My name is Dominika Kawuza. I am 18 years old and I am a student of the High School No. IV in Rzeszów. I have many hobbies, starting with last century cars and ending with writing short poems. I am is still looking for myself and what I am good at; and this is probably what prompted me to participate in the project „My Rzeszów. Our Rzeszów”.
My name is Sonia Rykiel and I am 18 years old. I go to High School No. 1 in Rzeszów to a humanistic and media class. I am interested in music, embroidery and journalism. I took part in the project because I was intrigued by the life of the former inhabitants of my city. I realized that I should know at least a little about the history of the place where I was born.
Representative of Blasbalg Family – Yacov Blasbalg
As part of the project, we had the pleasure of working with one of the descendants of Jews from Rzeszów. Yacov Blasbalg – son of Abraham Blasbalg, who was born in Rzeszów, and Ilona Blasbalg nee Deutsch, not connected with our city.
Yacov was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1948. He spent his childhood in Ashkelon with his sister Rachel, and went to primary school there. In addition, he graduated in Mechanical Engineering from the Haifa Technion and spent most of his adult years in various senior engineering and management positions in both the mineral and chemical industries in Negev. In 1971, Yacov married Hagar Manor, an art teacher. They have three sons:
– Uri, the eldest son, born in 1979, has a PhD in social work studies and is the father of 6-year-old Hillel (Yacov’s eldest grandson),
– Yonatan Blasbalg, born in 1981, is a computer engineer and deputy director of the „Anu” an NGO, he lives in Jerusalem,
– Gideon Blasbalg, born in 1983, works for the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) in Jerusalem. He lives with his wife Michal and their son Tom (Yacov’s second grandson).
Currently, Yacov is 73 years old and lives with Hagar in Tel Aviv. In 2015, when he retired, he began searching for information about his family. It was not easy, because Yacov does not know Polish. The greatest difficulty for him was researching documents in our mother tongue, that is in Polish. During our online meetings, we spoke in English. The atmosphere was very nice, we laughed a lot, but also talked about serious matters. Yacov is very thorough and well-organized and we think that thanks to him our work went much faster than in other groups.
Yacov Blasbalg passed away on October 29, 2021. May he rest in peace.
What does Yacov Blasbalg know about her family from Rzeszów?
At the beginning of our cooperation, Yacov sent us some documents in Hebrew with the information he had gathered about his family and which he wanted to share with us. It was our first contact with this foreign language, we translated these notes with a google translator and then asked Yacov for details in English. These were mainly questions about names of cities and names of people, as the translator often transformed them. We have found out that the computer and the Internet do not always cope with everything and we need to verify what (according to the first impression) might seem correct.
Another solution that improved our work was the frequency of meetings proposed by Yacov – every two weeks. This regularity mobilized us to look for new information for our partner. It was not easy, because Yacov himself has a lot of information about his family. He has just a few family photos from that period, but also birth and marriage certificates of his ancestors from the time they lived in Rzeszów. As we found out, Yacov visited our town a few years ago and spent a lot of time in the State Archives in Rzeszów.
The life of the Blasbalg family went on in Galicia, mainly in Rzeszów and Rozwadów. The oldest ancestors known to Yacov are his great-great-grandparents, Mendel Wiesen, the married couple Chene Shlossmann and Jakob Lipa Shlossmann as well as the married couple Abraham Lazar Blasbalg and Ester Blasbalg and Markus and Sara Ettel Blasbalg.
Yacov himself has found in Polish archives that Ester (Blasbalg) was born around 1837 and died on April 7, 1899, in Rzeszów. Ester and her husband Abraham Lazar probably had three children.
- Mendel Mozes – the eldest of the siblings. He was born in Rozwadów in 1849, and later lived and married there. He moved to Rzeszów probably after being widowed. Mendel Mozes started a stationery store in the centre of Rzeszów at the age of seventy-three. Yacov found information about it in the archives of Rzeszów, while in the archives in Cracow he learned that Mendel Mozes’s store was opened on June 6, 1932, with equity capital of 300 Polish zlotys, and in the first year it generated revenues of 10,000 Polish zlotys (including taxes).
- Pinchas Blasbalg- lived in Rozwadów and had several children. He died in Rozwadów but many members of his family emigrated to Germany, England, USA, and mainly to Israel, and nowadays have a lot of descendants there.
- Majer/Meir Blasbalg (Yacov’s great-grandfather) – the youngest son of Estera and Abraham was born in Rzeszów on January 9, 1861 (or September 1). His wife was Ratza (Raca) Shlossmann born in Kańzczuga in 1858. They lived together in Rzeszów and died there (Ratza in 1931 and Meir in 1941)
Jakob Lipe (Yacov’s grandfather) was born on August 17, 1887 in Rzeszów. He was the son of Ratza and Majer Blasbalg. Yacov discovered that his grandfather had a sister and a brother, but the siblings died in infancy. He married Lea Wiesen when he was eighteen. A document confirming their marriage was issued on June 21, 1909. Their marriage was carried out according to the marriage register by the famous rabbi Nathan Levin from Rzeszów.
Jakob Lipe lived with his parents: Majr and Ratza, his wife Lea and their three sons in Rzeszów, on Kopernika Street 7 (apartment number 93). Ratza had a license from the authorities to trade in tobacco – it was one of the sources of the family’s wealth. Jakob Lipe was the owner of a textile store at Rzeszów’s market square. Later, the eldest son of Jakob and Lea – Shmuel – was the main merchant in the family.
Lea Blasbalg (Yacov’s grandmother) was born April 29, 1887 in Rozwadow. She was the daughter of Chana and Shmuel Weisen. She had several sisters and brothers born in Rozwadow. Many members of her family emigrated to the USA, and mainly to Israel, and nowadays a lot of her descendants are there. She moved to live after her marriage with her husband in Rzeszow and managed there a Tabaco shop with another relative of her.
Abraham Leizer – Yacov’s father.
The sons of Jakob Lipa and Leah are:
- Shmuel – the eldest son. He was born in Rozwadów on June 3, 1906. He was a merchant. He married Szarlotta Scheindel Greenshpan on April 1, 1930, in Rzeszów. They had two children: Shimon Juliusz and Ruth (Ratza). Shmuel was murderd on March 22, 1943, in Rzeszów.
- Shlomo – the youngest son. He was born on May 16, 1910, in Rzeszów. In his youth, he developed a serious illness, possibly cancer. Yacov told us that Schlomo traveled with his parents to a famous doctor in Sweden, but his recovery was not attainable. In 1942 or 1943, he jumped off a roof. Unfortunately, it was not possible to save him and he died two days later.
Yacov’s father – Abraham Leizer Blasbalg – was born in Rzeszów on January 6, 1909. With the outbreak of the First World War, Abraham and his family moved to the area of today’s Czech Republic, but they returned to Rzeszów in 1917. As it was established by Yacov, Abraham went to a general school in Rzeszów, and after graduating, he helped at the family’s textile shop in the city centre. In 1930, at the age of 21, he was called up to the Polish Army. He was very active in the Zionist Youth movement in Rzeszow and latter in the Jewish National Fund and Keren Hayesod – the organization promoting the Zionist idea among local and regional youth. His future wife, Hanna Fink, was active there as well.
Abraham married Hanna Fink at the end of 1936 in Tarnów. Hanna was an educated woman which was very rare at that time. She finished an MA degree in philosophy from the Jagiellonian University in Cracow in 1934, and later worked as a teacher. Abraham and Hanna lived together in Cracow. On December 24, 1937, their son Aleksander (Olesh) was born.
During the Second World War, Abraham was sent deep into Russia by the Soviets. Abram worked there in the Russian gulag. He survived the war, but after returning home, he learned that his wife Hanna and son Aleksander had been murdered by the Germans in 1942 or 1943. Abraham was also then convinced that his parents and older brother Samuel with his family had been sent to an extermination camp. It turned out, however, that they had been murdered by the Germans while still in Rzeszów.
Abraham lost all of his family during the war. It was traumatic for him to talk about this period. Due to his terrible memories, he told Yacov and his sister Rachel almost nothing about his life in Poland.
Abraham married for the second time after the end of the Second World War. His second wife was Ilona Deutsch. They emigrated to Tel Aviv and lived in Ashkelon, Israel, since 1952 where they had two children: Yacov and Rachel.
Abraham died on February 22, 1991. Unfortunately, he did not tell Yacov almost nothing about Rzeszów and his past. Yacov got most of the information due to his inquisitiveness and the research he began in retirement. His interest in life in Rzeszów and who his ancestors were was born when Yacov found the poem „Reisha” in his father’s library, and within it a description of his family (the author of this poem is Berish Weinstein – close childhood friend and relative of Abraham. His granddaughter Elicia also took part in our project).
Due to the fact that Yacov had already learned a lot about his family himself, we were given the task of finding out more about Mendel Blasbalg – his great-grandfather’s brother. Moreover, Yacov asked us to try to find a list of patients of the hospital in Rzeszów. We were supposed to find Yacov’s uncle’s name there (his father’s brother). Our partner wanted to know what disease Schlomo was suffering from, whether it could have been cancer. Any data about his illness would be from the interwar period and from the Second World War time. These were very difficult tasks.
When it comes to our search, the most important stage was going to the State Archives in Rzeszów. Before that, we had been asked to read several books related to the history of Rzeszów. Our task was to find names of family members of our partners. In the book „Social and Cultural Life of Rzeszów in the Age of Galician Autonomy” by Jadwiga Szymczak-Hoff we found some information about families from our project – not only Yacov’s. In the book, we came across interesting history of a tenement house in Rzeszów with a representative ballroom called „Luftmaszyna”. The name, according to the legend, comes from the words spoken by an Austrian officer when the wind blew his cap there: „Das ist eine Luftmaschine!”. The owner of the “Luftmaszyna” was Ozjasz Fink. Due to the surname, it can be assumed that the owner could have been related to the first wife of Abraham Blasbalg, born in Rzeszów but educated in Cracow – Hanna Fink.
We have also read an article by Stanisław Paradowski in the journal about Jews’ lives in Rzeszów before German occupation Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytut Historycznego – Bulletin of the Jewish Historical Institute, which mentions the name of the merchant Salomon Blaskalg. It was probably the younger brother of Abraham – Schlomo (there was a slight mistake in the spelling of the name in the text Blaskalg/Blasbalg).
According to Paradowski’s article, Salomon Blaskalg (we think his name was Schlomo Blasbalg) committed suicide in order to avoid the torment of the Gestapo. There have certainly been more cases like that in the history of the war when innocent people took their own lives. According to Paradowski’s article, even doctors administered poisons to their families out of fear of what the Germans were doing. They believed that they would be better off on the other side together.
Our next step was to go to the State Archives in Rzeszów. After completing the required documents, we finally went to the reading room and spent about three hours there. It was not in vain, because in the census of 1902 we found the Blasbalg family. These were Yacov’s great-great-grandparents: Mejer Blasbalg and his wife Ratza Blasbalg and their son Jakob. Interestingly, if it was not for our vigilance, we might have overlooked these people, because they had their names misspelled – not Blasbalg, but Blasberg. Probably the enumerator did not hear the name they gave him. However, a few pages later we found a corrected version. According to these documents, Mejer was a textile merchant. The family lived on Matejki Street and their shop was also located in the same building.
Unfortunately, during this meeting, we did not find the person that our partner cared about so much at the moment. Luckily, when we went to the Archives for the second time, at the very beginning of our visit, Mendel’s name appeared in the first checked reference number (it was again the 1902 census). This discovery was surprising for both of us and for Yacov: Mendel was then a prisoner serving his sentence in a prison on Śreniawitów Street. We found that the Lubomirski Castle was a prison for a long time during the Austrian Partition. Unfortunately, we have not been able to find out what Mendel was sentenced for. As we learned, the castle, which housed the prison, was undergoing reconstruction in 1902. It was probably the prisoners themselves who were renovating their temporary “house” – this is what the discussion shows on the Facebook group “Rzeszów yesterday, today and tomorrow”. Yacov discovered this group thanks to our project and sometimes he uploaded photos of documents and of family members there and asked questions about the details he was interested in, and received information from internet users in the comments. It is amazing for us how people associated with the group have so much information about the past. The participants of the conversation provided written information but also added photos. For example, we could see Mendel’s stationery shop in the photo because of the group! One of the participants in the discussion also wrote that in 1940 Mendel Blasbalg received a license to sell workbooks and that, according to that document, the store was located in a tenement house that no longer exists at Rynek 26 – where there is now an underground route.
As for the other information: on the Virtual Shtetl website, we found out about the merchant from Rzeszów, Benjamin Grunspan, who was a volunteer in the Polish Army during the Polish-Bolshevik war. We noticed his name because Shmuel – the eldest brother of Abraham Blasbalg – married Charlotte Scheindel nee Greenspan, so perhaps Szarlotta and Benjamin were related.
In addition, we found a few people by the name of Blasbalg in other documents in the State Archives. They are probably related to Yacov’s family but we have not yet discovered how. For example, in the Rzeszów Jews Memorial book there was a Hirsch Blasbalg, who died as a 7-year-old boy, and we found David Blasbalg from Tarnów in the 1902 census. It is true that in the documents Yacov sent us, there is a person named David, but our partner does not know how he was related to the rest of the family and whether it could be the David, we have traced.
Dominika Kawuza i Sonia Rykiel:
We certainly did not expect that searching for information and collecting it in one article would be so difficult and tedious, but we are glad that we could take part in the project. This project has certainly brought a lot to our lives. Meetings, going to the archives and finally writing this article were a long road, but it was profitable: we learned a bit about our hometown, and Yacov had a chance to find out more about his family.
The wonderful cooperation between the members of the entire group, was of great importance for the success of this project – it is thanks to them that we managed to accomplish our task. Nobody and nothing will take from us what participation in the project „My Rzeszów. Our Rzeszów” gave us and all the memories will stay with us forever.
My parents got married in the displaced persons camps in south Germany. Together, they immigrated to Israel on the „Exodus” ship and finally arrived in Tel Aviv in May 1948. The family settled in Ashkelon, while dedicating their lives to the revival of Israel and the Jewish people. My father continued his widespread public activity, alongside his work, and served as vice mayor of Ashkelon and as mayor of the city for several decades. Their pride and activity in Israel were dedicated to the revival of the Jewish state; helping others; and the establishment of the family of two children, six grandchildren, and 8 great-grandchildren (so far) that they raised before their death and burial in Ashkelon. May they rest in peace.
Thanks a lot to Dominika and Sonia for their dedication and efforts. It was a pleasure having them as partners on the research on my family’s history. I enjoyed our meetings, and found great value in their work. May this article will be a remembrance page for the Blasbalg Family and all the Jewish life and Jewish community in Rzeszow and parts of it before WW2.
Abraham Blasbalg, Yacov’s father, with a pipe. Post-war photo, from the collection of Yacov Blasbbal.
Jakob Lipa Blasbalg’s shop at Mickiewicza Street 2 in Rzeszów. Photo from the FB group „Rzeszów yesterday today and tomorrow”.
Abraham Blasbalg, Yacov’s father, and his first wife, Hanna Fink. They sit side by side in the second row from the bottom, first and second from the left. The photo comes from the Bney Zion activist commemorative volume.
Holiday in Rzeszow – May 3, 1936. Yacov’s father and Hania are standing in the middle. Photo courtesy of Yacov Blasbalg.
The Blasbalg family, circa 1916 (the only family photo found). In the bottom row: Jakob Lipa Blasbalg and Lea Blasbalg (nee Weisen) – Yacov Blasbalg’s grandparents, in the top row three of their sons, from the right: the youngest Szlomo, the eldest Schmuel, and the middle Abraham – Yacov’s father. Photo courtesy of Yacov Blasbalg.
Mendel Blasbalg’s stationery shop, occupation period in Rzeszów. Photo from the FB group „Rzeszów yesterday, today and tomorrow”.