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Social and Political Life


[Page 182]


The “Kibbutz Borochov” training farm in our city

by Isser Lavi

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

(Spoken by Arje Mendel, born in Ostrów near Kielce, who was a member of the training camp during the years 1933-1938)


In 1933 I arrived in the Borochov “hachshara” training camp in Dąbrowa, which was part of the Będzin region. As a member of “Hechalutz” [The Pioneer movement] I was meant to carry out training in this kibbutz in order to make “aliyah” to our country. When I came to the kibbutz I certainly didn't consider that I would live there for five years, or as time went by I would be a citizen of the city and I would be familiar with its Jewish residents, its public institutions and its social life. As a boy from Ostrów, a small Jewish center, I reached Dąbrowa, the industrial city with a proletariat laborers facade and a small Jewish minority within it. Everything was new for me: a new reality, a new social world, a lifestyle in the kibbutz and a daily struggle for survival.

I arrived in the kibbutz when it was located in 3 Krótka Street in Krzywinski's house (in eight rooms). He was clearly a drunk whose sober hours were few but he regularly remembered to set the apartment rent. To his credit it can be said that he respected us very much and when he wanted to, he would have quite a few discussions with us on world spanning subjects.

Krótka Street, as his name implies: Krótka – truly short. One end met with the main 3rd of May Street, and the other end met with Kosciuszko Street. It was a side street, typical in that in the middle of it there was a building that stood on ground ruptured from one of the mine collapses that frequently occurred in the city. Tenants that had some self respect tended not to live in this building, but its redemption came when the various pioneering youth movements established their branches there and amongst them the training Kibbutz. At the center of the building was a large “Hashomer Hatzair” [“Young Guard”] center, where parades, activities and meetings were carried out and not only in the building's rooms, but also in the center of the courtyard. In the rooms nearby there were branch offices of “Hechalutz”, “Freiheit” and “Poalei Zion”. The public character of the building was even more prominent and became an active Zionist center and the kibbutz also became part of it.

During this period the kibbutz had 60-70 members and amongst them, a large number of women. In contrast to other training centers, the Dąbrowa division was well established from a financial viewpoint. It existed from work in the factories, in the sawmill and wood yard and so on.


dab182.jpg [38 KB] - "Hachshara" in the sawmill in Dąbrowa
“Hachshara” in the sawmill in Dąbrowa

[Page 183]


The main work place was the Klajn Brothers factory. This factory was famous for its metal products and its large capacity, and amongst the many Polish laborers it employed there were a few local Jews, mainly in managerial positions. The appearance of Jewish workers in simple jobs was a subject of discussion amongst the Polish laborers. The quality of these [Jewish] laborers was soon noted, and thus a close friendship evolved that later manifested itself in political activities. The Jewish managers, the Klajn brothers, should also be fondly remembered, they knew how to appreciate the labor of their laborers, and the shift managers and engineers noticed this and acted accordingly – including Bialski, Fajtman, Arbesman, Lesko, the Krzeszfeld brothers and many others whose names have slipped my memory.

The Polish laborers knew very well how to value our status in the factory, although we were Jews they understood that as laborers we had crossed the national barrier, and the social status overcame everything. This approach developed even more when they saw for themselves our political activities and our participation in workers' demonstrations. Our worth was boosted in such that we were full participants in a strike that broke out in the factory within the background of wage claims and we expressed our solidarity with the general worker population. It seems to me that we also achieved recognition amongst the factory owners who saw us as conscientious workers striving together with our Polish worker colleagues.

As noted, this factory was one of the central work places, however, thanks to the Jewish-Zionist public activists in the city, we attained additional work places that also recognized our abilities. In the beginning when the kibbutz was founded, there was a sponsor who took care of finding work places, but after we were established this sponsorship ceased after seeing our solid economic status, in contrast to the neighboring groups in Zabkowice and Będzin that struggled rigorously for their existence.

As members of the “Hechalutz”, “Freiheit” and “Poalei Zion” movements we saw ourselves, even though we were in the training camp, obliged to continue activities in spite of us being only temporary in the city. We regularly participated in KKL [Jewish National Fund] activities on “Flower Day” and various other missions or in traditional projects. We regularly participated in the “League for a Working Israel”, that assembled within it the prime of the youth from the pioneering youth movements in the city. The very fact that the kibbutz was located close to the youth movements in Krzywinski's house formed a social center that interrelated well with the public life in the city; its members were prominent in all activities and social and personal relationships were formed between the members of the movements and the kibbutz people.

The social life of the kibbutz took place within a closed circle, but with this the members of the youth movements participated in every event, festival and party that was held in this house. On Shabbat evenings and festivals and even during the week the kibbutz served as a meeting place for the youth in general. Singing and dancing emerged till the late hours with everyone joining into a combined “hora” [Israeli dance]. During Lag B'Omer the kibbutz took part in movement parades that took place outside the city, in the expanse of fields in Zielona.


dab183.jpg [33 KB] - The first "hachshara" group in Klosow from "Freiheit"
The first “hachshara” group in Klosow
from “Freiheit”


Since we were laborers and members of the “hachshara” we attained a worker's awareness, and thus reached that conclusion that we should be active in the political and public life of the city. I don't need to describe to former Dąbrowa residents the worker's character of the city and the class unrest that existed during those years. The political climate also influenced us to participate in all sorts of political activities. Since we were close to the P.P.S. [The Polish Socialist Party “Polska Partia Socjalistyczna”] we took full part in their demonstrations. We appeared with our flag on which words in Hebrew were embroidered. We were proud that we were prominent in our Jewish national participation.


[Page 184]


However, as the leftist tendencies grew within the P.P.S., and because of resistance to our Zionist outlook, a move was made to prevent us participating in the 1st of May demonstrations. We could not accept this and as the demonstration went past us, a large scuffle broke out and even the police were unable to quell it. They weren't able to expel us from the demonstration and hence we marched, singing and with our Zionist Socialist flag held high.

In 1936 the anti-Semitic tendencies in the Polish public grew; the “Endecja” [ND – “Narodowa Demokracja” – “National Democratic Party”] raised its head and with the aid of the Left at the head of which was P.P.S., they lost their control over the masses (the Przytyk affair should be noted from this period as a tragic milestone in the path of Polish Jewry). A solidarity protest took place in Dąbrowa over the injuries caused by the Przytyk affair, as Polish and Jewish laborers marched together and protested jointly again the anti-Semitic poison that had spread amongst the public. We received beatings from the police, were arrested and they held us for several days of investigation and were later sentenced. The punishment we received was not severe, however, with this we felt that we had taken a step towards our national political recognition together with the Polish laborers of the city. There were other organized demonstrations, in independent combined protests with leftist entities in the city. However the kibbutz received a pelting of stones and windows were smashed. There were places that Jews could not walk through and there was mortal risk in those who happened to be in those locations. The P.P.S., together with the communists organized units to protect Jewish lives. On Shabbat the Jews of the city did not dare risk leaving their homes. We, together with members of the youth movements, united together in a combined defense unit, and these patrols indicated to the rabble-rousers that there had to be order in the city and the lives of individuals would not be forsaken. From then on the injuries ceased and the “powers of darkness” were frightened of meeting up with these self-defense units.

Our full integration in public life of the city contributed to such that we were virtually recognized as citizens and as boys from the city. We had personal relationships with residents of the two main neighborhoods of the city: Huta Bankowa and Reden. I personally had contacts with the residents, many of which amongst whom are no longer alive and never made it here [Israel]. I will mention some of the friends who disappeared and who I still remember: the diverse Wajssalc family, Bluma Lemkowicz, Dawid Kozuch, Cwi Najfeld, Alter Moneta and many others who were my friends. However, together with this I will mention several names of friends that I managed to meet in Israel or I heard about them, those with whom I was once close and even worked together: first and foremost is Mordechai Rozenblum, a KKL representative, who was active and also encouraged many others to be active, the Lemkowicz (Lavi) brothers, Isser and Lajbl, Cwi Frajlich, Cwi Kozuch, the Balicki bothers, Tuwia and Szmul, Kuba Goldberg and many, many others who didn't manage to reach and be absorbed in our country after the Holocaust.

At the end of 1937, I left Dąbrowa after five and a half years of training in this city to prepare myself for “aliyah” to our country.

Today, after all that we've been through in the Diaspora and in Israel and after more than 30 years, I still recall the Dąbrowa experience and I relive it with the same thrill that accompanied me during the period that I was in the “hachshara”.


[Page 185]


The Jewish communists in Dąbrowa Górnicza

by Israel Kornfeld

Translated by Dr. Hannah Berliner Fischthal


In order to describe the Jewish Communist movement in Dąbrowa Górnicza, it is appropriate to give a certain overview of the history of revolutionary movements in Zagłębie as well as in Dąbrowa Górnicza.

As is known, there was a strong proletarian element in Dąbrowa Górnicza, a town in the largest industrial center of Poland. It witnessed revolutionary battles even in Tsarist times, headed by the revolutionary worker's party, “SDKPiL” [Socjaldemokracja Królestwa Polskiego i Litwy / Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania] which led battles against the reactionary powers, and called for the solidarity of all peoples in Tsarist Russia. This revolutionary party “SDKPiL” influenced Jewish workers and intellectuals.

With the establishment of the Communist party in Poland by the comrades in SDKPiL, strong Communist activities were created also in Dąbrowa Górnicza, which had its own Jewish Communists.

Among the first Jewish Communists were: Szalom Lewenberg, Szprynca Szwimer (pseudonym – “Branka”) and the writer of these lines. Later many young people of the youth party ZMKP [Zagłębie Communist Party] joined.

The Communist party had many sympathizers among the Jewish toiling masses, as also among the Jewish intelligentsia. The Jewish Communists and sympathizers sang heartfelt praises of the Soviet Union, which they imagined, after the revolution, as the solution to the Jewish problem, a place where Jews had equal rights in all matters of life.

Comrade Abram Szwimer believed this also. He went to the Soviet Union for a more beautiful and better life. He disappeared from the horizon in the land he had longed for. The same thing happened with comrade Szalom Lewenberg, who had suffered from political persecution and had sat in prison for years. He also departed for the Soviet Union. There is no trace of where his bones disappeared. In this way many comrades left before the war and also before the Nazis; they disappeared in the Soviet Union without leaving a single trace.


dab185.jpg [12 KB] - Szprynca Szwimer
Szprynca Szwimer
spent her best years languishing in prison for the sake of a
Communist, democratic, and free Poland.
After suffering great disappointment with the
present-day ruling Communist regime,
she killed herself in Warsaw.


Comrade Szprynca Szwimer, one of the most active comrades in the Communist Party in the Zagłębie region, had years of prison behind her. Even Defensywa [the Polish secret police] knew that her name was “Branka” in the party.


[Page 186]


The young people in Dąbrowa knew her well, with her discussions regarding the position of the Communist party in relation to other Polish parties. Szprynca Szwimer (Branka) became intimately involved with a Polish comrade, Legomski, and she was called Szwimer-Legomski. After the war, when the new, Democratic Poland was founded, Szwimer-Legomski held a high governmental position in Warsaw. When Gomułka came to power in 1956, the revolutionary, brave, Branka killed herself. The reason for her suicide was understood.

In the passage of time we live with our memories of former days, when the Jewish youth fought so bravely, ready to die, for a more beautiful and better life for the Jewish masses and for all the Jewish people. They were not afraid of beatings by the Police or even prison. Some of my comrades died in the modern Soviet Union. Most of them were felled by the Nazi murderers. A very few had the luck to remain alive.

With great respect we remember our murdered comrades.


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