Wednesday 24 August 2016


            He was born in Lemberg, eastern Galicia.  He studied in a public high school, later at the law faculty of Lemberg University, and then economics and social science at the University of Vienna, from which he received his doctoral degree in 1913.  During WWI he served as general secretary of the rescue committee for war orphans and refugees in Galicia.  He was a cofounder and the first chairman of the Galician Zionist party Hitaḥdut (the “union” of young Zionists) and was on its list of those elected in 1922 to be a deputy to Poland’s founding Sejm.  For a time he was leader of Kolo, the Jewish club of deputies and senators in the Sejm.  He was a theoretician of the Jewish cooperative movement and administrator of the headquarters of the Jewish cooperatives in Poland.  He wrote articles on socio-economic and political matters in: Morija, miesięcznik literacko-społeczny poświęcony żydowskiej myśli religijnej (Moriya, monthly literary society devoted to Jewish religious thought), edited by Y. Grinberg and F. Ashkenazi, Chwila (Moment), and Der kooperator (The cooperative)—in Lemberg; the monthly Di kooperative bavegung (The cooperative movement), Haynt (Today), and Nasz Przegląd (Our overview)—in Warsaw; Unzer vort (Our word) in Paris; and others.  Dr. Zilbershayn was in Switzerland with the outbreak of WWII, attending the 21st Zionist Congress, and there he remained throughout the war.  He threw himself into rescue actions for European Jewry.  Through a variety of means, he was able to establish contact with Jews in ghettos and camps, and through his connections with the embassies of various South American countries, he extracted thousands of citizenship certificates and visas for these countries; with them a great number of Jews were rescued from Vittel and other internment camps in France and even from the ghettos in Poland.  His Relief Committee for the Warstricken Jewish Population (Relico) in Geneva became renowned among Jews under German occupation.  When the tragic news began to arrive concerning the mass extermination from the ghettos and camps, he among those who escaped to neutral Switzerland provided testimony and brought it out in mimeographed publications (in Yiddish, French, and German): Di oysrotung fun der varshever yidntum biz tsum geto-oyfshtand (The extermination of Warsaw Jewry up to the ghetto uprising), 75 pp.; Di oysrotung fun di yidn in poyln: lemberg, shnyatin, sandomyerzh (The extermination of Jews in Poland: Lemberg, Śniatyn, Sandomierz), 45 pp.; Di oysrotung fun di yidn in di daytshe lagern: poyzn, krattsau, oyshvits, bergen-belzen, teresyenshtadt (The extermination of the Jews in German camps: Poznań, Kratzau, Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Theresienstadt), 79 pp.  He distributed these publications among the embassies, Red Cross, and Swiss statesmen, and he thus was among the first to draw the world’s attention to the gruesome slaughter of European Jewry.  Soon after the war, he visited the survivors in German displaced persons camps and was one of the most energetic leaders in the field of youth aliya to Israel; together with his wife—the administrator of the Swiss “Committee for the Placing of Intellectual Refugees”—he went to the United States where he wrote up hundreds of affidavits for the survivors and thereby made it possible for them to move to countries in the western hemisphere.  He was a delegate to the 22nd Zionist Congress in Basel (1946) and to the first Zionist Congress in the land of Israel (1951).  He died in Geneva, Switzerland.

Sources: Haynt yoyvl-bukh, 1908-1938 (Jubilee volume for Haynt, 1908-1938) (Warsaw, 1938), p. 3; Dr. R. Feldshuh, Yidisher gezelshaftlekher leksikon (Jewish communal handbook) (Warsaw, 1939), p. 170; Dov Sadan, Avne zikaron (Milestones) (Tel Aviv, 1953/1954), p. 74; Dr. Y. Tenenboym, Galitsye mayn alte heym (Galicia, my old home) (Buenos Aires, 1952), see index; Yisrael Cohen and Dov Sadan, eds., Pirke galitsya: sefer zikaron ledr. avraham zilbershain (Tales of Galicia, remembrance volume for Dr. Avrom Zilbershayn) (Tel Aviv, 1957).
Zaynvl Diamant

No comments:

Post a Comment