Jewry’s contribution to the development of the spa culture in the Eastern Borderlands at the turn of the centuries should be viewed in a broad context, because this process took place with varying intensity over the years, at the background of social changes and medical discoveries. Changes in the legal situation of Galician Jews, related to their emancipation and equality in 1867, also played an important role in this process. The equality of rights, although in reality implemented slowly, in the context of health-resorts gave Jewish people a chance to perform the function of, for example, spa doctors. The development of these facilities in eastern Galicia - which was part of the Austrian monarchy from 1772, and then a region of independent Poland since 1918 – in the sphere of therapy or stylistic tendencies in architecture, was closely related to trends dictated by renowned European resorts, such as Karlsbad (Karlove Vary), Marienbad (Mariánské Lázně) or Franzesbad (Františkovy Lázně). At the end of the 19th century, these spas transformed into truly Jewish and bourgeois metropolises, becoming the symbols of health resorts for Central European Jews. The rank of these places in the political and social life may be demonstrated by the so-called Jewish Assembly, which took place in what was then Marienbad, in 1907. During that gathering, the Count of Sternberg addressed the issue of anti-Semitism, assimilation and isolation of Austrian Jews prevailing in German-speaking countries at the time.

The most intensive development of European resorts occurred at the end of the 19th and in the first half of the 20th century. Their advancement was related to the progress in medical sciences and precise analyses of mineral waters, which created the foundations for drilling works. This resulted in the establishment of many new spas in Europe, including the majority of Borderlands health resorts. The wave of medical discoveries in balneo-climatology, the introduction of mineral water treatment - crenotherapy, precise determination of curative properties of mineral waters, as well as indications and contraindications concerning use of the treatment, brought about the beginning of organized curative treatment activities in spas and climatic resorts, such as: Morszyn (Morshyn), Delatyn (Deliatyn), Druskieniki (Druskininkai), Zaleszczyki (Zalishchyky), Jaremcze (Yaremche), Żabie (Verkhovyna), Mikuliczyn (Mykulychyn) or Truskawiec (Truskavets). Another important factor in the development of health resorts was the formation of large urban centres and the activities of enlightened, emancipated bourgeoisie, also of Jewish origin, which began to gain significance in society. Emergence of early capitalist forms of production was resulting in growing status of burghers, who, enabled by emancipation, used health spas to a greater extent than before. In the 19th century, the burghers opened a new chapter in the history of European resorts, also those located in the Eastern Borderlands. First of all, along with a mass developments, this contributed to the transformation of spas from luxury resorts, serving as summer residences for the aristocracy, to health spas for wider social groups. Spas were becoming common and served as a kind of “self-presentation” for the widely understood bourgeois class. This process should be seen conjointly with the social legislation of the 1880s, initiated in Prussia, and taken up in the Austro-Hungarian Empire since 1888. According the Act of April 30 of that year, an insurance against disease was introduced, which resulted in the obligatory establishment of health insurance policies for workers employed in various industries in 1897. As a result, spa patients residing in cities, working in industry, completed the full social spectrum of visitors to the resorts.

Huge improvement of transport systems in the second half of the 19th century was also conducive to the development of health resorts. Traveling by rail has become generally accessible. In “Głos Lekarzy” (The Doctors’ Voice) from 1912, Dr Szczepan Mikołajski published a report of his travels to Borderlands health resorts: “While travelling on the train, I heard Jewish women comparing Karlsbad to Truskawiec. And here, having arrived, I see the Orthodox Jews with a glass of Naftusia or Maryja in their hands, and although I heard complaints about our spas being besieged by Jews, I am of the opinion that we should be rather glad that our resorts are appreciated by people of Judaic faith [1.1]. Apart from travelling to a spa for therapeutic or entertainment purposes (gambling was a fashionable form of pastime in those places), another new trend emerged: the inhabitants of cities began to travel to spas with whole families, because only there they could find adequate accommodation, an appropriate range of leisure activities and climatic and natural attributes beneficial for a rest. Nowadays, these trips are known as holidays. With the growth in the number of spas in the 19th century, the difference in the situation of places of solely local significance and that of a small number of famous resorts became more and more visible. Large and fashionable Austro-Hungarian spas boasted of their international character: Goethe “baptised” Karlsbad as the “chessboard of Europe” (Schachbrett Europas), Marienbad was described as the “world health resort” (Weltbad), while Franzesbad was called a women's spa (Frauenbad), because it was known as the place of “last chance” for old spinsters to find a husband. Terms such as the “summer capital of Europe” or “checkerboard of Europe” also indicate another function of great and prestigious resorts - they served as a political stage for prominent guests and important events. At the same time, they were places of inspiration for exceptional literary and musical works, or made parts of their narrative, as in the case a widely-known novel entitled Marienbad written by Sholem Aleichem (1859–1916). Small spas of the Borderlands tried to capitalize on this wave, naming themselves in a manner of the big European resorts. The times of warfare, especially the period of the World War I, were very unfavourable for functioning regional spas. They brought the impoverishment of the population and repressions, which was also very harmful to health resorts and their infrastructure. After 1918, the spa towns, which after the First World War often were in economic and political collapse, required investments and urban reforms. Spas suffered as a result of plunder, while wars were destabilizing and ruining the inhabitants’ lives. At that time, as it was observed, the infrastructure of individual spas in the Borderlands was in the state of a regress. These events also had a negative impact on the general development of regional balneotherapy and, in a way, stifled the activities in the spa towns. The town of Morszyn can serve as an example - after 1918, the Society of Galician Physicians, coming to the conclusion that it was impossible to rebuild the spa destroyed during the war and carry out all the necessary investments, leased the town to the Polskie Zdroje company.

Spas – a magnet for Jewry

At the turn of the centuries, the spas of Eastern Borderlands were a magnet for the Jewish population. At the end of the 19th century, for example, in Birsztany (Birštonas), the poor patients of Jewish origin constituted the majority of people visiting this town. There were also two Jewish feldshers providing their services. The situation was similar in the Western Galician spas: in Krynica, in the second therapeutic season in 1918, one starting in September, the patients of Jewish origin amounted to over 80% of visitors. However, large international resorts that offered metropolitan anonymity were the most popular among Jewish spa sojourners. Small and intimate resorts of the Eastern Borderlands were less attractive, because Jews, especially the Orthodox ones, often confronted anti-Semitism there. In 1886, in the Kurier Lwowski (a newspaper published in Lviv), one could read: “We demand, because we have the right to demand, to have it as it is in Karlsbad and other well organised establishments, meaning that people clothed indecently should not be admitted to the promenade or to the spring; we demand that the Jews be not allowed to sprawl on the benches and occupy all the places intended for the whole public, and not just for them. We ask that there be a guard who would remind the overindulging sons of Israel of the borderline between decency and obscenity, and that no one should be obliged to endure their customs so much lacking in elegance, and their antics so unaesthetic’ [1.2]. In “Kurier Stanisławowski” from 1900, there is a report from the spa in Jaremcze (Yaremche): “The turnout this year is much lower than in the previous year, and this is due to the fact that the Jews, who have always come down here in great numbers, are not visiting Jaremcze this year. The supposed reason lies in the fact that Kapitańczuk – well-known from the murder trial in Jamna – released from prison, currently resides in Jaremcze” [1.3]. In 1899 Stefan Kapitańczuk murdered Chaja Spiegel - the wife of a local innkeeper, Dawid Spiegel, and their guests: a merchant from Zborów - Lejba Neumann and a military cadet - Mechlema Kawaler, while Spiegel was severely injured. However, the ambiance of health resorts was usually friendly and conducive to the phenomenon of the so-called Stammgasts, that is permanent guests in the spa towns, who, in an aura of rest and a certain freedom of manners, built a specific network of relationships, limited to the time of stay for the treatment. These relations were characterized by considerable diversity in terms of national, cultural or socio-religious characteristics. Such a diversity, however, was not always welcomed, as it was proven by Prussian resorts. From the journal “Zdrojowiska i Turystyka” from 1914, we learn that: “From Kudowa in Silesia, we get the reports that the local members of the Central Association of Guesthouses and Hotels have promised, at the request of the curative director, not to accept or keep people who draw attention by their slovenly and neglected appearance, and not to accept people wearing gabardine. This commitment is to prevent the influx of Galician Jews to Kudowa; during the last year they became the scourge of many bathing places”. [1.4]. However, the above-mentioned information, apart from the anti-Semitic overtones, shows the popularity of spas among Galician Jews.

How to explain this interest shared not only by the patients, but also by physicians? This situation was the resultant of many causes, however these two were the most important: the first one was related to the integration of hygiene principles with religious tradition. Judaism has integrated moral principles of religion, hygiene requirements and medicine into a coherent system, which demands, among other things, to take care of health and prevent diseases. An example are the Moses Maimonides’ (1138-1204) rules for preserving one’s health, a number of simple recommendations on everyday hygiene in the matter of nutrition, sleep, activity and general hygiene. The rationality of this system was also confirmed during the great medical discoveries as well as in the 19th century, for example in the field of microbiology or bacteriology. Hygiene recommendations derived from Judaism, which were only seen as cultural attributes, show astonishing compatibility with the modern state of medical knowledge. The second cause of the high popularity of spas among Jews was related to the obstacles which, at that time, prevented Jewish doctors from obtaining speciality in many fields of medicine. To be able to develop and advance professionally, they tended to choose new, niche medical specialities, such as hygiene, laryngology or physical medicine, which formed the basis of therapy in a spa. At that time, the average period of waiting for promotion by a doctor of Jewish origin was longer than that of his colleagues. These people were often in a situation of uncertainty concerning their scientific career, and even when they were promoted in academic structures, it usually happened at a relatively late age. The success of Central European resorts resulted also from the introduction of a medical system overseeing the therapy. In the Austrian monarchy, this was done on the basis of the state act of April 30, 1870, on organisation of public health services, and various regulations in particular crown countries which were implemented later (in Galicia, these were two laws - from 1891 and 1908). According to the legal provisions which came into force, the spa centres had to have a medical directorate, and the therapy in a spa had to be supervised by medical scientific management.

The Jews involved in the development and reform of spa culture

The main promoter of the development of physical medicine in the 19th century, was the University of Vienna - Wiener Medizinische Schule. Vienna was also the place where doctors of Jewish origin played an important role in medical profession, as can be read in the Polish pre-war press: “Two professions are increasingly under the Jewish influence: medicine and law (...). Fortunately for us, medicine is still mostly in Polish-Christian hands and for a long time protected from Jews. In other Austrian provinces, such as Vienna, the Jews have completely taken over medicine and the effects are simply horrendous” [1.5]. According to Wolfgang Krauss, the percentage of physical medicine doctors in Vienna at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries was close to the maximum and amounted to over 70% of all the physicians [1.6]. Wilfried Teicher from Munich, in his research on the development of physical medicine, had constructed a collective portrait of medical professors of the Jewish origin in the German language lands, which was arranged in a very characteristic scheme of three generations. The professors were, for the most part, sons of free practising doctors and grandsons of merchants or entrepreneurs. An important element of the collective portrait was also the high material status, thanks to which Jewish physicians were financially independent. Thus, they were getting much better results from their PhD dissertations or in the sphere of innovation. They could also conduct scientific research outside the binding academic trend, for example in private laboratories [1.7].

Wilhelm Winternitz

A Viennese researcher of Jewish origin, whose activity concerning the development of the spa culture had much wider than local impact, also affecting Eastern Borderlands, was prof. Wilhelm Winternitz (1835-1917). He was born in Josevofov (German: Josefstadt) in Bohemia. He studied medicine in Prague and Vienna. During the years 1857-1859, after completing his medical studies, he worked as a doctor in Königlich-böhmische Landes-Irrenanstalt military hospital in Prague. Afterwards, he practiced, among others, in Gräfenberg (currently Jaseniki in the Czech Republic), where under the guidance of Dr Joseph Schindler - a student of the well-known hydrotherapist, Vinzenz Priessnitz - he familiarized himself with the indications, contraindications and methodology of hydrotherapeutic treatments. In 1865, he defended the first in the history of medicine PhD dissertation in the field of hydrotherapy, entitled Zur rationellen Begründung einiger hydrotherapeutischer Verfahren. In the same year, he opened a private hydrotherapy clinic in Kaltenleutgeben near Vienna. In 1874, Winternitz defended another PhD dissertation - on internal diseases, and seven years later became a professor at the University of Vienna, were he headed the first hydrotherapy department in the world. Professor Winternitz published the results of his research in a two-volume work entitled Die Hydrotherapie auf physiologischer und klinischer Grundlage, which appeared in print in 1877-1879, also in the form of articles published in “Blätter für klinische Hydrotherapie”. Winternitz “broke a spell” by bringing hydrotherapists into the arms of science. Until then, they were quite dismissively named Wasserdoctors.  It ought to be emphasized that the matter was of significant importance since at the end of the 19th century, every European health resort had a hydrotherapeutic facility, where one of the three most popular hydrotherapeutic methods was used: Wilhelm Winternitz’s, Sebastian Kneipp’s or Vinzenz Priessnitz’s.

Enoch Heinrich Kisch

Another physician whose activity had a significant influence on the spa culture of the Eastern Borderlands of the former Polish Republic - was Enoch Heinrich Kisch (1841-1918). His brother, Alexander, was a rabbi in Prague, and his father, Josef - the founder of the first Jewish school in that city. Kisch graduated from middle school and then completed medical studies at the University of Prague. After obtaining his PhD, he was helped by balneologist - professor Josef von Lösner (1809-1888), thanks to whom he became a spa doctor in 1863 in the resort of Marienbad. The same year, he energetically began his scientific and popularizing work in the field of balneoclimatology. He published his works in available scientific and popular science periodicals, among others, in the Berliner Klinische Wochenschrift magazine. Thanks to his concept and vision of the spa as a modern, multidimensional therapeutic space, he instigated the reforms of the spa culture in Europe. He opened a rational discourse in the medical circles on the clinical and physiological foundations of balneoclimatic therapy. He propagated the reform of crenotherapy, that is - mineral water treatment, and the methodology of performing many healing procedures in a spa. He unwaveringly insisted on introducing a diet to spa therapy. From 1868, he was the editor of Allgemeine Balneologische Zeitung, a prestigious scientific journal with a balneological profile, in which all prominent scientists in the field of spa therapy and related fields from around the world published their works. With his activities he made great contributions to the development of a model of modern spa treatment and balneology, also by popularizing it among patients and increasing their pro-health awareness in the context of diseases of affluence.


The Eastern Borderlands resorts were, apart from the Vienna centre, associated with native universities, among which the universities in Cracow and Lviv played the leading role. Until 1900, at the Jagiellonian University, the largest number of people of Jewish origin defended their PhDs at the faculties of law and medicine. The Jews also constituted 30% of those submitting their PhD dissertations in medicine or “maybe even more, because many, to disguise their origin, changed their typical Jewish-German names” [1.8]. Taking into account the fact that they constituted 10% of the population of Galicia at that time, the proportions in relation to the total number of defended PhD dissertations at just one university, were impressive. In 1857, at the Cracow Scientific Society, on the initiative of Professor Józef Dietl (1804-1978), there was established the Balneological Commission, which in 1905 was transformed into the Polish Balneological Society.

National Spa Company

In 1858, a well-known Jewish entrepreneur, banker and philanthropist from Warsaw and a friend of prof. Dietl, a great follower of the idea of the development of national spas - Leopold Kronenberg (1812-1878), initiated the creation of the National Spa Company. That body laid the foundations for an organization with broad plans encompassing all spas in Galicia. Among the founding members of the Company were such persons as Professor Józef Dietl, Leopold Kronenberg, prince Władysław Sanguszko, prince Jerzy Lubomirski, count Wit Żeleński, count Kazimierz Krasicki and others. The financial share of each of the partners amounted to PLZ 3,000, and the company’s capital amounted PLZ 60,000, which was a considerable sum in those times. The company determined the spa policy and the main goals of spa treatment in Galicia of that time.

Adolf Beck

In 1893, the Faculty of Medicine was established at the University of Lviv. It educated physicians who were then employed, among other places, in spas. In the years 1912-1913, the rector of this university, who was considered to be the founder of the Lviv school of physiology and a contributor to the development of Eastern Borderlands health resorts, was Professor Adolf (Chaim) Abraham Beck (born in 1863). Professor Beck was born in Cracow, in a family of a Jewish baker - Szaja Beck and Gustawa née Müller. In his hometown he graduated from the St Jack High School and the Faculty of Medicine at the Jagiellonian University. From 1886, he worked at the university’s Department of Physiology and Histology.He defended his doctoral thesis in 1890, and obtained his habilitation (the right to supervise PhD candidates) in 1894. After obtaining the habilitation, he was employed at the University of Lviv, where in 1904-1905 and 1916-1917 he served as the dean of the Faculty of Medicine. Professor Beck was a neurologist, physiologist, co-discoverer of brain currents (1890) and pioneer of electroencephalography. He conducted research on the influence of radium on the body, which was important in the context of spa procedures implemented in the early 20th century in water and in radon emanators. Just like Enoch Kisch, he was the editor of the “Lwowski Tygodnik Lekarski” (Lviv Medical Weekly) medical journal. It was not a journal with a balneological profile, but Professor Beck, along with another editor, Dr Sieradzki, devoted a lot of space to the problems of spas, balneoclimatology and physical medicine. In his university activities, Beck supported students of Jewish origin - in 1913, a medical students organization called The Library of Listeners, which operated within the faculty structure, had 180 members, most of whom were Jews.

The Schneider family

In 1904, Professor Beck, as dean, handed a graduation diploma to the first woman who completed her studies at the faculty of medicine in Lviv - Maria Matylda Kalmus-Schneiderowa, a Jewess born in 1879 in Marijampolė. Her husband, internist Nusin Aron Schneider, born in Berdyczów in 1873, son of Moses, was among the first group of graduates of the medical faculty at the University of Lviv. He obtained his diploma in 1900. The spouses were conducting a joint medical practice in Lviv at 24 Kościuszki Street.

Tadeusz Epstein

In 1926, the Balneological Institute was founded in Cracow - a scientific centre serving all Polish health resorts, involved in research in the field of spa treatment, balneoclimatology, physical medicine and hydrotherapy. Following the example of institutions of this type already functioning in Europe, the Institute was also to be a place where medical students would acquire knowledge in these areas. The Cracow Chamber of Commerce and Industry, whose president at that time was Tadeusz Epstein (1870-1939), took part in this undertaking. Thanks to Epstein, donations and found collections were organized for the purpose of creating that organisation. Tadeusz Epstein came from a family of Jewish entrepreneurs. His father, Juliusz, was the owner of the rolling mill in Borek Fałęcki and a banker. Epstein graduated from a middle school in Cracow, and then, until 1890, he studied at the Commercial Academy in Prague. After returning to Cracow, he became known for his extensive social and economic activities for the benefit of the city. He held, among other functions, the post of the president of the Health Insurance Found, since 1902 was a member of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and in the years 1916-1935 - its president. From 1903, he was a member of the Cracow City Council. He was the initiator of the construction of the Cracow-Miechów railway line and the establishment of the Cracow Monetary Exchange in 1919. He was also the vice-president of the Union of Industrialists in Cracow and the Central Union of Polish Industry in Warsaw.

Jewish doctors and scientists, and their contribution to the development of the spa concept and methods of treatment

The tangible development of physical medicine, constituting the basis of spa treatment did not, however, take place at universities, where for a long time this speciality was considered as rather unimportant. Wolfgang Krauss is of an opinion that physical medicine developed between 1890 and 1914 as a result of the specific situation of Jewish docents, primarily within their private practices and laboratories.  During the winter season the doctors worked in cities, and during the spa healing period they stayed in health resorts which they transformed into centres of great medical innovations. At that time, many important discoveries were made in the natural sciences. They significantly influenced the treatment of diseases, changed the existing state of knowledge, caused the introduction of new therapeutic procedures and therapeutic equipment in treatment facilities. Apart from the healing methods traditionally associated with the spa therapy, that is the use of mineral and thermal waters, other treatments appeared: with the use of electricity, fango, electric-water baths, modern hydrotherapy, inhalations, sauna, radon treatments or peat mud treatments. The use of peloids (e.g. peat) was significant for the development of spas. 

Hermann Hirschfeld

Peat was first used for medicinal purposes in the spa town of Bad Pyrmont in Germany, in 1802. The person who greatly contributed to the wider use of this balneological material was Hermann Hirschfeld (1825-1885), born in Szczecinek, who examined the therapeutic properties of Kołobrzeg peat mud and played an important part in the development of treatments, including those using this peloid. His greatest achievement, however, was the contribution he made to balneoclimatic research, which eventuated in the flourishing of seaside resorts. This was related to the fact, that the spa offer widened in the 19th century, and included various climatic resorts, also those located in the mountain and on the seacoast. Healing baths in sea water were a phenomenon unknown until then. It can be assumed that the popularity of this type of locations was also a harbinger of changes in the burghers' awareness and of the upcoming revolution in social mores. Hirschfeld, as the head doctor of the Jewish Spa Sanatorium in Kołobrzeg, conducted extensive research related to the influence of brines, waters saturated with sodium and chlorides and sea climate on human body, and on their significance in spa therapy. 

Samuel Edelman

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the spas also introduced treatment and disease prevention focusing on a new group of diseases – diseases of affluence; along with health education. An example of a physician-innovator in this field is a neurologist and urologist - Dr Samuel Edelman (born 1891), who completed his medical studies in 1924. He was professionally connected with Traskawiec. His interests included widely spread metabolic disorders, in particular diabetes. He was an advocate of introducing dietetic nutrition to spa treatment in Polish resorts, as an indispensable pillar of this therapeutic process. He worked in Truskawiec, among others places in the “Badiana” and “Arkadia” villas. The doctor resided in Warsaw at 5/1 Ceglana Street. 

Adolf Edelman

A relative of Samuel Edelman, Dr Adolf Edelman (Edelmann) (1883-1944) was professionally connected with Vienna, Karlsbad and Truskawiec. He was born in Działoszyce near Kielce - within the borders of the Kingdom of Poland. After graduating as a physician at the Jagiellonian University, he practiced, among other places, at the surgery of Dr Jaworski in Cracow. After defending his PhD thesis in 1911, he began practicing at the Karl Harko von Noorden Clinic in Vienna. Then he worked as an assistant, and later as a temporary director of the department of internal medicine at Wilhelminespital, in the clinic of Karel Frederika Wenckebach, and as the doctor and director of the Children's Hospital and the Research Institute in Vienna. He conducted research in, among others, hematology and chemotherapy. During the summer season he saw his patients in Karlsbad at the Vulcan villa and during visits in Truskawiec. He was a medical innovator and a pioneer in spa treatment of, for instance, pediatric diseases with hematological background. There are two medical eponyms related to his name: Edelman’s syndrome of I - chronic, acute anemia, and Edelman’s syndrome of II - pancreatitis with hepatocellular infiltration. In 1931, he discovered a blood element which he called kinetozyten. 

Maksymilian Blassberg

The spa treatment of metabolic disorders was also the subject of the studies by an internist Dr Maximilian Blassberg (1875-1945) from the Jewish hospital in Cracow, who demanded the introduction of ‘special devices in Polish health resorts for people with diabetes’. His lectures on the subject of spa medicine have inscribed themselves into the development of this scientific discipline. He was also a tireless campaigner for the founding of the Balneological Institute in Cracow. 

Adolf Schwarzbart

The development of spa treatment in the Eastern Borderlands was also influenced by Blassberg's colleague - Dr Adolf Schwarzbart (born 1882), head of the laryngology department at the Jewish hospital in Cracow, involved in the development of inhalation methods in spa treatment. These methods were popular in such health resorts as: Kosów, Jaremcze, Truskawiec, Druskieniki and Birsztany. 

Aleksander Goldschmied

Issues related to the treatment of metabolic diseases in spas were also of interest to Dr Aleksander Goldschmied (1903-1982), who worked in Morszyn in the 1930s. After the war he was a member of the Scientific Council of the Balneological Institute at the Polish Academy of Sciences, an employee and rector of the Medical Academy in Łódź (1954-1955) and the head doctor of the spa in Uzbansk, Ukraine. In 1956 he departed for Israel. 

Stefan Kramsztyk

Another well-known physician engaged in the development of spa treatment methods was a Warsaw paediatrician - Stefan Kramsztyk (1877-1943). He graduated from the University of Warsaw in 1903. In 1904-1905, after defending his diploma, he worked as a military doctor during the Russo-Japanese War, and after the World War I, he became a clerk at the Ministry of Health. In the interwar period, he held, among others, the post of a scientific adviser to the Society of the Chemical-Pharmaceutical Industry and Boryszew Pharmaceutical Enterprise. With his scientific works and lectures, also within the framework of the Polish Society of Balneology and Physical Medicine, he contributed to the development of balneotherapy. He was interested in the issues related to physicochemical properties of iron containing mineral waters and their clinical effect on, among other conditions, child anaemia. Arrested together with his wife in 1943, he perished in Otwock.

Ignacy Fonberg

Among those to whom Eastern Borderlands spas owe their development, were also various researchers of Jewish origin. An example of such a person is the son of a manufacturer from Bielsk Podlaski, Professor Ignacy Fonberg (1801-1891) - chemist and physician professionally connected with the University of Vilnius. He was the first person to study the chemical composition of water sources in Druskieniki, determined their physicochemical properties and published the results of his research in the professional press. Fonberg was the initiator of Druskieniki development towards a health resort. Until 1939, there was a mineral water spring named after him.

Henryk Meisel  

Another Jewish researcher involved in the development of the spa culture in the Eastern Borderlands was a microbiologist from the National Institute of Hygiene in Lviv - Professor Henryk Meisel (1894-1981). He came from an assimilated Jewish family living in Przemyśl. He studied medicine at the University of Vienna. From 1922 till 1939 he was working on, among other issues, determining therapeutic properties and suitability for treatments of the Moravian peat, which, apart from chlorine-sodium waters, was the most important balneological material in that spa town.

Selected architects of Jewish origin and spa building developments in Eastern Borderlands resorts

The history of the development of the Eastern Borderlands health resorts is closely associated with the objects of spa infrastructure. Spa architecture is made of balneological, residential and recreational facilities, associated with the healing function of a spa.A distinctive feature of the spa towns in the Eastern Borderlands was the heterogeneity of architecture. A multitude of architectural forms was to appeal to various groups of users. In the 19th century, buildings for the lower social strata were constructed in a simple architectural style unlike those intended for more affluent burghers. It can be assumed that fashion for spas in other parts of Europe and the emergence of large urban centers whose residents were beneficiaries of spas gave the impetus for the development of spa infrastructure in the Eastern Borderlands. In 1911, the largest cities of Galicia after Lviv were: Kołomyja (Kolomyia) (38,808 inhabitants), Drohobycz (Drohobych) (35,865 inhabitants), Tarnopol (Ternopil) (32,327 inhabitants), Stanisławów (Ivano-Frankivsk) (30,150 inhabitants) and Stryj (Stryi) (29,025 inhabitants). The development of large population centres and the rapid expansion and multiplication of towns, especially in the so-called Boryslav-Drohobych Oil Basin brought negative effects in terms of hygiene and epidemiology affecting the health of their residents. At the beginning of the 20th century, as a result of these changes, the number of people seeking therapy and rest in spas had significantly increased. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries almost all spas, facing growing number of patients and higher therapeutic expectations, started to expand with new, widely available spa houses, bathing establishments and mineral water facilities. The time came when not the ever better equipped spas attracted patients, but on the contrary – a rapidly growing number of guests forced changes in the infrastructure of the resorts. In the first half of the 20th century, the modernization of therapeutic and balneological facilities was often carried out according to the new trend in architecture and urban planning - modernism. That school created a specific design model using, among other concepts, the popular in spas idea of a city garden meeting human psychological needs. 

Józef Awin

The author of the modernist spa facility for Jewish students in Worochta (Vorokhta) was Józef Awin (1883-1942) - Lviv architect and theoretician of the Jewish style in architecture, propagator of Jewish ornamentation in embellishments of textiles, sculptures and building structures. He was the initiator of the Jewish Monuments Care Inspectorate, which was established in 1925 at the Lviv religious community, and he was also an activist for Jewish students scientific circle at the University of Technology – the “Ognisko” (Bonfire) Academic Society. He was the son of a merchant, Aron Awin. The first university he attended was the Lviv Poitechnic (1902-1906), and from 1906 the Technical University of Munich, from which he graduated in 1907. From 1908, he worked in Lviv, where he became famous for the creation of public buildings, such as synagogues and hospitals. He experimented with projects in various styles, and from the 1920s his works gradually tended towards functionalism.  

Reichenstein family

Józef Awin designed a modernist Jewish Dormitory Health House building in Worchota, which was put into use in 1932. A modern facility with reinforced concrete ceilings, central heating and hot, running water, was intended for 120 people. The head of the Lviv Committee for the construction of this sanatorium was Dr Ada Kalmus-Reichenstein, later vice-president of the sanatorium. She was born in 1880 in Stanisławów (Ivano-Frankivsk). Her parents were Nusin Josel Kalmus and Taube (Antonina) Horenstein. In 1898, she graduated from high school in Lviv. In 1903, as one of the first women studying at the University of Lviv, she obtained her PhD for a dissertation entitled Das moderne Märchendrama. She was the wife of a well-known Lviv phisician and assistant at the Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine at the at the University of Lviv - Marek Reichenstein (1867-1832), who was famous for his love for art history. He was the owner of the largest Judaica collection in Lviv, a social activist and donor to the Jewish Museum in Lviv. Ada Reichenstein was also a member of the board of the Dębina Society operating within the framework of the Society for the Care of Jewish Orphans in Lviv, involved in organizing therapeutic stays in spas for Jewish children with pulmonary diseases. Ada's sister was the aforementioned doctor, specialist in gynaecology - Maria Kalmus-Schneiderowa. Both sisters were well known for pro-social and charity activities. They were on the board of the Lviv Society for the Protection of Women, and also involved in various other organisations.  

Max Zucker

Another interesting architect designing spa facilities for Eastern Borderlands was Max Zucker - a person we do not know much about, a local architect, active in the interwar period, the author of dozens of projects in Jaremcze and Worochta. In his projects Zucker combined two contending trends in Polish architecture of that time: modernism and the search for a national style. His works are, on the one hand, projects in the search for the “architecture of identity” style, referring to tradition and the folk art. The roots of this idea went back to the second half of the 19th century, and its ideological source was, among others, the need to mark homeland’s own identity during the period of Partitions. In the case of Zucker’s designs, it was a kind of a hybrid of the Zakopane, Hutsul Land and so-called native style, which, for example, can be seen in the plans to rebuild the Hanus Inn in Jaremcze.On the other hand, his creations were characterized by cautious modernising projects, but consistent with global, functional aesthetics. In the case of Zucker's works, they were marked with numerous classical reflections. An example of such an object is Dr Józef Matuszewski’s saline and inhalation facility, erected in Jaremcze according to the architect's design in the years 1935-1936. A single-storey spa facility with a functional arrangement of interior rooms referred to a Polish noble mansion. The shape of the building, however, is of a style characteristic of the 1930s: the façade contained rows of windows and terraces with balustrades breaking its monotony. In the interwar period, the functional designs gained special significance in social perception, due to the fact that the avant-garde was declared entartete Kunst – “degenerate art” and the closure of the Bauhaus modernist school in Dessau following Hitler’s order.       

Jewish organizations in spas 

The development of the spa culture in the Eastern Borderlands resorts and climatic holiday places was also related to the activities of various Jewish charities and tourist establishments, arranging therapeutic or recreational stays in health resorts. Some of them were organising prophylactic-curative vacations for Jewish children living in particularly difficult circumstances, for example orphans and children from poor families. After World War I, about 13,000 Jewish orphans inhabited Eastern Lesser Poland, under the protective wings of the Lviv Society for the Care of Jewish Orphans. In the context of spas, this organization was responsible, among others, for the establishment, at the initiative of Dr Herman Parnas from Tarnopol, of the Sanatorium for Jewish Children in Dębina. In 1929, the Society endeavoured to create a Health House for Jewish Youth in Zaleszczyki.

The initiator of the first therapeutic summer camps in Europe was an educator and evangelical minister Herman Bion (1830-1909) from Zurich, who from 1876 was creating centres for children in places with a climate having special healing properties, calling them Ferienkolonie, which, freely translated, was adopted in the Polish literature as “healing summer camps” or “therapeutic holidays”. These centres were most frequently set up in spas, both those with balneological material, that is mineral waters, medicinal gases and peloids, and the so-called climatic spas, including coastal and mountain resorts. The assumption was to get children from cities away from their place of residence during the summer break, into regions with a climate of special therapeutic attributes. This idea quickly spread over Germany and Austria, then over other European countries and soon it got transformed into year-round school sanatoria (Schulsanatorien). The task of other Jewish societies operating in the spa towns was to popularize their tourist and natural attributes through organized stays, excursions and summer camps. At the beginning of the 20th century, thanks to such activity, a new industry evolved - tourism. The offer was addressed to adults and school youth. An important statutory goal of these organizations was to popularise behavioural patterns beneficial to nature protection in towns with special scenic qualities.  

Jewish Touring Society in Warsaw

One of these organisations was the Jewish Touring Society, established in Warsaw in 1926. initiator of the society’s creation was its long-time member and chairmen of the Warsaw branch – Zygmund Lewin (1888–1933), a person with an unusual biography marked by travels. He was born in Warsaw, where he grew up in a poor family, and because of this, in 1903, as a pupil of the fourth grade of a primary school, he went to work to Italy. He returned to his homeland, where he graduated from a high school, and then went to Paris to continue his education. Due to financial difficulties, he did not complete his studies in France, but in 1914 emigrated through Russia and Japan to the United States, where he graduated in Ohio as an agronomist. After defending his diploma, he returned to Europe and settled in Gdańsk, where he founded an industrial-cereal enterprise. His next voyage was a trip to Palestine in 1926. He returned after a year because he got infected with malaria. During that time, he was pursuing various occupations, including management a farm breeding Hutsul ponies. Finally, he founded the Society for Jewish Settlement on Farms and became the editor of a magazine with a similar profile, entitled “Rolnik” (Farmer). Because of his passion for travel, he joined the Warsaw branch of the newly established Jewish Touring Society, and became its chairman in 1929. As from 1930, the central board of the organisation published a monthly magazine under the title “Wiadomości Żydowskiego Towarzystwa Krajoznawczego” (News of the Jewish Touring Society) and a scientific quarterly in Yiddish “Landkentnisz”, edited by Dr Emanuel Ringelblum. These publications contained, among others, reports on the activities of the society and its local branches. The organization had the following sections: tourist, pedagogical, photographic, ski, Circle of Theoretical Work on Touring and the Anski Historical and Ethnographic Circle operating at the Jewish Research Institute, publishing “Der Folklorist” magazine. In Warsaw there was also the Jewish Academic Circle of Lovers of Touring, which in 1930 was represented by: D. Oldak, L. Szpitbaum and J. Fenersztajn.  

Jewish Touring Society in Lviv

In December 1930, a branch of the Jewish Touring Society located at 26 Akademicka Street in Lviv began its activities. It was initially headed by an attorney - Dr Chayis. In 1934, this branch with its seat at 1 Wałowa Street, had 4 thousand members and focused on two sections: ski and tourism. The tourist section included: Dr Ignacy Hescheles, Cecylia Kahanowa, Pola Blasbalg, Lolita Laumówna, Antoni Ackerman, Dr Henryk Allerhand, Dr Maurycy Lautersztejn and many others. Its tasks comprised, among other assignments, organizing expeditions and tourist excursions. Out of 19 trips in the winter season of 1932, 15 took place in the vicinity of Lviv and in Borderlands health resorts. One of them was a two-week stay in Jaremcze. From June 1933, the Jewish Touring Society also organized summer camps for children in health resorts, e.g. in Druskieniki. An information and organizational outlet of the Jewish Touring Society in another Borderlands spa resort - located in Skol, at Piłsudski Streets, was managed by G. Ellner.  

Arlosorowia Association of Jewish Academic Youth

The purpose of another organization – Arlosorowia Association of Jewish Academic Youth (with its headquarters in Warsaw at 9 Żabia Street) – was, above all, a scientific justification of the cultural revival of Jewry, conducting economic research on Palestine and developing the social life of its members. The tasks of the association also included organizing summer vacations in Skole and Dębina for Jewish academic youth. The organizers aimed at enabling the academic and working youth of the Jewish intelligentsia to have healthy rest. The summer camp was of a sporting-recreational nature and was held with the participation of Maccabi instructors. The camp program included, among others, tours in the Eastern Carpathians with professional guides, sports activities and cultural events.

Local Jewish community in Eastern Borderlands health resorts

When describing the development of the Borderlands resorts, the contribution of the local Jewish community should also be taken into account. The equal rights for Jews in the Habsburg monarchy brought about a revival of their political, social and economic activities. Many of them temporarily or permanently lived or leased properties in spa towns, outside the districts assigned to them for centuries. Jews owned villas, guesthouses, sanatoriums and inns in the spa towns. They were also shopkeepers and craftsmen, for whom spa patients and resorts were the source of income. From a publication about Truskawiec which appeared in 1850, one can learn that “satisfying minor needs, gloves, ribbons, etc., happens easily with the Yids, who almost every day come from Drohobycz to Truskawiec with various goods. You can also have more expensive wares and Czech glasses, whatever you wish (…)” [1.9]. From a report by Dr Zenon Pelczar we can learn that, seven restaurants operated in Truskawiec in 1894, four of which were run by owners of Jewish origin. In a publication from 1898, Henryk Hoffbauer describes a popular resort – Delatyn (Deliatyn), as a town of 6,000 residents with a predominance of Jews and a functioning Hirsch Jewish school [1.10]. News about the contributions of the local Jewish community to the development of spas is very scarce, and in guidebooks and the information papers, often written in fine print. An example is the Jaremcze guide from 1913, where we will not see any mention of Jews until we get to the last page to find out that in this small town there are “several restaurants run by Israelites, such as: Neumann, Halpern and Eisenstein” [1.11]. This is a fairly strong evidence of the presence and activity of Jews in this spa resort; unfortunately, it is also the only information in this guide on this subject. The case looks similar in the case of a publication about Morszyn dating to 1933. Information for Jewish patients is limited to two notes about kosher meals in the locality, which were offered in the Sigal and Mundusia villas. About the fact that the resorts were eagerly visited by Jewish patients we know, for example, from the memories of the outstanding Wrocław mathematician - Hugo Steinhaus. (1887–1972). Steinhaus underwent the healing treatment in, among other places, Morszyn, in the Orion health centre, and with his family he also spent holidays in Jaremcze, where they stayed in the ‘Nad Prutem’ Villa located in Kamień Dobosza and owned by Krzemieniecki family, and in Worochta, during the summer time, where they wandered in the mountains together with friends, a mathematician - Dr Ignacy Blumenfeld, and Stanisław Vincenz, a writer, author of a book on Czarnohora entitled Na wysokiej połoninie (On a high meadow) - [1.12].

Blumstein family

There are also spa centres and people that we know more about. This can be shown by the example of Dr Chaim Blumstein (1890-1946) - a respected surgeon at the Jewish hospital in Grodno, who had a prospering modernist sanatorium in Druskieniki. In 1917 Chaim Blumstein married Estera Bouchin, with whom he had two sons - Alexander and Nathaniel. During the war, the family was placed in the ghetto in Grodno, while Dr Blumstein was drafted into the medical service as a doctor. The threat of deportation in 1943 forced the Blumstein family to escape from the ghetto. The family of Janina and Antoni Doch, a doctor and friend of Blumstein from before the war, offered their help. The shelter was organized 40 km from Grodno, in Staniewicze, on Edward and Aniela Staniewski’s farm. A small room was built for this purpose in the foundation part of the house. For 18 months, the Blumsteins were hiding in a cellar. After the war, they returned to Grodno, but eventually settled in Łódź. Unfortunately, Dr Blumstein did not enjoy a peaceful life for long. He died on July 6, 1946. His wife and sons emigrated to Paris. Alexander graduated in chemistry, obtained a PhD in chemistry and together with his wife Rita Blattberg, who came from Krakow, departed for the United States in 1960.

Gärtner family

In Żabie (Verkhovina) – a small picturesque town in the Eastern Carpathians - Eliezer (Lejzor) Gärtner, who came to this town from Kosovo, was running his business. One of his grandparents, Mordechaj Hersch, had a large enterprise in Kosovo, and for a time was also a mayor. Lejzor was the founder and leader of the Jewish community in Żabie, owner of a well-known inn with guestrooms, he also handled food supplies for the spa. Eliezer and Salcia Gärtner were the parents of four sons: Arie (born 1916), David-Dank (born 1919), Marian-Mirek (born 1921) and Schimek (born 1922), to whom they tried to assure the best education possible. Arie, just before the war, completed medical studies in Lviv. Thanks to his father's connections he managed to get around numerus clausus and became a physician at the beginning of 1939, practicing in the surgery of Dr Serwacki in Żabie. David was a graduate of the Lviv Polytechnic, Marian graduated in economics at the economic school in Kovel, while Schimek attended high school in Kolomyia, completing it in 1940. Lejzor Gärtner was known for his interest in Hutsul art. He was the owner of a prized collection of paintings, including those on glass, as well as weapons, rugs, ceramics and various bric-a-brac. This collection was often described in pre-war periodicals, also abroad, as “the private museum of Mr. Gärtner”. He was thought of as an expert in the field of Hutsul art. Gärtner was a well-known and respected person, as evidenced by Dr Szczepan Mikołajski’s record of a journey through the Borderlands resorts published in Kurier Lwowski (Lviv Courier) in 1912. He described his overnight stay at the Gärtner inn as follows: “Mr Gärtner was proud to say that he hosted in his guestrooms minister Duleba and other great figures[1.13]. A part of his collections Gärtner donated to the Hutsul Museum, designed by an architectural and construction team composed of Stefan Listowski, Zbigniew Karpiński and engineer Cybulski, and established in Żabie in 1939.

Groedel family

Among the owners of spa towns were also Jews. However, they were primarily entrepreneurs specializing in various industries, who sought new sources of income in selected localities. Thanks to their activities, somewhat by the way, they contributed to the development of Borderlands resorts. This can be illustrated by the example of Groedel i Gartenberg familes. Groedels came to Borderlands from Friedberg in Hesse. It was a Jewish family well known in this country, and it included, among others, Izydor Groedel (1850-1921) - balneologist, spa doctor in Bad Nauheim, the owner of a well-known sanatorium located in this spa town and a personal physician of the last German Empress, Augusta. His son, Franz Groedel (1881-1951), cardiologist and physical medicine doctor was the founder of the famous medical institution, the American College of Cardiology in Washington (1949). In 1886, three brothers Groedel: Arthur, Richard and Albert founded a specialized wood industry company in Demnya, Oporets’ and Stryi, under the name: Groedel Brothers’ Company. Soon after, the company expanded and transformed into an industrial complex of a diversified structure. Apart from the buildings of the plant, it also included: a small workers' settlement, a school, a casino, a hotel, shops as well as repair and mechanical workshops, a small hydropower plant, waterworks and a narrow-gauge railway. The total area of the Groedel brothers estate amounted to over 36 thousand ha.  The brothers rebuilt and extended the former palace of count Eugeniusz Kiński in Demnia Wyżna, which was to serve also as the seat of their company, and surrounded it with a well-groomed English park.  They were also involved in popularizing local tourism. In 1928-1935, they were regularly publishing the Polish-language paper “Wiadomości Demiańskie” (Demnya News), the first issue of which appeared on January 28, 1928. The paper was devoted to current issues, but also to topics related to history, economy, politics and tourism. In the 1930s, thanks to the activities of Groedel brothers, winter sports, especially popular among students, began their vigorous development in the town. Various guest houses and resort hotels were built, as well as the first toboggan run and a ski jump in the Eastern Carpathians. In 1937, Skole was included in the list of climatic mountain resorts that deserve protection as a recreational area.  

Gartenberg family

Brothers Moses (1841-1916) and Lazar (Lejzor) (1833-1898) Gartenberg, were entrepreneurs operating in the oil industry. They also owned many properties in the surroundings of Drohobych and Stryi. In 1859, the “Lazar Gartenberg and Lazar Schreyer Company” bought Truskawiec and then owned this town until 1882. In 1859, a Roman Catholic chapel was built there, and in the spa, apart from baths and spa building, there were 13 resort hotels with 120 rooms and 14 private houses. Lazar Gartenberg’s son-in-law, lawyer Jakub Feuerstein (1866-1927) was an influential person in Drohobych, and, among others engagements, he was the deputy mayor of the town in the first decade of the 20th century. In 1911 Feuerstein together with Rajmund Jarosz (1875-1937) - the mayor of Drohobycz at the time, founded the Zdroje Truskawieckie company, which owned of the resort until 1928. Feuerstein, due to the disturbances related to his involvement in the elections to the Austrian State Council in 1911, left the company, departed from Drohobycz and settled in Vienna. This company, however, initiated the golden period in the history of the spa, ordered numerous investments, such as: electrification of the town, connection of the spa to the railroad network, expansion of the spa park, and others. Gartenbergs also owned a vast area of land with forests in Dębina with its beautiful landscapes, where they got engaged in timber trade. There, they also built summer houses that marked the beginning of the locality’s transformation into a climatic summer resort. Even after moving permanently to Vienna, for the majority of Gartenberg family members, Dębina remained a popular summer resort, a springboard for hunters and hikers. Thanks to the activities of the above described families, both Dębina and Skole have become popular destinations. From little known villages they got transformed into climatic resorts specializing in treatment of respiratory diseases.


On the European scale, Borderland resorts were relatively young spas, they developed primarily at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The Jewish community contributed in an essential way to the medical, economic and cultural development of the Eastern Borderlands spas. Jewry’s role in creating  spa culture is connected with both, the activity of Jewish intelligentsia and affluent burghers, as well as local craftsmen, inn owners or shopkeepers. It resulted from a rich and multi-layered Jewish tradition and the integration of Judaism with the hygienic demands and moral principles of their religion. Borderland health resorts were of a local character but played an important social function in the region. The model of spending free time that evolved in health resorts heralded the upcoming revolution in social norms. In the period of greatest prosperity - at the beginning of the 20th century, spas became an important space of culture and academic-intellectual ethos. The Jews permanently inscribed themselves into this process and co-created the history of the broadly understood spa culture of the Borderlands, and by the same token the history of Central European manners and way of life.

Izabela Spielvogel



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