This week's Yizkor book excerpt on the JewishGen Facebook page #poland #belarus #yizkorbooks

Bruce Drake

Full-fledged doctors were few and far between in the shtetls of Eastern Europe and the gap was filled in large part by feldshers (alternatively spelled as “feldschers”). Feldshers were old-time barber-surgeons. They were more than a nurse and less than a doctor, but in Eastern Europe, they often had the status of a doctor and were mentioned in town records dating back to at least the 1600s.

I’ve gathered for this week excerpts from Yizkor books, most of them from Polish towns. The fedlshers pulled teeth, applied leeches to the ailing, and supplied patients with medicines and home-made remedies. An anesthetic for dental work could mean “placing a cotton wool soaked in liquor or 96% alcohol inside the tooth.” When a real doctor did appear in a town, it could be to the dismay of the established feldsher as recounted in an excerpt from the Kaluszyn, Poland book.


Bruce Drake, Silver Spring MD

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