Dr. Henryk Kolischer Brewery, Medenice

Medenice, a West Ukraine village rendered today as Medenychi, was formerly in East Galicia. It now comprises about 3,500 people, the Sygic travel site pictures its main street.

The area traditionally has been agricultural. Medenice is in Drohobych Raion of Ukraine, under Polish fief before WW II. The main city in the region is Lviv.

A capsule of Medenice from the Jewish aspect is provided in KehilaLinks. Jews were not very numerous, vs., say Drohobych (the town), whose population was 40% Jewish before WW II.

For an excellent overview of Jewish history in Drohobych (the region), see this entry in a website devoted to preserving the memory of Jewish life there.

This story of a Jewish-owned brewery is different to the others I’ve discussed. The Medenice brewery was, first, a very small farm operation essentially, although it got larger post-WW I.

Its serial ownership from 1878 is outlined in the Ukrainian site Beer-Labels, also in Polish Beer Labels.

Brewing apparently commenced in 1701, with the gap to 1878 not elucidated to date (to my knowledge). Kolischer labels carried the 1701 claim. If accurate, it was one of the oldest breweries in Poland until its demise in 1937.

The principal in the 20th century was Dr. Henryk Kolischer (1853-1932), son of Moritz Kolischer. They were, atypically again, Jewish grandees, an upper echelon who spoke Polish and mingled in Polish society.

Henryk certainly was an ardent assimilationist, believing this was the best course for Jewry in Galicia. He was born in Lviv (Lemberg), and inherited the family estate in Medenice.

His biography appears in this Wikipedia entry. Henryk was a noted Galician, and later Polish, politician, an agricultural economist with advanced educational qualifications.

The Kolischer family is among the families mentioned in a 1956 Jewish memorial volume on Lviv that acquired large estates starting in the 1860s. This suggests perhaps the family had no connection to brewing in 1701 at Medenice, but again this aspect is unclear.

(As appears below, Henryk Kolischer had property as well in two places, associated with different businesses).

An image of the scholarly agronomist-brewer-paper miller appears, via Wikipedia Commons.

A description of the post-1878 brewing appears in this Facebook entry, from a bottle collector. It accompanies images of historic Kolischer bottles. The lines below, which speak to the late 1800s, are striking in formulation and charm (Google translation):

This small brewery brewed 2,000 hectoliters per year, which is as much as a cat cried and provided beer to Medenice taverns and the surrounding area. It was not even mechanized and was driven by a hand treadmill.

The account states the brewery was not significant economically for Dr. Kolischer, whose main business was paper-milling. It seems the brewery was kept up mainly from tradition. Clearly it was a surviving example of the small agricultural breweries attached originally to the landed estates.

The Kolischer paper mill was in Czerlany in the Lviv district, you may see an image in this Wikipedia entry for the locality.

The Facebook account states the brewery later installed a steam engine, and actually increased production after WW I, contrary to the interwar pattern of slump and cut-back.

In April, 1926 Dr. Kolischer was evidently still quite engaged in the business world and the brewery. In 2008 a Polish blog, Laurahuta, which posts historical content, set out a document dated April 26, 1926 issued at Warsaw, perhaps a press release.

It states Dr. Kolischer was elected a Vice-President of the Council for the Union of Polish Industry, Mining, Trade and Finance. He was described as “owner of Dr. Kolischer Brewery in Drohobycz”.

Clearly he was still held in high regard in Polish industry, and society, despite advancing age. A sprinkling of Jewish names appears in the document for what it is worth, this is some years before government intensified anti-Semitic policies.

By 1937 Dr. Kolischer had been dead for five years. Perhaps succession issues, or the economic backdrop finally, mandated closure of his brewery that year.

In his (1983) The Social and Political History of Jews in Poland From 19191939, Joseph Marcuwrote that Poland’s beer consumption fell from 34 L per head in 1913 to 4.4 L in 1938 (see p. 115). This speaks volumes.

Polish Beer Labels (see link above) depicts two labels from the interwar period. One is a standard lager, the other a bock. I linked in my last post a Polish webpage showing the bock being consumed, at a firemen’s reception.

Dr. Kolischer died in Vienna in 1932. He was buried first there, then finally in Lviv. He was married, and had a daughter, Susanne, and son, Moritz. The Geni site lists their birth years, but shows a blank for dates of death.

We have seen that some prewar Jewish business figures were ardent Zionists. Kolischer was one who was not. His formative years and experience were in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a polity whose centralized policies from many standpoints favoured Jewish communities in its borders.

Jews were one of many ethnic and cultural groups, finding a way to live (though never perfectly) with others in a multi-ethnic, trans-national state. It was the European Union of its time, so to speak.

The rise of lethal nationalisms following the collapse of the Hapsburg Empire put paid, in my opinion, to the vision of assimilation Kolischer had for the Jews of Central and East Europe.

No Jewish community was more assimilated in Central Europe than Germany’s. To boot it represented a much smaller proportion of the national population than Jews did in Poland. It didn’t help them.

The Zionist alternative in Palestine was a far better option, but impossible to realize before WW II except to a very limited extent.

The other option, bruited by some at the time, was to establish a semi-autonomous Jewish republic somewhere in East Europe. It never had much chance of success.*


*Emigration to Western Europe and North America was foreclosed for most Jews due to tight immigration limits at the time.



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