Mostyska district, Lviv region

Holocaust memorial in the Jewish cemetery in Mostyska, 2019
Holocaust memorial in the Jewish cemetery in Mostyska, 2019
Year - Total Population - Jews

1880  - 4,181  - 2,123
1890  - 4,314  - 2,230
1900  - 4,676  - 2,548
1910  - 4,778  - 2,574
1921  - 4,751  - 2,328
1931 -       ?    - 2,330
- Pinkas Hakehillot Polin: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume II, page 317-319, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem. Translated by  Jerrold Landau, JewishGen, Inc.

- Jewish Cemeteries Initiative. Mostyska Jewish Cemetery
Mościska (ukr. Mostyska, Мостиська) was established in the 14th century on the foundations of the village that preceded it, and received the status of a royal town in 1404. The Wallachians and Tatars invaded Mościska in 1498 and set it on fire. Mościska was destroyed by the Cossacks in 1648, and the local church was set on fire, with the many refugees who sought refuge there inside.

Mościska was a fortress city during the 18th century, surrounded by dirt trenches, with a fortified tower next to it. Since Mościska was located on the main route between Lwуw and Przemyśl, favorable conditions for the development of commerce and trade were formed there. During the 19th century, the horse fairs that took place there became famous.

During the 1880s, approximately 12 home–based weavers and 160 tradesmen of various trades lived there. The following were among the small–scale manufacturing enterprises in the city: a brick kiln, a beer brewery, and two flourmills. During the 19th century, Mościska was connected to the railway line (three kilometers from the city), and barracks for the garrison were built. The city was not damaged greatly during the First World War.

The first information about Jews in Mościska comes from documents from 1567. A year later, the city was granted a privilege, according to which Jews were forbidden to live in Mościska, and especially to purchase houses and do business there.

However, the ban was not observed meticulously, for after about 50 years, a document exists regarding the “apostate” Yitzchak, a resident of Mościska; and in the years 1643–1646, the Jews Chaim Hirsch the son of Shmuel, Leib, and Zemel lived in Mościska, as well as a Jewish woman, Leib's wife.

Apparently, the community was completely destroyed during the tribulations of Tach v' Tat[1] and was reestablished only during the 18th century. The Jewish community continued to develop during the second half of the 19th century, and its population reached 50% of the residents of the city.

The first Jews of Mościska earned their living from leasing, innkeeping, trade of servants, the wine business, and spices. In the middle of the 18th century, there were also several tradesmen, especially tailors and furriers, among the Jewish population.
The number of merchants, as well as stall owners on market and fair days and peddlers in the villages increased with the development of the Jewish settlement during the 19th century.

Business was primarily in the hands of the Jews. The number of Jewish tradesmen increased. During the 1880s, there were 14 Jewish tailors out of the 25 in the city. This proportion was similar with the furriers, carpenters, glassmakers, and butchers. The garrison in the city was also a source of livelihood for the Jewish merchants and tradesmen.

The professional structure of the Jews of Mościska did not change during the inter–war period. In 1936, loans according to profession issued by the charitable fund (founded in Mościska in 1928) were as follows: 168 small–scale merchants, 93 tradesmen, 30 laborers, 22 farmers, and 48 various. Approximately 12 Jews earned their livelihoods as wagon drivers (transporting loads and travelers to the railway station). Two Jewish physicians and two Jewish lawyers lived in the city from the end of the 19th century.

The economic situation of the Jews of Mościska declined progressively during the inter–war period, especially during the 1930s when the merchants and tradesmen had to withstand an anti–Jewish boycott and competition from the Polish and Ukrainian cooperatives. The butchers were forced to restrict the scope of their work due to restrictions on the quotas of kosher slaughter during the years 1937–1938.

The peddlers were afraid to go out to the villages from fear of attacks by incited hooligans. The charitable fund came to the aid of the Jewish merchants and tradesmen. At the heights of its activity in 1935–1936, 368 loans totaling 14,355 zloty were issued.

There was also a local commercial bank affiliated with the merchants' union, which granted loans to those in need, and even donated a great deal to the social and benevolent institutions (the Hebrew school, Bikur Cholim [society to tend to the sick] and others).
An independent community with traditional institutions existed in Mościska already during the 18th century. It was numbered among the communities of the district of Przemyśl in the state of Reisin. From among the local rabbis of this era, we know of Rabbi Meir Chaza'k.

At the beginning of the 19th century Rabbi Simcha Meir Elenberg served in the holy post of Mościska. He later moved to Lwуw, where he died in 1859. Rabbi Yosef Chanania–Lipa Meisels, the author of Kelilat Tiferet, served on the rabbinical seat during the 1880s.
Rabbi Shalom the son of Uri HaKohen Yolles, formerly the rabbi of Nowa–Miasto, was appointed as rabbi in 1896. He became rabbi of Stryj in 1904. Rabbi Shalom made aliya to Jerusalem, where he died in 1925.

Rabbi Chaim–Nachum the son of Rabbi Moshe Halberstam, a scion of the Sanz (Nowy Sacz) dynasty, was chosen as rabbi of Mościska in 1905. In addition to his service as rabbi of the city, Rabbi Chaim–Nachum led a Hassidic court, and was known as the Admor of Mościska.
After his death in 1921, Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, also a scion of the Sanz dynasty, inherited his seat (and apparently both of his crowns). Rabbi Moshe perished during the Holocaust period. Rabbi Yitzchak Rozenfeld (perished in the Holocaust) served as rabbi of the city between the two world wars.

Toward the end of the 19th century, most of the Jews of Mościska were Hassidim of the Sanz–Sieniawa sect, and the minority were of Dynow–Blazowa. There were also Hassidim of the Rizhin–Sadagora sect.
The Hassidim of Sanz were the chief spokesmen in the kloiz, which was built at that time. They also controlled the communal council.

Buds of the movement for the dissemination of Haskalah [secular learning] and the Zionist idea appeared in Mościska relatively early. Already in 1865, the Jewish physician Rand set up a Talmud Torah in which the German and Polish languages were taught for two hours a day. The children succeeded very well in the exams.

Therefore, Baron Gutkowski of the local nobility donated 400 florins to the Talmud Torah. Through the influence of several members of the professional intelligentsia (physicians and lawyers) who did not separate from the community, as they did in other communities of Galicia, the communal council approached the fund of Baron Hirsch in 1899 with a request to found a Jewish school through that fund, but we do not know if the matter came to fruition.

In 1902, we know of the existence of a local Zionist organization. Despite the harsh opposition of the Hassidim, this organization set up courses in secular studies and the Hebrew language, and even put on performances in an amateur theater.

During the years 1902–1906, the stream of Jewish refugees from Russia increased, and an aid organization was even set up in Mościska to provide them with tickets to travel to their destination abroad, among other things.

A chapter of Poalei Zion was set up in Mościska through the efforts of these refugees. The lawyer Ignace Karner stood at the head of the “Techiat Yisrael” Zionist organization that was set up in Mościska at that time. He was a member of the leadership committee of the city council and the vice chairman of the city. The other Jewish lawyer in the city, Gustav Pisek, was active in the Poalei Zion chapter.

In 1907, “Chevrat Beit Yisrael” was established. Its members included the children of Hassidim, Socialists, Zionists, students, and members of the intelligentsia. The declared aim of this organization was to assist local Jews “in the realm of livelihood, and financial and moral aid.” The aforementioned Ignace Karner headed that organization.

In 1908, the “Agudat Achim” Zionist organization was established in Mościska,” and its membership grew to more than 50 people within a half a year. A library was opened alongside “Agudat Achim.” The “Agudat Achim” organization continued to exist and conduct organizational and social–cultural activity throughout the entire inter–war period.

The Zionist movement in Mościska grew continually through those years and its influence in the communal institutions, in the Jewish representation in the city council, and in the cultural–education realm was decisive. The following Zionist organizations were set up in addition to “Agudat Achim”: Achva and Hitachdut (and Hitachdut–Poalei Zion during the 1930s).

A chapter of Hashomer Hatzair was set up in 1919, and an aid organization was opened in 1923. In 1928, a Hebrew youth organization was set up, which later changed its name to Hanoar Hatzioni. For a period of time, a chapter of the Akiba youth existed in Mościska. 621 shekel payers voted in the elections to the Zionist Congress of 1935. Their votes were as follows: 220 for the General Zionists, 5 for Mizrachi, 301 for the Working Land of Israel List, 41 for Miflagat Hamedina, and 34 for the Radical Zionists.

As has been stated, the Zionists formed most of the Jewish representatives on the city council. In the city council elections of 1927, 23 Jews were elected to the block of three nationalities (Poles, Ukrainians, and Jews). Most of them were Zionists or Zionist collaborators such as the representative of Yad Charutzim (an organization set up locally at the end of the 19th century).

In the elections to the city council in 1933, six Jews were elected out of twelve members of the council. These included three Zionists, one from the Orthodox, one from the populist list (leaning toward Communism), and one unaffiliated.
Two Jewish lists were represented in the elections of 1939, one for the General Zionists who formed a block with the merchants and Agudas Yisroel, and the second was of Poalei Zion. Five representatives were elected from the first block, and not even one from the second block. The Zionist lawyer Bradfeld was elected as vice chairman.

The Zionist federation in Mościska maintained a large hall with a library containing up to 3,000 books.
During the inter–war period, a supplementary Hebrew school with two grades operated in Mościska.
An aid organization for poor students was set up in 1927, which provided winter clothes for the needy, as well as festive clothing and underclothes at Passover time.

Two Jewish sporting organizations existed in Mościska at that time (we do not know the duration of their existence): Hashachar (founded in 1923), and Hapoel (founded in 1934).
The Second World War

The German Army entered around the middle of September 1939. During their two–week rule, the Jews were persecuted, especially by the Ukrainians, who beat and tortured them. Several people were murdered by Ukrainian thugs. When the Soviets entered Mościska at the end of September 1939, the Jews received them with feelings of relief, but they quickly tasted the heavy hand of the new regime: a ban on private business and trade, a ban on political parties, confiscation of merchandise inventory, and the imprisonment and interrogation of wealthy individuals and communal activists. Three Zionist workers were deported to the interior of Russia. Several Jewish Communists participated in the local government. A Jew was appointed as the commander of the militia.

After the war between Germany and the Soviet Union broke out (June 22, 1941), the Soviets left Mościska, along with the youth who had enlisted in the Red Army as well as Jews who were officials or had served in the militia.

The city was conquered by the Germans on June 27, 1941. The first act of retribution by the local Ukrainians was the accusation of 20 Jews of being Communists. These people were held in the Sukol sport field for an entire day. Six were then freed (perhaps through private intercession and the involvement of several Ukrainians, and perhaps by bribery), whereas 14 were shot on the spot by the Germans.

Many decrees were imposed upon the Jews. They were forced to pay fines, and their property was confiscated. The Ukrainian policemen would enter the homes of the Jews and pillage anything that came to their hands. The Jews had to wear the armband with the Star of David. The Jews of the surrounding villages were ordered to leave their property and move to Mościska.

Through this, the Jewish population in the town grew to approximately 3,500. Men were snatched daily for forced labor, and were beaten and tortured along the way. Groups of Jews were arrested and freed in exchange for ransom.
The German authorities ordered the establishment of a Judenrat, which was headed by the female physician, Dr. Kibic. The members of the Judenrat that we know of included: Lipa Rachas, Nathan Kizel, Dr. Katz, and Brifwechsler. A few weeks after they were appointed, two members of the Judenrat disappeared during a journey to Lwуw. They were certainly murdered there.

Throughout the year and a half of the existence of the Jewish community under German occupation, the Jews of Mościska were afflicted several times with snatchings to labor camps, especially to the Janowska Camp in Lwуw. The German and Ukrainian policemen surrounded the town, and snatched men in the houses and on the streets.
The largest hunt apparently took place in May 1942. The police captured 500 men from age 16 to 60 at that time, and sent them to the Sambor, Jaktorуw, and Janowska camps.

Witnesses speak with praise of the Judenrat, and especially recall their activities in saving the prisoners in the camps. Dr. Kibic is especially noted. She maintained constant contact with the German mayor, the officials of the German Arbeitsamt [Work office], as well as with the directors of the camps. She bribed them and obtained exemptions of deportation or release of the Jews from the camp in cases where the families were able to pay a large ransom.
Other Judenrat members, as well as the family of the prisoners, would travel to the camps to bring packages to the prisoners, and to attempt to free them. Dr. Kibic was killed on one such trip.

During the negotiations for the release of several Jews from the Brodki Camp, she was denounced to the German authorities and shot on the spot. After her death, the dentist Alexander Kac was appointed as chairman of the Judenrat. He was also praised by the former residents of Mościska. He was very active in the area of assisting the impoverished members of the community.

We do not know exactly the date of the murder of six young Jews who were hospitalized in the city hospital of Mościska in 1942, with the pretext that they were incurable. The information of a special aktion against the children that year is not definitively believable. It is stated that the parents were forced to bring their children up to the age of six to the police.

We do not know the exact date of the liquidation aktion in Mościska. The dates of October 12, 1942 and November 28, 1942 are mentioned in sources. The Gestapo men conducted the aktion. The police surrounded the town toward morning, and removed the Jews from their homes. The sick, elderly, and anyone attempting to escape were shot on the spot.

The firemen and other locals assisted in capturing the Jews, joining the policemen and pointing out the Jewish houses. According to various sources of information, from 1,200–2,000 Jews were captured in that aktion, and several hundred were killed. A selektion took place during the aktion. Men fit for work were transferred to the Janowska camp, and the rest were sent to the Belzec death camp.
It is possible that all were first brought to Lwуw, where those to be sent to be killed at Belzec were identified. The Germans left a group of Jews, mainly women, in Mościska, to take inventory of the property that was left behind in the homes of the deportees. Employees of the German company for the purchase and enumeration of trash and excavations also remained behind.

Before or immediately after the liquidation aktion, the surviving Jewish residents of the nearby villages (including the village of Strzelczyska) were gathered in Mościska. In December 1942, a few weeks after the aktion, the police gathered all the Jews who were in Mościska at that time and brought them to the Jaworуw Ghetto. Only the trash collectors remained. They lived in one building. The town was declared Judenrein. The trash collectors were also murdered after some time.

A not–insignificant number of Jews remained in hiding in the area with farmers or in the forests. Already during the era of the snatchings for the camp, the Jews prepared hiding places for themselves, in which they hid during the searches and later during the liquidation aktion. Some escaped to the nearby fields and forests, returning to their homes when the danger passed.

A few left Mościska with the help of Aryan documents, even going to work in Germany as Aryans. Two Jews of the town, the graphic artists Moshe Kaselman and his assistant Yeshaya Wachspress, prepared many such forged documents.

Several tens of Jews survived from among the pre–war residents of Mościska: ten came out of their hiding places, two went through the war with the help of Aryan documents, and 40 spent the time in the Soviet Union. However, these survivors did not return to settle in their hometown. Rather, they scattered throughout the entire world.
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