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The Jewish Scout Movement “Hashomer Hatzair” in Zloczew (cont.)

Influencing the Environment Around Us

With the activities of the Jewish scouting movement, a new period started for the local Jewish youths in general, and in their social lives, in particular. The older generation who did not see youth movements as anything other than child play, started to understand that change was in the air. The education for values such as love of others, love of life and nature and helping others as well as morality and love of neighbour, the thirst for knowledge and placing a value on education to advance a person in life, the love of country and the land and the joy of life - “He who is happy will never harm his fellows”. The discipline and order - in the fullness of time, it became a permanent feature of this movement. When I look back at this wonderful panorama from afar, I ask myself “What was so special about the Zloczew nest? More so that other Hashomer places in Poland?”

The “Shoshanna” group
Seated on the ground from right to left-Pola Lual, Dozia Solomonovitch,
Zenia Davidovitch, Dozia Betz, Regina Dzebeth.
Seated-Yaakov Freund the head of the nest, Dozka Margolis.
Standing-Sarah Kampimnsky and Lidzia Katz.

 

The famous rule says that the baker should not testify as to the quality of his loaf and this restricts me somewhat in telling you what I think about those beautiful years and perhaps someone else would identify this as boasting, but I think just as it is not nice to boast, it is not nice to be too humble either. So, when I talk about Hashomer Hatzair in Zloczew, I cannot pretend that I am not exaggerating yes, the Zloczew nest was different we did not have any deviation from the scout code. The Jewish national principles were all carried out without any deviation from a special kind of inner motivation and a very clear spiritual need - please understand.

Just to demonstrate the Hashomer way of educating and how it affected me, I will recount two separate cases of personal confessions divulged to me at different times and in different circumstances. The first one concerned the Friedman family who were looking after a relative of theirs, a boy who was an orphan by the name of Czerni Benek or Benek the black as he was called to distinguish from his cousin Benek Friedman who was also a member of his group. He was a quiet, shy person, who kept himself to himself but was rough-hewn and solid like a rock. He was short, hairy, with thick eyebrows and piercing eyes that were examining his surroundings and looking at you in defiance. I tried to delve into the depth of his spirit and soul to find out what he was about, as he seemed to be suffering alone. After returning to his father's house in Piotrokov, he was almost forgotten, but a few months later, perhaps a year later, I received a letter from him which was exciting and this is what he said - (I translated this from Polish from memory) -

“From afar I look at you and I think about those beautiful days with longings. To you, Yaakov, I am grateful for everything you have done for me. You have opened my eyes, and you illuminated my way to life. I will never forget you.”

I have kept another letter with me from a former student who survived the Holocaust. After a lot of searching, he finally settled in America, where he made a home and had a family and this is what he had written -

“Much of my memories are associated with you. You filled my life with purpose and enriched my years. This was proven to me again while I was suffering under the Nazis and when I met other people who were also suffering like me and saw the difference between us and how much better placed the youth movement people were in the way we saw the world to survive and all that thanks to your blessed education and guidance. I believe within my heart that thanks for this education you gave us to trust people, and to believing in the triumph of good over evil, I have managed to survive the horrors of the war.”

Does that not show what I mean and does that not fill the heart with pride?

With much satisfaction, I can say that till this very day I still feel the warm feelings that had been shown for me by the members of the movement that I had the privilege to be an instructor for. It is such a shame that so few of them have remained alive and that so many had left us, may they rest in peace.

Saying Farewell

At the beginning of 1925, as my day of immigrating to Israel became nearer, I felt worse and worse. I remember the Lag Ba'omer (mid May) trip, the last one I ever did, when joy was tinged with sadness. I was not able to stop thinking that here I was, leaving everything that was dear to me because I loved them so much. For four years, when I lived amongst them, they became a part of my soul and that is why it was so difficult to say goodbye. The time passed and the day of departure came, the hardest of all that came before it. The sleepless nights, the saying farewell, leaving the forest at dawn, my mother, may she rest in peace, packing my things, and taking leave of my brothers and sisters and, at last saying goodbye to the nest. I remember how I stood in front of all of them in the hall without speaking as speaking loudly was forbidden. Farewell words were not said, just the beating of the hearts were felt as I saw their tears flowing as it was difficult for them as well and the atmosphere was tinged with sadness It all happened a long time ago, perhaps more than 45 years ago, but in spite of that, every time I remember this particular day, my heart skips a beat and tears of sadness and longing come to my eyes and I feel a lump in my throat. I hoped that the parting was temporary and that in the fullness of time, all of them would join me, but to my great sorrow, very few had managed it, as most of them were devoured by the Nazi beast and I will remember them all my life.

A regional assembly of Hashomer Hatzair in Kalisz
- with delegates from Zloczew - Yaakov Freund, Ruth Freedman,
Yehiel Freedman (Shlomi) and Yehuda Davidovitch

 

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