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[Page 481]

Hashomer Hatzair

by a Brisker

Translated by Dr. Samuel Chani and Jenni Buch

The following members founded the Hashomer Hatzair organization in Brest in 1923: Meyer Freidman, Meyer Landa, and Mordechai Neumark. A year later its status was established as a Jewish Scouts Organization. The den in Brest was only the second in Poland and had full government sanction – one of the few Jewish organizations to achieve this.

The original committee consisted of Zev-Dov Begin –chairman, Tzvi Lomazhevski and Fishel Rogoszik. The inaugural meetingwas attended by: Meyer Freidman – who was the scout -master, Meyer Landau, his deputy, Yakov Loy – secretary, Akiva Kravetski, Mordechai Neumark, Joseph Levine and Rochel Begin. After the departure of the scout –master to Israel in 1925-6, Shlomo Kravetski, Meyer Fruchtgarten, Esther Rimland, Mischa Zablud and Netanel Kolodetzki headed the organization. The den operated on three levels: Level one – cubs. Level two – scouts. Level three – adults. Each level divided into units of 10 –12 comrades.

In 1925 the den numbered 200 members. After uniting with the Trumpeldor Scouts in the summer of 1925, the membership increased to 300. The Trumpledor organization was under the leadership of: Moshe Melnitski, Chaim Gelman, Mischa Zablud, and others. The units and levels had their various activities. There were the officer's group, cultural group, drama club (with Mischa Sarver as chairman), an orchestra and a choir. There was also a library, instructors department and evening Hebrew classes.

In the first years Hashomer Hatzair was the only Jewish youth movement in the city – attracting the cream of the youth. The official activities were in Hebrew, even though the meetings were conducted in Yiddish. As a branch of the central committee in Poland, Hashomer Hatzair accepted and trained it's members into the spirit of self sufficiency and independence. We created a green garden at no. 8 Unilubelska St. Later at the farm outside Brest named “Adamkovka”, owned by Yitzchak Bruchin. Still later Hashomer Hatzair united with the Halutz (pioneer) movement on an autonomous basis to conduct Hachshara (agricultural training) in an organized manner for the group of the “First Aliyah ” which is now in kibbutz Ein Hachovesh, and kibbutz Hanativ (in the Negev).

The members of Hashomer Hatzair participated in all the Zionist activities in the city and excelled at collecting donations for the Keren Kayemet. A member was the secretary of Keren Kayemet, and members participated in the pioneer movement, assistance for the Tarbut School, the various children's committees, and others. The Hashomer Hatzair presence in the annual Lag Ba-omer parade was very impressive.

Members also helped create dens in the neighboring towns of Terespol and Bereza Kartuza. Prominent leaders of the movement visited Brest – Meyer Yaari, Feivel Hamburg, Joseph Alster, and Yakov Riftin. Brest hosted all the district conferences and meetings. The first one was in 1925 with the participation of Shoshana Mushkat –Blatt. In 1930 and 1933 with the participation of Tzvi Luria. The den organized scout camps and participated in the summer colonies of the Polish Scout movement.

Hashomer Hatzair was formed as a scouting movement – in the beginning it was non – political. After much time and debate the group decided to unite with the Zionist Socialist camp. The Brest branch was very involved with all these deliberations and decision-making.

The Hashomer Hatzair in Brest
Standing R-L: Y. Menes, S. Fruchtgarten, and A. Kravetski
Seated R-L: B. Zigman, M. Neumark, Rochel Begin, M. Freidman,
J. Alster (central comm.), M. Landau, Z. Yungerman, and S. Chalfi
Seated on the ground: J. Levine, E. Rimland, and Z. Neuman

 


[Page 483]

The Zionist Revisionist Movement

by D. Meiri

Translated by Dr. Samuel Chani and Jenni Buch

  1. Betar
  2. The Zionist Revisionist movement was initiated in Brest in 1929, and became a powerful and influential mainstream force in the Jewish community. In the beginning it was formed as a Betar group that began with 150 members and eventually reached 800 members, both male and female. Betar in Brest was instigated by Moshe Rabinovitch and Emmanuel Baraks, who formed the first temporary committee together with Dr. Moshe Steiner, David Shedrovitzki, and Mordechai Neumark. Then Berl Stigman was appointed as commander with Ephraim Steinberg as secretary. The Betarists were trained in the spirit of political Zionism and educated according to the program of Ze'ev Jabotinski. The Betar instructors taught them tidiness, discipline, the use of weapons and the carrying out of exercises.

    The Betar youth varied from the poorest state schools to the children of the rich, from uneducated to the academic – all of them carried out their instructions and were trained according to the guidelines of the national headquarters in Warsaw. Members who did not know any Hebrew studied the language in special classes run by the graduates of the Tarbut and Tachkamoni schools. The use of weapons and arms training were taught according to instructions of Polish army officers (Polish Army Corps of High School Cadets).

    Betar in Brest was organized as everywhere else – there was a division commander, his assistant, a secretary, education officers, and a cultural officer. The cells were organized into different levels – youth and adults. A third group of adult Betar members were called Betar reservists. In the framework of the cultural activity there were lectures on Jewish history, the Bible, the geography of Israel, the history of Zionism and the revisionist movement. The division also had an orchestra.

    Several Betarists participated in an instructor's course in Zelanke in 1933 under the leadership of Yerucham Halperin. Later, they taught physical education and exercises with wooden poles. The teaching was excellent – all the exercises were conducted in Hebrew.

    A number of Betarists went to Hachshara (agricultural training) outside Brest in order to prepare for making aliyah to Israel. However, due to the small number of certificates allotted to Betar, there were not many who achieved this. After leaving the general Zionist movement, Betar did not receive any certificates at all. The division conducted a large number of diverse activities. They participated in the undertaking of land surveying and petitioning for free aliyah.

    At the Brest district conference, attended by some 600 members, it was decided on the initiative of the Brest Betar commander Menachem Begin, and after consultation with the members, to hold a demonstration. This demonstration was impressive, with over 600 members in uniforms and arms marching. This demonstration showed the results of the Betar training methods. Despite their strong desire to go to Israel, the majority of the members did not achieve this, and they perished together with their brother Briskers.

    Only a few legally came to Israel before and during W.W.2…. only a few survived from this great Brest youth movement.

    Some of the commanders of the various groups of the Brest division were:
    Berl Zigman, Yitzchak Hocker, Menachem Begin, Shlomo Goldstein, A. Kamenetski, and Zelig Orenstein who were all active before W.W.2.

    In 1936 there was a general Betar assembly in Brest, amongst them were:
    Shlomo Goldstein, Hannah Malin, Moshe Ramo, Zelig Orenstein, Avraham and Moshe Kamenetski, Avigdor Tennenbaum and others who did not manage to save themselves and were murdered by the Nazis.

  3. Brit Hazahar
  4. Was also founded in 1929, and consisted of adults who did not qualify for Betar because of their age. This was a very active group of over 600 members. Amongst this group were representatives who held important and influential positions in the professional and social life of the city and the municipal institutions: The city council, the kehilla council, TOZ, ORT and others.

    Brit Hazahar supported an institute in Brest for Jewish education and Zionism under the directorship of Dr. Moshe Steiner and Moshe Rabinovitch. Brit Hazahar formed a cultural group called “Kadimah” for cultural activities and lectures. The chairman of this group was Dr Moshe Steiner, others were: the lawyer Kreitstein, Eliezer Fein, Dr. Israel Leschner, especially dedicated were: David Elivetski and Yehuda Rosenman. In the Kadimah club much was accomplished by Shmerel Zbar and the engineer Steinberg.

  5. Masada
  6. The branch of Masada was formed in 1934 for students and high school children, and had about 150 members. It was organized by Polish speaking circles who were studying Hebrew. Shlomo Goldstein and Borka Krantz headed it, active members were Shmuel (Mula) Pomerantz, Itta Steinberg, Leila Kiblitzka, Daitchman, and Michael Goldberg.

  7. El-Al
  8. The El-Al group was group of academic revisionists. It was headed by Avigdor Grynberg and included: Yakov Zunshine, Moshe Landau, Shamai Fruchtgarten, Leon Katzaf, Reuven Zablud, Dov Haro and others. The founder was Dr. Moshe Steiner.

  9. Brit Hachayal
  10. This group had 300 members - adult Jews who at one time or another had had military service. Within this group were former military men, ex-servicemen who were attracted to Zionism and active in the revisionist movement. Their commander was Mordechai Lutenberg, and especially active were Boris Rogozhik and Moshe Bielarus.

  11. Veref. (National Women's Group)
  12. Was formed in 1931 by Bertha Halasz. Members were Lisa Fein, Luba Feinberg, Luba Konopita, Frania Steinberg, Fanya Miller, and Pola Molier. The Chairwoman was Chasia Shatz, and after her Dr. Fanya Zeligson.

  13. Nordia
  14. Nordia was a national sports club that participated in local and inter-city competitions in football and boxing. Active members were Weinstock, Reuven Zablud, and Leon Katsaf.

  15. Brit Yeshurun (Achdut Israel)
  16. This group was under Brit Hazahar, and led by Rabbi Moshe Reuven Golevski, who was the son-in-law of Rabbi Simcha Zelig. Rabbi Moshe was elected as delegate to the revisionist congress in Vienna. This group of orthodox Jews had previously gone under the name of Achdut Israel.

  17. Keren Tel-Chai
  18. This was the financial arm of the revisionist movement -founded in Brest in 1930. The director was Eliezer Fein. Keren Tel-Chai would organize annual exhibitions.

  19. Etzel
  20. Few people know that already in 1938 there was a secret group of Irgun Tzva Leumi on Brest. It was formed by the efforts of Fishel Bankhalter and Shlomo Goldstein. Contact was made with the national commander of Etzel in Poland - Nathan Yellin Freidman - who visited Brest himself and praised the excellence of the work of the local branch.

    In 1939 two members – David Begin, and Chaim Zilber participated in a military training course at Ivaniki near Pinsk, under the instruction of an emissary from Israel. Upon their return they both worked very energetically to form a new group of Betarists who would receive secret military training for special covert operations.

    Purchases of arms and hand grenades were made from the Poles for this purpose, and the members were taught how to use the weapons and ammunition. No one knew of the existence of the Etzel group in Brest – not even the local Betar commanders. Their activity was conducted in the strictest secrecy and their cache of arms was hidden at the outbreak of W.W.2.

    Only four Betar members managed to reach Israel. Of them three were active in the Lehi (the Stern gang) movement. One of them, David Begin, arrived in Israel in 1941 via Lithuania and Russia. He was one of the active commanders in Lehi – in 1944 he was arrested and sentenced by the British to 12 years imprisonment. He escaped from Acre prison in 1947.

    An important personality who originated from the Brest revisionists and later held important positions in Israel was Menachem Begin who was the chief commander of Etzel in Israel, and is now the leader of the Herut party and a member of the Knesset.

The Betar Conference in Brest, Lag Ba -Omer, 1929

 

Ze'ev Jabotinski visits Brest in 1936
This photo was taken outside the Grynberg home
on Dabrowska St. where this meeting took place.
Circled are (left) Menachem Begin, and Ze'ev Jabotinski
Photo courtesy of Jack Grynberg

 

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