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Brief Overview

Maps and Geography (3 pages)

Poland? Austria? A Brief History of Galicia Province

Local Nobility: The Owners of Zolynia

Zolynia through the 18th Century

Zolynia in the 19th Century

Zolynia in the Early 20th Century

Zolynia in the First World War

Zolynia Between the Wars

Holocaust, Part I

Holocaust, Part II


Zolynia Today


Galicia Today (8K)
Former Galicia Province today.


In 1772, the Austrian, Prussian and Russian Empires began carving up the Commonwealth of Poland between themselves. Austria's share of the first partition of Poland became its new Province of Galicia, and Zolynia was in its western half, near the empire's northeastern border (After 1848, Hungary was given partial autonomy, sharing the common Austrian monarchy in a renamed Empire of Austria-Hungary).

A large crescent-shaped province running roughly from Cracow to Romania just above the Carpathian Mountains, Galicia's population was largely made up of Poles (concentrated in the west) and Ruthenians (ethnic Ukrainians, concentrated in the east). Lemberg, later Lwow and today Lviv, was the provincial capital, about 104 miles (166 km) east of Zolynia. Polish, German and, briefly, Ukrainian were the official languages in Austrian Galicia. Yiddish was the daily language of Zolynia Jews among themselves.

Galicia was mainly rural with little major industry and was often considered by the Austrian government to be an economically backward burden. Of Galicia's one million farms, two in five were smaller than five acres in size and only one in five were economically viable. Before 1882, there were virtually no banks or public sources of credit for new enterprises, and Jews were a prime sources of loans, adding to resentment felt by Poles and Ukrainians. There were many major outbreaks of typhus and cholera.

At first, the Austrian government adopted harsh restrictions and special taxes on Jews. Jews were prohibited from many industries, including flour-milling and brewing. Only Jews with 500 florins could acquire a civil marriage permit, which would cost ten percent or more of their total wealth (many Galician Jews were not born into a government-recognized marriage because of this). Jews had to pay Sabbath candles, Jewish community taxes and more. Some of these laws remained in effect for decades.

Starting in the 1780s, Emperor Joseph II attempted to assimilate and Germanize Jews, with limited success, mainly as a potential ally against the Poles and Ukrainians. For generations, the central government in Vienna tried to play the various classes and ethnicities -- wealthy nobility, peasants, Poles, Ukrainians and Jews -- against each other in order to maintain supremacy. In the 1860s, to blunt revolutionary sentiments in its outer provinces, all Austrian citizens were granted full civil rights. This included Jews, though they were still considered ineligible for the highest public offices and social circles.

Though young urban Jews grew more secularized through the years, the Hasidic movement had been born in Poland and remained strong in rural Galicia (to this day, the grave of Zolynia's Reb Horovitz in nearby Lancut is a site of Hasidic pilgrimage).

By the turn of the 20th century, Jews were represented in Galician universities and in professions such as law and medicine far in excess of their percentage of the population. In the province's few urban centers and larger towns, Jews played growing economic and social roles and a few Jews were able to accumulate significant amounts of land and wealth. However, most Galician Jews were still poor and a wave of emigration to more prosperous countries, especially the United States, had begun.

Following is a brief summary of events, particularly relating to Jews in the province:

1772: At the beginning of Austrian rule, Galicia's total population of 2.1 million is nearly ten percent Jewish.

1787: Galician Jews are ordered to adopt fixed, hereditary surnames. Civil records of Jewish births, deaths and marriages are kept for the first time, until 1875 kept by Jews of each community in separate ledger books.

1788: Jews are first recruited into the Austrian Army. Later, Jews can pay a tax in lieu of military service.

1789: Galicia is divided into over 140 religious communities. Each community has a Chief Rabbi to administer Jewish vital records and education, and a three-man "kahal" to represent Jewish interests to local civil authorities, support religious institutions, take care of Jewish poor and collect taxes on the Jewish community. The Kahal of Zolynia Miasteczko (the country town) governs Jewish affairs for Zolynia town, Zolynia village and thirteen other nearby smaller shtetls until the end of Austrian rule (see the Research section of this site for more information).

1789: New laws attempt to assimilate and Germanize Jews. Jews must attend either German or reformed Jewish schools, must adopt Christian dress (never enforced) and some limitations on Jewish trade and real estate ownership are lifted. Most Jewish taxes remain in force.

1827: Four in ten male Galician Jews have no permanent employment.

1874: The Galician population is 45 percent Polish, 41 percent Ruthenian (Ukrainian), 11 percent Jewish and 3 percent Austrian.

1875: Galicia is divided into 75 administrative units for the purpose of keeping vital records and other administrative functions. Zolynia lies within the District of Lancut.

1881: Wave of emigration begins. By 1914, over 325,000 Galician Jews will leave for better prospects in Vienna and other countries, especially the United States.

1890: 35 percent of Galician Jews are merchants, 30 percent are artisans, 15 percent are landlords and tavernkeepers and 20 percent hold other miscellaneous occupations.

1890: A quarter of Galicia's physicians and nearly half of its attorneys are Jewish.

1900: Nine out of ten of all Galicians live in the countryside, but Jews make up four out of ten of the population in cities and towns.

1900: Jews are restricted in selling many agricultural products, a law reflecting the growing economic competition among ethnic groups in impoverished Galicia.

1910: Sales of many alcoholic beverages are prohibited, costing thousands of Galician Jews their income, particularly in rural areas.

1918: Four years of war lead to the dissolution of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. All but a small part of Galicia becomes part of the the new independent Poland, though the new country must fight a war with Ukrainian nationalists to secure eastern Galicia and a war with Russia to secure the eastern borders.