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[Page 145]

History of the Haschomer Hazair in Bukovina

by Jaakow Polesiuk-Padan (Mischmar Haemek)

Translated by Jerome Silverbush

The cultural phenomenon known as the “youth movement” is a product of the first half of our century. Also, earlier times – we can well conjuncture: all periods – knew the struggle between the generations, but it remained to our time to give this phenomenon a conscious recognition and an organized form.

In the individual countries, the youth movement originated and developed corresponding to the general usages, the national ideals and the economic conditions in the framework of the social and cultural structure.

The concept “youth movement” can't be stretched to far, either concerning the age boundaries which shouldn't exceed the student period, or as concerns the form of organization, so that for example, groups of youth who are organized for purposes of social help, can't be considered a student movement.

The historic events affecting the Jewish people during the transition from the 19th to the 20th century, prepared the foundation for the origin of the Jewish youth movement during and immediately after the First World War.

The privilege of being the first important organization in this movement was reserved for the Haschomer Hazair (the Young Sentries).

Also in the history of Bukovina, over which this book reports, the Jewish youth movement appeared at this time and the following pages attempt to report about the beginning, the development, the essential ideals, their goals and their accomplishments.

Many years have passed since the first blossoming. Details have vanished or become blurred, but, ask who one will, of members of the movement – all will admit, that even today, the memory of the great enthusiasm is still awake, that the years of the youth movement were the most beautiful and richest not only of that time, but of their entire lives.

Will we be successful in capturing and sharing something of the spirit of that? The judgment of that will fall to the readers of the following lines.

Beginning

In the Spring months of the year 1918, a group of Jewish gymnasium returned from Vienna to their home in Bukovina. The events of the war had made them like thousands of other residents of the various towns of Bukovina into refugees, who sought and found possibilities for survival in the west of the Monarchy. As children they came to Vienna, the metropolis and grew up there while their fathers and brothers like many others fought on the battle fields or fulfilled their obligation behind the lines. To live in Vienna at that time meant a bitter lack of all the necessary things, but to be relatively better off than in many other parts of the Monarchy. One had the school and one sensed the pulse of the great historic events and as a conscious young Jew one could be a witness of the strengthening of Jewish self awareness and find the way to groups of like minded, which in youthful belief in a better tomorrow could distract one's self from the dreary present. There were intellectual Jewish leaders. The names Buber and Bernfeld were well known. The concept of Palestine assumed ever clearer outlines. On the banks of the Danube canal, met hundreds of youth who belonged to the movement “Schomrim[1].” As an example served them the heroic sentries (Schomrim) from the time of the second Aliyah (immigration to Israel), who were prepared to spill their blood for the protection of the Jewish settlements in Eretz Israel (Land of Israel).

The Schomer Organization developed ever further in the last years of the war. Its spiritual basis became deeper and more serious. The organization form corresponded to the Boy Scout principal. The basic unit called the “Kwuzah” consisted of 10 to 15 boys or girls in a certain age range. The “Gdud” consisted of several Kwuzot. The general framework was called “Histadruth.”

Among the Vienna groups there was one with the name “Dror” (Freedom), made up of refugee children. This was the group we spoke of in the introduction. Some of the members of this group were: Imaneul and Jehoschua Bierer, Zwi Krämer, Josef Augenblick (Ambach), Abraham Buller (Dori), all sons of families from Czernowitz or the provincial towns. With them at the same time came parts of a similarly aged girls group, among them Ester Zellermayer, Channa Schnitzer and the Brill Sisters.

The return of the refugees from the west of the Monarchy to the eastern provinces had started. It appeared as if the war had ended. The Russian October Revolution of the year 1917 had removed the Tsar, Russia had accepted a separate peace treaty, and the East was quiet.

The monarchy was breathing its last, but there were ties between the metropolis and the provinces and one traveled home in order to continue where one had left off at the beginning of the war.

The group Dror upon leaving Vienna did not leave its ideals behind. Hardly were they home when they started to organize groups of 15 – 17 year olds, first in Czernowitz and then in the provincial cities: Radauti, Suceava, Storozynetz, Siret and Gura Humorului.

This was a phenomenon previously unknown in Bukovina. In the period before the war, one was familiar with the fraternities and the beginnings of middle school organizations which superficially resembled the fraternities.

The nature of the youth movement which in the west had blossomed long ago was still unknown in the eastern outposts of Austria.

The movement which the group Dror brought to life in Bukovina was called “Histadruth Schomrim.” Shortly thereafter it was to receive the name which accompanied it during its further development, “Haschomer Hazair.”

The building up and the securing of the organization was pursued with energy. There was still no regular meeting place so meetings were held in the one of the city gardens and there each Kwuzah gathered around its leader to hold a “Sichah[2],” sing songs and play games, do physical exercise, and the work out plans for the weekend excursion. But as autumn neared, a permanent home had to be found.

When the Russians withdrew, they left behind many of the cities houses half destroyed or demolished. Like many other buildings, the façade of the proud “Jewish House” was undamaged, but inside, it was plundered. It was a foregone conclusion that the young Schomrim would find refuge in this house – no one else wanted the building in its existing condition. They fixed it up themselves and then had the right place to hold the Sichoth, the Hebrew courses and above all the wonderful “home evenings” at which crowed close together, they listened to the powerful words of the bible, the Aggadah[3] and the Chassidic tales and afterwards sang the songs of the new Palestine and of youth until late into the night.

The feeling of belonging and the pride in being a Schomer was strong.

No, we couldn't keep that to ourselves. Wider circles had to hear about it. That meant to publish a newspaper. The times, however were hard and it would have been impossible to print a real newspaper so we went back to the system that was usual in old Rome: A hundred boys and girls sat there with paper, pen and ink; a reader read the article and after three to four hours of work there were 100 copies of a 10 page newspaper which could be distributed to the gymnasium students in Czernowitz and in the provinces. When later, we could print several hundred newspapers with a mimeograph machine; we thought we had reached the peak of technology.

The political situation of Bukovina was unsettled. In autumn of 1918 the monarchy had fallen apart. There was no real government. One heard of robber bands composed of soldiers who had returned in a disorderly way from the front and about farmers and city dwellers who used the opportunity to plunder deserted military facilities and who wanted to expand their work to the houses of the residents, especially, those of the Jews.

A self defense unit was organized and among the first to join were the Schomrin. One stood watch, patrolled with a rifle on the shoulder and was prepared for anything. Happily, the critical days passed without incident, but the Movement began to take on a more serious aspect.

Already, hundreds had been organized. It became necessary to consider the present situation and make plans for the future. For this purpose, a leader's day was called at which, town and group leaders with voting rights were invited and the other older Schomrim were permitted to attend, but only as passive observers.

Still in the foreground were the discussion questions of the Youth Movement, the life reform, the comradely togetherness and the relationship to the surrounding society. But already, the beginnings of serious ideological problems appeared. One spoke about strengthening the connection to Eretz Israel, the other about the way to Socialism, the techniques of learning Hebrew were examined, one spoke about the active work for the Keren Kajemeth (Jewish National Fund).

The summer of 1919 was approaching. Bukovina had become a Romanian province; one was finally cut off from the German cultural influence. The Jews of Bukovina recognized the political fact, but not so quickly, the cultural one. The everyday language remained German; there were books in the German language from which one took intellectual contents.

Although the Schomrim belonged to the circles which most enthusiastically studied Hebrew, one had not yet succeeded in mastering the language well enough for everyday use.

The great event in the Movement in summer, 1919 was the first summer camp. It is difficult to describe what this accomplishment signified. Parents, enmeshed in the prevalent prejudice about co-education (boys and girls in the same classroom) were convinced only with difficulty to let their sons and daughters go to “Heim” together, let alone to give permission for their children to go for several weeks to a far away village in the south of Bukovina without proper supervision; sleeping in hay barns, eating meager meals, and being involved in intellectual and athletic pursuits. Many tears were shed by mothers and many hard words were spoken by fathers, but the strong will of the youth on one hand, the active help, which was offered by respected men like Dr. Josef Bierer or from parents who were prepared to give the youngsters their full trust made possible the completion of the plans.

This vacation camp also took place during the first generation change among the leadership. The group of founders had finished school and before them stood personal decisions about their future paths. Some, like the Bierer brothers took training as hand workers in order to prepare themselves for life in Eretz Israel since at that time, the Hachscharah (training in agriculture) didn't exist. A few like Abraham Buller took a gamble and went directly to Eretz Israel. He spent many years there as an active member of the Kwuza Ginegar until he died in 1956. Again, others saw this period of their life as completed and entered “real life” by continuing their studies or getting a job or working actively in the Zionist organization of the grownups.

It signified a real moral victory for Haschomer Hazair when a like minded Jewish youth group with the name Hechawer combined with the organization. On the other hand, it must be recognized that that the Movement in its second and at the beginning of its third year of its existence in Bukovina was internally stronger and was able to interact with other circles of the Jewish population with more self confidence in the provincial cities than in Czernowitz.

A crisis developed that was a serious danger to the continued existence of the Movement.

The affair developed from the so-called “Ethical Seminar.”

This movement which Dr. Kettner brought to life knew how to attract to itself, large circles of youth. Their “guru” was the philosopher, Constantin Brunner, the author of “The Study of the Intellect and the People.” As further a basis for his lectures, Dr. Kettner used the works of Spinoza, above all the Ethics and furthermore the New Testament and the Dialogues of Plato.

The older members of Haschomer Hazair felt themselves for the most part drawn to this circle and to the ideas which were developed at these meetings. There was much youthful devotion and enthusiasm in the atmosphere which prevailed at these meetings and at the same time, one can't forget the important decisions of conscience regarding the personal decision concerning Eretz Israel which one could avoid or at least delay and finally, based on the anti-Zionistic views of Constantin Brunner, completely deny.

Since many of Kettner's followers simultaneously continued their work as leaders and members in the Youth Movement, it was clear that the danger of internal dissolution threatened and could only be avoided by making a clear ideological decision.

It was up to the younger generation of leaders, which meanwhile had become strong enough to take the fate of the movement in their hands, to take this step. At the center of this group stood Arje Schächter, Seew Levin, Jazkow Polesiuk (Padan).

By stressing the national feeling and the worth of Judaism, through strengthening the connection with Eretz Israel, through diligent study of works like those of A.D. Gordon and Trumpeldor, through contact with the Movement in other countries – above all, however, through increasing the value of the Youth Movement and personal attachments, the Movement succeeded in creating a new and stronger foundation and seriously to prepare it for the third and decisive period, about which will be spoken later, that of the Obligatory chaluzischen Hagschamah[4]

It must be made clear: the rejection of the ideas of the Kettner Movement did not mean entirely abandoning its values which had an essential place in Haschomer Hazair. However, only the specific ideas which were useful in the Movement were stressed.

Above all were the ten Schomer rules. For the sake of historic truth it must be said that they had their roots in the Boy Scout movement. But the modifications that they took on in the Movement and the stressing of certain points gave them their distinctive stamp.

The first rule states that Schomer loves the truth and was prepared to be honest at all costs.

A further rule speaks of loyalty to people, language and land. It was the foundation of the national awareness of Haschomer Hazair.

Other rules speak of the connection to nature, about the requirement to be brothers in the Movement, to be helpful to everyone, to view the world optimistically, to be courageous and ready to carry out orders when the situation demands it. An essential expression of the general philosophy of life was the 10th rule which called for abstinence from alcohol, smoking and sex during the youthful years.

The rules were never viewed as empty words, but as a serious obligation. The “white lie” and well as all others were despised and rejected. There was no shading between moral values. We dealt in absolutes.

Did the erotic play absolutely no roll? That would be difficult to assert.

Cases of powerful affection between boys and girls without doubt did occur and that was the essential point. There was no flirting, no “love affairs,” The gatherings were serious business.

Everything that wasn't essential for the Movement was viewed as superfluous and unnecessary. The clothing worn by the boys and girls was very plain. Cosmetics were not used and the body was hardened in sun and snow and joy was taken in air and water.

Proudly we marched through the main street of the town in short pants and short sleeved shirts, passing the “dandies” and their girls followed by astonished scornful or outrage looks. We laughed at people who were afraid of the rain or on cold winter days sat in their rooms before the oven. Instead, every free hour and above all on the weekends, we took hikes through the woods and fields, all this to prepare for the future simple life in Eretz Israel.

It's possible that if we only speak about lifestyle reform, communal life of the young and outward demeanor, it doesn't appear that the Youth Movement is a cultural phenomenon.

Everyone, however, must concede the point when he sees with his own eyes that unambiguous cultural values creation was an essential part of the life of the Youth Movement, in our case, the Haschomer Hazair.

The study of Hebrew has already been mentioned; the Tenach (Torah), at first in translation and later in the original Hebrew was a constant for work and experience. Jewish history was brought forth in lectures and courses within the movement like a glowing phoenix out of the gray ashes of the usual religious instruction. Palestine geography brought knowledge about the smallest details of the land; the reading of Chassidic literature, illuminated through Buber's writings, the study and the discussion about philosophic themes, over Nietsche, Kant, Schopenhauer, Cohen and going further back, Spinoza, Plato, the pre-Socracratic and from other areas, pre-Zionistic and Zionistic literature: Hess, Pinsker, Nordau, Achad-Haam and above all, Herzl whose diaries were published then for the first time and which provided a powerful experience; further the heralds of revolutionary and social thoughts: Kropotkin, Landauer, Gorki, the greatest figures of world literature: Tagore, Tolstoi, Romain Roland, Thomas Mann, Upton Sinclair, the great pedagogues and psychologists : Pestalozzi, Spranger, Freud, Adler ….. no, one cannot doubt that there had never been such a happening in this little country before, that youth, organized youth between 16 and 20 dedicated themselves in a serious way and with devotion to the greatest works of the human spirit, without giving up any of their claim to true joy in life. How time was found to do all that is today, still a riddle since one had to complete his normal school work and further was responsible for much work around the house.

And not only that. One gladly gave a helping hand for positive opportunities: one helped to keep the garden and yard in condition at the orphanage, one answered the appeal of the Joint (Joint Distribution Committee) and gathered children from the suburbs in order to have “play afternoons” with them and to give them a meal, one sent delegations to Zionist meetings, took part in receiving Jewish “celebrities” who visited the city, was active in the great sports events – all those, however were things that only touched the periphery. One only had the feeling of real being and achieving within the Movement.

The striving for synthesis was the decisive factor. Only the externals, the common, the banal, the compulsive were rejected.

All that had real value was accepted and experienced. One recognized the call for justice and truth made by our great prophets, the “Kalos K'agathos” of the Greeks, the “mens sana in corpore sano” of the Romans, the unshakeable readiness for sacrifice (Kiddusch Ha-Schem) of the Jews in the Middle Ages, the Chassidic “Hitlahawuth (inflaming of the soul),” the deepened “Matmid” (diligent student) united the approaching renaissance of the Jewish people with the belief in the coming “springtime of man.”

And we weren't dealing here with empty words, with theoretical arguments, but with personal responsibility and readiness to take action.

Now let us talk about the great luck of the Jewish Youth Movement as compared to that in other countries. While there the same question, the realization of the deed – couldn't find any real solution and because of that, again and again, waves of potential youthful energy crashed into nothingness and dissolved, before the Jewish Youth Movement – as far as it represented true movement – stood the possibility and the goal of personal fulfillment in the old-new homeland.

However, before we report on the step to Hagschaman (self realization) let us cast a little light on the previous events.

Around 1922, it was indisputable: if one wanted to talk about youth movements in Bukovina, Haschomer Hazair was “it.” In this period contact with groups of Jewish youth in other parts of Romania became more frequent and led in the course of the following years to first Bessarabia and then groups from the “Old Kingdom[5]” joining the movement. This signified not only an increase in the membership of the organization, but also a social and intellectual “cross pollination.”

If one didn't want to use the Romanian or Yiddish language as a means of communication, which was would have been unthinkable, above all for the Bukovina part of the Movement, so the learning of Hebrew had to be accelerated and it had to be recognized as the accepted means of expression. However, one opened gladly his heart and ear to the Russian and Romanian folk songs, the folklore in Yiddish and other languages, the works from previously, not so much respected writers.

The Jews of Bukovina despite their distance from the culture metropolis of Vienna always had the feeling of connection with the German cultural circle and lived in a “wide horizon,” as compared to the Jews of Bessarabia and the Old Kingdom who were in a certain sense “provincial.” For the youth from these regions, association with the Bukovina Movement signified a widening and deepening of their life experience. It was no wonder that the waves of enthusiasm rose high and that the feeling of belonging worked like a religious experience, that people who one revealed the great and beautiful truth to absorbed it with hunger and returned friendship and love.

All the activities of that time, whether courses, home evenings, summer camps. work farms or excursions were filled with enthusiasm and became unforgettable experiences.

And again came the time when the younger generation had to take over the leadership of the Movement. This time, it wasn't a sign of crisis, but a sign of strength. One sang with regret a song for the departing leaders, perhaps suppressed some tears, but one knew that they would remain true to the Movement and would help it with advice and action on the way to achieving its goals.

The younger generation of leaders, at whose center stood Zwi Huber (Ben Cohen), Jizchak Nussenbaum (Ben Aharon), Jizchak Pessach, to name only a few of the Bukovinians, had the well defined tasks of completing the process of pioneer education and teaching the Hebrew language, of giving expression to the approaching affiliation with the World Movement, of increasing the membership of the home organization, and of spreading the idea to new circles of Jews and new territories.

The Seeds Take Root

The year 1924 brought the decisive events. Let us try to follow the course of these events.

Among the groups in the Czernowitz branch of the organization at that time was one with the name “Trumpeldor.” This fact is significant. The names that the groups chose usually came from nature. There was the “Lilly” and the “Lion” and other plants and animals. Sometimes there were cosmic elements like “Sun” and “Stars” and sometimes, abstract ideas like “freedom.” For the units composed of several Kwuzot, the names of Palestinian cities or territories were used. The group which choose the name Trumpeldor did it to prove that they were serious about the realization of their goals in Eretz Israel. Could there be a better symbol than Trumpeldor, the Jewish hero who went from assimilation to Jewish consciousness, who was a worker and a fighter at the same time, who wanted to work the land in peace, but when the moment came was ready to fight to his last breath.

Trumpeldor decided to do the agriculture Hachscharah, as a group and to use Hebrew as their daily language to prepare themselves for the Aliyah (emigrating to Israel) instead of taking the normal route in which every member of the movement from a certain age. whether a student or in business, a boy or a girl, an old member or one who had just entered joins a Hachscharah group in order to prepare themselves for the Aliyah.

The most active, to name a few were Jizchak Nussenbaum (Ben Aharon), Menachem Weidenfeld (Schadmi), Jitzchak Beiner (Givoni), Jitzchak Altenhaus (Altuvia) and Noah Laufer.

We don't want to dwell to long on the difficult conflict between parents and children which this decision brought with it and not give to many details about the difficulty of finding half way suitable places. These difficulties were overcome and names like Lukawetz became well known. The work was hard, very hard.

One knew of individuals who already had done Hachscharah, but the situations varied. Some were able to find easier jobs and generally one only worked for a short time. But now it meant being responsible for all the work in the fields and barns on a large farm in good and bad times of the year.

The work day had a minimum of 12 hours. The pay was laughable corresponding to the pay of unskilled agricultural workers. From that, one had to buy train tickets, and for many whose parents had withheld permission until the last minute work clothing had to be purchased, possible sickness or accidents had to be provided for. Very little remained for daily needs and in spite of the hard workday, the meals generally consisted of nothing but cornmeal mush, beans, herring and milk.

Naturally, there were parents who were prepared to send money or food to their children. One rejected that with pride however. It was much easier to get used to the lack of every external comfort. Naturally, there were no beds and one slept on the floor or on benches padded with straw and was satisfied with army blankets. But one was used to that from excursions and summer camps.

One managed the work, but it wasn't easy in the evenings after a long work day, to discuss Torah, to listen to the lecture of a visiting member of the leadership, or by the scant light of the candle or oil lamp to study literature about Zionism, Socialism, general philosophy or science - and to learn Hebrew. But under no circumstances would one skip this work.

How bright and beautiful the Friday evenings and the Shabbat were. There were songs and games, lectures and walks; like the most pious Jew, one felt the new special soul.

It didn't remain with the one Hachscharah group. Others joined and the Pioneer idea took root within the Schomer Movement.

There are many wonderful stories to relate from that time. Two delightful examples follow:

One day, or better put, one evening between Mincha and Ma'ariv (afternoon and evening prayer), in the prayer house in the village which lay near where we were working, several Jews sat and talked about this and that, among other things, the Pioneers and what good workers they were and how enthusiastically they sang and another wanted to join the conversation and finally almost ready to burst, he blurted out, “but tell me, are they really Jewish children?”

And another time, the heavy work of harvesting was going on in the hot summer and the well-to-do mother of one of the girls – the woman was considered a millionaire – tried and failed to talk her daughter into coming home. She turned to the group and said, “I'll give you 50,000 lei right now if you send my daughter home.” The transaction of course did not take place.

To better understand the attitude that made it possible to overcome all difficulties, we quote a piece from the book which Jizchak Ben-Ahron (Nussenbaum) wrote while he was held as a prisoner of war by the Nazis and which after his release, he published in English under the name, “Listen Gentile.”

We knew what awaited us in Palestine, that we would have to compete with the low paid Arab laborers. Therefore, a complete change of expectations was necessary in order to survive the coming disappointments and crisis. There was not only the test of our physical abilities to consider, but above all, we had to find out if could live together in a commune under difficult economic conditions. The true social test would come when one didn't have enough bread, when one had to give up his bunk to a sick comrade, when unemployment brought unrest and irritability into the camp. Then, the key to success would lie in character. Our ideal was not only to become workers, but to build up a new social unity and collective principal. We believed in our ideals, now we wanted to know if we would succeed in forming our character, so we could build a life conforming to our principals (pages 101, 102)

In spite of a certain degree of reluctance, several of the active members of the Hachscharah groups had to go to work in the Movement whose framework became ever larger. The first Hachscharah group, after 1-1/2 years of preparation was ready for “aliyah” to Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel). The departure of this group was a great event in the Movement. After their arrival, it was proven that their Hachscharah was not in vain.

But before we speak about it, let us turn our attention to the further development of the movement in Bukovina and the bordering territories. After preliminary contacts, a decisive meeting took place in 1923 in Kischinew at which the joining of the youth group in Bessarabia with the Bukovina Haschomer Hazair was decided upon. At the head of the newly elected leadership stood Zwi Huber (Ben-Cohen) a Czernowitz member from the younger generation. In the following years, groups from the Old Kingdom joined the Movement.

In summer of the same year, that is 1924, the World Organization of Haschomer Hazair was founded in Gdansk. Zwi Huber (Ben Cohen) was able to represent at the founding conference not only Bukovina, but also the “All-Romanian” Haschomer Hazair” which after Poland and Galicia was the third larges organization when size and significance were considered.

The repercussion of this affiliation with the World Organization had great influence at home. One felt not only theoretically, but also organizationally part of a great nation spanning band whose meaning for the renaissance of Jewish youth in the Golah (Diaspora) and for the building up of Palestine was now recognized by the leading powers of the Zionist organization. When, for example, Professor Weizman visited Czernowitz in 1926, he invited J. Nussenbaum (Ben Ahron) whose welcoming speech had made a great impression on him, to several meetings at which the roll of young Jews in general and in Haschomer Hazier in particular was discussed. From Prof. Weizman, who for many years had been a good friend of Haschomer Hazier, many words of recognition were spoken on this occasion.

At earlier occasions, talks were held about the resistance to the Movement offered by the parents and by the Jewish public (especially the religious Jews).

It was also determined that there were those who viewed the youth with understanding and trust. We must here remember a group of parents and above all, a leading personality, to whom the Movement was very grateful, namely, Dr. M. Glaunbach. He was a true friend of the youth and took it upon himself not only to vouch for the moral integrity of the members of Haschomer Hazair, but also as the elected president of the Parents Association to represent the Movement before the authorities. Anyone who is familiar with the political situation during those years in Romania and especially in Bukovina knows the respect that this position deserves.

We succeeded for a short time in cooperating with the general Romanian Boy Scout Organization (Cercetasi), while Captain Sidorovici, who later became adjutant to King Carol was their leader. We would like to use this opportunity to remember his objectivity and friendliness. Later, however – because of the ever increasing anti-Semitism – leading officials, above all, the Siguranta, began to persecute and hinder the work of Zionism and of course, that of Zionist youth groups. Dr. Glaubach knew how, with tact and dedication to turn away danger and to provide the necessary help.

Maturity

From modest beginnings, a wide reaching movement had developed. The Bukovina branch can no longer be considered in its individuality, but must be observed in the framework of the total Romanian Movement.

Numerically, naturally, the other regions of the Reich overshadowed Bukovina. But that didn't reduce its significance. The beautiful locations in South Bukovina remained by far the most beloved meeting places for summer camps as long as the growing anti-Semitism still permitted it. The leading people who sprang from the Bukovina Movement represented the desirable synthesis between Jewish and general cultural values. Here we want to mention Abraham Siegelbaum (Toren), Jaakov Melzer and Grischa Levant (Zwi Lawi). It should however be stressed that the general interest of the Movement hindered the eventual emerging of particular inclinations. For example, when the Zionist organization in Romania could not overcome provincial borders, the Haschomer Hazair was successful in this effort. One learned to value the positives of different groups, judged the differences as unimportant, and thanks to the common centrally directed work, the consolidation of Hebrew as the universal means of expression, the recognized Schomer style, a unity was created which without effort overcame pre-judgments and misunderstandings.

Whenever a Schomer met a Schomer he was meeting a friend. The Schomer from Czernowitz, for example who in the streets of Braila was recognized by a local Schomer because of his badge, could without any further ado be his guest and be sure of his help. This unity brought with it a certain distancing from other groups. This didn't disturb the Zionist organization since Haschomer Hazair remained fully active in Keren Kajemeth (Jewish National Fund), Schekel, etc. At that time, there was no talk of Haschomer Hazair's affiliation with any political party, so that issue was of no significance.

The first serious discussion of this topic was stimulated by the Hechaluz (the Pioneers). The Hechaluz of Romania had developed into a relatively strong organization as a consequence of the fact that for a large number of Chaluzim (Pioneers) who came from Poland and partly from Russia, Romania was only a temporary “way station.” At that time Haschomer Hazair was by far the largest contingent of Chaluzim in Romania.

The demand to completely fold themselves into the general Chaluz (singular of Chaluzim) framework could not be accepted by the Schomrim who above all considered themselves members of their own movement.

It took much serious discussion to come to a “modus vivendi.” It was the start of the politicizing of the Movement. Its representatives had to learn how to propose resolutions, deal with majorities and minorities, publish propaganda, get votes – in short, behave like adults.

Also, one had to be “tuned in” ideologically. As was to be expected, the demand for Hagschamah (self realization) met with difficulties. It was simple for those who at a certain moment just turned their backs on the Movement and returned to the bourgeoisie life. Others – whose numbers weren't very large – found their way to youth groups whose requirements weren't so demanding. They didn't present any significant danger. But the extreme left elements which wanted to influence the Movement to distance itself from its Zionistic leaning had to, especially among the more mature members, be fought against. Also this situation accelerated the politicizing of the Movement.

As clear proof of its strength, we can see that also in this period – the years 1927 – 1930 – it continued to grow and its work with youth, especially the younger and mid-aged groups continued undisturbed.

The Movement experienced substantial growth because of the annexation of the youth groups from Transylvania (old name Siebenbürgen). With that annexation, all areas of Romania were covered. The joining of the Hungarian speaking groups brought with it a step back in the solidifying of the use of the Hebrew language, but that was compensated for by the addition of fresh enthusiastic members.

We can remember from that time the visits of Meir Jarri and Jaakow Chasan from Eretz Israel, the recognized leaders of the World Movement, whose voices among the working class in Eretz Israel were deeply respected.

Many uncertainties were eliminated then and growth accelerated. The events of the summer of 1929 as again innocent Jewish blood was spilled in Eretz Israel, caused the Movement to redouble its efforts in preparing Aliyah groups training the Chaluzim.

Before we turn to the further fate of the Movement in the coming years which were to be rich in historical events let us give a brief report on the fate of the first Schomer Chaluz groups in Eretz Israel.

When the first Hachscharah group – it was the former Kwuza “Trumpeldor” – arrived in Eretz Israel it found there were already several Schomer groups there: the Kibbutz Beth-Alfa, in which the Schomrim from the old guard from Vienna and Galicia found themselves, Kibbutz Beth, the “second kibbutz” in which mainly the founders group of the Polish Haschomer Hazair was located and which later changed its name to Mischmar Haemek and then a Kibbutz called Herzlijah. Many Schomrim were scattered in various parts of the land. In Kibbutz Beth, the arriving groups from Romania found their first teacher. But after a short time, they decided to make themselves independent with the name “Gimel,” that is the third letter in the Hebrew alphabet. They knew that many tasks stood before them: to get their economic affairs in order, to find a way to join the workers of the land and also to remain true to the Movement and to serve as an example for the organization in Romania. This last point signified among other things, remaining in constant contact and constructing an “intake station” for the new arrivals.

In order to evaluate the situation, we must remember that at that time, the outlook in the land was not rosy. There was great unemployment. Very few got jobs and the pay was very low; no wonder that many got “fed up” and returned to Romania.

Kibbutz Gimel held its flag high. One worked in Jidro draining swamps, building roads, doing heavy work on the docks, diligently studied sociology and pedagogy even when ones' stomach was growling. One learned the building trades and was in demand for work in the citrus plantations until the longed for day came on which one could go to the settlement. The piece of land that one got in Wadi Chawarith (today Emek Chefer) was not large; however they went to work with burning zeal and today Kibbutz Maabaroth is known in the land as a beautiful and flowering settlement.

And what was no less important was maintaining a constant connection with Romania through correspondence and delegates (Schlichim) and a further honor was the fact that Kibbutz Gimel was one of the four Kibbutzim which in 1927 helped to found the Kibbutz Arzi, that is the “umbrella organization” for all the Kibbutzim associated with the Haschomer Hazair.

Of other Kibbutzim which grew out of the Hachscharah groups, we want to briefly mention: Schar-Ha'amakim, Sarid, Schamir, Dalish, Ebron, Zikim and Magen.

The Approaching Storm

Dark clouds covered the skies of the world, including the Jews of all lands of Europe and naturally also Romania. The great economic crisis that hit the world directly and indirectly affected the Jews. Fascism grew at an alarming rate. And at the same time, the gates of Eretz Israel were barred to Jewish immigrants.

In spite of the pessimism, the work of the Movement had to be strengthened and deepened.

The intellectual work had always played an important roll in the Movement. Now that the Movement consisted for the most part, of students, the intellectual work, which through the years had been carried out in courses, Sichoth and lectures and during the summer camps in real seminar work, had become merely a type of “extra.” Now, however, people were coming into the Movement who lacked the basic foundation.

The requirements were a given; get on with the job. Programs were worked out, instructional materials developed and then an organization with insufficient means had to do a job with young people which normally would have required the power and resources of the state to be accomplished, that is, helping hundreds of young people to further education, and giving them knowledge in various areas, which up to then they had been denied.

The intellectual upswing, brought with it ideological strengthening. Many groups went to Hachscharah and were ready for Aliyah. The tenth Leader's Day which was solemnly celebrated in 1936 expressed this new determination.

But the external events were not of the kind to let the Movement quietly continue its work. In Eretz Israel, the unrest started again in 1936. Nazism influenced many countries and in Romania, in which anti-Semitism was always secret, forces came into the government which were very dangerous to the Jews and which represented brutal Fascism like Goga and Cuza. The Jews were delivered defenseless to the protectors of “law and order” in the state. A natural consequence of this situation was that the official right to exist was withdrawn from the Youth Movement and one had to find ways to continue the work under the new conditions. One was still permitted to have some activity within the framework of the existing Romanian Youth Organization (Guardians of Romania), under constant observation by the not exactly sympathetically inclined Romanian inspectors. At the same time one met in private dwellings for real Schomer Sichah threatened by constant great danger for the participants and the owner of the house. The “life force,” however prevented us from bending and we didn't even stop the visits of the leading personalities to the various local groups.

About the ways and means one used during the trip and at arrival to avoid the spying looks of the open and secret police, and to find the necessary funds, stories were told that could fill volumes.

The Movement demonstrated as always its tenacious grip on life, the number of members didn't decrease, but in contrast, it grew and a leadership was built up from the younger members which remained true to the Cause and handled the job with skill. Above all, we should mention Jaakow Schärf, Max Mehler (Kimchi), Menachem Rosner among others. One avoided using written or printed documents, so as not to give and aid to the hostile forces of the state. Therefore, one had to memorize the necessary material, and go back to using “oral tradition, so well know in Jewish history.

Luckily, there was a break now and then in the strictness of the regime. Such pauses were rapidly taken advantage of for leader's days, parents gatherings, holding short courses, celebrations were held, which cheered up wider circles of the Jewish population. Aliyah groups were equipped and preparations were made for the difficult days that were expected to come.

For the Movement in Bukovina, and above all, the central group in Czernowitz, the two years to come were in a certain sense, years of growth and renaissance.

The number of members grew and the work was deepened. What was originally thought to be impossible occurred. One was recognized by the officials and could legally function. It was the previously mentioned Dr. Glaubach who obtained the official recognition of the “Skautnbundes der Schomrim” (Band of Schomrim Scouts) in Bukovina).

At that time, the city of Czernowitz was again home to one of the decisive conferences of the Movement. Plans were worked out for the expected further pressure from the authorities, for the case when individual districts had to work independently, for the possibility that leaders were arrested or their work was hindered in other ways.

In Spite of All Opposition

The year was 1939. The criminal followers of Hitler had gone from murder and robbery to open warfare. Poland was the first to fall victim to the Nazi bands. As much as all strata of the attacked people suffered, the suffering of the Jewish people was a thousand times as great. A stream of refugees flowed across the border where they expected to find rescue. If you want to know how the Schomer Movement reacted with toughness in those days when normal life was completely disrupted, read the books by Emma Levin-Talmi, “Barbed Wire on the Dniester” and “Between Borders.”

No, one did not want to fall into despair, to blindly give in to merciless fate. One fell down seven times and got up again for the renewed struggle for life.

Among the refugees who succeeded in crossing the Romanian border, there were naturally also Schomrim. The first stage was Bukovina, and here originated a new task for the members of the Movement, to help their brothers, to provide them with the most necessary, sometimes to conceal them in order to protect them from the chicaneries of the Romanian officials. Fortunate were those who could rapidly continue their trip to the harbor of Constantinople with the hope, legally or illegally of reaching Eretz Israel.

The events developed rapidly. In the middle of September Russian troops crossed the border and approached Bukovina. One saw in that a hope for rescue from the nearing Nazi powers.

In view of the rapid developments and the great danger, one stood before the most difficult of all questions: Would one have enough time and the possibility to get ready? What could be rescued? And how was it to be done? The responsible leadership of the Movement together with delegates (Schlichim) who had come from Eretz Israel gave earnest attention to the answering of these questions. Were the burden and the responsibility to much for young people? One grew with the task. Above all, it was necessary to keep one's head high, to believe in oneself, to be courageous and to give comfort to the desperate.

One knew to be sure that Romania's days of relative independence were numbered, but nevertheless, one operated as if one had time for the new obligations as well as for the regular tasks. Only so, could one maintain the internal strength to continue. That is not to say that one wanted to conceal the truth.

In all lands, it was the Schomer Movement which strongly demanded that the open truth be told to all groups. Only with full knowledge of the truth and the threatening danger could one prepare ones self.

Because of the situation of the last several years, one was used to illegal work, and also the preparation with all available means of fighting for protection of life and limb of the Jewish population. Since the male youths for the most part had been drafted into the military or stood before this eventuality one transferred responsible tasks and leading positions to the grown up girls of the Movement. After Bessarabia and North Bukovina were occupied by the Russians, persecution by the Romanians increased. It was as if the Jews were to be the sacrificial lambs for the dishonor the Romanians were subjected to. Murder and plundering were the order of the day. There was no safe place and no quiet hour. For a Jew, every trip was a life-threatening undertaking. A member of the Schomer leadership was thrown from a moving train and only by a miracle escaped with his life. Let us rescue from the danger of being forgotten, an important episode in the history of the Haschomer Hazair in Czernowitz. As in the period between the withdrawal of the Romanian troops and the entrance of the Russian troops, a short but dangerous period with no government originated, it was the leadership of the local Haschomer Hazair that organized its older members and other groups and sent them to protect the public buildings like the University, the Jewish House, the theaters, the Residence, the bridges, etc.

The city was in an orderly and peaceful condition when it was turned over to the Russian commander and he expressed his thanks for that situation.

The newly created situation made it possible to strengthen relations with Schomer circles in the Soviet occupied part of Poland. Much was achieved in this endeavor until this connection was also broken by Hitler's attack on Russia.

After a relatively quiet beginning period while the Schomrim were still able in one way or another to carry out their original goals, the backlash came when Jewish and above all Zionist groups were deported. With the start of the Nazi-Romanian-fascist rule, the great catastrophe spread. There are witnesses who can report about the strenuous perseverance and bold deeds from these difficult days.

Let us try to follow the series of events. One can divide the time into the following periods: June 1940 – June 1941, The first phase of Soviet rule in Bukovina: The general framework of the organization was dissolved, but smaller groups continued their activities. Many Schomrim from the Bukovina province and from Bessarabia gathered in Czernowitz to try to keep up the connection among themselves. Yes, the attempt was even made in Storozynetz, on the confiscated estate of the former Baron Flondor to set up a Hachscharah Farm. After a few weeks of its existence, the deportation of Zionists to Siberia began and the Hachscharah was given up.

Sichoth of the various small groups were held and an attempt was made to publish a newspaper. The arrest of the leading young men and women put an end to this work.

With the retreat of the Russian troops before the arrival of Hitler's soldiers, many Schomrim joined the stream of refugees who left the land with the Russians and went into the interior of Soviet Russia. Many of them then fought in the ranks of the Russian army against the great enemy of mankind: Hitler and his hoards. Here they worked, as much as they could to strengthen the Zionist Chuzischen awareness of the youth.

The Nazi colossus began to stagger. To be sure, there was still much effort required by allied powers to completely destroy it. But, in the meanwhile, great land areas had been cleared of the Nazi pestilence, among them Romania and Bukovina.

The Schomrim, who had been freed from the Hell of Transnistrien attempted to get to Romania in order to reach a harbor from which they could travel to Eretz Israel. Czernowitz again became a significant transit point. The Schomrim, who met here, could tell much about their lives as fighters in the ranks of the Soviet Army, as partisans, as participants in the fights in the Ghettos as workers in the mines and Siberian forests. One knew only one goal – to the south – with their eyes on Eretz Israel.

The southern part of Bukovina which remained as part of Romania saw a re-building of several local groups of the Movement, since for the time being, the newly established Peoples Republic of Romania didn't hinder Zionistic work. Again, Hebrew was taught, Eretz Israel was talked about; one went to Hachscharah and was seen as an important factor in the life of Judaism. Still in 1947, a summer camp was able to be held.

Again, it was the beautiful region around Jacobeni in which about two thousand Schomrim gathered and in serious conversation, with song and dance expressed their connection to Eretz Israel. The forest covered cliffs echoed the joyful cries of young people who believed in a better tomorrow. Branches of 100 year old trees listened astounded to the sounds of Hebrew. And it must be seen as a significant symbol, that it was young Schomrim, who in the prayer houses of the villages, in which there were no remaining Jewish residents, held great discussions about the Kibbutzim and the tasks to come.

It was the last great common work of Haschomer Hazair in Bukovina and actually in Romania. Not long after that began the severe restriction of Zionistic work by the People's Republic of Romania. Persecution and arrests began. A beautiful unique work of youthful belief and aspiration was destroyed.

Will reason triumph there? Will one for the transition period, until the last Jew has found his new homeland in Israel be allowed to continue with creative groundwork?

We fondly wish it would be true.

Conclusion

We said at the beginning that youth movements are cultural phenomena. For the Jewish people, they are more than that. They were and are a part of the forces that write its contemporary history. The pages represent living deeds which Haschomer Hazair has written in the book of Jewish history and still writes; it is the 70 Kibbutzim which stretch from the extreme north of Israel to the southern end of the Negev; it is the deeds performed by the Schomrim in Palmach (Strike force within the Haganah) and shoulder to shoulder with all the courageous fighters of the Zahal (Israel Defense Force) from the days of the War of Independence to the Sinai battles; it is the unique education arm of Haschomer Hazair with its 20 middle schools and 100 elementary schools and kindergartens.

And it is the world movement of Haschomer Hazair which again is on the upswing and which in 20 lands prepares thousands of Jewish youth for the building up of Israel.

On all that, the Haschomer Hazair in Bukovina did its honest part.

With contributions from: Zwi Ben Cohen (Huber), Max Kimchi (Mehler), Menachem Rosner and Menachem Schadmi (Weidenfeld)


Notes:

  1. Schomrim: This is the plural of the Hebrew word for guard or sentry. The singular is “Schomer.” Return
  2. Sichah: In modern Hebrew sichah means prayer or more importantly, conversation. It also seems to be a discourse on a subject concerning the Jewish religion. The plural is sichoth. Return
  3. Aggadah: Hebrew term for non-halakhic (nonlegal) matter, especially in Talmud and Midrash; includes folklore, legend, theology/theosophy, scriptural interpretations, and biography. Return
  4. chaluzischen hagschamah: The early settlers in Israel, especially on Kibbutzim were called chalutzim or “pioneers.” Hagschamah is the Hebrew word for “preparation.” The British required a certificate showing 1 year of apprenticeship in farming (hagschamah) before they would grant an entrance visa. Return
  5. Old Kingdom: The Romanian Old Kingdom refers to the territory covered by the first independent Romanian nation-state, which was composed of the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia. Return


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