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Czernowitz, My Dream

Feuerstein Family
Father Moritz with sons Rudi and Emil,
Moritz Feuerstein,
portrait created by 
Teodozy Bahrynowicz studio of Czernowitz.

Anna and Heinrich Feuerstein, 1880
photograph created by Soger Gusztav studio in

Heirnich was the first manager of the Czernowitz brewery.
Portrait of
Moritz Feuerstein,
created by studio Fritz Knozer,
Vienna, Austria
Emil Feuerstein, son of Rosi and Moritz, at the Italian Front,
Apr 1917
Emil dressed as the "Fuchs-Major"
Hebronia outfit
(Zionist student organization) -Czernowitz,
Marriage of
Friederike (nee Feuerstein) and
Adolf Langhaus,
Czernowitz, 1911
Friederike Langhaus (nee Feuerstein)
Hedwig Langhaus,


Town with a Jewish Past: The Town I Called Home


Czernowitz, My Dream

by Rosi Gruber-Feuerstein, grandmother of Hedwig Brenner (nee Langhaus).   Translated by Mimi Taylor.

Czernowitz was a beautiful Austrian city, situated at the easternmost corner of the Royal and Imperial Monarchy.

It was a city in ascend, also a city at the point of departure, constantly changing, a city of culture, music and magnificent buildings. The residence of the archbishop, the colorful glistening roofs of which, mirrored the sun, was one of the worthy sights of Austria. The well designed park, named Volksgarten, in which on Sunday girls from the suburbs and Ulans (soldiers of a particular regiment) would exchange hidden kisses, was always full of strollers. There the pretzel-man offered his fresh ware, there one could for two Heller (Austrian coins) obtain an apple fished out of a wooden can. These apples were sweet sour and had a very special aroma.

The hill on which Czernowitz had been built, descended in the north steeply down towards the valley of the Pruth, in the south it spread over a plateau. The inhabitant of the city belonged to various nations and discernible social layers, these, like concentric circles almost never overlapped and only rarely touched. One had to be born, like me in a "Haubchen" or "Habl" (a little bonnet, by which is meant the amniotic sack, which was considered a sign of great good luck), in order to reach a higher social class than the one, one was borne in.

On the plateau, meaning in the vicinity of the Volksgarten there was the so called villa section of town. There lived, in streets with noble names, such as "Printz-Eugenstrasse" or "Erzherzog-Karl-Gasse", those favoured by luck, rich owners of estates and of factories, in short the Hautevolee (upper crust). Those favoured by luck - but were they really favoured by luck? I often asked myself whether riches were synonymous with luck?

In the central section of town there was the commercial quarter, some hotels like the "Schwarze Adler" with a very elegant restaurant, which still exists today, the hotel "Paris" and the "Drei-Kronen-Haus." The "Herrengasse" was the promenade, where at any time of day or evening, young ladies and students paraded. Did they ever work? In the streets adjoining the Ringplatz, there lived intellectuals, artists, physicians, lawyers, newspaper-people and office workers.

The stand of the Fiaker (carriage) was on the Ringplatz. Here you could find carriages drawn by one or two horses. A tramway line connected the "Volksgarten" with the "Pruthbrucke". In the summer we bathed a few times in the eddies of the Pruth, in the vicinity of the bridge the current was very strong. We bathed in our underwear, obviously in a different spot from the men, because the linen underwear stuck to our bodies as if we were naked.

The religious Chassidim lived in great numbers on the lower circumference of the hill, the streets on the lower slope. Small, meandering streets and alleys, which started at the Springbrunnenplatz and which were commonly called "Ham". The Synagogengasse, the Uhrmachergasse and others formed the
Jewish quarter, and that area looked like a Galitzian "Shtetl". Here the
Jewish craftsmen had their workshops and all guilds were represented. The musicians who played at the circus, also lived in this part of town.

In this memorable year, 1877, we were supposed to travel to Leipzig,
immediately after Purim, the Jewish festival of joy. We were going to the wedding of the brother of my father, Max Gruber. At happy celebrations like weddings and birthdays, but also at funerals, the whole clan met in Leipzig. On this Purim-eve my parents went to a private celebration and I was allowed to join them. It was a masked ball, mother dressed as a nun, father as a clown and I as Snow White. After a voluminous meal we were served "Humentaschen, sweet dough triangles, filled with Powidla (prune jam) and nuts, which tasted delicious.

Mother ate a lot, and next day her abdomen hurt. A physician who was summoned, recommended that she be hospitalized. Father took mother to the Jewish hospital in a Fiaker, and the hospital director Dr. Moritz Schaerf treated her. The test results showed that she had become sick with dysentery, which at that time was common in Czernowitz and which usually had deadly consequences.

After a consultation, the physicians said: "Hopefully her constitution will withstand the disease". We prayed to God that he would let her live, my beautiful precious "Mammi"! We sent a telegram to my brother in Bucharest, so he would come. After five tortuous days of fighting with death, death was victorious. We carried mother to the Jewish cemetery behind the vineyards of Czernowitz and laid her to rest.

Why did God have to do this to me? How had I aroused his anger? Often I denied his existence and did not believe in his might.

During the long conversations which we had, father maintained that every person carries his own fate since birth and that the astrologers could calculate it all. The Kabala too, this Jewish mystic work, which is studied by religious Jews, who by means of assigning numbers to every sentence in the bible, attempt to divine and guess it's hidden meaning, is preoccupied with the inquiry of what the heavens and world were like before the creation of mankind.

During the "shiv'a" we interrupted our performances. We sat in our wagon, my brother Max had come together with the gentleman at whose house he lived in Bucharest. Even though he was only a boy of twelve, father took him morning and evening to the "shul", to say "Kaddish" the prayer for the dead. Many people who had seen mother and had admired her came to offer us their condolences.

I took over the show numbers and programs in which my mother had appeared and had to practice a lot more, but this helped me to fight my pain.

My brother had left for Bucharest and we too took down our tents. Our wagons were coupled to the train which went to Lvov and it was the great advance of the century, which was slowly coming to an end, that we now could travel by train and no longer by a cart pulled by horses.

This way some years passed with travels through Austria and Poland and twice we visited France. Everywhere we were celebrated and our circus reached new heights of esteem and fame.


Rosi and Moritz Feurstein and their two children

This family portrait was taken by the studio
of Teodozy Bahrynowicz in Czernowitz.



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