By ©Inacio Steinhardt

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

ROZWADOW was my Father’s “shtetl”, the word used by our Ashkenazi ancestors to designate a small Jewish town or village in Eastern Europe.

My Father, Wolf Steinhardt[1], of blessed memory, was born in Rozwadow, in 1909. I know that my grandparents lived there and my great-grand-parents too, although I don’t know if they were born there.

ROZWADOW – today part of STALOWA WOLA – is located in Galicia, Southeast Poland, in the county of Tarnobrseg, Rzeszow oblast (region).

In my trip to Galicia, in 2001, I visited Rzeszow, and I have considered separating myself from the group I was with and take a day off to travel to Rozwadow. I didn't have any address for the place in Rozwadow where my relatives lived. The only real motivation to visit Rozwadow was to visit the Jewish cemetery and try to find some information about those relatives who died there. However, I had learned from Joan Sanders, of New Rochelle, NY, who had visited Rozwadow, that a train station had been built over the Jewish Cemetery. She had met a Polish gentleman, Ryszard Zaborski, who lived near the train station, and apparently had made a list of the Jewish graves, before they were destroyed. Joan gave me Mr. Zaborski mail address and I wrote him a letter in Polish, but got no answer. From Rzeszow, I tried with the help of our Polish guide, to find his telephone number, but he was not listed. So I decided that I would learn much more about our family life in Galicia by staying with our group, and our Israeli guide, Haim Gartner, a great specialist in Galicia, in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

GALICIA (Polish GALICJA, German GALIZIEN, Russian GALYTSIYA) was a part of Poland, before Austria annexed it in 1772.  It was returned to Poland at the end of the First World War (1914-1918).

So, when my ancestors lived in Rozwadow, they were actually Austrian citizens. The Yiddish they spoke was very much influenced by the German language. My late Mother, of blessed memory, (also a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Empire when she was born in Transilvania,  used to say that there are three Yiddish dialects: "Yiddish", "Yuddish" and "Yaddish". Even the correspondence between my grandfather and my father, during the Second World War, was written in Latin characters and the language was almost German.

In 1914 or 1915, my grandfather and his family, including my father, at the age of 6, had to flee Rozwadow, with all the Jewish population, before the invasion by the Russian troops. Some of the Rozwadow Jews went as far as Vienna, the capital of the Empire, others returned to Rozwadow, after the war. Our family settled in Tarnow, also in Galicia.

I don’t know when our ancestors first arrived in Rozwadow, nor from where.

After the Toleranzpatent of October 13, 1781, which proclaimed religious toleration for Protestants, thousands of families (not necessarily Jews) immigrated into Galicia, mostly out the Palatinate (Pfalz) and settled in newly founded German communities or in the cities, as craftsmen and artisans.

Considering that one the Steinhardt villages was located in the Palatinate, maybe we came from there.

The Jewish population in Rozwadow increased rapidly during the second half of the 19th century following the construction of the railway which linked Cracow and Lemberg (Lvov).

It is possible that my ancestors arrived in one of those occasions.  By mathematical calculation I think that my grand-grand-grandfather, Baruch Steinhardt - the earliest person that I have in my records, by information that I got from my late uncle Siegfried Steinhardt – was born around 1830.

My grandfather, Herman (Hersz Mendel) Steinhardt, was a house-painter. So was his brother Moritz (Moshe Baruch) Steinhardt. I was told that Herman had a contract to paint the railway stations of a new line, and he used to take his workers and materials from place to place, by horse wagon. But probably this was already in Tarnow.

Moritz died in Vienna from paint poisoning when he was working in a city bridge.

I don't know if their father Kopel (Jacob) was also a painter. It seems that at that time house painters used to do some artwork in their paintings. My father used to tell me that Grandfather Herman made beautiful paintings in the railway stations. I understood what he meant when I saw the wall of an old restaurant in Cracow, painted with flowers in pastel colors.

It is possible that Baruch's full name was Moshe Baruch. His grandson, that I have just mentioned, Moritz, had the Jewish name of Moshe Baruch. This Moritz, aka Moshe Baruch was born in 1873, so I assume that his grandfather had already died before his birth. Ashkenazi Jews use to give to their children the first names of deceased relatives.  The other Moshe Baruch in the family was Moshe Baruch Schwarz, a son of Sarah Steinhardt, a sister of Herman and Moritz. Moshe Baruch was born in 1909 in Rozwadow and died in 2001, in Huston, Texas.

Professor Ari Ben-Menahem, of the Weizman Institute, in Rehovot, Israel, with whom I have been corresponding, believes that this maternal grand grandfather, Yaacov David Steinhardt, might have been a brother or a cousin of my grand-grand-grandfather, Baruch Steinhardt. We do not have sources to substantiate this belief. The name Yaacov may have some relation with my grand-grandfather's name Kopel (Jacob). But this is pure speculation.

Yaakov David Steinhardt was an inn-keeper in Bakow (pronounced Bonkow), a village near Rozwadow. Prof. Ben-Menahem's paternal grandfather, Mendel Schlanger (1869-1943) was born and living in Rozwadow.

Again we must keep in mind that surnames were of a minor importance for Jewish families at that time. Even in our days we witness many arbitrary changes of surname.

The following episode will exemplify what I mean.

When I came to live in Israel, in 1976, and I resumed my searches for family roots, I have been invited by one of the editors of the Rozwadow Yizkor Book, for a memorial ceremony in Tel Aviv.

When I entered the room, people were staring at me, then at the age of 43, and they couldn't stop asking aloud "Who is this 'young man'?"  I told them that my name was Steinhardt and that my father was born in Rozwadow. No, there was not such a name in Rozwadow. I must be confused about the stetl's name. I insisted and gave the name of my grandfather's name, Herman Steinhardt. No, maybe when Moshe comes in, he is older, maybe he remembers. So, Moshe came in, and Yankel and Kalman and finally the gentleman who had been the secretary of the Jewish community and he knew everybody's name. No – they decided categorically – there was no Steinhardt in Rozwadow!

By then the ceremony was about to start and I took my place. Soon the gentleman sitting at my side wanted to know who I was, and what I did for a living, and the usual stuff. When I told him that I worked at the Hadera Paper Mills, he said that he had a neighbor who worked there too.

At the end of the ceremony, since I lived not far from the neighbor that he mentioned, I offered him a lift in my car. "Thank you" – he said – "but I have my aunt with me. Can you take her too?"

So the lady came in – and with your permission, if I was the "young man" and that gentleman was much older than me, his aunt was even older…

So the lady came in and asked the same question: "Who is this young man?". By then I had already given up, but the nephew answered for me. "He was under the impression that his family came from Rozwadow".

So the lady wanted also to know the surname and the details, of which I didn't have many of course, and she confirmed: "There was no Steinhardt in Rozwadow". Period!

But then she said: "Wait a moment, young man, was your grandfather a house painter?" "Was his name Hersz Mendel?" That's what I kept saying all the time, nu? "Of course I remember Herszl." For a few moments she kept silence and smiled, and then she said: "You know, he painted the wall of MY aunt's restaurant, and he painted there some little birds. So beautiful they were!" Then her tone of voice changed to a very authoritative one, and she stated: "But you are wrong, his name was not Steinhardt. He was Herszl Kopels". I was upset for a little while, but then I understood and I smiled too. Kopels means "son of Kopel" and Kopel was my grand grandfather's name – Kopel Steinhardt. So Hersz was the son of Kopel, not Steinhardt…

Kopel (Jacob) died probably before 1915, because it was never mentioned to me as having left with the rest of the family to Tarnow.

During the last third of the nineteenth century Rozwadow had 2150 inhabitants; of whom over 1600 – or 77 percent – were Jews.

In 1880 there were 234 houses in the town, mostly wooden one-story buildings. It seems, however, that towards the end of the eighties, following the construction of the Prezeworsk-Rozwadow-Debica line, linking Rozwadow by railway to the Lemberg-Krakow-Vienna highway, the economic situation of the townsmen improved considerably, as may be seen from the stone houses which took the place of the wooden huts, standing in four rows enclosing the large market square.


The first think that I have learned in my excursion-seminar to Galicia is that every town is Poland has a market square, the Rinek, and Rozwadow was no exception.

I have copied the following sketch from Dr. Joseph Taler, M.D.’s excellent book, “In Search of Heroes” (Baltimore, 1995) which, unfortunately for my research, does not contain information prior to 1915, when our family left the town:



The direct rail communications followed by the establishment of post, telegraph and telephone services, became a powerful economic and cultural factor and brought the Jewish youth closer to the cultural influences of Vienna.

This was the case with my uncle Siegfried Steinhardt, my father’s oldest sibling, although they were only half-brothers, who studied accountancy in the University of Vienna, while staying in his uncle Moritz (Moshe Baruch)’s house in the Austrian capital.

There is a lot of guesswork of my part when establishing vital dates and even some of the names. Basically I am considering the Ashkenazi tradition of naming the children after deceased ancestors and never after living ones.

Sarah Schwarz, nee Steinhardt, another sibling of Moshe Baruch and Hersz Mendel, has name her fourth son, born in 1909, also Moshe Baruch, after her brother. As it was usual to name the first children after the ancestors of the husband, I assume that her grandfather, Baruch (probably Moshe Baruch?) was dead in 1909.

I have also noticed that both Hersz Mendel and Sarah named their daughters Etel or Etka, so this was probably the given name of their mother, the wife of Kopel Steinhardt.

The few wealthier Jews in Rozwadow were businessmen: they wither held concessions for the sale of tobacco and brandy or acted as commercial agents.

A “house in the market place” was a status symbol. The shoemakers, the tailors, the Torah teachers and all the rest of the common folk lived in the overcrowded sided streets. Probably this is where the Steinhardt's lived too. On the outskirts and in the suburbs leading to the adjacent villages lived the gentiles.

The rest were mostly tradesmen: carpenters, tailors, shoemakers, plumbers, hairdressers and barbers, bakers, butchers, house painters, watchmakers, hatters, makers of paper bags, bookbinders, matzot-bakers (just before Passover), semolina grinders, beer bootleggers, soap-makers, and shirt-makers.

The neighboring farmers who attended the weekly fair were also extremely poor and had little to spend on goods. They usually bought on credit or borrowed money from the Jews, or merely came to have a drink at the poor Jewish tavern.

There was a Steinhardt an inn-keeper, as I mentioned before. But most of the Jews of Rozwadow were poor – small peddlers and tradesmen.

My father used to tell me about his going to "Heder" before he was five years old. "From the early age of three, children were put in the charge of Torah teachers, who succeeded one another until the boy was able to study independently, when he was given a tutor of his own. The sons of the poor were apprenticed to master craftsmen at the age of 13-14.

My father went also to learn a craft, as an apprentice of a watchmaker. But this was probably during the few years that he lived in Tarnow. He was only six when the family left Rozwadow.

The long period of consolidation of the Jewish population of Rozwadow, saw its end in the Summer of1914: the inhabitants of the town scattered to all winds. The Jews living in the towns along the San were seized by fear of the Russians, especially in view of the rumors that the Russians would take their revenge on the Galician Jews for their subservience to the Austrian Empire or would slaughter them simply for being Jews. Overcome by panic, the inhabitants of Rozwadow fled the town, by cart and on foot, leaving their houses and shops and all their property behind them. Only a few days before the Jewish New Year old and young started wandering in long lines through villages and towns, southwards to the Carpathian Mountains and to Slovakia, or westwards, towards Cracow.

This is about the time when my grandfather and all his family fled Rozwadow on their way to Tarnow. I suppose that his sister Sara (the "Mime Sura"), and her husband, Samuel Schwarz, and their children took the same path.

Hersz Mendel had been married with Miriam Schwarz, who died before 1903 and was buried in Rozwadow. They had one son, Siegfried. I have seen a letter that Siegfried wrote to his father, asking him to join him in a visit to his mother's tomb, in the Rozwadow Jewish cemetery, just before Siegfried's marriage. I don't know if Miriam Schwarz was related to Samuel Schwarz, Hersz Mendel's brother in law. Siegfried was 14 years old when the family left Rozwadow.

From his second marriage, with Regina (Rachel=Ruchel) Ratenhaus, from Sediszow, (a stetl not far from Rozwadow) he had 4 children, by the time they left Rozwadow: Feiga Sara (Frania or Franceska), was 10 years old; Joachim (Yeruham or Richard), was 7 years old; Wolf (my father) was 5, and Ettel was 2 years old. Their last two children (Joseph and Pinhas) were born in Tarnow.

Hersz's brother Moshe Baruch (Moritz) must have left to Vienna, long before the war, because he married Rosa Schneider, from Bratislava (then Lemberg) in 1899.

Their sister, Sarah, married Samuel Schwarz in Rozwadow about 1903. When they left Rozwadow for Tarnow, they had already five children: Leib (9), Malka (8), Shlomo Aron (7), Moshe Baruch (5), Szama (2). In Tarnow they had six more children: Joseph Hanina (1915), Etka (1918), Shindla (1921), Rywa (1924) and Kopel (1931).

As far as my father could remember – he was only 6 years old - on the way to Tarnow, they stopped in Przemysl, where they had some relatives, from my grandmother's family. He also remembered there that there was a lawyer in Przemysl, with the surname Steinhardt, but he didn't know if he was a relative. This might have been Dr. Alexander Steinhardt, not a lawyer, but a medicine doctor, who lived in Ul. Piotra Skargi 12, Przemysl. Although according to one of my sources, Dr. Steinhardt moved to Przemysl only in 1917.


© 2003 – Inacio Steinhardt

[1]  When he obtained the Portuguese nationality my Father changed his name to Lopo Steinhardt



 Made with CityDesk