by D. Bezworodka
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
The role of Jews in Czenstochow industry was very significant both during the Russian times, when it produced for the wide Russian market and, later, in independent Poland when it adapted to the internal market in the nation itself.
True, the large factories in the city belonged not to the Jews, but to French-Belgian firms such as: Mottes, Czenstochowianke and Gelcers.
They manufactured inexpensive textile goods and employed around 15,000 workers, only Poles, while all of the technical and commercial personnel were French and Belgian. Jewish workers and contractors would be employed there in such work as building, painting, mechanical installations and the like.
With the large factories in Czenstochow can also be included the twine factories that manufactured not only twine, but also sacks which were delivered all over Poland. The most well known were: Szpagacziarnia, Warta, Gnaszyn and Stradom.
Therefore, the middle-sized and small industries in Czenstochow were built almost exclusively by Jewish entrepreneurs and the greatest part also by Jewish workers. Therefore, we have to mention that the Jewish industry in Czenstochow did not benefit from any financial help or economic privileges from the government, not in the Czarist times and also not later in independent Poland. It was entirely the opposite; any connection with the Polish government simply hindered the development of Jewish industrial enterprises. In 1924, that is, still during the good times before the open anti-Jewish economic discrimination on the part of the Polish regime, the reporter of the county unambiguously declared to the writer of these lines: The Polish government is not concerned that Czenstochower small industry will suffer; on the contrary, there will be a benefit from this that a small toy industry will develop in Tuszyn, Katowice and in Szczawnica. The Polish economists supported the plans of decentralizing the toy and haberdashery fabrication through the system of the home-worker, who were called chalupnikes [a chalup is a hut or cottage] in Poland, against the interests of the Czenstochower factory-industry.
The Jewish industry in Czenstochow, particularly the toy and the haberdashery manufacturing, stood on such a high technical level that certain technical systems that were introduced there 20 years ago were still applied in the fabrication of the same articles both in Western Europe (Bohemia, Germany, Belgium, France) and in America. This was even more surprising when it is taken into consideration that these technical methods were devised by people who did not have any technical and theoretical preparation. The Jewish entrepreneurs often began manufacturing almost as soon as they got off the yeshiva [religious secondary school] bench, or left the Hasidic shtibl [one room prayer house]. A number of them did not later even throw off the long kapote [coat worn by religious men]. Their mastery of the trade that they achieved only through experience would be refreshed in such a peculiar manner: they would sometimes take a quick trip to Leipzig or they would visit a German factory and actually only take a quick look, just like a good card player who knows the cards of his partner when he takes a look only at their tops.
Understand that this industry developed from a very small beginning. The factory was often arranged in the bedroom of the owner. The relationship between manufacturers and workers was patriarchal. Even, when a long time later, the factory was built in a modern manner. Several workers from Werder's gold factory, from Jerzy Landau's celluloid factory, from Wajnberg's comb factory, would later
tell how they would sometimes interrupt the work at night and go to pray Minkhah-Maariv [evening prayers] in the small synagogue that was arranged in the factory itself. The manufacturer would with great effort gather money to pay the workers and they would often wrack their brains over how to collect a commercial debt.[a] A great problem then, too, was how to obtain raw material for the toy manufacturers, as well as celluloid, nickel-tin, mirrors and the like. These reminiscences of the past pioneer era was given to the writer of these lines by the manufacturers Landau, Wajnberg, Zelikson, Ringelblum, Hocherman, Rozenberg and others.
The additional pioneers excelled in the celluloid, toy and haberdashery industries: Jerzy Landau founded his factory at the end of 1900. He manufactured combs, beads, dolls and distributed them in all of Russia through his own commercial salesmen. The Jewish workers in his factory were even more stifled by Christian workers. A number of the former Jewish workers worked their way up to office employment or as technical personnel; a certain number used the experience in order to open their own small factories.
The St. Wajnberg Factory on Wales Street specialized in the production of combs.
Szmulewicz, Ferleger, Brill, Hocherman, Mic produced toys. Rozenberg, on Krutke Street, manufactured combs, dolls and, for the most part, mirrors.
Zeligson, at Ogrodowe 55, had great sales in Russia coming not only from his own manufacturing, but also from the production that he bought from smaller manufacturers.
Ruczewicz manufactured celluloid dolls, combs and mirrors.
Glazer, whose family is now in America, was one of the first manufacturers of rubber clothing, that is collars, cuffs, dickeys of celluloid that were worn then in Poland.
Frydman on Fabryczne Street had a bead and comb factory. In addition there were recorded many more larger and smaller factories of the sort.
Czenstochow Jews also developed large industries for souvenir items that consisted mainly of religious articles, although Jews were officially forbidden to be employed in this. The most important producers in this industry were: Fajgelewicz and Wajnbaum. The latter was a many branched and very skillful family.
The first place in the metal industry was taken by the Spinke factory of the Szaja Brothers. They were known as smart at constructing the complicated stamps. They inherited these abilities from their father. Although each of the brothers worked for himself, they were always connected. The leader was Herman Szaja, not the oldest, but the most intelligent. He would travel to Germany very often. He would also be chosen as an arbiter to settle conflicts between merchants.
As president of the Jewish merchants and factories union in Czenstochow, he would often have the occasion to intervene with the Polish government. In 1920 he led a delegation to the Czenstochow staroste [head of county administration] about the Sunday rest law that forced Jewish artisans and manufacturers as well as merchants to rest two days a week (the law was particularly directed against Jewish trade and Jewish artisans).
The Weksler family was known among the pioneers of the toy industry and metal novelty (souvenir) articles. The family's father was named Hershl Weksler. His two sons manufactured metal punches for the small factories that did not have their own mechanics. Moshe Weksler, one of the sons, graduated from the artisans' school and became an artist in his trade. He was well paid for his work or professional advice. He was a very dear and good man and was very active in the Socialist Zionist party in 1905 and later.
Czenstochow also possessed heavy iron commodity factories, such as chains for industry, tools for agriculture, hinges and other household articles.
The head in this field was occupied by the
manufacturers, Ickowicz and Horowicz. The Ickowicz family consisted of half a dozen brothers. Each had a small factory for himself and each created a different metal article.
The large gold factory which was assembled in the most modern way, not only according to the ideas of Russia and Poland, but also Western Europe belonged to Henig and Werde. Both partners were great philanthropists.
Khenenia Goldberg's watch factory was the only one in Poland for a long time. Goldberg's patents were applied to watch fabrication in Switzerland. In return, he would receive regular payments (royalties). He also was a good organizer and on a clear day he had time to sit with Blaszczinski and play chess, in which he was a master.
The manufacturing of knives, cheap and better ones, lay mostly in Christian hands. Jews here were suppliers of raw materials and bought the completed goods. The owner of the largest factory was a Jew named Rozencwajg.
The Czenstochower iron foundries had a connection far outside the borders of Poland with pots, ovens, irons and various other household articles. They also produced machine parts for the Czenstochower industries. One of the first was Vulkan, founded by a Russian company. The director of the factory was Engineer Ratner, a well known communal and cultural worker in Czenstochow. Other Jewish employees were Ejznberg, Szwarc, Rysyn, Yakov Rozenberg. After Poland's liberation, the Polish government took over the factory. All of the Jewish clerks were removed. A number of them founded a second iron factory, Metalurgie, with Shmuel Goldsztajn.
The largest iron factory in Rakow, Huta Hontke, existed in the merit of Jewish commercial spirit because only Jews delivered and fetched its production.
Czenstochow was famous for its mirror industries in two categories: 1) factories that manufactured mirrors from dark glass; it was cut and delivered unfinished to the factories that framed them in metal, wood and celluloid frames; and 2) factories that produced finished mirrors and brought the goods to all of Russia via agents. Later, after 1918, when the Russian market was lost, the mirrors found a sales market not only in all of Poland, but also in Romania and Bulgaria where they competed with the German products. This was how it was until the Germans brought in the steam system.
The well known mirror factories were:
J. L. Bezbarodko, Stapnicki and Orbach, Grilek, Sercarcz, Waga, Epelbaum, Bridl and Hocherman, Hamburger Hocherman.One of the largest mirror manufacturers was Josef Bezbarodko. He came from Russia. Being the second generation of mirror manufacturers (in Moscow in 1864), he well knew the taste of the Russian market. Warsaw also had a large mirror industry, but those from Warsaw bought the raw materials in Czenstochow mainly because of the better technical organization and better work system.
Kohn's paper factory was one of the largest paper factories in Russia. Old Jews would call it the mill because it used a great deal of water power from the Warta [River].
Markusfeld's Malarnje spread its wallpapers and colored papers to the farthest corners of Russia. The Kapeluszarnja, a hat and cap factory, and the Klejarnje that produced glue and other chemical products also belonged to Markusfeld.
Czenstochower Jews were also the pioneers of the dye industry. Certain Czenstochower dyers competed with the German A. G. Farben. First of all, we must remember the two large factories one belonging to Dr. Zaks, a community worker from the assimilated class and Dr. Wolberg, whose children were active in the radical circles in Czenstochow.
Czenstochow factories for wooden pieces for frames developed early in connection with the production of holy pictures. The well known firms were: Kapinski and Szmulewicz.
Another branch of the wood industry, the fabrication of furniture, first developed in later years.
The button industry also belonged to the industries in which Czenstochow played a pioneering role. The button factories in Czenstochow were among the leading ones in Poland and even in all of Russia. The most famous and largest factory in this field was Grosman's. Several
of his grandsons had completely left the Jewish people. The first automobile in Czenstochow was bought by one of the Grosmans.
Czenstochow had the first factory in Russia for leather-glue, the Klejarnie, founded by Henrich Markusfeld. The technical work in the factory was headed by a great man of science in chemistry and an ardent Jew. He was the founder of the Czenstochower garden farm.
Smaller industries in which Jews took part were:
The Rozencwajg firm was mainly known in the manufacturing of brushes made out of imported rice-straw, in addition to an entire series of smaller factories such as Handelman's and others. In the area of the chemical industry must be remembered, Fajge's candle factory, the soap factory of Jubos and Fiszel, Yehezkiel Broniatowski and the German, Kriger.The Czenstochow bankers were not in the style of the large European banks, but also not usurers. They helped the manufacturers a great deal with their discounted credit. Before the Russian times, the promissory notes were made out for approximately a year. The manufacturers were not able keep up with them.
The most important local banks were:
1) Bergman, 2) Markus Gradsztajn, 3) Zarski, 4) Maszkowski and Pinkus, 5) Warsawski Commercial Bank, founded in Warsaw by the famous Natanson family. Its director was Nowinski. 5) The division of the Petersburger bank in Riga, director Moritsi Ruf.One of the large Czenstochow industrialists was Meitlis. He had his own coal pit and provided coal to all of the factories.
The Czenstochow shippers occupied an important place in the trade world. The most well known among them were Ludwig Templ, Dankewicz, Krok and Gradsztajn.
Professional Workers Union
by Dr. R. Mahler and Y. Sh. Herc. A. Khrobolowski
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
The situation of the Jewish worker up to the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The influences of the political parties. Reprisals. The beginning of legal activities. The crisis during the First World War. The situation in independent Poland. The Professional Union and the Worker's Council. The role of the Central Council and Cultural Office. The struggle of the young workers. The role of the Youth Office.
The relatively young Jewish settlement in Czenstochow possessed a very significant worker element at the end of the 19th century. According to the census of 1897 of 12,000 Jews in the city, 2,155 drew their livelihood from industry and trade. Among these categories, there were 801 souls who earned their living from tailoring and 228 from shoemaking. The remaining working elements were in the majority employed in small workshops and factories.
From a report by Shaul Rafal Landau, the well-known Zionist leader who visited Czenstochow in 1898, we hear several important facts about the local Jewish factory workers. There was only one Jewish factory then, which employed a large number of Jewish workers. This was a needle and umbrella factory that counted among 200 workers, more than 100 Jews, both men and young girls.[a] The work day lasted 11 and a half hours. The wages for the work of the adult workers, men, reached from four to five rubles a week. For the young girls from a ruble 80 kopikes to three-quarters of a ruble. In exceptional cases, three rubles The men would be employed in the production itself, while the girls worked mainly with cutting, sorting and the like. The Jewish workers were active in handwork because they worked Sunday instead of Shabbos and on that day the machines were stopped. In the other small Jewish factories, the paper, celluloid, jute and others branches of work only small groups of Jewish workers worked. It is a characteristic fact for the proletarian labors of the Jewish petit bourgeois that among the workers in the
needle factory, the giver of the report met a number of former saloon keepers, old Jews, bent and with long disheveled beards.
The great poverty among Jews in Czenstochow at that time is illustrated by the circumstances of the 708 Jewish families in 1898, that is almost a third of the local Jewish kehile [organized Jewish community], who turned to alms for their Passover needs.
During the course of several years, during the beginning of the 20th century, Jewish industry in Czenstochow, as well as the number of Jewish factory workers, grew significantly. The gathering of material that IKO published in 1904, on the basis of reports from correspondents, provides us with information about Jewish factory workers in Czenstochow:
In the metal industry, the Weinberg and Horowicz factories employed Jewish workers. Fifty people, including 14 locksmiths and blacksmiths worked at Horowicz's, where tsepes (threshing boards), locks and metal household items were made.
There were 15 Jewish factories in the toy industry, each of which numbered 15 to 50 employees. All of the factories employed 500 workers in total. Of the 80 percent Jews, the largest number were from the factory of Szaja, the old pioneer of the toy industry, from his five sons, from Hamburger-Hecherman and from Szmuelowicz. The work was exclusively handwork. Only two toy factories possessed motors. The factory buildings were small houses that looked just like residences. The work force in the majority of factories consisted of 60 percent young people and children[b], mainly girls. The work-day lasted for 12-14 hours. The wage system was per piece and, therefore, workers developed such dexterity that one worker alone finished up to 25 gross of toys, that is, 3,600 pieces a day. The norm for piece-work wages varied according to the toy. A foundry pourer of tin rooster heads would receive not more than 4 kopikes for a gross (12 dozen). The norm reached 20-40 for other toys and, even, a ruble and a half for a gross. With this system
the weekly wages of children up to 15 years old reached from 80 kopikes to a ruble and 20 kopikes; young people of 15 years and older, would earn a ruble and 80 kopikes a week up to two and a half rubles; adult workers had from three to four and five rubles a week, and those who reached from seven rubles to nine rubles were rare exceptions.
Of the three largest haberdashery factories, such as buttons, needles, pins, cufflinks, metal and celluloid penholders, and the like, the largest one was owned by the Grosman brothers. There were no Jews employed among the 200 workers and there were only four Jews employed in the administration. In contrast, almost all of the workers in Szaja's and Rozensztajn's mother-of-pearl button factory were Jewish, 68 among 70. Jewish workers reached half, 180 among the 160, in the needle and umbrella factory of Henig and Partners. In order to keep Shabbos the Jewish machine workers would be employed only for five days a week; the Jewish workers, who worked six days a week, were only employed in handwork. The director of this factory, Werde, not only employed the largest number of Jewish locksmiths who had graduated from the Jewish Artisan's School, he also propagated the idea of employing Jews among the local Jewish manufacturers. There were six needle factories with Jewish owners in Czenstochow that did not employ any Jewish workers. The wages of workers in this industrial branch rose very little in relation to its status in 1898. In Henig's factory, young girls earned from 30 to 60 kopikes a day; adult men from half a ruble to a ruble 20 kopikes. A number of Jewish haberdashery factories such as Szaja and Rozensztajn and, even, Grosman, as well as a number of toy factories gave work to home-workers, exclusively Jewish. Their work consisted of sewing on buttons to cardboard, dressing the toys and the like.
Like a spring wind in a winter-land, the secret and sweet news of freedom and struggle for a better life went through the small factories and workshops. The parties: S.S. [Zionist Socialists], Bund, Paolei-Zion [Labor Zionists], who spoke to them in the mother-tongue [Yiddish], organized them along lines of factory businesses and trades, leading strikes and achieving shorter work hours and larger salaries.
This was the beginning. In 1906, after the Constitution and state of war, the main
work of the parties concentrated on the professional [workers] movement. Such trades as marszantkes, milliners (women hat decorators), in the shops and in the boulevards were organized and went on strike. Appeals had to be printed in Polish because for the most part they spoke only Polish and elegant young men were designated who would have an effect on them.
The largest and most difficult struggle between the workers and owners took place among the bakers. The owners did not want to make peace with the idea that the three hours of sleep on the piekelik (oven) that the bakery workers had should be [part of] a normal working day of at least 10-12 hours a day. They denounced [the workers], hired men to beat [the workers] and provocateurs. One of them actually was shot and the leaders of the bakery workers sat in jail and were exiled to Siberia or other Russian cities.
Czenstochower Baker's Union with Tsine Arczach [in the middle] as chairman
We can create an idea of the activity of the Professional Union of Tailors and Dressmakers in Czenstochow from a report that was published in the Bundist, Folkszeitung [People's Newspaper] of the 1st of July 1907. The report covers the period from 1 December 1906 to the 10th of June 1907.
|Remaining from Earlier||16.00|
|Admission and Weekly Money||85.36|
|Received from a Man's Master Tailor||10.00|
|Received from a Woman's Master Tailor||5.00|
|Received from a Master of White Linen||3.00|
|Received from a Sock Maker||2.50|
|Received from a Men's Tailor||2.00|
|Loans to the Organization||5.00|
|Admission Booklets and Pads||5.04|
|Loans to 5 Comrades||15.05|
|Remaining in the Treasury||61.65|
The income from individual master tailors, which is included in this interesting report, probably consisted of monetary fines for breaking an agreement, for insults and the like.
With the strengthening of the reactionary forces, the Czarist police also turned to labor's economic organizations, to the professional unions. It would ambush the unions, taking stamps and documents and carrying out persecutions. In the cases where the police took the stamps, the unions reported this publicly and stated that the old stamps were not valid; if, for example, the stamps were round, the new square ones were made in order to easily differentiate them. The police would also carry out searches in the houses of the professional workers and of striking workers.
The searches were not able to disrupt the professional organizations entirely. In 1907 and, even in 1908, when the professional movement in a series of cities and shtetlekh [towns] in the Polish provinces were suppressed by the reactionaries, the professional unions in Czenstochow still persevered. At the end of 1908 the professional unions in Czenstochow also almost completely disappeared from the surface, but also then, the Czarist government did not stop suppressing the aspiration for a free and humane life, which the freedom movement awoke in the working masses. Strikes in the large factories even took place the entire time
such as at the Mates, Plecer's, at Wajnberg's and so on. And the Jewish workers in the small factories and workshops often arranged secret trade meetings, made collective demands to the owners.
The Christian Workers Union was active among Christian workers in the large factories, an organization founded by the priests to draw them away from the socialist movement. It should be understood that hand in hand with the anti-socialist propaganda went the anti-Semitic agitation of the Christian union. In independent Poland, they were known under the name, Chadekes, or Christian Democrats, and surpassed the Endekes [anti-Semitic Polish National Party] with their reactionary politics and Jew-baiting.
The majority of Polish labor in Czenstochow did not let themselves be fooled by the enemies of the working class.
In 1912, at a set hour of the day, the sirens of most of the factories in Czenstochow gave five signals as a protest against the mass murder of the Lena gold-mine workers in Siberia by the Czarist regime.
A law was issued in 1913 about bringing sick funds into the factories that employed a large number of workers. What was new in the law was that the workers in each factory could elect their representatives to the managing committee of the sick fund. An energetic agitation among the workers to take part in the elections was carried out in the large factories where only Christian workers were employed. The Jewish workers in the factories and workshops remained indifferent to this in the main.
Therefore, the same year, a widespread movement began among the Jewish workers to create legal professional unions, according to the law that was published then by the Czarist government.
The new law was actually nothing more than the administration of the old Zubatowszczine (Zubatov a gendarme officer who proposed that the workers in Russia have an opportunity to organize in professional unions in order to draw them away from the political struggle), but the Jewish trade workers used the law for their benefit and organized a wide range of professional unions. The initiative came chiefly from Lodz where the central offices were first created. The professional unions in Czenstochow were a division of them.
The first legalized professional union was the wood workers. The founding meeting took place in the premises of the handworkers club on Shabbos, the 30th of November 1913. The chairman was M. Felsensztajn, chairman of the central managing committee in Lodz.
A second representative from Lodz was Dovid Abramson. The speech by Daniel Zaluski had a strong effect on the assembled. H. Fejwlowicz, Sh. Fajnrajch, Z. Tenenberg, Y.F. Guterman and L. Win were elected to the managing committee.
We read about the founding of the Professional Union in the article in the Czenstochower Woknblat [Weekly Newspaper] of the 13th December 1913:
The founding of professional unions for the woodworkers branch was a true holiday for the class-conscious workers and their friends.We read in the Czentsochower Tageblat of the 13th of January 1914, about this, that the movement to organize the professional unions also involved several other branches:
There was no trace of apathy and detachment, which we see at the owners' meetings. One after another the workers rose up and showed that the fire of striving for unity in order to lead the struggle for their liberation had not been extinguished in them and one after the other they greeted the newly founded union as a cornerstone of the professional movement in our city.
A movement began at that time among the Czenstochower workers to organize professional unions. A short time before, the wood workers branch organized a union. The bakers also organized and now means were employed to organize the small box makers, celluloid workers and other trades. It is superfluous to speak about the importance of professional unions for workers in general and for Jewish workers in particular. The Jewish worker had to endure more than other workers. He did not know of a normal workday. And often
it happened that money had to be collected for remedies for a sick worker.
In 1913-1914 Czenstochower Jewish professional unions of leather workers, tailors, woodworkers, celluloid workers, as well as business employees were active. In 1914 the Society of Business Employees numbered around 300 members. In 1912, this union had an income of 3,822 rubles. In that era a spirit of assimilation held sway over everything in this union.
At that time, the question of the right to work of the Jewish worker was also difficult. A number of large Jewish manufacturers did not let Jews into their factories as workers. One of them, who boycotted Jewish workers, was Landau, the owner of a celluloid factory. He would once employ several dozen Jewish men and women workers. Then he made his factory absolutely Juden-rein [free of Jews, the expression the Nazis used during the Holocaust]. Even several Jewish community leaders and pillars of various charitable groups shamefully acted against Jewish workers. Instead of giving the poor, Jewish strata a possibility of earning money for bread through their own work, this strange philanthropy rather wanted to help them by throwing them contributions.
During the First World War, under the German occupation, a standstill in economic life began that was particularly difficult for the working population. Many workers emigrated to Germany because of the lack of work. Those who remained in Czenstochow tried to ease their need through self-help. Bakeries and tea-halls for Jewish workers were opened. The professional unions carried out large communal campaigns in connection with the aid work.
The situation of the Jewish workers changed greatly for the worse with the rise of independent Poland.
The greater number of most members of the metal workers union that consisted of Jewish workers in the railroad workshops during the German occupation were replaced with Polish workers. Wajnberg's factory was completely paralyzed and later totally removed to the Soviet Union. Landau's factory stood completely empty. The Malarnie and Kopeluszarnia and dozens of other large and small factories, which previously worked for the large Russian market, shrunk.
But independent of the negative effects of the political changes, the war itself left economic ruin from which the city of Czenstochow, just as the entire country, could only recover after many years.
The number of divisions of Jewish workers in Czenstochow during the first post-war years is provided in the work, Jewish Industrial Enterprises in Poland, that was published in Warsaw in 1923 on the basis of a poll of the year 1921 with the aid of the Joint [Distribution Committee] under the editorship of Engineer E. Heller.
In 1921 there were 1,056 active factories and workshops in Czenstochow, in which Jews were engaged as entrepreneurs or workers.
A series of production trades were only active sometimes, or for the most part inactive: 30 percent in the natural rubber industry, 20 percent in the textile industry, 62½ percent in the metal toy industry. Of all of the enterprises, no undertaking was active in the celluloid comb and the felt hat industry!
The 1,056 active factories and workshops were divided among the separate industrial branches, as a percent of all of the enterprises:
|Stone, lime, glass||.9|
The characteristic phenomenon is evident that 58 percent, around three-quarters of all enterprises, in which Jews were employed as contractors or workers belonged to the clothing branch.
Of the 1,056 active industrial enterprises, only 588, that is not much more than half (55.7 percent) employed wage earners and the remaining
enterprises employed only the owner, sometimes with the help of family members. All 1,056 enterprises employed each season around 4,000 (3,893 people, 26 percent of them owners, seven and a half percent family members and two-thirds (66.5 percent) wage earners.
Among the 2,643 wage earners were 1,390 Jews, that is around 52 and half percent, somewhat more than half.
|Stone, clay, glass||9.0%|
However, the participation of Jewish workers was different not only in relation to entire branches of industry but also according to trades in the same branches of industry. Particularly characteristic in this detail is the metal industry branch. This branch employed 508 wage earners, of them, as mentioned, around 36 percent Jews. But in the various trades of the metal industry, the number and percentage of Jewish workers reached:
We see that if even the metal industry as a whole counted Jews as more than a third of its workers, in the foundry trade with the largest number of workers of all the trades in this branch, there were no more than five percent Jewish workers, less than three percent of all workers in this trade.
The fact that in most cases Jewish workers were divided into small enterprises is inferred still clearer in other tables, which gathered the results of the questionnaire. In the stone, clay and glass branches, which employed 699 wage earners, only 9 percent of them were Jewish, amounts to on average more than 79 percent in one enterprise as opposed to 96 percent Jews among the wage earners in the clothing [branches] comes out to not more than two employed persons (2.2) in one enterprise. The enterprises in all other production branches, which mainly employed Jewish workers, were not much larger. In nutrition an average enterprise employed not much more than three (3.3) persons, in construction less than two (1.9), in cleaning something more than two (2.4), in machine operators also approximately that many (2.6). Even in the natural rubber industry, which was considered a manufacturing industry, less than nine people (8.9) on average were employed in one factory.
The character of production in the Jewish industrial enterprises also meant that Jewish women workers were employed there in the greatest number. In the metal industry, where the general number of Jews reached 144, that means 31 percent of all of the 585 employees, 39 percent were Jewish women compared to 46 non-Jewish women; in the machine industry 10 Jewish women (no non-Jewish women); in rubber (hard rubber) 19 Jewish women (two non-Jewish); in the chemical industry eight Jewish women (not one non-Jewish woman); in clothing 131 Jewish women (compared to only two non-Jewish women).
Alas, the structure for the Jewish worker in Czenstochow in relation to breaking into small workshops and small factories continued in the later years. The reason was not only the discrimination on the part of the Polish manufacturers, but also on the part of Jewish manufacturers. And Czenstochow then had Jewish men of wealth who played a significant role in local large industry. Warta, the jute factory, which employed a few thousand workers, belonged to Jews; the Jew, Kon, owned a factory with 2,000 workers; several large factories belonged to the well known philanthropist, Henrik Markusfeld; Jews were owners of the
textile factory, Gnoshyn. A series of other factories of textile. metal and chemical products belonged to Jews. Among the thousands of workers in all of the factories, Jews could be counted on the fingers. Even during the last few years before the Second World War, when the hearts of some Czenstochower manufacturers became a little softer, they hardly deigned to bring in a few Jews in their offices.
In light of the divisiveness in the Jewish working class in the small workshops and small factories, we can properly evaluate the immense accomplishments of the Jewish professional unions in organizing the Jewish workers to struggle for better economic conditions, for political class-consciousness and for cultural elevation.
Right after this when independent Poland arose, during the years 1918-1919, the Jewish professional unions played a decisive role in the elections to the local worker council and in the local workers' movement in general. The majority of Jewish professional unions in Czenstochow at that time concentrated around the Educational Union for Jewish Workers. This union was [connected to] socialist Zionism and, then, when the Territorialists united with the Sejmists, it was taken over by Fareinikte [united]. New professional unions also arose at this time, such as unions for the [industrial] branches: paper, celluloid and horns, painters, porters and butchers. The greatest number of members in the professional unions, however, were unemployed then.
The number of votes that were given through the various branches and trades during the elections to the workers' council provides an idea about both the organizational strength of the various professional unions and about the number of workers in professions according to their occupations.
Barbers 55; metal workers 440; wood branch 118; celluloid and horn work 126; needle industries 410; leather workers 126; bakers and candy-making workers (cake bakers) 79; meat workers 34; paper branch 62; porters 174; indeterminate trades 125; others 126; Total 1, 749 votes. A certain number of additional votes came from Jewish workers in small factories.
In 1920 most of the professional unions were under the leadership of a central council, of which Rafal Federman was the chairman and Yakov Yitzhak Czarnoweicki was the secretary.
The law concerning sick funds did not yet exist in Poland. The Central Council arranged medical help for the members of the organization. Each professional union paid a certain payment for each member to the sick fund of the Central Council.
Because of this, a workers' council aid committee was created with the Central Council that supported the unemployed and their families and took care of the members with medical help.
On Shabbos, the 19th of February, 1921, a meeting of the needle workers who had decided to unite the two needle workers union took place at the premises of the Tailors Union at Neyer Mark 2. However, it was a long time before one union was created.
The founders of the Tailors Union in Czenstochow, among others: Tifenberg, Krzepicki and Rozenblat
The Professional Union of Needle Workers was not the only one that was divided. The professional movement of the small number of Jewish workers and the still smaller number of the employed constantly suffered from division and splits that the four parties, Fareinikte [United], Bund, Poalei-Zion [Marxist Zionists] and the Communists, led among them, in addition to dozens of chronic illnesses, which the Jewish Worker Movement also suffered, such as the insecure boundary between worker, home worker and workshop owner, who in the majority was a very poor man. The divisions in the trades into dozens of sections and the struggle of the sections among themselves; the emigration, which each year
emptied the ranks of the best professional activists and filled them with young men who immediately went to the workshop after leaving kheder.
In 1922 the unification of the Jewish and Polish professional unions was carried out in Poland. The Jewish workers being in the vast majority again remained in separate divisions, but formally they were united through their leaders. They took part in the general conventions and in the agencies of the separate industrial unions, or of the national federation.
Standing from the left: D. Richter, Krzepicki, Opatowski, Hirszberg, Cimberknof, Gonzwa.
The unification was stronger in the larger cities because the local Jewish professional unions were connected through a Central Council or Cultural Office and through the mediation of this administrative body were represented in the local Rade, that is, in the general municipal central office of all professional unions. This was unification in addition to the connection in the particular trades. Jewish divisions of tailors, shoemakers, textile workers and so on were joined in the general unions of a given trade.
The Cultural Office for the most part united the professional unions that stood under the political influence of the Bund. Jewish professional unions that were connected to other parties, such as Poalei-Zion, the Communists or Fareinikte, as in Czenstochow, particularly in the early era, often stood on the side, but were organized in their own central council. The Czenstochow Cultural Office at first only consisted of four professional unions: clothing workers, wood, nourishment and bristle workers. The remaining Jewish professional unions in the city were connected in a central council that was led by Fareinikte, later, the Independent Socialist Party. The Cultural Office, which was organized in March 1923, therefore, founded parallel unions under other names. In that way, for example, a splinter of the porters, under the leadership of the Cultural Office, was named the Transport Workers' Union, from the Meat Workers Nourishment Workers, and so on.
Standing from right to left: Bajgelman Moshe, Laska Ziskind, Klabisz Stanislaw, Fajtel Feywel, Kolton, Yitzhak, Jakubowicz, Mordekhai, Itskowicz, Avraham.
Rafal Federman led the Cultural Office that was connected to the Bund and, which earlier as Fareinikte, stood at the tip of the central council. Other workers from the Cultural Office were the Bundists Moshe Lederman (leather worker), Avraham Frydman, Avraham Rozenblat, Tsine Orczech (bakery worker), Moshe Berkensztat, Shmuel Rozental, Andje Manowicz, Eliasz Sztajnet, Leibish Kaminski, Josef Kruze, Henekh Fefer, Ziser Cyncynatus and Yitzhak Stopnicer.
In addition to the regular professional work and cultural activities, the Cultural Office also was concerned with help for the unemployed. In March 1926,
the Cultural Office divided food among 303 families from the monies it received from the Country Council of the Jewish Professional Unions in Poland. During the same month's time, the Cultural Office also divided support among 204 families that it had received from the Czenstochow kehile [organized Jewish community]. During the summer of the same year, the Cultural Office divided a larger sum from America among around 500 families of the unemployed. In general, in 1926, 2,390 families, which numbered 6,948 people, took nourishment from the aid actions of the Cultural Office.
In the course of 1926, the four mentioned professional unions joined other unions in the Cultural Office from the branches: chemical industry, metal, leather, transport, butchers, printers and painters. Fifteen professional unions numbering about 1,150 members of the Cultural Office were represented at the conference of the 15th of January where new leadership of the Cultural Office was elected. At the election the Bund received 36 votes, the Communists 15 and the Left Poalei-Zion three. The new council consisted of 17 Bundists, seven Communists and one Left Paolei-Zion. Resolutions about the right to work of Jewish workers and Jewish workers employed in city institutions and about the right to use the Yiddish language in the general sick office were adopted.
At that time the stowarzyszenia (association) of the trade employees, which was transformed into a modern professional union, joined the Cultural Office. This union also ceased to be a fortress of assimilation. The rich union library, with 15,000 books in various languages in addition to Yiddish, later merged with the Medem Library at the Cultural Office, which had only Yiddish books. The foundation of the Medem Library was laid by Yakov Rozenberg, who upon the death of Wladimir Medem, gave 1,000 zlotes to sanctify his name. The first librarian of the Medem librarian was Comrade Andze Muznowicz. The library functioned illegally under the horrible Nazi occupation in the residence of Comrade Rayzele Berkensztat.
Representatives of eight Jewish unions with over 1,000 members were at the conference of the Cultural Office on the 5th of November 1937.
Up to the 1st of January 1939, the Cultural Office represented seven professional unions, compiled as such: 1) clothing industry 438 members; 2) nutrition 105: 3) leather 73; 4) trade employees 200 5) hairdressers 52; 6) transport 80; 7) Socialist artisans 104. Total 1,052 members, of them 766 men, 168 women and 118 young people. In addition to these, 690 Jewish workers were organized in divisions along with Polish workers in the unions of textile, metal, construction and chemicals. 1,472 Jewish workers and employees were organized together since the beginning of 1939 in the professional class unions.
A picture of the working and wage conditions of the Jewish working young can be created on the basis of the correspondence from Czenstochow that was published in Yungt Werker [Young Worker], 1927, no. 19. There we read:
The workday for the young workers from the clothing, leather and wood trades is 10-12 hours. Young workers from 11 years old and on are found at work. Their wage is 4-5 gildn a week. The situation for the girls, who work with linen, clothing and milliners (hat makers), is particularly difficult. Here children of age 10 can even be found, who work from seven in the morning until 8 at night, with a break of half an hour at noon.[Page 59]
The majority of young people are not insured by the sick fund. Exceptions are only those who work in workshops with older workers. We meet young people who serve as apprentices over the course of two years and they work entirely without pay.
The situation for the young in the chemical industry is also difficult. There are 200 young people employed, of them 30 percent Polish. In this industrial branch young people of 10-12 years of age can be found, who work up to 13 hours a day for a wage of an entire four gildn a week.
There are cases that when the work inspector comes to visit the small factory, the young workers are locked in the dirty work room in order to prevent a check. The manufacturers even permit the beating of the young workers for such impertinence as not wanting to bring water for
the owner's wife. About a legal leave (vacation), one can only dream.From the same correspondence we also learn about the efforts of the young to organize themselves to fight for better conditions.
We are now proceeding to create a youth section at the chemical union. The first steps have already been made. Two organizational meetings have taken place and a provisional commission was elected that needs to organize all of the young workers in the chemical industry. The local youth office is carrying out the mentioned work. (The leadership of the youth section of the Cultural Office of the Jewish Professional Unions was founded in 1925.)Alas, the sad action of the Jewish manufacturers during this strike, their association with the Endeke anti-Semites against striking Jewish workers, was not an isolated case. There are still worse examples where Jewish capitalists removed Jewish workers from the factory because they dared to strike and even unbelievable cases where Jewish manufacturers hired Endeke hooligans against Jewish strikers. We read here in a report from Czenstochow in the Folks-Zeitung of the 6th of December 1936:
Ten years later the situation of the young Jewish workers in other branches of industry was not very much better than that of the young chemical workers in 1927 and the Jewish Professional Unions proceeded to organize for a struggle. Here we read in Yungt-Werker [Young Worker] of 1936, number 22, an interesting report about the strike of young Jewish metal workers:
There are a few dozen metal factories located in Czenstochow that are not yet organized in a metal union. Young Jewish workers for the most part work there, earning 80 groshn and one gildn for a day of heavy labor. In addition, they work there in the most terrible hygienic conditions. The workers have not even dreamed of leave (vacations). With the help of a group of futurists, the metal union began a widespread campaign to draw the workers into the union and this succeeded. It was immediately decided to end the terrible exploitation that has been carried on for years. The union presented demands: 1) for a collective agreement; 2) wage supplement; 3) for hygienic working conditions. The negotiations lasted for many weeks and there was no resolution. It is worth mentioning that the Jewish manufacturers chose Endekes [members of the nationalist and anti-Semitic Polish political party] as their representatives to negotiate with the workers. On Tuesday, the 25th of August, the workers proceeded to an occupying strike in 10 factories. Three hundred sixty workers went out on strike, of them 80 percent young
Jewish and Polish workers work in the Jewish factory of Pol Metal, whose owners are the Misters Yelel and Edelis. The work and wage situation is very bad there. The workers have been trying to organize. This greatly displeased the Jewish manufacturers. As soon as they learned of this, they immediately began to dismiss the few Jewish workers who were employed there. The Jewish workers were paid on the spot for two week's wages and the factory became Juden-rein.
And here is a letter published in the Folks-Zeitung of the 11th of April 1938:
During the occupation strike in the Shaja and Frank factory, Mr. Frank with the help of a band of Endeke fighters attempted to drive the strikers from the factory. When this was not successful, he urged the female Endeke workers to break the strike and promised to give them work. This actually happened; they broke the strike, left the factory and sent their husbands, Endekes, to drive those remaining from the factory. After a 97-day strike in the most terrible conditions, the ostensible democrat (Frank) expelled ten workers from the factory. Everyone else remained.The same thing happened in Epsztajn's button factory from which the Jewish women workers were expelled.
It is told in a letter about the large Jewish metal factory on Warszawer Street that when several Jewish workers left to serve in the military, Endekes were employed in their place. They present themselves after work for the 'holy trade' of picketing Jewish shops and chorale singing:
Jews must be in Palestine,It is further reported in the same letter
Because they are traitors and pigs.
about cases where Jewish manufacturers would play both strings of the instrument of Jewish nationalism and of anti-Semitism. During strikes, Jewish manufacturers tried to convince Jewish workers not to go with the Endekes and the Endekes not to go with the Jewish good-for-nothings. They tried to persuade the backward Polish worker that it was only a question of throwing out the Jewish workers.
Jewish capitalists themselves carried wood to the anti-Semitic fire in Czenstochow.
The Jewish professional movement in Czenstochow recorded an outstanding page in the history of the local Jewish settlement.
by A. Khrobolowski
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
The Union of Trade Employees occupies a separate chapter in the history of the professional unions in Czenstochow.
The union was founded in 1907 under the name: Society of Mutual Aid for Trade and Industrial Employees. The majority of the assimilated Jewish workers employed in the large factories belonged to it as well as a few Christians. No one even thought of defending the employees against the owners of the large and smaller factories. One question would appear on the agenda of the annual general meeting: the burial fund: the fund and help for the widows and orphans of the deceased members.
Yakov Rozenberg, A. Crobolowski, R. Federman joined the union in 1913-14 and began a struggle for the union to be concerned with better conditions for the trade employees and that Yiddish should be permitted at general meetings. The fight for Yiddish was then being carried out throughout society and in unions under the assimilated leadership. Rafal Federman describes the spirit of assimilation that reigned in the union in the Czenstochower Togeblat [Czenstochower Daily Newspaper] of the 29th of May 1914 with such characteristic facts: When a member asked permission at a general meeting to present his views in the Yiddish language, he was attacked with abuse for the unheard of nerve The same member also presumed to demand that the society should provide Yiddish newspapers among all of the other newspapers in the reading room. Hereupon, our well-known community worker, Dr. Zaks, and the director of the Riger Bank argued that if Yiddish newspapers were permitted in the reading room, this would show that the Czenstochower trade employees were on a very low cultural level. It should be understood that the audience was very frightened and rejected the proposal.
The society was then located on Dojazd.
During the First World War, under the German occupation, the S.S. Party [Territorialists] founded a second professional union of trade employees that had its location in Szlezinger's courtyard on Spadek.
After the First World War, the situation in the society immediately began to change after a group of socialist activists and regular socialist members joined it.
In 1919 another long and difficult struggle succeeded in carrying out a decision at a general meeting about changing the society into a professional union of trade and office employees. A point was placed in the statute of the union that those who employ those opposed to the union may not belong.
But changing the name of the union did not immediately change the character of the union. Two sides belonged to the union: the impartial under the leadership of Kurland, Fogelbaum, Galinski, Foist and others, and the socialist factions, which fought the club character of the union and wanted a true professional union and trade society.
A decisive general meeting of the union took place on the 27th of November 1921. All of the union groups mobilized their followers and prepared for the battle. Three candidate lists were presented for the professional elections of the managing committee, which was supposed to consist of 11 people: 1) impartial (the old right) with Fogelbaum, Galinski and others, 2) the Fareinikte [united] faction with the following candidates: R.
Federman, Henekh Nirenberg, Rayzl Berkensztat, Moshe Kremski, Herman Hercberg, Dovid Yelen, Tsesha Alter, Zalman Federman, Jakov Yitzhak Czarnawecki, 3) a combined list of the Borochov, Groser [large or great] and Royt [red], with the names: Horowicz, Zilbersztajn, Brum and others.
The Fareinikte faction proposed for the agenda: 1) the question of aid for the hungry in the Soviet Union; 2) to join the union to the central council of the professional unions.
The Red Faction entered a point about fighting for an eight-hour workday.
Mr. Senior, chairman of the union, opened the gathering. Two candidates were placed [in nomination] as chairman: 1) Szpira of the impartial ones 2) R. Federman from all of the proletarian factions. The first candidate received 130 plus votes. The second candidate [received 80 plus] votes.
Because of the stir that began when R. Federman began to speak Yiddish, he filed a proposal that everyone could speak in the language that is accessible to him, including Yiddish. For those who do not understand Yiddish, the presidium has to deliver their speeches in Polish.
At the vote on the proposal by name, 146 votes were for and 78 against. With this vote a 16-year old tradition was broken of the union not permitting Yiddish to be spoken at a general meeting.
The vote for the candidates to the managing committee had the following results. List number 1. impartial 132 votes six members, list number 2. Fareinikte - 45 votes two members, list number 3. Borochov, Groser and Red 49 votes three members.
In 1926 the union joined the culture office of the Jewish Professional Unions.
During the last years, Prikaczszikes Bank belonged to the union and a smaller number of commercial employees from the smaller firms. The more assimilated members (employed in large factories) left the union.
The Bund and the communists had influence over the union. The chairman was Rafal Federman, secretary Herszlikowicz. The premises of the union and the culture office were located at Aleja 20.
After the departure of chairman Rafal Federman for Paris, the party was dominated by the communists. The departure of the secretary, Herszlikowicz, brought the slow dissolution of the union, so that during the last years the union no longer carried out its activities.
by A. Gotlib
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
A movement to organize the Jewish artisans in order to elevate their cultural position and to better their economic situation began in Poland in 1912. The initiator of this movement was the engineer, Jan Kirszrot, the founder of the first artisan club in Lodz.
Before the artisan clubs arose, some artisans, such as bakers and carpenters, were organized in minyonim [groups of at least 10 men who pray together]. These minyonim or artisans' synagogues were also a gathering point where they came together to consider professional questions and where they would also spend time playing a game of chess, dominoes or reading a newspaper.
The initiative to found an artisans club in Czenstochow came from Lodz. Owners and workers were represented at the first meeting, which was occupied with choosing an organizing committee. Among the workers at that meeting were Moshe Weksler, Shimkha Kalka and A. Chrobalowski. Engineer Asorodobraj, Wolf Gostinski, Shlomo Librowicz, Leibush Goldszajder, Ber Balzam, Moshe Tenenbaum, Shlomo Krojskop and A. Chrobalowski joined the organizing committee. Despite the attitude of the owners, the workers' group helped the rise of the artisans' club to a larger degree.
Engineer Asorodobraj and A. Chrobalowski were chosen as delegates to Lodz to communicate with Engineer Kirszrot. The first mass meeting of the artisans, at which the delegates to Lodz gave a report, took place at the Lira hall. A large number
of artisans joined as members. The session of the organizing committee took place in Sh. Librowicz's house. A group of amateurs, under the leadership of Hershele Feiwlowicz and Dora Szacher, arranged a performance in the Harmonia hall, which brought in 150 rubles clear profit. Almost all progressive communal workers and socialists, such as Jakob Rozenberg, Josef Aronowicz, took an active part in the development of the artisans club from the first moment of its founding.
Engineer F. Ratner, Engineer Asorodobraj, Wolf Gastinski, Artur Braniotowski, Yakov Sztajner, Ludwig Goldberg, Shlomo Librowicz, Shlomo Krojskop, F. Zalcman, Leibush Goldszajder, L. Cymerman, Moshe Tenenbaum. Stanislaw Herc, Moshe Win were found on the first managing committee of the Artisans Club.
Henrik Markusfeld was nominated as chairman.
During the pre-war years the Artisans Club mainly was occupied with cultural activities and sociability matters. Family evenings, concerts and readings would be arranged. A library was founded, a reading room. In general, after Lira, the Artisans Club was the most active cultural institution.
But in the professional area, the Artisans Club did almost nothing. Several trades, such as carpenters and hat makers, tried to organize actions, but they did not succeed. However, the handworkers union created an important institution that helped improve the situation of its members. This was a second loan and savings fund that was founded in 1913 particularly for artisans, with the help of IKA [Jewish Colonization Committee]. The fund was founded by Zigmund Sztiler chairman, Henrik Markusfeld, Engineer Ratner, Chaim Weksler and W. Gastinski.
The Artisans Club first occupied a large premises on Aleje 11, then at Aleje 27. In 1913, it moved to Ogrodowa 22. Before the outbreak of the First World War, Engineer Asorodobraj stood at the head of the union as chairman and the vice chairman was Dr. Hipolit Gajzler, who returned from Germany and practiced medicine in Czenstochow.
From the start of the First World War until 1918, just as with many newly created unions and organizations, the Artisans Club was busy with aid work. An inexpensive kitchen was created, a tea hall that was run by the young people of Czenstochow, with M. Ash, M. Jeshajewicz, D. Krojskop, S. Makrojer and A. Chawtyn at the head. The inexpensive kitchen and tea hall were supported by the Dobroczynnosc [charity]. In general a large number of young Jews were organized in sports and music sections around the Artisans Club during the war years. The sport section later was transformed into an independent sport and tour union.
The war years were very difficult for the majority of the artisans. This motivated an entire array of activists to revive the Artisans Club on the basis of a self-help and trade organization. Among the new activists in the union were: Moshe Kac, Shmuel Kac, Yehayshaya Granek, Kopl Orbach, Avraham Frydman, Z. Krug, Dowid Wolfowicz and Hershl Win. Almost all of them were tailors and bakers, because there was comparatively little unemployment among them as there was in other trades. The union organized almost every artisan trade and in 1918, partly thanks to the help of American funds, a fund for widows and orphans was founded. In 1919 the activities of the pre-war loan and savings fund were revived and an entire range of cooperatives was founded, such as the food cooperative, Zelbsthilf, and several raw material cooperatives for various trades. A Patronat [worker's organization] for professional education for apprentices was created.
In 1919 the artisans club possessed more than 530 members. It also spread its activities across an entire range of neighboring shtetlekh [towns], in Klobuck, Kamyk, Koniecpol, and Krzepice where divisions were found.
The Polish regime approved the new statute for the union in 1921. The defense of the interests of the artisans was designated as its main task. According to the statute, only master craftsmen could belong to the union. The official name of the union was changed to Jewish Artisans Resource. But the union was still called Artisans Club.
In addition to the earlier mentioned, the following people led the Artisans Club during the years 1917-1923: Dentist M. Grenec, chairman in 1918; Dr. Gajsler, chairman from 1918 on. The vice-chairmen
First row, sitting from right to left: J. Fisz, P. Szlezinger, M. Blum, Dr. Ch. Galster, J. Goldberg, J. Granek, and Ch. Frajermojer.
Second row from right to left: T. Braun, A. Grajcki, J. Sztajer, A. Winer, Z. Rozencwajg, A.F. Chidicki and Ch. Kalka.
Third row from right to left: Nafarta, A. Pajem, D. Koniecpoler, M. Zyscholc, Moszkowicz and M. Gelber.
Fourth row from right to left: Ch. Pitel, N. Owieczka, H. Frajman, J. Izraelewicz and L. Kac.
were: Jakov Sztajner, Hershl Wnuk, Avraham Dzialowski. Jakob Fisz, Shmuel Hafnung, Mikhal Ajdelman, Naftali Deresz and Moshe Berman excelled as active members of the union in this period.
In 1924 the Artisans Club came out publicly with its own list for the election. A.Z. Frydman (community managing committee), A. Dzialowski, A. Liberman and Y. Granek. The Artisans Club was represented in the City Council by Dr. H. Gajsler and J. Goldberg. In the bank, Spoldzielczy Dr. Gajsler, B. Sztibl, Sh. Laria. In the council of the Sick Fund A. Jarkowizna, M. Grenec, M Ejdelman. In T.O.Z. [Society for the Protection of Health] J. Goldberg.
In 1927 the Polish government enacted a guild-law that renewed a series of old authorities for guilds in order to limit Jewish entry to trade. The Artisans Union carried on a difficult struggle to undercut the effect of the edict. For this purpose, the existing sections of the union were transformed into guilds. According to the law, the guilds gave out master certificates, without which one could not open a workshop. The union also organized a convention of all of the Jewish artisans unions in Kielcer province in order to prepare the members for the elections to the artisans' groups.
At that time internal frictions and disputes took place in the Artisans Union, both on the basis of competition between trade groups and because of ideological differences of opinion. In the shoemaker, tailor and carpenter sections, there were struggles among tandetnikes [those who made less expensive clothing], chalupnikes (those who took the work home) and employees (who work according to the orders they received). The trades divided into separate sections,
as for example: employed tailors, tailors who took work home and waist coat makers. Sometimes the Artisans Union succeeded in uniting the break away sections.
A sharper struggle took place in the union around the two central offices that were created in Warsaw: the Rosner-Folkist Central on Nalewke and the Zionist Central on Leszna. The Czenstochower Artisans Union stood on the side of the Folkist Central. Later, Czenstochow played a great role in uniting both Centrals in one Central Artisans Union.
The Jewish Guilds, which were created by the guild law, copied the Polish ones, both in the erection of a certain hierarchy of trades and in external symbols. Each trade endeavored to have it own flag and so on.
The celebration of the 15 years of existence of the Czenstochower Artisans Union, in 1928, was very impressive. All of the guilds with their flags took part in the celebration. The union also published an anniversary publication of the history of the union and its activities.
In 1933 a group under the name Halutz Bale-Melokhe [artisan pioneers] was create among the Czenstochow Artisans Club. In 1934 the Czenstochow group took part in a convention of all such groups in Poland. The purpose of this movement was to assist the establishment of the Jewish community in Eretz-Yisroel. Efforts were made to obtain certificates for artisans and help them emigrate to Eretz-Yisroel.
The founding of one Central Artisans Union in Warsaw did not stop the widening embitterment between the two groups (Folkist and Zionist) among the artisans. The fight was strongly felt in the Czenstochower Artisans Union. On the 31st of May and the 1st of June 1936, the Fifth Artisans Conference took place, at which Czenstochow was represented by 14 delegates. The congress was a very stormy one. The Czenstochower delegation endeavored to create unity. However, no peace was attained.
With the circumstances in Poland, where the heavy burden of taxes particularly oppressed the Jewish population, the Artisans Union was forced to give massive energy to the tax matter and to pay into the sick fund. Dr. H. Gajsler and J. Goldberg in city hall and A. Jorkowizne in the sick fund were active in this area.
In 1924 the union created two more divisions in Przyrow and Amstow.
In 1928 the union numbered 1,200 members in the following 21 organized sections:
Skilled Tailors Union, Gaitermakers Section, Carpenters Section, Union of Master Bakers, Lathe Operator Section, Master Furriers Section, Shoemakers Section, Locksmith Section, Union of Master Hairdressers, Hatmakers Section, Section for Knitwear, Stocking and Writing Book Branch, Electric-Technicians Section, Watchmakers Section, Goldsmiths and Engravers, Master Small Box Makers Section, Union of Master Tinsmiths, Butchers Section, Cake Bakers Section.
HaHalutz Bal Melokhe
by A. Szimeonowicz
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
The people's pioneer movement HaHalutz Bal Melokhe [Pioneer Craftsmen] was created in Vilna in 1933 at the initiative of the Zionist worker, Avraham Kac.
The Czenstochower branch of HaHalutz Bal Melokhe was founded in July 1934. It was known for its efficient and intensive work and became one of the most respected and most important branches of the all-Poland HaHalutz Bal Melokhe organization.
At the beginning, during the rise of HaHalutz Bal Melokhe, a certain antagonism was evident on the part of the general artisan organization, which saw HaHalutz Bal Melokhe as a competing organization. However, in time, when they were convinced that HaHalutz Bal Melokhe was involved with only cultural and Zionist work, the mood was calmed. And approximately half of its 200 members were members of both organizations. Among the members of
HaHalutz Bal Melokhe were a series of guild elders as well as the esteemed members of the Artisans Union and they carried out intensive Zionist pioneer work among the wide artisan circles.
It was a great pleasure to see how each evening, after a difficult work day, the artisan comrades and their wives stormed their Pioneer organization at Aleje 10.
There they would learn Hebrew, hear lectures about history, Zionism and general Jewish problems and receive their work assignments for the Eretz-Yisroel funds. The comrades fulfilled their Jewish and Zionist community work, which would be arranged for them.
Thanks to the strong pioneer discipline that ruled over the branch, this organization occupied a significant place in communal life in the city.
The organization tried to convince the comrades not only to be prepared spiritually and professionally to emigrate to Eretz-Yisroel but also that their wives should adjust to emigration and should be fit to help them in their first steps in the new land. There was also concern in terms of emigration, that the children of the comrades should study Hebrew and study in Zionist educational institutions.
Taking into account the significance of the Czenstochow organization, comrade Szajnfeld and comrade Jakub Lewkowicz were elected to the principal council in Warsaw as representatives from Czenstochow in the central office of HaHalutz Bal Melokhe.
It is worthwhile to record the names of the comrades who stood at the head of this organization and helped its development: Szajnfeld, Jakub Lewkowicz, Avraham Gotlib, Moshe Goldberg and Wilinger. Among the Zionist workers who actively helped with their Zionist experience and set the tone with moral support were the well-known community workers, Dr. Bram and Dr. Mering.
At the beginning of 1936 the Czenstochow organization received one or two certificates for each quota for the comrades who excelled in their work and were qualified to prepare for emigration. Thanks to this organization, these comrades emigrated to Eretz-Yisroel:
In addition to this, the HaHalutz Bal Melokhe obtained certificates for comrades who could show 250 pounds [currency], as well as recommendations.
The number of individual artisans from Czenstochow who came to the land was small in total. But when one takes into consideration that several people came on each certificate, it can certainly be said that in the course of the short existence of the organization, HaHalutz Bal Melokhe, several dozen people avoided the fate that so tragically befell the entire Czenstochow Jewry.
In the middle of 1939 the HaHalutz Bal Melokhe movement faced the possibility of sending a larger number of comrades to Eretz-Yisroel. The cruel war interrupted the life of this young pioneer movement, just as it suffocated the bubbling and effervescent life of Polish Jewry in general.
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