Chaim Hilfstein (1876-1950)

Born on 14th November 1876 in Krakow, Chaim Hilfstein, son of Jakub and Zofia, née Rosner, was a social and political activist, a Zionist and a consultant in internal medicine who worked at the St.Lazarus hospital in Krakow.
He graduated from St.Ann’s gymnasium in Krakow in 1897, followed by Medicine at the Jagiellonian University. Hilfstein obtained his PhD title in 1904. A member of the National Jewish Council for Western Galicia in November 1918. In 1897, Hilfstein co-founded the ”Przed-świt-Haszahar” Jewish Youth Association which was the first Zionist organisation in Krakow. Throughout the interwar period, together with Ozjasz Thon, Hilfstein was one of the leaders of the Zionist Organisation of the Lesser Poland and Silesia region. He was a delegate at Zionist congresses in Karlsbad (1921), Vienna (1925) and Basel (1927). A co-founder of ”Tarbuth”, the Cultural – Educational Association (1922). Since 1922 he was a Nowy Dziennik board member. Hilfstein put a lot of emphasis on education and as a recognition for his great support, the Hebrew Gymnasium of Krakow was named after him on his 60th birthday which also marked 40 years of his Zionist activity. He was also elected a member of the Jewish Community Board where he represented Zionists since 1929. After WWII broke out, he was one of the few Zionists in Krakow who stayed in the city and was involved in the Jewish Self-Help Society. During his stay in the ghetto, together with his wife and a group of other Jews, he was delegated to”Deutsche Emailwaren-Fabrik” which belonged to Oscar Schindler, which saved his and his wife’s lives. It is worth noting that it was Hilfstein who wrote a document which saved Schindler from prison.
After WWII, he emigrated to Israel and never returned to Poland. He died on 9th May 1950 in Tel-Aviv.
Based on: Krakowianie. Wybitni Żydzi krakowscy XIV-XX w., Krakow 2006
Picture courtesy of Ghetto Fighters House Archive