The absorption of concepts from the fountains of the popular Jewish Bedzin culture was a major factor in uniting the youth and in their contribution to the public life, which strengthened the endurance of Bedzin's Jews in their various struggles. This movement was preceded by other youth movements, which attracted boys and girls of various social classes. However, none of them had penetrated the hearts of the youth as significantly as this one. Youth movements which alienated themselves from national and Zionistic aspirations and ignored the social problems of the youth and the origins of their classes could not appeal to the great masses of the youth. Therefore, no other youth movement could succeed as much as Freiheit. It imbued the youth with social-Zionist ideals of self fulfillment and pioneering.
Freiheit was founded in 1926 in Warsaw, and soon after became a mass youth movement. When the breach in the Poalei Zion [Socialist Zionists] movement occurred, a vacuum in the Jewish street resulted and it was necessary to re-build everything anew.
In fact, many heated discussions among the different parts of the divided movement preceded the mending of this breach. They took place in the pine forests of the village of Zabkowice (14 kilometers from Bedzin) on Sundays during the summer months. Those forests absorbed the stormy controversies during most hours of the day. Leaving the city, even for one day, to the open air had its beneficial effect towards uniting the urban Jewish youth and filling them with a fresh new spirit.
These meetings and the groups of the youth of Zion were the foundations of the
Freiheit movement, which during the years won the hearts of many
groups of the Bedzin youth, under the guidance of those members of the party of
Poalei Zion [Socialist Zionists] who remained loyal to the principles of the movement. The
first branches were created. One by one boys and girls from the remotest
corners convened in order to spend time together, sing, discuss ideological
issues, go on hikes and so on. All these became indelible experiences which
left deep imprints in their hearts and strengthened their devotion to the
movement which they considered the epitome of their life.
It was only natural that this movement would generate its own guides, leaders and directors. And indeed, very quickly, some young people who were ideologically mature tried and also succeeded in distinguishing themselves from the others.
The attempts of the Communist party to penetrate the socialist youth movement and undermine it from within did not skip Freiheit in Bedzin. Things reached the stage where the underground organization of the Communist movement managed to get a hold on some youth in our Histadrut, but fortunately, it was found out before the communists managed to consolidate their influence and their attempts were warded off.
In order to offer our members a more thorough ideological recognition and education, clubs were formed on Borochov, Syrkin and more, in which the participants learned the principles of the labor Zionism and the development of the labor movement in Erez Israel. They read together from the writings of Otto Bauer, Kautsky and others. There were also general discussions and balls of Questions and Answers.
The activity was held in the Freiheit hall, in the cellars of the Piekarski house on Modrzejowska Street, which swarmed with people and stormed with loud voices every evening, until very late, and during holidays all day long as well. So many young men and women gathered there that there was no choice but conduct the club activities in private houses, and in the summer months on the hill (górka), which was covered with trees and padded with grass and surrounded the ancient castle.
The most significant change in the movement occurred when the riots of 1929 broke out in Erez Israel. The attitude of the Communists and the Bund, their publications and their performances acted contrary to their intentions. Now their true nature was revealed. The resentment was particularly strong among the Freiheit members, whose pioneering roots were profound and who saw their future in Erez Israel.
Many youngsters, who until now felt some closeness to the movements of Zion haters, moved away from them and joined us throughout the days of the riots and also after them. Many of them also prepared to go to training farms (kibbutz hachshara) and eventually immigrate to Erez Israel.
Our movement was the only one in town that met non-Jewish socialist youth movements. We maintained contacts with the socialist Polish youth although Zion haters kept trying to sabotage them. We had always felt that we must explain to the gentiles our pioneering Zionist entity, which the Jewish communists and Bund people resented.
Our movement found itself growing up, conquering and undertaking the burden of responsibility towards its trainees. As a movement of grown-up members, we could not neglect hundreds of youngsters who had difficulties integrating in our framework. Therefore, we founded the Freier Scouts a free Scouts movement, and so, we enlarged the educational framework of the Zionist-socialistic movement by adding the group of the juniors.
Members of Freiheit, under the leadership of Miriam Najman, devoted themselves to educating this group of youngsters, whose members had originated from the Heder and come from homes of laborers, who had not been able to care for their children's education. Somehow, we did not attract school graduates. Only very few of them joined us.
In order to strengthen the informative and educational activities, we had to do much more than hold meetings in the evening after a work day. Hence, we organized seminars that lasted one or two weeks in villages, and which hosted delegates of the labor party from Erez Israel such as Tabenkin, Sherf and others.
Years went by, the boys and the girls became young men and women and it was
decided to move them up into the party. But this decision created an open
rebellion: tens of members refused and insisted on their right to remain in
Freiheit, which they felt attached to and in which they found
themselves fulfilled. It took a lot of coaxing and compromising, to find a
solution to this problem, which almost created a real crisis.
|Members of the Freiheit committee
Standing from right:
Lajbl Kokotek, Mordechai Brajner, Ben Zion Klajnman, Benjamin Adlerflygel
Icchak Szajnman, Fersztenfeld, Mordechai Tenenbaum, Hinde Tenenbaum,
Heniek Tenenbaum, Israel Cwajgenbaum
A few years before the war, our movement united with Hechalutz Hatzair. In the magazine Zaglembier Leben (number 17, 1939) we read about another district convention of Freiheit Hechalutz Hatzair in Bedzin: In this convention two hundred members of the two senior groups who were about to graduate participated. It was stated that the bloody riots in Erez Israel would not deter us. On the contrary we were up and ready to immigrate. We would join the fighters and workers in Erez Israel. The convention dealt with issues of the movement, around which heated discussions started. The main question was going out on pioneer training. And indeed, right there and then tens of members enlisted for immediate training. In the evening, there was a solemn ceremony to conclude the convention, which raised our spirits towards our future mission.
This is how the Freiheit youth movement was born and developed in
Bedzin. Ex- members of the movement who live in Israel now, are still grateful
to their movement which is no more.
|This report was published in Zaglembier Zeitung, number 34, 1938, signed by Zvi, probably Zvi Szpringer or Zvi Poliwoda, of the Freiheit and the Kibbutz leaders in Bedzin. Both were excellent young men who risked their lives for their sacred cause. (The editor)|
The subject of the meeting was the bloody riots in Erez Israel which had lasted two years already, since 1936. The Head of the Histadrut in Bedzin, M. Poliwoda, greeted the members. All the participants marched in front of the national flags and the meeting opened with the songs of Hashvuah and Tehezaknah.
Herszl Szpringer (one of the leaders of Kibbutz Dror in Bedzin, a fighter and organizer of the underground, who died as a hero the copier), eulogized the victims who fell during the bloody riots in Erez Israel. His eulogy was made while the audience was standing in mourning.
The delegate of the center, Chrzanowski, gave a lecture on The pioneer movement in view of the present situation. In his comprehensive lecture the speaker included all the problems which occupied the Jewish world in the Diaspora and in Erez Israel at the time, and called the young to gather around the flag of the active pioneer movement. Many participated in the vivid discussion that followed the lecture.
In the evening, a graduation ceremony was held under the slogan: To training! Szpringer, Poliwoda, Rzezak and Szwarckop made speeches.
The interesting meeting, which marked another step in the development of
Freiheit in Bedzin, ended in singing and dancing the
Hora until the very late hours of the night.
|Poale Zion Socialist Zionists with Berl Loker, 1926|
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