Henrietta Schulz

author: Anna Kaszuba-Dębska, 2012


translated by Scotia Gilroy

Henrietta Schulz was born in 1851 as Hendel Kuhmerker, the youngest of the seven children of Berl Berisch Kuhmerker (1808-1883), the son of Juda Hersz Kuhmerker (1772-1832) and his first wife Chaja Sara, who died when Berl was very young. Juda Hersz's second wife, Berl's step-mother, was Ciril, the mother of Berl Berisch's half-brothers and sisters: Dawid, younger than him by 9 years, Temerl, 12 years younger, and Abraham, 17 years younger. Berl Berisch Kuhmerker, Henrietta's father, is listed in the Galician Business Registry from the year 1862 as a spezereiwarenhandler, together with Goldhammer, Hofmann, Sternbach, Sussman and Wagmann. The Old German word spezereiwarenhandler means retailer of spices and medicine. Drohobych was situated in the petroleum basin, and thus perhaps this is why Berl was involved in this business. In the mid-18th century and into the 19th century crude oil was still being used as a miracle drug. One can find the following passage from the book The Royal City of Drohobych published in 1929: Long ago crude oil was used as axle-grease for wagons, and also as medicine, since curative attributes were ascribed to it. Admittedly, people also repeatedly attempted to use it for lighting, but these efforts, especially at the beginning of the 19th century, did not lead to fortuitous results, since it was potentially lethal and destructive with its tendency to explode and cause fires. At the end of the 1850s, a few small, primitively furnished petroleum refineries were founded. In 1863 they were joined into larger units, and in this way the first large-scale company was founded, Wielka fabryka [The Great Factory], which became transformed in later years into Rafineria Galicja [The Galicia Refinery], one of the largest in the world at that time. Among the many shareholders in the company we can find the names of the following businessmen from Drohobych: Hoffman, Gautenberg, Lauterbach, Wagman, and Goldhammer. With great probability we can ascertain that Berl Kuhmerker, Henrietta's father, was among the people interested in being involved in this newly established business. Proof of this lies in the fact that his grandson, Juda Hersz Henryk, son of Moses, Henrietta's oldest brother, was the director of The Galicia Refinery in the 1920s and worked with Henrietta's oldest son, Izydor Schulz. Until the outbreak of World War II, the company was managed by those who had first been interested in the petroleum industry: Suchmann, Hofmann and Kuhmerker. The Royal City of Drohobych registry from 1929 contains the following information: From the moment when an automobile was first set in motion, the oil industry began to develop swiftly, and countries possessing petroleum became very significant. The Republic of Poland possesses three petroleum centers: the Jasielsko-Krośnieński region, the Stanisławowski region and, most importantly, the Borysławsko-Tustanowicki region. The Polish government has passed a special oil law that makes drilling easier for private capital by making loans available for this purpose, and at the same time it has started an independent operation. Did Berl Kuhmerker benefit from one of these government loans in order to expand his company, which was dependent on the swiftly developing petroleum industry? Probably yes. In Drohobych at the end of the 19th century, there was also a very prosperous steam-operated sawmill owned by Jonasz Kuhmerker, Henrietta's third cousin. He primarily worked in the production of hardwood floors. In 1922 his son-in-laws, Adolf Kiessler and Emil Półtorak, were also in the management of the company, and there were 150 employees. The company primarily manufactured oak, fir and spruce boards and lumber, as well as flooring of all kinds. In the Galician Address Registry of 1906 we can find Józef and Wolf Kuhmerker listed as the owners of another sawmill in Drohobych. Certainly this was Henrietta's older brother and his uncle. The Kuhmerker family was large, very resourceful and ingenious, proven by the fact that they owned and managed numerous businesses. And Henrietta? What kind of personal life did the youngest, well-loved daughter of the petroleum industrialist, Berl, and aunt of his eldest grandson, Henryk, the director of the Galicia Refinery, have at this time? Certainly she was already married, and she married for love, for how else can one explain the fact that this young woman from a rich family married so far beneath her station? Sometime before 1872 she married Jakub Schulz, son of Hinda and Szymon, who was five years older than her. He was a newcomer to Drohobych, from the village of Sądowa Wisznia, situated between Lwów and Przemyśl. Their first child, Anna, was born in 1873, and their son Baruch Israel (Izydor) in 1881. Unfortunately, she suffered a difficult and traumatic experience when her son Isaak, who was three years younger than Ania, died when he was barely three years old. Henrietta, together with her husband and children, certainly lived with her family in a building at the corner of the Main Square and Samborska Street (later Mickiewicza Street). Did she, as the youngest of seven children, with much older siblings, remain with her parents and take care of them in their old age, and was the building at number 10 on the Market Square, along with the shop formerly run by her father, Berl, her ancestral dowry? Energetic Henrietta managed this home, which was full of inhabitants and servants, and helped run the shop. In 1887, eight years after the death of her son Izaak, she had another child, a daughter named Hinda. Sadly, three years later, for the second time, she experienced despair at the loss of another child. Henrietta then devoted herself to her children Ania and Izydor, making every possible effort to enable her children to receive an irreproachable upbringing and education. She managed the home and helped her husband run his textile materials shop. Two years after the death of Hinda, Henrietta gave birth for the fifth time at the age of 41, to her last child. On July 12th, 1892, her youngest son, Bruno Schulz, was born. The midwife that delivered him was the reliable, well-experienced Gittel Wagner, respected by everyone in the town, not only among the Jewish residents. A week later, on July 19th, the circumcision was performed by Samuel Kupferberg, a relative from Drohobych, and Dawid Wolff Poller and Abraham Singer served as witnesses to the ceremony. Henrietta devoted the most attention to her beloved little son. His sister Hanna was older than Bruno by 19 years, and Izydor by 11 years. Henrietta cared tenderly for her youngest, sickly son. During Bruno's childhood she read Goethe's ballads to him in the original German, shared his interest in art, and was very proud of his academic achievements. Over time her husband Jakub's health declined. He had tumours, and fell into states of melancholy and madness. Henrietta, well-experienced in life, was left alone to take care of the home and the business, which was not bringing in the income which the family greatly needed. In the Galician Address Registry of 1906 we can find the following annotation: Henryka Schulz, textile materials shop, Main Square. In 1900, when Bruno was 8 years old, her 27-year-old daughter Hania married Moses Hoffman, a petroleum industrialist three years older than her, who was the son of one of the founders of the Galicia Refinery. Soon afterwards, in 1903, she became a grandmother when Hania's son, Ludwik, was born, and then Zygmunt Hoffman in 1910. In 1909 her son Izydor, a graduate of the Polytechnical College in Lwów, married Regina, neé Liebesman. Henrietta gained more grandchildren: Wilhelm (born in Lwów in 1910), Ella (born in Drohobych in 1914), and Jakub (born in Vienna in 1915). In 1910 there was another tragedy in the family when Henrietta's son-in-law, Moses Hoffman, contracted a fatal disease. With no hope of being cured, he committed suicide. Suddenly widowed, Hania immediately fell into a state of psychological unbalance, and was not able to raise her sons alone and run the household. Sixty-year-old Henrietta decided to help her daughter and move into her home. She had already lost two children, and she wanted to prevent the worst. She moved out of the family home on the Main Square along with Bruno and his ailing father. Henrietta took care of her grandchildren and helped her daughter return to a balanced psychological state, while also nursing her husband and sickly Bruno. Her eldest son, Izydor, unfailingly and continuously gave them financial support. His altruism and high social status made his mother feel very proud. She wished to arrange a romance between her youngest son, Bruno, and his cousin, Tynka Kupferberg, a beautiful girl from a rich family, but she did not take a liking to him. In 1915 her husband, Jakub Schulz, died. They had been married for over 43 years. For the rest of her life, Henrietta lived with her daughter, son and grandchildren at 12 Bednarska Street (later Floriańska Street). Her cousin, Cyla Bardach, helped her run the household. Henrietta Schulz died on April 23rd, 1931, and was buried next to her husband in the Jewish cemetery.