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[Page 151]

HeChalutz in 1932

After several years (approximately three years) of the complete paralysis of its activities, HeChalutz General of the Working Land of Israel in Ostrolenka renewed its activities in 1932 at my initiative, and with the help of the Members Jehuda Icchaki (Chomont), Wolfke Rubinsztejn and others. The long break was caused by several reasons: a. The bloody events in Israel in 1929 and their results halted emigration almost completely. The opposite occurred: many returned from Israel, among them Ostrolenkans such as the brother of Dawid Lew (may God avenge his blood), one of the first victims of the events, and others. b. At that time, serious candidates for hachshara and kibbutz life were members of HaShomer HaTzair, the only youth movement in the city that succeeded in attracting many youths to its ranks. The youth division of the Poalei Zion-Freiheit party had no luck. It had a small membership. Many members thought seriously of going to hachshara and to kibbutz, but they quickly discovered that, in this movement, the way to Israel was very, very long. Most of them left HaShomer HaTzair and, in any case, there was already no way to go to kibbutz and hachshara. Although they did not leave the Working Land of Israel movement, everyone became reconciled to the situation that was created. The hope of one day fulfilling the Zionist ideal did not weaken in them; they remained loyal within the camp, but without the burden of kibbutz and emigration. Because they lacked a meeting place in which to spend time together, they found a welcome alternative, that is, HaPoel, which had been recently founded. When they joined HaPoel, they all breathed easier. The trips with the soccer team to games, or with the band to dances in nearby towns, sports events, sailing, parties – all this came as a temporary alternative to fulfilling the weakened Zionistpioneering ideal. This situation did not last long, however; the revival came immediately after the first call by some members, who took it upon themselves to reorganize and rehabilitate the HeChalutz General chapter. This was the impetus to hachshara, to kibbutz and to emigration.

I often met Jehuda Icchaki (Chomont) then, and we talked a great deal about HeChalutz and the possibilities of emigration. At those meetings, we decided and agreed between us[1] to rehabilitate the movement. I asked a few members to come to Wolfke Rubinsztejn's home. According to a list we prepared in advance, we sent invitations to a meeting with a brief agenda: 1. rehabilitation of the city's HeChalutz chapter and 2. miscellaneous. We distributed the invitations by ourselves, giving them to everyone by hand and asking them to try to come, because their presence was very important. And indeed, on the appointed day and time, about thirty people gathered in the hall we rented with the organizers' money. The meeting ran according to the planned agenda. There was a festive atmosphere and complete understanding. Everyone took the matter seriously and with enthusiasm, as if they had waited for this occasion. At that very place, a committee of three members was elected: Chawa Zabludowicz, Szlomo Zusman and Member Jasza from the hachshara kibbutz in our city (HaMishmeret). Chawa, the HaShomer HaTzair representative, took on the role of Secretary, because she was skilled at this work. She also had HeChalutz's seals, the archive and all the secretariat's material. She even did all this during the period of lack of HeChalutz activity. She remained in touch with the HeChalutz Central Committee and reported from time to time on what was being done and said at the HeChalutz General chapter in Ostrolenka, to which senior members of HaShomer HaTzair and Freiheit belonged.

The number of members was very small then, nearly zero. The only ray of light at the time of the HeChalutz rehabilitation actually came from the Freiheit youth movement (which did not know how to attract youths to its ranks). Two Freiheit graduates were at the hachshara kibbutz in Lida-Niemen, the only ones from the entire Working Land of Israel camp in Ostrolenka. Indeed, Poalei Zion-Freiheit took pride in them, during that period of lack of HeChalutz activity. They were Jakow Gercek (may God avenge his blood) and Cwi Dorfman, long may he live! At the beginning of 1932, even before the HeChalutz rehabilitation, they went to the kibbutz-hachshara together and, after a half a year, they were certified for emigration by the kibbutz. Cwi Dorfman emigrated in February 1933, with a HeChalutz certificate. He was the first HeChalutz member to reach Israel from Ostrolenka after the break caused by the events of 1929. After a short time in Israel, he brought all his family there: his parents and two brothers. They all became citizens, integrated into life in Israel and are there now. Jakow Gercek, may God avenge his blood, encountered financial problems and

[Page 152]

could not raise the amount necessary for the expenses of the trip. He postponed his immigration for this reason. Meanwhile, the certificate was given to someone else. Gercek still hoped to immigrate, but he did not succeed in doing so, and was killed by the Nazi murderers, together with all the members of his family. May their memory be blessed.

 

ost152a.jpg
“Gush Grochow” (kibbutz-hachshara) battalion in Ciechanow 1935

Szlomo Zusman (the 5th from the right in the row of those sitting), Jehuda Zamelson (the 8th from the right in the row of those standing)

 

ost152b.jpg
“Woodcutters” at Gush Grochow

The 2nd from the right (among the woodcutters): S. Zusman; the last from the right (standing): Y. Zamelson

 

[Page 153]

There was a great deal of work to do in the rehabilitated HeChalutz chapter. We organized Hebrew evening courses, Sabbath evenings, lectures on literary subjects, sing-alongs, a general meeting once a week, etc. We participated in K.K.L., Keren HaYesod, Working Land of Israel Fund and Keren HeChalutz fundraising. We were active in all the city's Zionist camp organizations. HeChalutz General was a household name in the city, and it had a good reputation. In a very short time, HeChalutz numbered more than a hundred people. Among the devoted and active members in the Working Land of Israel camp in general, and HeChalutz in particular, Member Wolfke Rubinsztejn, may God avenge his blood, was especially prominent. He was a good friend and loved by all, modest, honest and humble. He was always among the first to answer every call and directive; he worked tirelessly for the Zionist enterprise until his last days. From a young age, he worked in his father's factory. After the latter's death, he bore the burden of supporting his family alone. For this reason, it was hard for him to go to kibbutz and hachshara. He hoped that some day he would succeed in joining those who did, but he could not. He was killed, together with his family. May his memory be blessed.

The establishment and success of HeChalutz General exceeded all expectations. People who were completely distant from the Zionist-pioneering ideal joined it, were quickly integrated and became inseparable from its veterans and activists. Work at the chapter went on in an orderly manner. Participation was great. Members were ready to go to hachshara and kibbutz. The list of the first ten members was prepared.

Since the HeChalutz rehabilitation, the first group was ready to go to hachshara, as an introduction to launching the next groups. I remember that when I showed the list to the committee, Chawa and Jasza (committee members working on behalf of HaShomer HaTzair) opposed including the members on the first list. Despite their opposition, I completed the questionnaires, signed them secretly (I did a daring thing, because they had the seals) and sent them to the HeChalutz Central Committee in Warsaw. After a week, certificates of approval arrived from the Central Committee for all the members included on the abovementioned list, together with the allocation of places of hachshara all over Poland… When the matter became known in the chapter, there was great happiness.

Everyone wished those going success and an easy absorption. Many envied them and wished that they themselves would be in the same position soon…

In January 1933, dozens of the first members went to hachshara kibbutzim: Jehuda Icchaki (Chomont) and Szlomo Kaczor – to Vilna, Becalel Markowicz – to Lodz, Szlomo Zusman and Jehuda Zamelson – to Grochow, Chaim Piaseczny and Lazer Lachowicz – to Brysk, Mosze Hersz Piaseczny, Beniamin Malach and Chana Eisenstein – to Baranowicz. The continuation was in the spring of that year. Lubka Lewin and Zyskind Lachowicz went to Lodz; Awraham Chmiel and Chanoch (Henach) Gingold joined them later. Groups came to the hachshara-kibbutzim in wave after wave. Anyone who wanted to and was ready could join the big pioneering camp, which worked in hachshara locations and prepared for emigration to Israel.

 

ost153.jpg
At kibbutz-hachshara Borochow in Lodz, 1934

From the right: Zyskind Lachowicz, Becalel Markowicz, Awraham Chmiel, Lubka Lewin

 

I want to add to the above list the names of HeChalutz members in Ostrolenka who went to hachshara kibbutzim in Poland (those who are not preserved in my memory and whoever I have omitted will please forgive me). They are: Cyrl Frenkel (may God avenge her blood), Rachel Blachowicz (Israel), Nechama Cukierkorn (Israel), Chana Glowacz (may God avenge her blood), Syma Szapira (Israel), Israel Ostynowicz (may God avenge his blood), Jehuda Arjeh Zlocisty (may God avenge his blood), Chana Dojf (may God avenge her blood), Necha Jetka Czapnikiewicz (may God avenge her blood), Szejna Dorfman (may God avenge her blood), Chawa Zabludowicz (Israel), Josefa Ryc (Israel), Josefa Malowany (Israel), Gita Rubinsztejn (may God avenge her blood), Szejna

[Page 154]

Jagoda (Israel), Ester Eisenstein (Israel), Rywka Wajnkranc (Israel) and Chawa Wajnkranc (Israel).

We did not succeed in identifying the names of those in the last groups before the Holocaust. I am certain that the number of pioneers who lived and worked in the hachshara-kibbutzim in Poland from the Ostrolenka chapter was much bigger. Many of those I mentioned above were certified to emigrate by the kibbutzim and did not succeed in doing so because of the war. Many of those in the first group that went to hachshara in 1933 emigrated to Israel in 1935-36.

In our hearts, we will remember all those pioneering youths from Ostrolenka and the area. They were pioneers in their hearts and souls. They dreamed of Zion and yearned to emigrate to Israel. With terrible cruelty, however, the impure hands of the Nazi murderers ended their preparations for their dream and the object of their desire.

May their memories be forever blessed.

Shlomo Zusman, Tel Aviv

Footnote

  1. * This was at the gate of the house of Mosze Sredni, may God avenge his blood. Jehuda came and went there freely, and had business connections with them. Return

 

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