to providing the traditional erudition. The siddur’s target audience was traditionally Orthodox Jews who were acquainted with European languages, Latin, as well as philology and Bible studies.

Seder Avodat Israel, Schocken, 1937, the National Library of Israel collections, photo by Udi Edery

Either way, if you are not a librarian at the National Library of Israel, and you are not accustomed to opening books and finding the Nazi seal in them, then encountering a siddur such as this one can come as a bit of a shock. Indeed, when one holds this prayer book in their hands, the eyes move naturally from the Nazi seal to the stamp of the “Jewish National and University Library”. How fierce is the irony of history – with this siddur now being put to use in Jerusalem, in the National Library of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.


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‘You never knew when there was going to be a pogrom’

Why my grandfather left Europe

Victims of the Khorkov Pogrom, 1919. From the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel

When I was six years old, I listened with fascination as my oldest brother interviewed our maternal grandfather, Isidore Weisner. As the youngest in the family, I sat cross-legged beneath the kitchen table, the only place in our cramped kitchen where I could find a spot.

“Grandpa, why did you leave Europe?” my brother asked.

“The pogroms, the pogroms were terrible, and you never knew when there was going to be a pogrom. I didn’t want to live that way, so I left.”

Grandpa died when I was 11, and in the half century since then, the questions I would have liked to ask him have multiplied exponentially. By studying life in Galicia, particularly for young men at the turn of the 20th century, I have begun to better understand the reasons why my  grandfather, like so many others, left his family and the country of his birth.

My grandfather was born in 1889 to Abraham Wiesner and Rose Fleisig. They lived in Kulikow (now Kulykiv, Ukraine), which was just north of Lemberg, Galicia’s provincial capital. Abraham worked as a grain merchant, a common occupation for Galician Jews. At that time, roughly 35% of Kulikow’s inhabitants were Jewish. My grandfather was the youngest of a large family. All his siblings later perished with their spouses and children in the Holocaust, except for one nephew.

Isidore Weisner’s mother Rose in Kulikow, 1926. Inscribed on the back of the photo in German: “A memento from your mother.” (Courtesy: Sharon Taylor)

But long before the cataclysm, in December of 1908, my 18-year-old grandfather left his home and made the long journey to Rotterdam, where he boarded a ship bound for Ellis Island. On the ship, with his funds dwindling, he befriended a well-to-do family who paid him to look after their young children. He spent the 12-day crossing teaching the children to play chess, a skill that has been passed down in my family through generations. He arrived in New York on January 5, 1909, where immigration officials recorded his name as Asryel Wiesner. Sometime after his arrival, eager to sound more American, he changed his first name to Isidore and the spelling of his surname to Weisner.

While most Jews left Galicia in the late 19th and early 20th century to seek better economic opportunities, my grandfather’s decision to emigrate was motivated by anti-Jewish violence. During his childhood, anti-Semitism was on the rise across the crownland. In the spring of 1898, when my grandfather was nine, The Standard of London reported “bread riots” in Lemberg which were quickly crushed. Although hunger was the motive there, the riots spread west and began to target Jews. Just 81 miles (130 kilometers) away in Przemysl, rioters entered the Jewish section of the city, ransacking Jewish homes and shops.  Despite Austrian military intervention, the attacks in Przemysl became so violent that on May 29, The Observer of London reported that “the entire Jewish population has fled.”

Jews and uniformed officials in Przemysl, ca. 1900. From the Folklore Research Center, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; part of the National Library of Israel Digital Collection

Throughout the spring and early summer of that year, anti-Jewish riots continued, mostly in western Galicia. Jewish homes were looted and then set on fire. Christians placed crucifixes, candles, and figurines of saints in their windows in an attempt to save their homes. The military was called to control the violence, but the rioting didn’t subside until the end of June when the equivalent of martial law was proclaimed in several of the most affected districts.

Unlike the pogroms of 1898, most Galician pogroms were local events that were never reported in English-language newspapers. In his book Shtetl Memoirs, author Joachim Schoenfeld gives several accounts of how more localized violence was a daily threat underlying Jewish life in Galicia around the turn of the century. In his hometown of Sniatyn (present-day Snyatyn, Ukraine), Jewish boys rarely ventured from the Jewish parts of town, and Jewish wagon drivers moved their merchandise in groups to avoid becoming targets of violence.

Victims of the Bialystock pogrom, 1905. From the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel

An unfavorable bargain in the market square or too much to drink at a wedding could easily turn into a pogrom, with peasants marching through the Jewish streets of the town yelling “Kill the Jews!” Jews were beaten, windows were broken, and shops were looted. Often, it was all over before authorities could arrive. According to Schoenfeld, the Jews of Sniatyn would spend the following days replacing windows and nursing bruises and broken bones, but it wasn’t long before the same peasants were back in the market square doing business with Jewish merchants as if nothing had happened.

A woman surveys her destroyed and ransacked home following the Kishinev Pogrom, 1903.  While the Kishinev Pogrom elicited outcry from around the world, pogroms were a common occurrence throughout Eastern Europe, often garnering little attention outside of the immediately impacted community. From the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel

It’s likely that this type of violence occurred in Kulikow, particularly around the time of the contentious election of 1907, which saw the National Democratic Party, with its anti-Semitic rhetoric, winning a number of seats in the Imperial Council in Vienna (the Reichsrat).

My grandfather began his journey to America the very next year. I will never know the details of the pogrom that caused him to leave Galicia, but if I could go back in time to that long-ago interview, that would be one of the first questions I would ask.


A variation of this article first appeared as part of “Leaving Galicia – Poverty, Pogroms, and Draft Evasion” in the March 2020 edition of The Galitzianer, the quarterly research journal of Gesher Galicia. It has been published here as part of Gesher L’Europa, the National Library of Israel’s initiative to share stories and connect with people, institutions and communities in Europe and beyond.


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