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[Page 121]

Chapter 5

 

Youth Organizations




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Youths from the Katowice “Zionist Youth”, in a summer camp in Jordanów



[Page 123]

Sports Clubs

Josef Chrust

Translation edited by Jeni Armandez

There were three different sport clubs for the Jewish youth in Katowice to enjoy. These clubs, which included 'Bar-Kochva', 'Maccabbi' and 'Z.K.S' operated in varied time periods between World War I and II. There is not enough information to define why there were three separate clubs, as one would have sufficed. There did not appear to be any level of remarkable achievements in athletics. The sports clubs not only provided its members an opportunity to play sports; but they also provided a social outlet and a chance to learn about Zionism.

Bar-Kochva

It is understood that 'Bar-Kochva' had been active from 1923 to 1928. The club was known to host a variety of gymnastic activities and athletics specifically, with separate groups for men, women and children. There was even a tennis section! There were some difficulties with the club keeping regular activities, most likely due to lack of proper space. It was not easy for 'Bar-Kochva' to be registered for gym hall hours.

The same report from 1932 also states that the head instructor traveled to Warsaw to practice for the “Maccabia” (the Jewish Worldwide Olympic games”), and was temporarily replaced by Ms. Lizel Tajtelbach. The report, edited by Dr. Beter , also mentioned the constant support and solutions provided by municipality member Mr. Waichman and Dr. Szajer.

[Page 125]

In the bulletin's issue #118 from December 1936, an official notice was published by “Maccabbi”, which consisted of a full authorized report on the club's running activity. It informed readers about the general assembly meeting on December 10th, in which a new administration was selected. The report stated the Hockey section was admitted to the Polish official union of ice-hockey, and the team even participated in the B league Silesian championship. There were two kinds of member-certificate cards that members received through the Polish union of ski club: Black- merited them with discounts on train tickets and Yellow- for border passing.

Z.K.S.

The Z.K.S club was considered unique mainly due to its Soccer team. The first press notice about it was published in the February 1933 issue of the “The Bulletin” announcing a 'Grand Prom' organized by the club. The prom was held at the Union Restaurant and had two orchestras play during the evening. The press release was signed by M. Zajdler.

A general assembly meeting in February 1933 also explained that a new administration team was elected, which included a new chairman, secretary and members of different positions.

In April 1933, there appeared coverage of the club's new athletic team. The following year (1934) notices about a 'Spring Prom', a Purim feast and another administrative assembly are published. Most of the club's actual sports activity hadn't found a way into the “public bulletin's” issues. Nonetheless, in one issue of the “Upper Silesian Immigrants in Israel” news gazette, in an interview with Hainz Badet, he spoke about his excellent soccer team and mentions players: Kinstlinger, Baderian, Hecht, Gotreich, Hochzeit, Holender, and the brothers Karliner.


[Page 126]

HaShomer HaTzair

Szalom Salo Barber

Translation edited by Hillel Kuttler

Our family's origin is in middle Silesia. After the referendum of 1924, Silesia was split into two parts: one annexed to Germany, and the other to Poland. We moved to the Polish side. I was used to going to a German school in my city of birth, and, therefore, continued to learn in one when we moved to Katowice in 1926.

The first signs of young Jews getting organized within Zionist-oriented movements appeared in 1928. At the time, I was a singer in the grand synagogue's choir, and remained so until I was 15. Our first mentor in Hashomer Hatzair [ed. Note: the Labor Zionist organization] was Maks Szternlicht from Bielsko, who was a student at the Katowice Technical College. The beginning was unpretentious: We were given a room to use once a week for our meetings, by Mrs. Weiner, a Zionist and owner of a bookstore in town.

I remember the visit of the poet Natan Bistricki to Katowice. We were asked to welcome him at the B'nai B'rith hall, and his enthusiastic speech in Yiddish encouraged and boosted our devotion to Hashomer.

At the time, the other youth movements showed an increased intensity in their activity as well. The local branch of the Zionist federation has managed to rent a spacious apartment where, bound to a schedule, each group was allowed to run its meetings. Later on, this arrangement was canceled, and we had to find our own location – frequently wandering between temporary ones.

In these same years Israel was closed to immigration – one of the organization's core ideals – and, therefore, many members gave up and left the group. During the same period I was head of the center. We bonded and continued on without any material support. In the end we managed to rent a small house in a residential courtyard, we renovated it and continued our activities amongst the youth in schools. The main theme of our activities was centered in Eretz Yisrael. We endeavored to learn as much as we could about the events in the country, from the rebuilding project to the rioting. We were also active in collecting money for Keren Kayemet Leyisrael [Foundation fund]. On Lag b'omer we would go outside the town to celebrate and the anti-Semitic “Endecks” didn't dare to bother us.

At its best, our movement consisted of 80 members. I would like to point out the visit of guide Chana Ungar from Lwow and the continuing activity of local head Wiola Zandkarten as meaningful highlights. We had several Zionist adult-supporters, none of them who provided donations, but who helped occasionally in other ways. Of them, I can recall Berensztajn Sztark and Mrs. Ruth Berliner.

I played sports, and along with two friends played in a mixed handball team. Most of the teams belonged to the Hitler youth movements, known as Volksdeutshe. Occasionally, they pestered me, but I always responded.

I was head of the Hashomer Hatzair branch until making aliyah in 1939 through the illegal immigration movement; we left Poland by train and arrived in Constanza, a Romanian port town, where we were not allowed to leave the train. A week later, we were released and allowed aboard the ship Tiger Hill. By that time, we learned from the radio about the German invasion of Poland.

We sailed the sea for more than a month, because we were not allowed to dock and renew our supply anywhere. Eventually, we were instructed to sail to the Beirut area, where 300 families and their children were transferred to our ship. Overloaded, we tried to reach the Israeli coast near Herzliya, but were stopped and shot at by the English baywatch, with two passengers being killing. Two days later, we managed to sneak in at the Tel Aviv coast, and the 300 of us who managed to escape were warmly welcomed and hosted by residents of city.

[Page 127]

During this whole period, I wasn't able to keep in contact with my family. After a short while, I was informed, through the Red Cross, that they were in the Chrzanow ghetto. My young brother, who earlier escaped to Lwow, was my only way to contact home. But my home was no more. My father z”l was murdered in Auschwitz. My mother z”l and my sister were enslaved in a labor camp until they were freed by the Americans, and shortly after managed to reach Israel. I did not receive any reliable information about my brother's fate. Back then, I was told that he was seen, the the February [1945] before the war ended, in the infamous death march in the Sudetes.

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Nathan Bistrizki - Zionist leader from Israel, in Katowice in 1933
Duba Buchztajn - in the first row, second from the right


[Page 128]

Beitar Movement

Michael Goldman-Gilad

Translation edited by Hillel Kuttler

The Beitar movement was extremely unified and lively, and though its members weren't many, it had a true spirit of love for the people, and the land, of Israel. Beitar members were educated to aliyah, to redeeming the homeland, Israel, from the British invaders and to making a proud, daily usage of the Hebrew language. The movement was considered a branch of the new World Zionist Organization, a part of which was also the Soldier Alliance movement.

The revisionist movement's club was located on No. 4 Welonsci Square, and it held various Zionist and cultural activities, which were open to the entire Jewish public. Rabbis, journalists and men of letters – both local and from abroad – occasionally participated, and made great contributions to the area's Jews cultural life.

The publishing of the British White Paper, and the trial and hanging of Beitar activist Shlomo Ben-Yosef in Israel on 1938, catalyzed an increase in the number of the general Revisionist-movement members in Katowice, particularly of those joining Beitar.

The public trial of Ben-Yosef, the way he faced his verdict proudly and refused to beg for mercy, and especially his exemplary behavior before and during his hanging, led many young Polish Jews to join Beitar, dozens of them from Katowice. Younger Beitar members may recall the visits of two Beitar officers, one being Shalom Rosenfeld – Ben-Yosef's direct commander from Israel. Their impressive appearance and exciting stories gained Beitar many of Katowice's youth; one of them was myself, age 13.

Katowice's Beitar chapter's work was diverse, and included conversations dealing with Israeli and Zionist history, intense Hebrew studies, fitness and self-defense exercises and more. The value of dignity and respect for women and the elderly was emphasized. Usage of Hebrew was strongly encouraged, and funds dedicated to Revisionist-Zionist institutions to be built in Israel were raised. District and national Beitar officers from time to time paid memorable visits to the club.

Beitar summer camp took place in the western mountains, in a village. During the camp days we were engaged in intensive moral conversations, courses and actual military training- with guns and grenades carved out of wood. A servicing Jewish officer in the Polish army ran the simulative training, which were truly challenging for us.

Some older members planned to illegally immigrate (Aliyah Beit), and from the camp headed straight to the border with Romania to aboard ships arranged by the Revisionist movement in Constanza.

[Page 129]

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Summer camp, September 1938. Josef Rakower aged 13

The first group was successful, but the second was traced at the border and was returned to Poland.

I managed to locate only one Beitar member from my time after the war, Szmuel Grundman z”l, who arrived in Israel and achieved great things in architecture, engineering and graphics. He passed away a couple of years later after suffering from a terminal disease.

My deeply rooted faith in the continuing existence of the Jewish people, and the redemption of the land of Israel – all the values I was exposed to in Beitar – kept me company on my hardest days during the Holocaust. The hope, and the pride I took in being a Jew, helped me remain human, even when it seemed as if humanity was burnt down in Auschwitz. As I was marched to work at the concentration camp, and was forced to walk straight and steadily, I would catch myself humming, deep inside, Beitar's march songs, and I'd find comfort in them – like the one ending in the words, “ Then in our blood, in the price of our lives, a new generation will rise in Israel. A generation of soldiers and heroes, a generation of magnificence…”

In Auschwitz, I met the remains of Poland's Beitar members. We were too few to form a group, and avoided identifying ourselves, as even among the Jewish prisoners, Anti-Zionists were found.

The Beitar movement wasn't allowed to re-organize and re-group after the war, due to the objection of Communist Jews who were then administering the Jewish Committee of Polish Jews. Beitar was only re-organized in Germany, Austria and Italy, and from there played an important role in the opening of Israel to free Jewish immigration. Beitar members were a part of the crowds on nearly any aliyah ship making its way to Israel. After members' arrival, they joined the underground movements' work of creating a free Israel.

The Beitar movement that was organized in Cyprus during the exile was one of the strongest movements. When they were released in 1948, these Beitar members were recruited by the IDF and fought in the War of Independence. Many of them died heroic deaths in the war, and some of them – those who had no family or acquaintances – were buried anonymously.

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