Galician Jews

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Galician Jews
Manor of Rebbe in Husiatyn.jpg
Jewish population in Galicia
1772150,000–200,000, or 5–6.5% of the total population
1857449,000, or 9.6% of the total population of the region. [1]
1910872,000, or 10.9% of the total population

Galician Jews or Galitzianers are a subdivision of the Ashkenazim geographically originating from Galicia, from contemporary western Ukraine (Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Ternopil) and from south-eastern Poland (Subcarpathian and Lesser Poland). Galicia proper, which was inhabited by Ruthenians, Poles and Jews, became a royal province within Austria-Hungary after the Partitions of Poland in the late 18th century. Galician Jews primarily spoke Yiddish.



The Jews in Europe (1881). Galicia is located immediately northeast of the Hungarian district Juden 1881.JPG
The Jews in Europe (1881). Galicia is located immediately northeast of the Hungarian district
Peasants and Jews from Galicia, c. 1886 Campesinos y judios galizia.png
Peasants and Jews from Galicia, c. 1886
Population of Jews before Second world war in Galicia. Largest Jewish population was in Lviv with 76.854, second was Krakow with 45.229 (Galicia Jewish Museum) Population of Jews before Second world war in Galicia (Galicia Jewish Museum).jpg
Population of Jews before Second world war in Galicia. Largest Jewish population was in Lviv with 76.854, second was Krakow with 45.229 (Galicia Jewish Museum)

In the modern period, Jews were the third most numerous ethnic group in Galicia, after Poles and Ruthenians. At the time that Galicia was annexed by Austria (i.e. the Habsburg Monarchy), in 1772, there were approximately 150,000 to 200,000 Jews residing there, comprising 56.5% of the total population; by 1857 the Jewish population had risen to 449,000, or 9.6% of the total population. [1] In 1910, the 872,000 Jews living in Galicia comprised 10.9% of the total population, [1] compared to approximately 45.4% Poles, 42.9% Ruthenian, and 0.8% Germans. [2]


Most of Galician Jewry lived poorly, largely working in small workshops and enterprises, and as craftsmen—including tailors, carpenters, hat makers, jewelers and opticians. Almost 80 percent of all tailors in Galicia were Jewish. The main occupation of Jews in towns and villages was trade: wholesale, stationery and retail. However, the Jewish inclination towards education was overcoming barriers. The number of Jewish intellectual workers proportionally was much higher than that of Ruthenian or Polish ones in Galicia. Of 1,700 physicians in Galicia, 1,150 were Jewish; 41 percent of workers in culture, theaters and cinema, over 65 percent of barbers, 43 percent of dentists, 45 percent of senior nurses in Galicia were Jewish,[ citation needed ] and 2,200 Jews were lawyers. For comparison, there were only 450 Ruthenian (Ukrainian) lawyers.[ citation needed ] Galician Jewry produced four Nobel prize winners: Isidor Isaac Rabi (physics), Roald Hoffman (chemistry), Georges Charpak (physics) and S.Y. Agnon (literature). Henry Roth, who wrote Call It Sleep , was a Galician Jew whose family emigrated to the U.S. in the first decade of the 20th century.


Galicia in relation to Volhynia (east and west) between the two world wars Polen Galizien Wolhynien.png
Galicia in relation to Volhynia (east and west) between the two world wars

Under Habsburg rule, Galicia's Jewish population increased sixfold, from 144,000 in 1776 to 872,000 in 1910, due to a high birth rate and a steady stream of refugees fleeing pogroms in the neighboring Russian Empire. [3] The Jews constituted one third of the population of many cities and came to dominate parts of the local economy such as retail sales and trade. [3] They were also successful in the government; by 1897, Jews constituted 58 percent of Galicia's civil servants and judges. [4] During the 19th century Galicia and its main city, Lviv (Lemberg in Yiddish), became a center of Yiddish literature. Lviv was the home of the world's first Yiddish-language daily newspaper, the Lemberger Togblat. [4]

Towards the end of World War I, Galicia became a battleground of the Polish-Ukrainian War, which erupted in November 1918. [5] During the conflict, 1,200 Jews joined the Ukrainian Galician Army and formed an all-Jewish Ukrainian battalion called Zhydivs’kyy Kurin (UHA). In exchange, they were allotted 10% of the seats in the parliament of the West Ukrainian People's Republic which emerged in the same month and was disbanded nine months later. [6] The West Ukrainian government respected Jewish neutrality during the Polish-Ukrainian conflict by an order of Yevhen Petrushevych forbidding to mobilize Jews against their will, or to otherwise force them to contribute to the Ukrainian military effort. [7] Both Ukrainian and pro-Ukrainian Jewish armed units suffered significant losses as they retreated from Galicia before the army of General Edward Rydz-Śmigły. [8] Although the Polish losses were estimated at more than 10,000 dead and wounded; the Western Ukrainian army lost in excess of 15,000 men. [9] "Despite the official neutrality, some Jewish men had been noticed aiding the combat Ukrainian units, and this fact alone caused a great enthusiasm in the Ukrainian press." [10] Reportedly, the Council of Ministers of the West Ukrainian People's Republic provided assistance to Jewish victims of the Polish pogrom in Lviv, wrote Alexander Prusin. [11] Nevertheless, as noted by Robert Blobaum from West Virginia University, many more pogroms and assaults against Galician Jews were perpetrated by the Ukrainian side in rural areas and other towns. [12] Between 22 and 26 March 1919, during massacres in Zhytomyr (Jitomir), 500–700 Jews lost their lives at the hands of the armed men from the Ukrainian republican army led by Symon Petliura. [5] The chief organizer of the pogrom became minister of war soon thereafter. [13] Simultaneous Ukrainian pogroms took place in Berdichev, Uma, and Cherniakhov among other places. [5] [14]

Peace of Riga

The Polish–Soviet War ended with the Peace of Riga signed in March 1921. The borders between Poland and Soviet Russia remained in force until the invasion of Poland in September 1939, although serious abuses against the Jews, including pogroms, continued in Soviet Ukraine. [15] The rights of minorities in the newly reborn Second Polish Republic were protected by a series of explicit clauses in the Versailles Treaty signed by President Paderewski. [16] In 1921, Poland's March Constitution gave the Jews the same legal rights as other citizens and guaranteed them religious tolerance and freedom of religious holidays. [17] The number of Jews immigrating to Poland from Ukraine and Soviet Russia grew rapidly. [18] According to the Polish national census of 1921, there were 2,845,364 Jews living in the country; but, by late 1938 that number had grown by over 16% to approximately 3,310,000. Between the end of the Polish–Soviet War and late 1938, the Jewish population of the Republic had grown by over 464,000. [19]

Galician Jewish cemetery in Buchach, western Ukraine, 2005 Buchach4.jpg
Galician Jewish cemetery in Buchach, western Ukraine, 2005

In September 1939, most of Galicia passed to Soviet Ukraine. The majority of Galician Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. Most survivors emigrated to Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom or Australia. In 1959, the census showed 29,701 Jews were living in Lvov province. [20] A small number have remained in Ukraine or Poland.


In the popular perception, Galitzianers were considered to be more emotional and prayerful than their rivals, the Litvaks, who thought of them as irrational and uneducated. They, in turn, held the Litvaks in disdain, derogatively referring to them as tseylem-kop ("cross heads"), [21] or Jews assimilated to the point of being Christian. [22] This coincides with the fact that Hasidism was most influential in Ukraine and southern Poland but was fiercely resisted in Lithuania (and even the form of Hasidism that took root there, namely Chabad, was more intellectually inclined than the other Hasidic groups).

The two groups diverged in their Yiddish accents and even in their cuisine, separated by the "Gefilte Fish Line." Galitzianers like things sweet, even to the extent of putting sugar in their fish. [23]

See also

Further reading

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With the arrival of the Hungarians into the heart of the Central European Plain around 899, Slavic tribes of Vistulans, White Croats, and Lendians found themselves under Hungarian rule. In 955 those areas north of the Carpathian Mountains constituted an autonomous part of the Duchy of Bohemia and remained so until around 972, when the first Polish territorial claims began to emerge. This area was mentioned in 981, when Vladimir the Great of Kievan Rus' claimed the area on his westward way. In the 11th century the area belonged to Poland, then reverted to Kievan Rus'. However, at the end of the 12th century the Hungarian claims to the principality turned up. Finally Casimir III of Poland annexed it in 1340–1349. Low Germans from Prussia and Middle Germany settled parts of northern and western Galicia from the 13th to 18th centuries, although the vast majority of the historic province remained independent from German and Austrian rule.

The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Lviv, Ukraine.


  1. 1 2 3 Manekin, Rachel (2 November 2010). "Galicia." Translated from the Hebrew by Deborah Weissman. YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. Retrieved 2016-02-13.
  2. Magocsi, Paul R. (1996). History of Ukraine . Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN   9780802078209. p. 423-424. Magocsi explains that the census data for Austria-Hungary did not include figures on ethnicity per se but only on language and religion; therefore, the Jewish population is based on the religion statistics, while his estimates of the other ethnic groups are based on both the language and the religion statistics, in order to correct for the fact that Jews are counted in those language groups. He notes that in 1910 "the vast majority of Jews (808,000) gave Polish as their language" (p. 423). (Yiddish did not appear as a language option on the census forms of Austria-Hungary.)
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