Galicia. Boundaries shown are ca. 1914.

Find more information about

at the Center for Jewish History:

NOTE: you will be redirected
to the Web site for the


Region in southeastern Poland and northwestern Ukraine. Galicia existed as a crown land of the Habsburg Empire from the time of the first partition of Poland in 1772 until the end of World War I in 1918. (The name Galicia, or Galizien, was derived from Halicz, a city with nearby salt mines.) It included the districts of Zamość, Sandomierz, and Chełm until these were annexed to the Grand Duchy of Warsaw in 1809. During the Congress of Vienna (1814–1815), Austria gained back the regions of Tarnopol (Ukr., Ternopil’) to the east, which it had ceded to the Russian Empire in 1809, and Kraków to the west. Kraków itself gained the status of a free city and remained so until after the Polish uprising of 1846, when it became an Austrian territory.

The Jewish population of Galicia stood out in its traditional character, which made it a comfortable base for the absorption of the Hasidic movement, on the one hand, and the development of the Haskalah, on the other. Here Hasidic dynasties established their courts, including those of Belz, Sandz (Sącz), Ruzhin, and Chortkiv (Czortków). From this region also came maskilim, such as Yehudah Leib Mieses, Yosef Perl, Yitsḥak Erter, Me’ir Letteris, Naḥman Krochmal, and Shelomoh Yehudah Rapoport. During the second half of the nineteenth century, Jews of Galicia were noteworthy for their political participation in affairs of the state and for establishing modern institutions and societies that gave appropriate expression to this activism.

From Annexation until Emancipation (1772–1867)

In 1772, when Galicia was annexed to the Habsburg Empire, there were between 150,000 and 200,000 Jews living there (5–6.5% of the total population). By 1857, the number had risen to 449,000 (9.6%). In 1900, Galician Jews numbered 811,000 (11.1%) and in 1910 about 872,000 (10.9%). Because of the national composition of Galicia, the Jewish population often served to tip the scales in elections. In 1870, for example, Poles made up 88 percent of the population of West Galicia and its capital of Kraków, with Rusyns (Ruthenians) at 4 percent and Jews at 7.5 percent. In East Galicia, with its capital of Lemberg (Lwów; Ukr., L’viv), Poles that year only numbered 20.7 percent, Rusyns 65.8 percent, and Jews 12.5 percent. The picture differs somewhat if we look at the percentage of Jews in the cities. In 1880, Jews made up 75 percent of the residents of 8 cities, among them Brody and Borislav (Borisław), and between 50 and 75 percent of 55 cities, including Rzeszów, Drogobych (Drohobycz), Tarnopol, Buchach (Buczacz), Stanislau (Stanisławów; now Ivano-Frankivs’k), and Kolomea (Kołomyja; Ukr., Kolomyia). In another 68 cities, Jews represented between 25 and 50 percent of the total population. The largest Jewish community in 1880 was that of Lemberg, numbering 31,000 (31% of the entire city). In 1910, the number of Jews in Lemberg had grown to 57,000 (now only 21% of the entire population). In 1880, Jews in Kraków numbered 20,000, rising to 32,000 by 1910.

View of synagogue (right), Myślenice (now in Poland), ca. 1910. (YIVO)

Legal Status. During the first period of Galicia’s annexation to the Habsburg Empire, Jewish life was run according to the General Order for the Jews of the Crown Lands of Galicia and Lodomeria (Latin for Volhynia), decreed by Empress Maria Theresa in 1776. Jewish leadership was comprised of a national directorate numbering twelve elders, six of whom sat in Lemberg and the other six in each of Galicia’s six administrative districts. Heading the directorate was Rabbi Aryeh Leib Bernstein of Brody, who was named the crown land rabbi (Landesrabiner) of Galicia. This leadership was, to some extent, a continuation of Jewish autonomy dating from the Polish period, enabling Maria Theresa to ignore the new population that had been added to her empire except for tax purposes. In lieu of the per capita tax customary in the kingdom of Poland–Lithuania, Maria Theresa instituted a tolerance tax. Jews who failed to make regular payments were expelled. A tax was also levied on marriage registration.

After 15 years of joint rule with his mother, Joseph II became sole emperor in 1780. He inaugurated a regime of enlightened absolutism and instituted a series of reforms from above. A preliminary edict for the Jews of Galicia was published in 1785 abolishing the Jewish directorate, the position of crown land rabbi, and the independent judicial authority of rabbinic courts. The primary objective was to abrogate the corporate status of the Jewish community and to integrate Jews in the general population. Joseph promulgated the Edict of Toleration (Toleranzpatent) for the Jews of Galicia in 1789, the most progressive to date of all similar acts regarding the status of Jews in the other crown lands.

The edict opened with the declaration that henceforth Jews would be placed on an equal footing with the rest of the population in terms of both rights and duties. Indeed, the new proclamation permitted the integration of urban Jews, who could now vote and be elected to municipal office. It abolished many residential restrictions and permitted Jews to purchase property and to engage in crafts and industry, in particular encouraging them to work in agriculture. Since Joseph wanted to transform Jews into productive citizens according to contemporary conceptions, he placed restrictions on leasing inns in villages and living in rural areas other than for the purpose of performing agricultural work. The edict also required Jewish children to attend German Jewish schools and to earn a diploma before pursuing Talmudic studies; this was amended shortly thereafter to permit concurrent study. In addition, the Jews of Galicia were required to adopt surnames and could not use Yiddish or Hebrew in official documents. The edict also obligated them to perform military service, but allowed them to serve in transport units where they could observe their religion. The provision ordering them to give up their Polish garb for German attire was rescinded shortly after the promulgation of the edict. Legislators soon permitted Jews to substitute monetary payments for military service. Among the various taxes levied upon the Jews of Galicia in the wake of the edict were the Tolerance Tax, a tax for the support of the Jewish educational fund, and a tax on kosher meat.

Mapat erets Galitsi‘en u-Bukovina’ (Map of Galicia and Bucovina). Avigdor Ya‘akov ha-Levi Horowitz Meisels, Czernowitz, 1877. Ink and watercolor. Jewish Museum, Vienna. (Image courtesy of the Jewish Museum, Vienna)

As a result of the edict, Jewish society in Galicia lost all the institutional mechanisms of a nationwide leadership. In place of traditional kahals, 141 religious communities (the number at the time the edict was promulgated) were established. Rabbinic courts continued to function only as courts of arbitration, but no longer had authority to take punitive action or enforce sanctions. Although every community could appoint a cantor and teacher of religion (Religionsweiser), the formal title of rabbi was limited to district rabbis. The latter were responsible for the teachers of religion and for ritual slaughterers, as well as for the registration of births, marriages, and deaths in the areas of their jurisdiction. The new communities functioned in a manner similar to those that had been abolished, but there was no institutional mechanism that bound them together.

Within the framework of Joseph’s educational policy, which mandated compulsory education for every child in the empire, each Jewish community had to establish a German Jewish school (Normalschul) where children would be taught arithmetic, reading, and writing in German. In 1787, Herz Homberg, a maskil from Bohemia, was appointed to supervise the project. Most of the teachers were recruited from Bohemia. The locals called them “Daitchen” because of their German appearance and demeanor. In a few years, more than 100 such schools, accommodating about 4,000 pupils, were established. In addition, a teacher-training seminary was established in Lemberg, as well as schools for girls in that city and in Brody. However, the rabbis and Jewish residents of Galicia regarded the “German” teachers with suspicion, fearing that the schools would bring about the destruction of their religion. As a result, they tried to keep children from attending—even paying fines if necessary. 

Following the death of Joseph II in 1790, complaints and protests against these schools increased, with more and more parents refusing to send their children to them. The financial situation in the Christian schools was even worse, so when funding ran out the Austrian authorities decided to transfer the money from the Jewish educational fund to the Christian one. As a result, in 1806 all German Jewish schools were closed and Jewish children were allowed into Christian schools. Joseph’s death also signaled a retreat from other aspects of the policy of toleration and a renewal of many earlier restrictions on Jewish residence and employment. Moreover, special taxes were levied upon the Jews, the most difficult of which was the Candle Tax, which replaced the Tolerance Tax. Couples who wished to marry first had to pass an examination based upon Homberg’s German religious and moral textbook Bne-Zion.

A commercial street with shops, including the hat store of W. Weisshar (left), Tarnopol (now Ternopil’, Ukr.), ca. 1910. (Jewish Museum Vienna)

Religious and Cultural Life.

Despite reactionary policies, religious and cultural life flourished. Among the prominent rabbis of this period were Ya‘akov Orenstein, Shelomoh Kluger, Yosef Sha’ul Natanson, Yosef ha-Kohen Heller, Tsevi Hirsh Chajes, and Dov Berush Meisels. This was also the period in which the Hasidic movement began to spread throughout Galicia. In 1816, the court of the Belz dynasty was established by Shalom Rokeaḥ, followed by that of Sandz by Ḥayim Halberstam in 1830. In the 1840s, Yisra’el of Ruzhin fled the Russian Empire and headed to Bucovina, which had been annexed administratively to Galicia. After receiving permission to settle there, he established his court in Sadagora.

Although in the early decades of the nineteenth century several rabbis tried to combat the spread of Hasidism, the most vigorous opposition came from the maskilim, whose numbers grew during the first half of the century. Many maskilic works, often presented as sophisticated satires, were devoted to this struggle. The best known among these were written by Yosef Perl and Yitsḥak Erter. Other maskilim, such as Naḥman Krochmal, wrote works of philosophy, while others, including Shelomoh Yehudah Rapoport and later Salomon Buber, produced scholarly works in the field of Jewish studies. During this period, Jewish schools were established in a number of communities. The school founded by Yosef Perl in Tarnopol in 1813, when that city was still under Russian rule, was recognized by the Austrian authorities in 1818. In Brody, a Realschule, aimed at preparing students to enter commerce, was started in 1815. Other schools were established in Kraków (1830), Lemberg (1844), and Bolechów (1856). A group of Jews decided in 1840 to establish a progressive synagogue, later called the Tempel, in Lemberg with a choir and sermons conducted in German. Four years later Abraham Kohn, a rabbi in Hohenems, was invited to serve as preacher. There had been a similar initiative in Kraków in 1843, and in 1868, the preacher Shim‘on Dankowicz received his salary from the Jewish community. Unlike in Lemberg, however, the sermon was delivered in Polish.

From Emancipation through the End of Empire (1867–1918)

The 1848 revolution aroused hope among Jews for a change in their legal status and brought in its wake a rapprochement between Jews and Poles. The latter supported the abolition of the Candle Tax as well as the tax on kosher meat and called for the authorities to grant Jews full civic equality. When the events of the revolution turned increasingly violent, Orthodox Jewish zealots exploited the situation and intensified their campaign against Abraham Kohn. In September 1848, after several months of continued attacks against him and his family, a local Jew poisoned Kohn, who died the following morning.

Jewish man on market day, Kolbuszowa, Poland, 1929. (YIVO)

The resulting shock, coupled with the suppression of the revolution, brought about a temporary calm in the community. Following the nullification of the revolutionary constitution, which had granted Jews civic equality, their legal status remained uncertain. Their lot improved in 1859, following the return of the liberals to power in Austria. The requirement of taking an examination before marriage was subsequently abolished (1859), as were restrictions on living in villages (1860). Restrictions prohibiting Jews from entering the civil service were similarly lifted, and voices were heard in the Austrian parliament favoring the granting of civic equality.

In December 1867, the Austrian constitution was issued. It abolished all restrictions connected with religious observance, granted universal equality before the law, and allowed freedom of religion and conscience. Its fifteenth article provided a legal basis for the continued existence of Jewish religious communities. In 1868, a discussion was held in the Galician Sejm (parliament) concerning the ratification of articles of the constitution involving Jews. Although there were some who still supported continuing the restrictions, full civic equality of the Jews of Galicia was upheld. Despite the fact that many major articles of the constitution existed only on paper, it signaled a new period in the history of Galician Jewry, especially in terms of freedom of association and political activity. The first direct parliamentary elections for seats in the Austrian parliament were held in 1873, resulting in four Jews being elected from East Galicia, all of whom joined the ranks of the Liberals. At the same time, the Jewish candidate elected from Kraków chose to join the Polish bloc in the conservative wing of parliament. The following year Jewish mayors were elected in 10 cities in Galicia. In 45 cities, Jews represented the majority on the municipal councils. In large cities, however, the number of Jews elected to these councils was much lower. In the 150-member Sejm there were generally no more than five Jews. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, there were four Jewish professors out of a total of 166 at the universities of Kraków and Lemberg.

Political and Cultural Trends. The liberal atmosphere in Austria that gave rise to the constitution, whose leading proponents were mostly Austrian Germans, strengthened the pro-German liberal intelligentsia in Jewish society in Galicia. This intelligentsia, comprised of physicians, lawyers, and others in the free professions, some of whom were graduates of universities in Galicia or Vienna, supported the centralist Austrian policy. Above all, they feared granting Polish autonomy to Galicia, a trend that seemed more and more realistic after the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867. In 1868, members of the intelligentsia formed an association called Shomer Yisra’el and started a German-language newspaper named Israelit, written in the spirit of liberalism of that period; the publication existed for about 35 years.

Mandolin orchestra at a high school in Stanislau (now Ivano-Frankivs’k, Ukr.), 1910. (YIVO)

In 1878, the Shomer Yisra’el society organized a conference in Lemberg in an attempt to breathe new life into the Jewish communities. With the exception of Kraków, representatives of the 26 largest communities in Galicia participated and discussed a uniform communal statute for Galicia and the establishment of a rabbinical seminary. The organizers of the conference also wanted to establish a general association of Galician Jews that could function as a representative body. Orthodox circles, however, feared that although they were a majority within the communities, they might quickly become politically marginalized. Most troubling for them was the intention to set up a rabbinical seminary in Galicia and the possibility that the region might follow the lead of Germany and Hungary in terms of religious reform. The following year a group of Orthodox political activists who had gained political experience within their communities founded a society called Makhzikey ha-Das. The society published a Hebrew-language newspaper under the same name that lasted for more than 30 years. Shim‘on Sofer, the rabbi of Kraków, was called upon to head the society, and Yehoshu‘a Rokeaḥ, the rabbi of Belz, took it under his auspices. In the parliamentary elections of 1879, Sofer won a seat in the Austrian parliament and joined the Polish bloc. In a few years, the association had some 40,000 members.

Within little more than 10 years the pro-German political and cultural orientation of Shomer Yisra’el became an anomaly on the political and cultural scene in Galicia, a result of the home rule the Austrian government had granted Poles in exchange for support of the government coalition. The local administration now conducted its affairs in Polish. After a few years, Polish civil servants replaced most of the Austrians in Galicia. There was a flowering of Polish culture, which had been suppressed since the partition of 1772. Polish became the language of instruction in universities as well as in most schools, and the study of Polish history and literature was emphasized.

As a result, a generation of Jewish graduates of Polish schools and gymnasia, which felt at home with Polish culture, arose in Galicia. In their desire to change the Germanic orientation that typified the previous generation, they established in 1881 a Polish-language newspaper called Ojczyzna (Homeland), which aimed to bring about the Polonization of Galician Jews. During the first six years of its existence, Ojczyzna appeared with a supplement in Hebrew called Ha-Mazkir ahavah le-erets moladeto (The Reminder of Love for His Homeland), or in short, Ha-Mazkir. In 1882, a new association called Agudas Akhim (Przymierze Braci), was founded, which took the newspaper under its wing and set up a network of reading clubs and Polish-language courses for youth. Its leaders were Bernard Goldman and Nathan Loewenstein from the older generation, and Wilhelm Feldman and Alfred Nossig, from the younger.

Among the three associations—the pro-German, the Orthodox, and the pro-Polish—there were many ideological and political struggles. These reached a peak in 1882, when Makhzikey ha-Das organized a large conference in Lemberg, attended by 200 rabbis and 300 communal representatives. The conference approved its own uniform communal statute for Galicia, which required that the Jewish community councils conduct their affairs in accordance with the Shulḥan ‘arukh. Moreover, it was declared that only observant Jews should be allowed to vote or run for office in the community councils. These guidelines were submitted to the government offices for approval. The Shomer Yisra’el society organized a protest, and government approval was eventually denied. Since the incident occurred around the time of elections for the Jewish community council in Lemberg, the struggle among the different organizations became more heated. The newspaper of Makhzikey ha-Das threatened with excommunication any voters who supported nonobservant candidates. Since excommunication was considered an illegal act in Galicia ever since the Toleration Edict of Joseph II, the members of Agudas Akhim translated the text of the excommunication into Polish and called for the legal authorities to intervene. In the end, the attempts by Makhzikey ha-Das to divide the communities into Orthodox and Progressive along the lines of the German and Hungarian models failed because the Austrian government vehemently refused to allow such a schism in Galicia.

Paper Cut. Mosheh ben Aharon, Galicia, ca. 1875. Colored papers, ink, cut, written. This paper cut functioned not only as a mizrekh, a decoration indicating the correct direction of prayer, but also as a yortsayt tablet for the artist's parents. While it was common for Galician paper cuts to feature lions, the other animals depicted in this example (elephant, otter, beaver, leopard, wild boar) are unusual. (Gross Family Collection)

These differing cultural and political orientations were expressed in the literature and art of Galicia’s Jews. The best-known writer was Karl Emil Franzos, a native of Czortków, whose descriptions of Jewish life in Galicia were critical, yet sympathetic. Franzos’s books depicted Hasidic courts, the burdens of everyday life, and the relationships between Galicia’s Jews and their Polish and Rusyn neighbors. Writing in German, Franzos remained a staunch advocate of German culture and objected to the Polonization of the Jews of Galicia. An important Jewish artist was Maurycy Gottlieb, who was born in Drogobych and studied at the Academy of Art in Kraków. Gottlieb absorbed Polish cultural influences and tried to build a bridge between Polish culture and the Jewish world.

The Rise of Antisemitism.

In the 1880s, Galicia’s Jews were faced with growing antisemitism in public life. In 1881–1882, Teofil Merunowicz, employing classic antisemitic accusations, delivered speeches in the Galician Sejm calling for the abolition of Jewish community councils. He also published blatantly antisemitic pamphlets and a series of articles in Polish nationalist newspapers. A blood libel stirred up public opinion in Galicia in 1882. At the center of this affair were Mosheh Ritter and his wife, who were accused of murdering a Christian girl. Sentenced to death by a jury in Kraków, they appealed and were tried several times, and were finally acquitted in 1886 by the supreme court in Vienna.

Antisemitic literature circulated more widely than in earlier periods. While campaigning for the elections of 1898, Stanisław Stojałowski, a priest who two years earlier had founded the Christian People’s Party, used antisemitic slogans as political propaganda to gain support, which soon became a staple of election campaigns. This mounting antisemitism led to the outbreak of violent incidents against Jews in western Galicia in 1898, during which massive damage was inflicted on Jewish property. In order to pacify the mob, a curfew was imposed in several areas of that region. These same years saw a rise in the number of young Jewish women fleeing to the Felician convent in Kraków to convert to Christianity, totaling several hundred prior to World War I. Jewish families blamed the church for aiding the girls, which resulted in increased tension between Jews and Poles. The Polish option was becoming less and less attractive to many Jews, especially the younger generation.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Hapsburg monarch of the Austrian Empire greeted by Jews holding Torah scrolls during his visit to Ternopol (now Ternopil’, Ukr.), ca. 1910. (YIVO)

Strengthening the Jewish National Movement. The rise of antisemitism reinforced the appeal of Jewish national ideas that had begun to infiltrate from outside Galicia. One vehicle for transmitting these ideas was the newspaper Selbstemanzipation, which was published in Vienna and edited by Nathan Birnbaum. This newspaper was the official organ of the Viennese society Kadimah, many of whose members were young Jews from Galicia studying in Vienna. The first change in direction occurred in 1883 when Joseph Kobak founded the Mikra Kodesh Society, which sought to disseminate Jewish teachings among young Jews studying at Polish secondary schools. The society organized lectures on Jewish history, Hebrew literature, and the Bible, attracting many followers. In 1888, Mikra Kodesh was dissolved and replaced by Tsiyon, whose goal was to promulgate the Jewish national idea. In a few years, branches of Tsiyon spread to many communities in Galicia. Four years later the association undertook the publication of Galicia’s first Zionist newspaper, Przyszłość (The Future). The paper, which was written in Polish, appeared every other week. That year, Agudas Akhim’s newspaper Ojczyzna ceased publication. The Zionist weekly Wschód (East), edited by Adolph Stand, made its appearance in 1900. Throughout Galicia, societies for the settlement of the Land of Israel were founded, including Ahavat Tsiyon, Ḥoveve Tsiyon, and Admat Yisra’el.

Despite the weakening of Agudas Akhim, the dominant force within the leadership of the communities called for integration into Polish society. Joining them were the Orthodox, who supported political cooperation with the Poles for ideological and religious reasons as well as considerations of realpolitik. In 1905, amid discussions in the Austrian parliament concerning electoral reform, the Rusyn political leadership proposed setting up a Jewish electoral district parallel to the Polish and Rusyn districts. The proposal, whose goal was to limit Jewish support for Poles, was enthusiastically embraced by Zionist leaders in Galicia. However, it remained unpopular among Jewish socialists, the Orthodox, and others who supported closer political cooperation with the Poles. In the end, the proposal did not receive sufficient votes and was shelved.

Workers in the Worzel and Daar raincoat factory, Tarnów, 1925. (YIVO)

In anticipation of parliamentary elections in 1907, the Zionist leadership embarked on an intensive campaign to elect Jewish nationalist representatives. However, only 3 of the 20 Zionist candidates were elected: Adolf Stand, Heinrich Gabel, and Arthur Mahler. In addition, Benno Straucher, another Zionist candidate, was elected in Bucovina. These four representatives established a Jewish bloc within the Austrian parliament, the first Jewish parliamentary organization in Europe. Three other Jews who had been elected to parliament joined the Polish bloc; two joined the Polska Partia Socjalistyczna (Polish Socialist Party; PPS); and one was elected from Kraków on an independent Jewish slate.

On the eve of the next Austrian parliamentary elections, which were held in 1911, Poles signed an agreement with Orthodox representatives. In return for massive Jewish support for PPS, they agreed to reject the requirements that rabbis pass an examination in the Polish language and general knowledge. As a result of this agreement and widespread election fraud, not a single Zionist representative was elected. Six Jews joined the Polish bloc; two joined PPS; one remained independent; and one joined the Radical Democrats. During the stormy election campaign, outbreaks of violence in Drogobych resulted in the deaths of 20 demonstrators, who were shot by the local police and the army.

In addition to the Zionist organizations in Galicia, there were also Jewish worker organizations with a strong sense of solidarity. At first many Jewish workers joined PPS, but because the party did not understand the special needs of the Jewish workers, some workers left and in 1905 formed an independent Jewish socialist party called Żydowska Partja Socjalno-Demokratyczna (ŻPS). PPS, in turn, set up its own Jewish division. Shortly before World War I, these two Jewish parties were united. In 1904, the Jewish workers’ party in Kraków, called Po‘ale Tsiyon, was founded as a pan-Austrian party. The latter tried to integrate Zionist and socialist principles within a single platform. Various efforts to unite all of the Jewish workers’ groups proved unsuccessful, especially following the union of ŻPS and the Jewish division of PPS.

Jewish cemetery, Sieniawa, Poland, early 1990s. Photograph by Monika Krajewska. (© Monika Krajewska)

Economic Structure. The economic structure of Jewish society in Galicia differed from that of the Polish and Rusyn population. In 1910, more than 50 percent of Galician Jews worked in commerce, innkeeping, and transport; 24.6 percent were employed in light industry and crafts; 11.4 percent worked in the free professions and civil service; with only 10.7 percent engaged in agriculture. Jews traditionally dominated such economic fields as water and steam mills, distilleries, the manufacture of matches and soda water, tanneries, and real estate, including the oil sector in Borislav and Drogobych. Over the years, Jewish workers in the oil industry were replaced by Rusyns, who worked for less pay. Among the various crafts, those considered “Jewish” were baking, watchmaking, wagon driving, tailoring, and glass- and metalworks. Noteworthy were the prayer-shawl weavers of Kolomea, who became famous in 1892 for being among the first workers to strike in Galicia.

Most Jewish workers toiled in small shops under poor working conditions and for low wages. The participation of Jews in the industrial labor force in Galicia was less than that of the general populace: in 1910, some 39 percent of Jewish households had members who were gainfully employed, compared to 56 percent of Christian households. In education, conversely, the number of Jewish children in public schools was commensurate with their representation in the total population, accounting for 0.8 percent in 1830 and 11.4 percent in 1900. In secondary and tertiary education, the proportion of Jews was higher. In 1906–1907, Jews accounted for 21 percent of all pupils in the secondary schools, 25 percent of students enrolled at the University of Lemberg, and 14 percent of students at the University of Kraków. Many Jewish students from Galicia studied at the University of Vienna.

The number and position of Jewish landowners increased over time, from 16.2 percent in 1874 to 18 percent in 1908, with most residing in eastern Galicia. In 1910, there were 48,000 Jews employed in the free professions. In the legal profession, Jews formed 30.9 percent of lawyers in 1887, 48.3 percent in 1897, and 58 percent in 1910. The proportion of Jewish doctors was similarly high, with 26.2 percent in 1887, 22 percent in 1897, and 29.9 percent in 1910. Although the number of Jewish civil servants was much lower, many Jewish clerks were employed by private commercial companies, in banking, and in Jewish industries. The number of teachers working in heders and employed as private tutors reached 4,878 on the eve of World War I.

Economic Impoverishment.

In the 1880s, the economic situation of Jewish merchants took a turn for the worse when the Christian cooperative movement Kółka Rolnicze (Agricultural Circle) was organized. Originally agricultural cooperatives, over time they included commercial ventures as well. These groups, comprised of Poles and Rusyns, ousted many Jews from areas of economic activity in which they had traditionally been dominant. In 1911, economic conditions for Jews worsened even further when a law forced the closure of businesses on Sundays. A few years later, the leasing of inns was transferred from private hands to local authorities. The biggest blow, however, occurred during the depression of 1912, when many Jewish families lost their sole source of income.

Market day in Kolbuszowa (Kolbishev), a town in southeastern Poland, 1930. Jews and peasants buying and selling produce, foodstuffs, textiles, and other products. (Film commissioned by the town's landsmanshaft organizations in America: The Kolbuszower Relief Association and the Kolbuszower Young Men's Benevolent Society) (YIVO)

The impoverishment of Galician Jewry became a topic for discussion both in parliament and in international Jewish aid agencies. Among the many organizations that were mobilized to provide economic help were the Baron de Hirsch Fund as well as German and Austrian welfare funds. Within this framework, trade schools were established to train boys and girls for skilled careers. Jewish organizations from England and Germany operated clandestinely to deal with the problem of white slavery, which had spread to Galicia as a result of the great poverty. The latter also resulted in mass immigration, especially to the United States. Some 36,000 Jews emigrated from Galicia in the 1880s, increasing to 114,000 in the 1890s, with Brody becoming a key way station.

The Rise of Yiddish Journalism.

Despite widespread poverty, political and cultural life flourished during the prewar years. In 1904, the Hebrew-language newspaper Ha-Mitspeh was launched in Kraków, providing a political and literary platform for such young writers as Shemu’el Yosef Agnon. The national awakening also led to a flourishing of the Yiddish language, with daily newspapers in that language being published throughout Galicia. The first such paper was Togblat, which appeared in 1904. Another daily, Der tog, appeared in 1909. During these years Yiddish theater flourished, with the cities of Galicia serving as stopping points for itinerant Yiddish theater troupes.

World War I and Its Aftermath.

World War I found the Jews of Galicia completely unprepared. When the Russians invaded, there was a mass exodus of Jews to Hungary, Moravia, and Austria. A large number of refugees concentrated in Vienna. Those Jews who remained behind in Galicia suffered under the Russians, who, suspecting them of espionage and collaborating with the enemy, expelled them, destroyed their personal property, and restricted their movements. When the Russian army retreated in 1915, a welfare committee was organized in Kiev. With its help, the author S. An-ski (Shloyme Zaynvl Rapoport) arrived in Galicia and recorded his observations.

Following the collapse of the Austrian Empire in 1918, Jews became pawns in the war between the Poles and the Ukrainians. In Lemberg, 72 Jews were killed in pogroms launched against them by the Poles. During the summer of 1919, Galicia was occupied by the Polish army and became part of newly independent Poland, which had been reestablished after 150 years of partition among three empires.

Even after Galicia became part of Poland, the long period under Habsburg rule left its mark on Galician Jews, manifesting itself especially in the political realm. Because of their longer experience with political liberalism, Galician Jews were moderate in their politics and continued to maintain their own Zionist organizations. The Jewish intelligentsia was immersed in Polish language and culture, and, to some extent, influenced by the legacy of the Haskalah. This may explain why Galician Jews were less inclined to join more radical Bundist-type organizations than those who had lived under Russian rule. For some this moderation was a sign of weakness, but for others it represented the only way to deal with the many nationalistic currents in the new era.

Suggested Reading

Majer Bałaban, Dzieje Żydów w Galicji w Rzeczypospolitej Krakowskiej, 1772–1868 (Lwów, Pol., 1914); Israel Bartal and Antony Polonsky, eds., Focusing on Galicia: Jews, Poles, and Ukrainians, 1772–1918, POLIN 12 (London, 1999); Abraham Jacob Brawer, Galitsyah vi-yehudeha (Jerusalem, 1964); Leila P. Everett, “The Rise of Jewish National Politics in Galicia, 1905–1907,” in Nationbuilding and the Politics of Nationalism: Essays on Austrian Galicia, ed. Andrei S. Markovits and Frank E. Sysyn, pp. 149–177 (Cambridge, Mass., 1982); Filip Friedmann, Die galizischen Juden im Kampfe um ihre Gleichberechtigung in den Jahren 1848–1868 (Frankfurt am Main, 1929); Filip Friedmann, “Dzieje Żydów w Galicji (1772–1914),” in Żydzi w Polsce odrodzonej, ed. Ignacy Schiper (Warsaw, 1932); Nathan Michael Gelber, Toldot ha-tenu‘ah ha-tsiyonit be-Galitsyah, 1875–1918 (Jerusalem, 1958); Ḥayim Gertner, “Reshitah shel ketivah historit ortodoksit be-Mizraḥ Eropah: Ha-‘Arakhah meḥudeshet,” Tsiyon 67.3 (2002): 293–336; Rachel Manekin, “Ha-Berit ha-ḥadashah: Yehudim ortodoksim u-polanim katolim be-Galitsyah, 1879–1883,” Tsiyon 64.2 (1999): 157–186; Rachel Manekin, “Ha-Ortodoksyah bi-Krakov ‘al sof ha-me’ah ha-20,” in Krako-Kaz´imyez´-Krakov: Meḥkarim be-toldot yehude Krakov, ed. Elchanan Reiner, pp. 155–190 (Tel Aviv, 2001), abstracts in English; Rachel Manekin, “‘Daits´en,’ ‘Polanim’ o ‘Ostrim’?: Dilemat ha-zehut shel yehude Galitsyah, 1848–1851,” Tsiyon 68.2 (2003): 223–262; Ezra Mendelsohn, “Jewish Assimilation in L’viv: The Case of Wilhelm Feldman,” in Nationbuilding and the Politics of Nationalism: Essays on Austrian Galicia, ed. Andrei S. Markovits and Frank E. Sysyn, pp. 94–110 (Cambridge, Mass., 1982); Ezra Mendelsohn, Painting a People: Maurycy Gottlieb and Jewish Art (Hanover, N.H., 2002); Joshua Shanes, “Neither Germans nor Poles: Jewish Nationalism in Galicia before Herzl, 1883–1897,” Austrian History Yearbook 34 (2003): 191–213; Michael Stöger, Darstellung der gesetzlichen Verfassung der galizischen Judenschaft (Lemberg, 1833).

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 1400, Bund Archives, Collection, ca. 1870-1992; RG 215, Berlin Collection, Records, 1931-1945; RG 323, Gershom Bader, Collection, 1884-1953; RG 40, Karaites, Collection, ; RG 583, Samaritan Society, Records, 1868-1961; RG 899, Ostreicher Galizianer Lodge No. 288, Independent Order Brith Abraham, Records, 1907-1976; RG 923, Workmen’s Circle Branch 42, Records, 1911-1955.



Translated from Hebrew by Deborah Weissman