Warning! The text retains the original spelling of surnames and place names by an Israeli researcher; in many cases it may not be correct. Fragments that could contain current personal data have been removed from the interview.

 

Name of Interviewee: Marcos Mordechai Motele Astman, b. 22.9.1922 in Żółkiew;

Subject of the interview: The Astman family;

father's name: Zecharia Astman, b. 1898 in Żółkiew;

mother's name: Nina nee Redler, b. 1898 in Żółkiew;

sister’s and brother's name: Perla, Sonia, Arieh Leo;

wife’s name: Julia Chaja Szifra Korkin, b. 1922 in Kovno. 

 

Date of the interview: November 2007;

Interviewer: Shimon Ben Oliel

 

Marcos Mordechai Motele Astman was born on 22.9.1922 in Żółkiew (today in Ukraine), 30 km north of Lwów (called Lenberg by the Jews), in Eastern Galicja. There were 15,000 inhabitants in Żółkiew - Poles, Ukrainians and Jews. Around 40% of the inhabitants were Jews. The relationships between Jews and their neighbors were good. At the beginning of the 1900's, several Jewish institutions were established in Żółkiew:

  • "Tarbut", a school for teaching Hebrew and Jewish culture
  • "Dr Zelina Klaftan", a Jewish girls vocational secondary school
  • "Cultur Farain", a Jewish club for culture and art
  • An amateur Jewish theater under the direction of Meir Melman, husband of Ida Kamińska
  • A Jewish orphanage.

A magnificent synagogue, a real fortress, built by King Jan III SOBIESKI of Poland in the 17th century in Żółkiew, still stands there today. In the king's honor the synagogue was named "Sobieski Schul". King Sobieski was favorable towards the Jews, probably thanks to the influence of his Jewish doctor, Simcha Menachem de Jona. Under his reign Żółkiew Jewry became a center of Torah study and wisdom and reached its apogee. The Germans tried to destroy the synagogue, and the Soviets transformed it into a warehouse in1944.

There were many other synagogues besides the Sobieski Schul, but all were made of wood and were destroyed by fire.

Over the years, many Żółkiew Jewish scholars were renowned in various fields, among them: Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Chayes, who was Chief Rabbi of Żółkiew; Rabbi Nachman Krochmal; Dr Meir ha-Levi Latris; Salcia Landmann; Sir Hirsch Lauterpacht; Hilel ben Naphtali Zvi; Moshe Guliger; Jacob ben Wolf Kranz of Dubno (the Dubner Maggid).

The main livelihood of the community was fur making and trade.

Marcos' first memory from his childhood was when he was three years old and taken to the heder, as was the tradition. At the age of 5, Marcos went to the heder everyday and also to an improvised school located in the Rabbi's home. At the age of 12 he went to Tarbut Jewish School, where he was taught Hebrew, Polish and Yiddish by the Majdaneks. Marcos loved Hebrew and Yiddish in particular. At home he spoke only Yiddish with his mother and his grandfather.

He was a member of Hashomer Hatzair, a socialist Zionist movement. There were numerable Zionist activities in different movements (Hashomer Hatzair, Hehalutz, Hatzohar, Bene Akiva, Beitar)

The whole family, including grandparents and uncles, lived at Snycerska street no 29; the street was known in Żółkiew as Astmanowska, because of Marcos' grand-grandfather, who had 12 sons and one daughter, and the whole tribe lived on that street.

Marcos' father, Zecharia Astman, was born in 1898 in Żółkiew. He served in the Austro-Hungarian Army during WW1. He was not a religious man. Making a living was hard; he dealt in buying and selling everything available. The family also owned a small piece of land, where they cultivated various vegetables, partly for marketing.

Marcos' mother, Nina Redler, was born in 1898 in Żółkiew. Zecharia and Nina married in 1920. They had four children:

- Marcos, the interviewee.

- Perla, was born in 1924, married Aharon Fueas from Lithuania; she lives in Israel.

- Sonia, was born in 1927, married Shaul Krasowitski from Russia; she lives in Israel.

- Arieh Leo, was born in 1928, married Riwka, born in Uruguay of Polish origin; they immigrated to Israel in 1968.

Paternal grandparents

Marcos' grandfather, Mordechai Astman, died from cholera before 1920. Marcos was named after him. Marcos' grandmother, Hinda, died on 21.8.1939. Mordechai and Hinda had six children:

- Zecharia, the interviewee's father.

- Herc, married, had a son, Mordechai Motel, and a daughter. The whole family was murdered.

- Fajge, married Zvi Hirszhorn, had 2 or 3 children. The whole family was murdered.

- Shiwa Bar-Sheva, married Moshe X, had two children; Moshe had a horse- drawn wagon for transporting people. The whole family was murdered.

- Vitale, unmarried, she lived in Lwów. She was murdered.

- Miriam, unmarried. She was murdered.

Maternal grandparents

Marcos' grandfather, Jeszajahu Szaj Redler a gentleman, was a traditional and tolerant person respected by everyone. Szaj was a furrier and did well. For many years he was the Chairman of the Żółkiew furriers. Marcos' grandmother, Bejle, was a lovely person. Both were murdered. Szaj and Bejle had eight children:

- Aba, married to Esther, had no children. They lived in Kulików, some 25 km from Żółkiew. They were murdered.

- Mina, the interviewee's mother

- Jakow, married Pepa, had three children. In 1934 or 1935 they emigrated to Argentine, from Vienna (Austria), where they used to live. Their children immigrated to Israel.

- Matatjahu, married Rachel, had two children. In 1934 or 1935 they emigrated to Argentine, from Vienna (Austria), where they used to live.

- Shaul Dow, killed while a child during WW1 from a stray bullet.

- Zwi, a bachelor. In 1935 he went from Vienna to Palestine with a fake passport. He was arrested in Turkey as a spy and his father had to mortgage all his belongings to release him. He came to Palestine through Syria and Tzemach. He married Zila. They had three sons, one of them, Ofer, was killed on the Golan Heights in the Yom Kippur War. Zwi and Zila died very young.

- Jechezkel, ran away to the Soviet Union at the beginning of the war. In Tashkent he met Rachel from Poland. They married and after the war they emigrated to Argentine.

- Chaja Etel, was unmarried. She was sent Auschwitz and on the way she jumped from the train and returned to Żółkiew. She was sent to Auschwitz a second time. She was murdered. Rumors said that she had married in Żółkiew ghetto.

In 1928, Zecharia Astman left for Uruguay in search of a better life. His wife, Mina, remained in Żółkiew with four small children. It was tough for her because she didn't have any help. Marcos' father had meant to reach the USA, but he was misled, and he reached South America instead. Zecharia was welcomed by his Żółkiew friends in Montevideo. They helped him to get together a kit of szmontses (thread, clips, combs, needles, cords, pins), to sell in the countryside. He began immediately without knowing a word of Spanish.

In 1936, Mina and the two youngest children, Sonia and Leo, joined Zecharia. The reason was that small children paid half price for tickets, and there was money for one ticket only. Some time later, young Perla joined them. Marcos remained with his Redler grandparents. He learned the furrier business and started working. At the same time he also went to evening school.

On 30.8.1939, Marcos arrived in Montevideo. He found the family living in a one room apartment, in very bad conditions. His father was still walking along country roads selling his merchandise. Marcos started working; he worked with a furrier for three months until the end of the season; after which he was a waiter in a cervezeria, a kind of pub. For some time he worked two shifts. Thanks to his salary, the family could move to a more spacious apartment. He even bought a grocery store for his parents.

Then in 1941 he returned to furs. After a year and a half, Marcos and his partner, Felix Feldfogel of Polish origin, set up a business of sub-contracting from big manufacturers. The business was successful. Marcos immigrated to Israel in 1965 and set up a similar fur business in Israel, "Parisur", with his partners, Felix and his brother Leo Astman (plus 2 or 3 investors). Leo immigrated to Israel in 1968 and Felix in 1973.

Zecharia and Nina Astman, Marcos' parents, and his two sisters, Perla and Sonia, immigrated to Israel in 1976. Zecharia died in 1990 and Nina in 1991.

In Montevideo, Marcos met Julia Chaja Szifra Korkin, from Lithuania. She arrived in Uruguay in 1934, when she was 6 years old; she was born in 1922 in Kowno. They married in 1942 and had two children:

- Shaul, born on 16.9.1943 [...]

- Betty, born in 1946 [...]

Marcos was the youngest ever general-secretary of the Ashkenaz Jewish Community in Montevideo for several years. He also used to be very active in the Israeli Socialist Party Mapai, in Montevideo and in Israel.

Julia died in 1972; Marcos retired in 1994. Shaul then took over for 2-3 years before he closed down the business.

 

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