A New Poland

Poland map

The red symbol shows the location of Zolynia within the Second Republic of Poland, 1922-1939.


The Collapse of Austria-Hungary

By the end of September 1918, the German, Austrian and Turkish Empires were militarily and economically exhausted, crippled by food shortages and the approaching Allied armies. Poles, Serbs and Czechs were just some of the nationalities that were demanding their own nations. Emperor Charles attempted to hold the empire together, but he was in no position to enforce Habsburg rule anymore. The Austria-Hungary Dual Monarchy was ended and Hungary given permission to make its own peace with the Allies and form its own government. Though the Austrian Army would continue to fight until November 4, the empire was dissolving and the population was short of food and supplies of all kinds.

By the second week of October 1918, three competing committees in three different cities declared their own independent Polish state. Meanwhile, Ukrainians did not want to lose eastern Galicia to the Poles and set up their own West Ukrainian People's Republic with its capital at Lemberg, now renamed Lvov. Poles took control of the city, but Ukrainians controlled the countryside east of the San River. A provisional government would rule until the Paris Peace Conference could arbitrate the status of the many proposed new countries of Europe.

The Jewish Question

What would happen to the millions of Jews in the new Polish State? This question was being asked by Polish and Jewish leaders and thinkers. Jews themselves were split.

Jewish religious leaders had worked hard over the years to maintain recognition of Galician Jews as an official religious and linguistic minority, favoring a degree of separateness in order to maintain traditions and customs. This was an important factor in keeping Jewish culture alive throughout the Diaspora (the scattering of the Jewish people after their exile from Judea nearly 1,900 years before). A growing number of Jews saw this as a counterproductive policy that encouraged resentment and increased risk.

To some Poles, the new country should have a strong ethnic and cultural "Polishness" and the existence of minorities—Ukrainians, Jews, Germans and Belarusans were present in large numbers—with their own civic and educational institutions was unacceptable. Some Polish writers and politicians advocated mass "Polonization" of Jews and other minorities, including the universal adoption of the Polish language. The new nationalist Polish National Democratic Party openly urged economic and social boycotts against Jews that would force them to leave the former Galicia and other Polish provinces altogether. This "Jewish Question" would be a continual feature of Polish politics for the next twenty years.

The Pogroms of 1918 and 1919

Lvov's Jewish minority, caught between warring nationalities, declared its neutrality in the fighting between Poles and Ukrainians, an action that was resented by some Polish leaders and army officers for many years. On November 22, 1918, the Polish Army disarmed and arrested member of the Jewish militia that had been keeping order in the city's Jewish Quarter and told locals that, as a reward for the defeat of the Ukrainians, they had 48 hours to sack the Jewish neighborhood. By the time the army moved in again to restore order, scores of Jews were killed and many hundreds were wounded. Jews were not the only minorities attacked (many Ukrainians were also killed), but over the next several weeks there followed a series of pogroms, organized attacks on Jewish neighborhoods, throughout Eastern Poland, including places that had enjoyed generations of peace between the religious groups.

In Zolynia that December, villagers carried a two-day pogrom against their Jewish neighbors. Twelve Jews were injured, including an 80-year-old man, and homes and shops in the market area were looted and pillaged. An army unit based at Lancut was called by town officials, but took no action when it arrived and left after half an hour.

There was anti-Jewish violence in more than 100 other towns throughout Poland. In some countries, news of the pogroms was a blemish against Poland and reduced international sympathy for Polish autonomy. Delegates to the Paris Peace Conference insisted that Polish representatives sign a Minority Protection Treaty as a condition of formally recognizing Poland's independence. This treaty, signed in June 1919, contained language guaranteeing Polish citizens "total and complete protection of life and freedom" and civil and political rights regardless of "religion, creed or confession."

For many years some Polish politicians used the supposed lack of Jewish support for the Polish cause at Lvov as proof that Jews were not true Poles, but a foreign people living in Poland. In small country towns like Zolynia, it is apparent that many ethnic Poles saw their Jewish neighbors as allies of the Austrian regime, a regime which had held back their progress. Many Jews were worried about their futures and their place in the new Poland.


NY Times

The New York Times of June 1, 1919 reports on recent pogroms against Jewish residents in 110 towns in Poland, including "Zolynia (District of Lancut.)"


Zionism and Jewish Nationalism in Zolynia

With the pogrom of 1918 and the growing feeling that Polish nationalism did not include them, there was an explosion of Zionist activities in Zolynia and hundreds of other communities in the former Western Galicia. Zionism was an international political movement that advocated the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine (placed under British control after the First World War). There were numerous forms of Zionism in interwar Poland and at least half a dozen organizations would have branches in Zolynia, and there were a dozen groups based in Lancut, representing a wide range of religious and political perspectives.

The first organizations were the Tzionim Klalim (the General Zionists, largest and oldest coalition within the movement, generally moderate in ideology) and the Mizrachi (the Religious Zionists, Orthodox Jews opposed to the secular aspects of most types of Zionism). Eventually there were youth organizations of various philosophical outlooks, including Bnei Akiva (sponsored by the Religious Zionists), Hanoar Hatzioni (Jewish scouting organization) and Betar (a Jewish self-defense group, more militant in its call for mass Jewish immigration to Palestine). There would eventually be a Zolynia branch of WIZO (dedicated to the improvement of the status of women and children). Clearly, Zolynia's Jewish community was not of one political or religious mind. Many Orthodox Jews remained opposed to Zionism, who believed that some Zionist principles conflicted with strict reading of the Torah. However, most Jewish Zoliners were affiliated with a Zionist organization or program at one time or another.

Less than 5% of Polish Jews actually immigrated to Palestine between the wars. These Zionist organizations had other objectives at the local level. They were dedicated to Jewish education, enlightenment and advocacy in Zolynia and Poland. They offered classes in Hebrew, the language of Jewish religious rituals that many Zionists promoted as a unifying language to replace Yiddish, and in Jewish history. In 1919, a Jewish library and an adjacent reading room were opened in Zolynia. For many, Zionism was a way for Jews to send a message to their neighbors about pride, liberty and even resistence.

The number of Jews continue to decline, and so in 1921 lived in the town of 569 Jews, however, constitute 59.6% of the population, while in 1939 they lived here 598 With trade remained more than 68% of them, from agriculture, only 7.5%. Działało in Żołyni several associations: Chewra Missakim - an association to support the poor and philanthropy (1884 years), Gemilas Chesed, the leading money-free loan, and the Union of Jewish girls, and finally lot Mizrachi, consisting of Orthodox Jews, religious, youth organisations: Ha-Szomer, namely The guardian, the youth organisation of skautowskimi Akiba, or Agudat ha-ha Noar-Iwri "Akiba" - Rebel Youth Hebrajskiej "Akiwa", associated with moderate Zionism, and for 1932 years, teaching association Ha-szachar (Morning Star). Jewish employed 9 officials, including such as the rabbi, rzezak, gabaj whether dajan. The last rabbi was Aron Kornreich, and the chairman of the board of the Jewish community - Zolta Ireiczman.

The New Poland

It would take several years of negotiations, agreements, declarations, treaties and a major war with the new Bolshevik-controlled Soviet Union before the borders of the Second Polish Republic were finalized and recognized by the world community. For the next twenty years, there would be an ideological battle between those who saw Poland as a multicultural society and those who saw it primarily as a place for Poles alone. Meanwhile, the Jews of Zolynia were asserting their identity as they never had before.



Zionist club in Zolynia, 1920s. The name of the organization on the sign is not legible.

Shekel 1925

An example of a Zionist Shekel, issued by Mizrachi (the Religious Zionists) in 1925. This particular certificate was purchased in the town of Szydlowiec, about 100 miles north of Zolynia.


More Information

From 1898 on, Jews around the world who were at least 18 years old could purchase a "Shekel" from a local Zionist organization. The Shekel, named for an ancient Jewish coin, was a certificate that entitled the purchaser to vote in the elections for the World Zionist Congress. The Zionist Congress usually met every other year and made policy for the international Zionist movement. Women coupld participate in these elections, even before they could participate in elections in most European countries or the United States. In some parts of the world, this was the closest thing Jews had to citizen participation in democracy.

In 1935, the lone year for which we have results, Zolynia Jews purchased 120 Shekels, a very high rate of participation. 119 were purchased through the Tzionim Klalim (General Zionists) and one was purchased through the Mizrachi (Religious Zionists). The cost of a Shekel at that time was the equivalent of 50 U.S. cents (about $7.39 in 2007 U.S. currency). The funds were used to fund international Zionist projects, including the establishment of Jewish colonies in Palestine. The selling of Shekels was discontinued after the establishment of Israel.


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