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[Page 112]

Chapter 4

 

Organizations




kat112.jpg [27 KB]
Ester Shikman-Frenkel, standing in the middle with a hat.
Below center, Josl Ornstajn-Gelbart (glasses) - actor, entertainer and director



[Page 113]

The Zionist Federation

Josef Chrust

Translation edited by Yocheved Klausner

The center of all Zionist activities in town was the Zionist organization. Although Katowice's community was not known for unique achievements in Aliyah – idealistic immigration to Israel – it had a fair Zionist tradition. The legacy of the Katowice Zionist convention, as well as actions for the benefit of Zionist funds and the activities of the youth organizations were all a meaningful part of the residents' lives. The Zionist world organization played an important role in all this, even after the core union branched out into various smaller organizations.

The community official bulletin frequently informed the public of Hebrew courses (for example, those given by Dr. Leon Hecht of Krakow), memorial rallies, lectures and receptions – all organized by the Zionist union. In December 1932 (Community Bulletin No. 23) a Hanukkah celebration took place. The lecturers were Rabbi Dr. Fogelman, vice president of the world organization, Dr. Scheier and others.

A general assembly of the Zionist organization was held in February 1933, led by the Chairman of honor, Alfred Miller. It was then reported that the number of members has reached 300. The newly elected committee members were: CEO Dr. Rapaport, vice CEO Dr. Beter, secretary Dr. Moszkowska, treasurer Pinkus Wasserteil, and members of the committee were Szif, Ms. Neuman, Gendelman, Freilich, Mrs. Bruner and others.

Even during that time of stress and action preliminary to the 18th Zionist congress and the elections following it, a dance party was thrown and lectures were given. Remarkable events in 1934 are the Purim celebration in March, and the memorial gathering dedicated to Theodore Herzl with the participation of Rabbi Chameides. A few days later, all Zionist organizations in town paid tribute to the late poet Bialik.

A special meeting was held in October of that year by the Zionist movement in Katowice to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the “Hovevey Zion” convention which had taken place in Katowice. An article in the Official Bulletin No 66 was dedicated to the historical event, a special prayer was held at the central synagogue, and a parade of the Zionist youth was followed by a festive gathering, where Dr. Jehoshua Thon, Dr. Schwartzbart and Joachim Neiger made speeches.

Across the border anti-Semitism was raging, but in Katovice life went on calmly and peacefully. In March 1935 a new library was opened by the Benei-Zion movement; on April 1st Dr. Ollswanger from Jerusalem gave a lecture about “The Future of Judaism; the Zionist organization held another general assembly and a new committee was elected: Alfred Miller. Dr. Rapaport, Avraham Beitner, Dr. Better, Freilich, Halbreich, Mrs. Krueger, Levi, Miss Leiblich, Frutz, Schekovski, Dr. Torton, W. Torton, P.Wasserteil, Dr.Wolfsohn, Weinberg.

[Page 114]

In view of the deterioration of the economic and political situation, interest in Aliyah to Israel was increasing. In May 1935, the community bulletin No. 79 published a call for the registration of “Zionists who have professional training” and were willing to immigrate to Israel and in the November issue, No. 99, the Zionist Organization addressed the public with a request to support two agricultural training centers to be opened in Dzjawic and Czechowice.

Despite the anti-Semitism and hatred outside the borders, life continued as usual: a “Blue and White” celebration was held in January 1936, the regular prayers during the Jewish high holidays took place in the synagogues and various fund-raising events supported by “Bnei Zion” were carried out.

Keren Hayesod and Keren Kayemet [United Israel Appeal (UIA) and Jewish National Fund (NJF)]

The way the Zionist organizations in town conducted the popular fundraising campaigns was remarkable. The activities were orderly and well organized. In October 1932, in the course of a fund-raising campaign organized by UIA, Kurt Blumenfeld from Berlin gave an interesting lecture and a tea-party was held by several Zionist organizations. In December JNF organized a Chanuka party for children. In May 1935 JNF organized two activities: a lecture by Adolf Polack from Jerusalem and the screening of a movie – “The Promised Land.”

Emptying the JNF blue-white boxes had turned into a festive ceremony, in which the children as well as the community leaders participated. There was a friendly competition between the various boxes and the Official Newsletter of the community would publish the amounts collected in each box.


[Page 115]

The Revisionist Movement

Josef Chrust

Translation edited by Hillel Kuttler

Due to a lack of reliable resources, estimating the extent of the activity of this movement in Katowice is hard. Nonetheless, we may presume that the spirit of this non-conformist movement contradicted the spirit of the traditional German communities, which cooperated with the Zionist institutions and set the example in Katowice. Nevertheless, geographical proximity to Sosnowiec and Będzin — where major centers of that movement were located — likely affected Katowice, particularly its youth. Another presumption is that the many immigrants moving to Katowice doubtless included some members of this movement.

Another remarkable factor is the 1929 series of pogroms in Israel, known as Meoraot Tarpat, which led to protests against the British representatives in Poland and an initiation of the Revisionist institutions. The demonstrations included a mass rally in front of the British consulate in Katowice. This demonstration was covered in the Heint of Warsaw in September 1929, and was described by the protest leader, Josef Klarman, then a resident of Sosnowiec: “I was responsible for expressing our general protest to the British consul. We arrived there and found the doors shut and the building empty, though we tried to break in. As we turned to the synagogue, intending to run a protest gathering, many were arrested, including me. Everyone was instantly released, but, due to a negative article in the Polish press, I was brought to trial and finally paid a fine of five zlotys.”

The demonstration likely made an impression in Katowice and its youth. In the following years, the Revisionist movement in town proved rather active, as is reflected in the community's official bulletin. Well-known activist Dr. Wolfgang Von Weizel was reported to have given a March 1932 lecture contrasting Judaism and Islam. Another public lecture, which also attested to intensive activity, was given on the topic, “Our Expectations From the World Council of Revisionist Zionism in Katowice”. During this tense period in the history of the movement, some of its prominent people visited Katowice and delivered speeches, including Revisionist leader Zeev Jabotinsky, who lectured on “The Revisionist Struggle for the Revival of the Jewish People”; Grossman, and Dr. Soskin

In May 1933, a public assembly took place, dealing with the issue of under the topic of “free immigration to Israel. It was led by Leo Koralnik and the Revisionist Zionism chairman in Katowice, David Haper. Local characters attended. The speeches were followed by additional Revisionist lectures and gatherings.

The Revisionist movement was transforming into the new Zionist federation. It held a public assembly in August 1935, in which Jabotinsky participated.

[Page 116]

The new movement was interested not only in political issues. The public bulletin published notices of Hebrew lessons (issue # 43), on the opening of a new library named for Max Nordau, and of a Tu Bishvat party in which Rabbi Blumenfeld of Chorzow took part. These events attest to its social activity.

The Soldier Alliance (Brit Hachayal)

The Soldier Alliance is a branch of the Revisionist Zionism movement. It was established throughout Poland during the early 1930s, with the aim of spreading Jabotinsky's ideas among released soldiers. The Katowice branch was opened in May 1933, in time for the approach of the 18th elections for the Zionist Congress.

An announcement of a lecture on the topic, “Facing a New Zionist Federation,” given by Dr. Jakow Szechter of Krakow, was published in July 1935. Other lectures, on the topics “The Soldier Alliance: Missions and Purpose” and on The Meaning of Hanukkah Candles for Us,” were given as well.

We have no information regarding the people who worked to revive the idea of militarism among Jews, but we do know the name of the head commander of Katowice's soldier Alliance: Nechemia Henrik Zaks, who was born in 1900 and died in 1952 in Poland. During his time as the Soldier Alliance local commander, he also took part in the founding assembly of the new Zionist federation in Vienna. His widow, Mrs. Regina Zaks, currently resides in Katowice.


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Nechemia (Henrik) Zaks in Polish Army uniform with his wife Regina


[Page 117]

Women's Organizations

Josef Chrust

Translation edited by Hillel Kuttler

The Katowice chronicles are filled with stories of women acting in various ways to aid the needy: participating in all of the community's charity institutions, charity funds, aid for the ill and elderly and one-time projects. It appears that the Jewish women of Katowice had no need of organizations in order to uncover their good traits and show kindness. Nonetheless, 3 womens organizations cannot remain unmentioned: Women's Association, WIZO and B'noth B'rith.

The Women's Association

The first mention of the organization is found in the January 1933 (#23) bulletin, although its roots go back as early as the 19th century. Founded in December 1863, the association was meant solely to support the poor, help the ill and allow Jewish traditional burial for the dead. Political activity of any sort was not included. The organization was extremely helpful to the community during World War I, providing the community with tremendous support in both mental and materialistic aspects. Taking the lead was the devoted Mrs. Regina Wilner. The first posted notice tells us about a Hanukkah charity project: collecting clothes and food packages for the needy. A short time later, Pesach charity was collected, and the public was requested to give a hand and participate. They were addressed again in a similar way that October, both times by Mrs.Wilner.

In the 1930s, the association was so developed as to become the society's main foundation of all welfare and charity actions. December 1933 was celebrated as its 70th anniversary. But the women's association didn't limit itself to philanthropic work, and initiated ideas to enrich the spiritual and intellectual lives of its members. Therefore, in December 1935 and in cooperation with the other women's groups, it organized a women's seminary. Among the subjects taught were Hebrew and English, Jewish history, geography and arts and crafts. The seminary kept growing, and gradually added new topics and lectures due to interest.

Other cultural fields were covered as well: an exhibition of hand-made artifacts in April 1934, a concert for local singers and string quartets in June 1935 and a Hanukkah prom in 1936.

[Page 118]

The association's annual expense report of June 1935 includes also money spent on supporting young brides, summer camps for children, heating coal and shoes for the needy and more. Even in relatively-rich Katowice, many people were needy.

WIZO

WIZO was a local branch of the national organization, whose actions were planned and financed by the central headquarters. WIZO was created to complete the Women's Association's activity, and focused on the Social-Zionist aspects: tea parties, gymnastics sessions, weekly open lectures and occasional proms. Lectures were given in three languages, according to needs: Yiddish, Polish and German.

The bulletin published notices on public sports events and athletics classes, low-fee tennis and swimming classes, charity for Israel and Tu B'Shvat parties.

WIZO's general assembly took place on January 11, 1934. Due to the merging of two of Katowice's women's groups (WIZO and United Jewish Women for Cultural Work in Israel) a year later, the objective was to elect a new head council. At the time, 260 registered members were reported, and most of the positions were filled by two members simultaneously.

Monetary reports showed no charity expenses, but large sums of money were sent back to the WIZO center in Krakow, with the rest dedicated to pioneer women immigrating to Israel, and for summer camps.


kat118.jpg [22 KB]
Bnei Brith, Katowice 1934
Standing: Rabbi M. Fogelman, his wife Bella
Seated in the middle: Mrs. Chava Winer


[Page 119]

Various organizations

Josef Chrust

Translation edited by Lisa Newman

Bnei-Brith

Since this organization's activity was not widely covered in the local press, it is difficult to learn about the full extent of its activity. We do know, from a short article published in Community bulletin #33, that on June 1933 the Katowice branch “Concordia” celebrated its 50th anniversary: participants included 3 of the founding members (Luis Rond and Eliyahu Erlich who both resided in Katowice at the time, and Moric Klajman who by then had moved to Breslau).

The branch was established on June 17, 1883 as one of the first centers in this area; its members dedicated their activity to mutual aid in the community. They were also the official hosts of the famous Zionist “Hovevey Zion” assembly, held in Katowice in that period.

Warriors for Polish Independence

In Katowice, as throughout Poland, Jews who supported Poland's national independence organized themselves as a group. They saw their mission as spreading Polish culture in the area, which had long been under German cultural influence, and deepening the public's loyalty to their new Polish nationality.

The first press release on this organization is found in January of 1934, on the occasion of its first general assembly. New council members were elected again in 1935 and 1936, and lectures on related subjects were given, including one by Dr. Kanarek, on “Poland's new constitution”.

Hebrew Class

This initiative is first mentioned in the #47 bulletin (January 1934), where the public was informed of two upcoming lectures: one, by L. Koralnik, dealing with “New Hebrew Literature”, and one on “Jewish education and culture”, given by Dr. Zilberfenig. The latter included also an open debate, in which local figures and men of letters took part- among them Rabbis Chameides, Fogelman, Cimber, Koralnik, Tenenbaum, and others.

In February that year the group held a formal Tu-Bishvat prom.

[Page 120]

From a notice published in December 1934, we learn that Mrs. Roza Altman was a member of the Hebrew Class group.

The league for laboring Erez-Israel

This organization was first mentioned in the press in March, 1933, in a notice about the upcoming open lecture by Dr. G. Tarlo of Krakow, on “Who is building the land of Israel?” In the bulletin of May 1935 there is a notice about regular meetings for friends and sponsors of “the league” in the club on Piastowskas St., along with an announcement that information concerning immigration to Israel would be given there as well. Another press notice informs us of a special lecture given by Dr. Juris from Israel, titled “A critical moment”.

Mizrachi

Mizrachi's first mention in the press is its April, 1933 request from the general public for donations of money or books to the new Judaism library about to be opened at the association's club Likely Mizrachi ran ongoing activities which were not published in the local press; in 1934 we are informed of a Mizrachi general assembly, where new management personnel were elected (Chairman Dawid Erlich, vice CEO Mosze Teper and others). Members of the youth branch filled administrative positions as well, from this year on.

In December 1936 the Mizrachi group in Katowice advertised a public celebration of a freshly-written Torah scroll, named after the movement's late Rabbi A. I. Kook.

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“Zionist Youth” - a farewell reception for Josef Weinberg (at the center)



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