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From the Bundist Movement in Belchatow

by M. Gliksman

Translated by Pamela Russ

Note: [ ] contains translator's comments; ( ) contain original textual comments

When the Jewish Labor Movement began in Poland, Lithuania, and Russia, when the Jewish worker began to understand that he could no longer rely on the kindness of the baalebos [boss, person in charge, superior] – the rise of the “Bund” flowed into the very dark Jewish life of the time. While everything was still in the hands of religious leaders, the call for a new, just order, such as those who are working should benefit from their work, was also heard in our far–flung proletariat weaving town. The mission of the pioneers of the Jewish Labor Movement was not a simple one. An enormous darkness ruled over Jewish life. It was first the “Bund” that filled the historic mission of creating a social strength that had a double mission: to raise the spirit of Jewish life, and also to create out of the backward [primitive] laborer, a conscientious fighter for a new world.

Our town, even though it was not from the large provincial cities in Poland – was still among the first that began social activity. Even before the First World War, many Belchatower were among the revolutionaries that Czarist Russia sent to Siberia. Incidentally, the proletariat character of our town also participated in the development of a multi–faceted social life.

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With the establishment of the “Bund,” a new life flow streamed into the city. The first Bundist activists were several young people, such as: Avrohom Yeshaya's, Khaim Shlomo, Michoel Yosef's, Fishel Meyer, Perel the Bosterin's [?], Moishe Kaizer, and others. With them was a weaver from Lodz, Berel Bines. Quietly, they began an agitation for change in the economic life in general, and in Jewish life in particular.

At that time, it was boiling and broiling in the ranks of the Jewish laborer. It was several years after the founding of the “Bund.” There was great excitement across the cities and towns. In Lodz and in Pietrokow there was strong revolutionary work happening. Belchatow, which was in close contact with the aforementioned cities, was also broken by these voices.

The existence of this Bund organization was not accepted by the leaders of Jewish life in Belchatow. They felt a danger to their leadership and they took up an opposition. The first opponent was the Rav [religious leader] who was very revered in the town. He led a large yeshiva [religious studies seminary, school for men], and his influence there was great. His speeches against the “Bund” (he called them “union–niks”) became more enraged, and went so far that the Lodz weavers Berel Bines and Khaim Shloime had to leave Belchatow.

Another disturbance, a serious one, was the foremen. They used their power, other than for work, for beatings. Provoked by the factory owners, for whom they transported merchandise to Lodz, they frequently attacked Bundist activists, beating them almost to death. These beatings were stopped by the Lodzer Bundists.

In the Lodzer “Bund” organization, there was an active military man [policeman]. This militia warned the Belchatow foremen not to mix into the Bundist activities of Belchatow. One of the chief militia, the one who put forth this warning

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was Yissochor Abramowycz (today he is in the United States and is a busy professional activist in the Pressers Union Local 35 in the “International” in New York).

This strict warning gave good results and made its impact.

The authorities of the “Bund” went so far that instead of going to the general courts or religious courts, people began turning to the “Bund.” For the most part, the organization declined to get involved in these types of issues.

The influence of the Gerer [chassidic] court was very strongly apparent in Belchatow. The Gerer chassidim held boundless reign, even when the Haskalah movement [“Enlightenment”] moved into the middle of the settlement. A typical event one can describe is with a Jew named Avner. He came to town and opened a cheder [religious school for young children] that was run not according to the Gerer custom. This “sinner of Israel” had to pack his bags quickly and then he left town.

In the whole town, there came one figure “Hatzefira” [“The Siren” Hebrew language newspaper] and one figure “Freint” [“The Friend” Yiddish newspaper].

There were several young people in town who were fired up with a new spirit. They kept themselves discreetly as Maskilim [“Enlightened”]. These were two brothers Yoel Leyb and Velvel Goldstajn, Shia Langnas, Yekhiel Meyer Jakubowycz, Dovid Luszczonowski, Yekhiel Meyer Krawicki, and others.

There was a second group of Maskilim among the Beis Medrash [“Study Hall”] young men. In this group were: Eli Twardowski, Aron Pinkhas Borenstajn, Moishe Shmulewycz, and Zalman Pudlowski. They read newspapers and Jewish literature in secret. They also had discussions among themselves about all kinds of issues. They debated very strongly, for example, about the question of whether it was true or not that Hillel Ceitlin could possibly have eaten non–kosher food? …

The group grew. New people joined: Avrohom and Henekh Lieberman, Henekh Pigola, Henekh Gruszke, and Shimon Shmulewycz.

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The majority of the abovementioned group later became activists of the “Bund” in Belchatow.

The opening of the Society “Kultur” [“Culture” youth workers' organization] made a huge impression on the Belchatower youth. Almost the entire group of Maskilim from the Beis Medrash [“Study Hall”] young men joined up with the Society. In the first administration were these Maskilim: Avrohom and Henekh Liberman, Eli Twordowski, Moishe Shmulewycz, Zalman Pudlowski, Yosef Reikh, and Avrohom Leyb. A library soon opened in the Society, run by Gershon Perkol. Aron Bergman was brought from Lodz as a teacher who did the job in an exemplary manner. Evening courses for adults were organized. Long boards placed on trestles decorated the tables around which the students sat. They studied: reading and writing Yiddish, Jewish history, literature, and other topics. In a short time, the location became too small to hold everyone who wanted to study.

There was also political work being done. There were circles, meetings, and lectures about all kinds of political and literary themes.

There also opened a Jewish secular school where there were over 100 students. Other than Bergman, there were others who assisted in the school: Frajtag's daughter and Ita Zilberszac from Lodz, R. Shmulewycz, and R. Likhtenfeld. But the work would not have been so successful if not for the exceptional loyalty of Khaver [friend] Bergman.

 

The Founding of the Bundist Organization

In the summer of 1915, followers of the “Bund,” and members of the “Kultur” Society, expressed their desire that a Bund organization be established in town. The group of Bundists, with Bergman at the head, sent a representative to Lodz (to the committee there) and the Lodzer organization delegated Khaver Yeshaye Zak [to the task].

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The founding meeting had a festive atmosphere. The hall was beautifully decorated and filled with people. Khaver Zak gave a report about goals and tasks of the “Bund” and totally electrified the audience.

The activities of the “Bund” before World War One left deep roots for the renewal of a Bundist movement after the war.

 

Members of the Bundist Party Organization with Azriel Lipinski, Yissokhor Przibilski, Peretz Frajtag, Zalman Pudlowski, Gedaliah Stajn, Shloime Zhitnicki, Avrohom Mordekhai Niwinski, Rivka Konska, Esther Nekha Sztotlander, and others

 

Many types of other Zionist groups also began activity, and later there was also a communist party with which the Bund had a strong ideological dispute.

There was rarely a party in Jewish life that did not exist for us, and each of them, on its own level, bore the many colors of local Jewish life.

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The disputes between the parties very often took on a very sharp edge, but even this was a window into Jewish life.

Among the many colors of our town, the “Bund” still had great influence. It was the strength that awoke our town from its lethargic sleep and it was a given, in fact, that it became one of the strongest parties. The “Bund,” that was rooted in the depths of the Jewish masses, found its real ground in Belchatow. The “Bund” was active in all areas of Jewish life and made great efforts to raise the Jewish generation in a revolutionary–socialist spirit.

For the Bundist country–conference, that took place in the beginnings of independent Poland – in Warsaw – Khaver Aron Bergman went as delegate of the “Bund” in Belchatow. At the first assembly of the “Bund” in Poland (that was in the year 1920) the delegate was Yosef Reikh.

Because of the economic difficulties in the country during the Austrian occupation, many Jewish workers were forced to leave their homes and look for work in unfamiliar places. Their roads took them to Germany, Austria, and Hungary, where there was a shortage of workhands.

The young Bundist Yitzkhok Przibilski was killed in the Hungarian revolution.

In Belchatow, until the end of World War One, there was no visible social movement among the Poles. Since 1905, when Belchatower Polish nationalist organizations held a large street demonstration, where there were many arrests and exiles to Siberia – since then Belchatow did not hear of activity of a Polish organization.

Soon after the war, young Poles appeared with guns on their backs, and their first task was to “revise” [interrogate] the “Kultur” society, with the intention of searching for ammunition…

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At the first election campaign in independent Poland, the “Agudah” [religious party] emerged in Belchatow as a political power. The chassidim shtiebelech [chassidic small synagogues] and schools became places for election meetings and excitement. Also, the “Bund” used the school for election meetings. The Bundist election campaign was very lively, and Aron Bergman, during the election campaign, became even more beloved among the people.

As a result of the elections, the Agudah took first place and the “Bund” took second place.

In Pietrokow, a county sick fund was established, where Belchatow was given an honorary place and representation.

 

The Belchatow Bund Committee in the year 1937
Seated from right: Y. Przibilski, Peretz Frajtag, Zalman Pudlowsk
Standing: E. Lipinski, Leybel Goldmintz, Shloime Zhitnicki, and V. Berkowycz

 

In Belchatow, a division of the Pietrokower Sick Fund was established. This was done in the early years after the War.

In the year 1928, at the city council elections of the Pietrokower Sick Fund, Khaver Zalman Pudlowski was elected, who

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was very beloved by the Jewish and Polish workers' population.

In Belchatow, a youth organization began to form in the first years of independent Poland. It was at that time that the Bundist organization did not have a place, and the Bundist activity was held in the home of Zalman Pudlowski. Here, for all the years, there was also the Bundist library, and here the committee meetings were held, assemblies, celebrations, and so on. The home of Khaver Z. Pudlowski, one can say, was for years a location for the Bundist party. His wife – the warm Khaverte [female friend] Rokhel, welcomed everyone warmly and together with her husband, was beloved in the movement.

The first activists and founders of the Belchatower “Tzukunft” [“Future” youth organization] were: Yakov Paula, Yisroelke Berkowycz, Yakov Yoav, Shimshon Zimberknop, Yitzkhok Przibilski, Gedaliah Stajn, Fradel Khana Saad, and a group of young girls.

The youth BundTzukunft,” was one of our finest youth organizations, both because of their goals and because of their social tasks. Our youth organization raised a new type of youth. It was a pleasure to see how yesterday's cheder [religious] boys, simple and young, became ripe, educated, and proud fighters.

In the later years, we already find a large part of the youth were important activists in the Bundist movement.

Our youth organization had about 100 members, divided into “circles,” that carried the names of famous Bundist leaders Vladimir Medem, Bronislaw Groser, and Y. Likhtenstajn. In these circles all the actual social and political problems were addressed.

During the summer, the youth would take its work into the forest and into the field. Our youths' trips into the forest around the town would attract everyone's attention with their song of revolution and folksongs.

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Our youth was dynamic and participated in almost all events that the party held. The youth's participation added a particular glow to the May First celebrations and demonstrations.

 

Medem Circle

 

The youth also participated in the election events of the party to the Sejm [Polish parliament] and City Council by distributing propaganda literature and giving details to the people.

In the press, our youth held a prominent place. There was not one project, lecture, or meeting of the party where the youth was not avant–garde.

The youth BundTzukunft” led multi–faceted culture activities. Among the youth workers, the “ Yugend Weker” [“Youth Awakener”] (an organ of the Central Committee of Y.B. “ Tzukunft” in Poland) was spread very far, and from time to time distributed their own posters, organized question–answer evenings, meetings, and open lectures, where there were speakers

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sent from the Central Committee of the “Tzukunft,” such as the dear Khaver Leybel Olszanecki, Refoel Riba (today's well known Bundist activist in France), Rena Hister, Sergei Nutkewyc, Berenstajn, Leybel Friedman, and others.

 

The Lichtenstein Circle of the Bundist Youth Organization

 

At the same time, the youth organization ran an extensive promotion for the Jewish book, and almost all the youth were readers in the library. When the Jewish secular schools were established – the “Zukunft” made sure that there would be evening courses for the working youth.

At the gatherings, which the district committee of the “Zukunft” used to organize, our youth always participated. Also, the Belchatow youth organization did not miss the first countrywide gathering in Warsaw of all the “Zukunft” organizations, arranged by Tz.K. and Y.B. “Zukunft.”

From time to time, our youth organized general meetings with the Pietrokower youth khaveirim [friends].

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Alongside the multifaceted activities in the political areas, our youth organization took care of the physical culture of the youth, and founded the sports club “Morgenstern” [“Morningstar”].

 

Gathering of Pietrokower and Belchatower Zukunft activists

 

The older khaveirim actively participated in the work of the youth. People from the youth itself began to participate and take on work:

Yitzkhok Przibilski – a weaver laborer, he was – thanks to his older brother who later became known as the Bundist leader Sukher – was pulled in very early on into the youth organization. Yitzkhok possessed a tremendous determination and loyalty. Until 1930, when he left Poland, he served in our organization like a soldier.

Similar to Yitzkhok, there was Yankel Pizlo who worked actively as well. He came from a poor tailor family. Always sickly, he nonetheless gave of himself completely to the youth movement.

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Moishe Yakubowycz – son of the well–known Bundist family Czimbal, came forward and became one of the leading individuals in the youth movement. By nature, Moishe was very energetic, and this often expressed itself in his work. Very often, he would attend the “circles,” and “meetings.” His bass voice left the impression that he was angry, but in truth, in real life, he was a good–natured and devoted friend. Today, he is in Argentina.

Gedaliah Stajn [Stein] – As a young man, he was already attracted to the work, thanks to his sister Perel Laya, who at that time, already belonged to the Bundist organization. By nature, he was a chassid [pious follower]. He possessed an unusual preciseness, was always dissatisfied, but gave a lot of time for working with the youth. He was a member of the Youth Committee. For many years – also a member of the Party Committee. Because of his precision, he was the regular treasurer of the organization. Tragically, Gedaliah died during the Nazi occupation.

 

Peretz Frajtag

 

Peretz Frajtag, Dovid Frajtag's son. As a young student, he was attracted to the workers' youth and he joined the youth society of the “Zukunft.” Thanks to his intelligence and sharp intuition, he moved into the front ranks of our youth. He went to France for further studies. When he returned, he began again to take the honored positions in the Bundist movement. He became the chairman of the committee of the “Bund,” came on as speaker

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in the “circles,” “gatherings,” and meetings. He becomes a correspondent for the PPS [Polish Socialist Party] “Robotnik.” One can sense that he was becoming an important social activist not only in our movement, but also in the whole city. Had the World War not cut off his young life, he would have achieved great successes in his social activity.

Naftali Huberman – came from a simple working family. He joined the movement as a very young man. He read an enormous amount, and worked on himself without end. He became a respected activist. Today he is in Argentina.

Menakhem Huberman – Naftali's younger brother, under whose influence he came to our organization. As someone who was thirsty, he drank in the books from our library. He possessed a strong urge to be educated, read a lot, and was blessed with an incredible memory. Very quickly, Menakhem became the intellectual leader of the youth. He was a very kind type, but had very little practicality in everyday life. If Menakhem would have had the opportunity to study – he would certainly have held an important position. In 1930, he left for Russia. With his intellectual refinement, Menakhem brought a higher level into the work of the youth.

Heshke Goldmintz – came from a completely different environment. His father Yitzkhok, contrary to all the other parents, was already himself a social activist. He was a progressive individual, secretary of the “Mizrachi” [religious Zionist] organization in our town. By the time he came to our youth, Heshke was already a mature person. He went right through the town's youth organization. Here, in our youth, he quickly became a devoted activist, attended the “circles,” open projects, meetings. He possessed, in great capacity, the skill to relate facts and events in a clear manner. Very quickly, Heshke became a respected activist in the party. He was also elected to the committee and worked diligently in the professional textile guild. During the

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next great strike of 1932, that lasted a complete five months, Heshke was elected to the strike committee. He became one of the most active leaders of the strike – naturally – and then he was chased by the police. The Sanacja [trans: “Sanation” movement was a coalition of rightists, leftists, and centrists whose main focus was the elimination of corruption and the reduction of inflation] newspaper in Lodz featured him as an agent sent especially to lead the strikes.

Shloime Zhitnicki – a child from a proletariat home. While still very young, he came to join the Bundist youth. His entire family was Bundist. His older brothers, Alter and Yosef, were already active Bundists then. While still in the folkshule [Jewish People's School], the young Shloime had the capacity to attract children around him. In our youth movement, because of that, he got his true tikkun [reward]. While still young, he became an activist and one of the young leading friends in the Medem circle. Thanks to his activity, the Medem [trans: Vladimir Medem, one of the Bund's first ideologues] circle became an important component of our youth organization. Shloime also had an inherent capacity for music, theater, sport, and other interests. In our youth organization, he had the opportunity to apply his talents. When the mandolin orchestra was created in the “Zukunft,” he became one of the best students. When a drama circle was created, he took on one of the most important positions. With time, he himself became a stage manager for some things. When the “Morgenstern” was created, once again great opportunities opened for him, in order for him to use his talents. He himself was an exceptional sportsman, and with time, after passing some instructional courses, he became the main instructor of “Morgenstern.” At the same time, he took up the position of speaker in the circles, meetings, and May First celebrations. He was one of our best youth speakers. For a long time, he was chairman of the “Zukunft.” Until he left Argentina in 1938, he was always elected to the party committee. He was secretary of the needle union. When he left Argentina, the organization experienced a palpable loss. Today he lives in Buenos Aires.

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Unfortunately, it is impossible to account for all the youth who grew up during our younger years and later became significant activists in the Bundist movement. We will limit ourselves by mentioning only a few names of our friends who played a significant role in the youth work: Yakov–Yekhiel Kusher, Ezriel Lepinksi, Leyb and Avigdor Makhalski, Tuvia and Dovid Przebilski, Yankel Rotstajn, Zalman Levkowycz, Esther–Rokhel Makhabanska, Shmuel Gelbart, Tzirel and Emanuel Yoav, Netta Goldmintz, Itzik Goldberg. And a group of “SKIFists” [“Sotsyalistisher Kinder Farband” (Polish, “Socialist Children's Union”)] who were sent over in their youth and quickly became activists: Yekhezkel Przeborski, Yerakhmiel Goldberg, Manya Stajn, Soroh Gliksman, Hertzke Frajtag, Rivka and Faige Brajtberg, Yekhiel and Simkha Hertzkowycz, Dina Wiener, Leybel Goldmintz, Avrohom Stajn, and Rivka Pudlowski.

 

“SKIF”

Our Bundist organization also took care of the young generation that was growing up. When – in Warsaw, in the year 1927 – a group of teachers and “Zukunft” activists gathered together, and they created the socialist children's union “SKIF” – a short time later, this children's organization was also created by us. Shloime Zhitinski, Peretz Frajtag, and the author of these lines assumed the responsibility of this project. At the first meeting there already was a group of school children and cheder [religious school] of young boys, and also 11– 12–year–old children who at that time were already working with textiles, tailoring, and shoe making. The news that we wanted to create a children's organization for them that would give them back some children's fun and raise them to become educated people, was accepted with great excitement by the children. Among those in the first group were those later to become activists in the SKIF: Khatzkel Przedborski, Yerakhmiel Goldberg, Simkha Hertzkowycz, and others.

The organization began to grow and it became apparent that founding the SKIF was in fact

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a necessity. As a children's organization of the Bund, the SKIF became the largest in our city. There were about 100 children, divided into a few groups. The SKIF there was a multi–branched educational project.

Frequent outings were organized into the surrounding forests and fields, in order to familiarize the children with the beauties of nature. And it was a pleasure to see how the so–recently uneducated worker–children were so attracted to the beautiful and open nature. With their song and liveliness, they attracted everyone's attention.

With great impatience, the children would wait all week for the Shabbath day, when the outings would take place. During these outings, the children were taught songs, and all kinds of games. There were also discussions. From a largely uneducated group of children, the SKIF raised a healthy, knowledgeable element.

When the Jewish secular school organized evening courses, our children were of the first students there.

Each year, the SKIF would hold an anniversary celebration that always became a great holiday for the entire Bundist movement. The children would fill the program, and no efforts were held back to make these celebrations very impressive. At these celebrations, representatives of the central SKIF were in attendance, such as friend Sergei Nutkevitch, Artur Lermer, and so on. At one of these events, there was the well–known PPS [“Polska Partia Socjalistyczna” “Polish Socialist Party”] leader and Sejm [Polish parliament] deputy, Zygmunt Zaremba.

To the annual celebration, almost always some groups from the SKIF were sent to the “Zukunft.” In that way, the SKIF provided the reserve for the party.

Other than the regular outings, SKIF organized camps during vacation time, where the SKIFists spent several weeks in the fresh air and lived in a real children's republic, run by children and assistants. In one camp in Dombrowa [Dabrowa]

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not far from Tomaszow, Leybel Kirsz and the SKIF activist from Lodz, Zhimalkowska, joined into the work. Shloime Zhitinski did his share of work as well.

Very often, outings to brother organizations were arranged, to Pietrokow and Zdunska–Wola. For a very long time, the children would remember the warm gatherings with the brother organizations.

 

Administration of the SKIF

 

But the most beautiful moments of our “SKIF” was definitely the regional assembly, which hundreds of SKIFists from the surrounding cities and towns would attend, towns such as: Pietrokow, Tomaszow, Zdunska–Wola, Sulejow, and Lodz.

The entire summer camp that came from Lodz, came under the leadership of friend Sergei, and the instructor from “Morgenstern” Jakubowyc. The gatherings turned into a powerful expression of the entire Bundist movement. The street marches with torches at night were unforgettable. Hundreds of children

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aroused the proletariat city with their song. At the end of the torch march, a large number of children gathered on the plaza in front of the theater hall. Friend Sergei spoke from the gallery to those assembled. It is impossible to describe the feelings that reigned over the large assembled crowd when they heard Sergei's thunderous voice against the capitalist order. Those moments will remain forever etched in our memories.

 

Summer camp of the “SKIF”

The “SKIF” brightened all the Bundist events. In particular, the May First demonstrations, when more than 100 SKIFists in blue shirts and red ties would open the Bundist May marches. It was the greatest joy to see how yesterday's students, young cheder boys and working children, were marching, proud and with song, in the May demonstrations.

 

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The “SKIFists” would present gymnastic performances, play football, and so on.

At the SKIF assembly in Warsaw, 1936, an assistant from the Belchatow SKIF was elected to the central SKIF.[a]

The SKIF educated a conscious youth element and produced important activists for the whole Bundist movement. Some of them w already we already mentioned in their connection with the “Zukunft.” We will mention a few of these names here:

Shmuel Glogowski, Hinde Liberman, Mordekhai and Leybel Pietrokowski, Rivka, Faige, Hershel Meyer and Mordekhai Brajtberg, Manya Frajtag, Perl Gliksman, Avrohom Stein, Khana Roiza Gliksman, Mendel and Rivtche Pudlowski (these last ones were active in the illegal movement during the Nazi occupation – both were children of friend Zalman), Faige Dobra Hartman. The teacher R. Konska was very active in the later times.

Sadly, almost all these children died during the German occupation. Only a very small percent survived.

 

Sport

Under the name “Sturm” [“Storm”], football group was founded, that was exclusively for football. Among the founders of this group were: Yerakhmiel Szwarzberg, Leybke Jakubowyc, Shmuel Grinberg, Peretz Frajtag, and so on. The “Sturm” frequently held competitions with local clubs [teams] and also with those of other cities. A short while later, in the place of “Sturm” the “Morgenstern” [“Morningstar”] was established, which made gymnastics events its main focus, and also was busy with football. There were all kinds of sections of gymnastics for boys and girls. After great exertions and efforts, the “Morgenstern” was hardly able to acquire the necessary sport equipment. There was no support from the government or municipality for the “Morgenstern,”

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during a time when sport organizations were often funded. The “Morgenstern” had great difficulties with their location. For almost all the time of their existence, they were located in the Bundist place. But the greatest difficulty was in the struggle for instructors for the gymnastic exercises. In the beginning there was no other way than to use soldiers who were in service. But it seemed that their exercises were not appropriate for our youth. Only when Shloime Zhitinski conducted an instructor's course in Lodz, did it became possible to do the work in an appropriate manner.

 

A group of sportsmen from “Sturm” with the instructor Moishe Yoel Jezhi

 

Very soon, they planned a great opening gymnastics event. For this event, the instructor from the Lodzer “Morgenstern,” friend Hiller, came to Belchatow. The featured gymnastics event made such an exceptional impression that the crowd demanded an encore. From that point on, a tradition was established

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for an annual gymnastics event. In the summer months the exercises were held in the open field. Some of the youths became instructors. One of these was the devoted activist from the “Zukunft” Yerakhmiel Goldberg. For a short time, the “Morgenstern” was united with

 

Sports celebration of the “Morgenstern” with instructor Hiller (from Lodz)

 

the sports section of the leftists in our town. Thanks to the dedicated work of friend Shloime Zhitinski, Zalman Lefkowycz, Avrohom Mendel Goldberg, Noteh Goldmintz, Leizer Huberman, Sh. Sztotlender, Hillel Belchatowski, and others, “Morgenstern” became one of the best sports organizations not only on the Jewish street, but also among the country's distinguished. The sports festivals that

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Notice for gymnastics event (Polish)

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Morgenstern” organized, would always draw a large crowd of people.

It is important to add that the city–president also occasionally came to us with the request for us to participate in a military ceremony. For obvious reasons, we declined.

 

Professional Movement:

The “Bund” held a very prominent position in the professional movement. In the textile guild, that had a few thousand workers, our friend Zalman Pudlowski was the vice–president and for many years one of the busiest activists. The Jewish and Polish workers well knew that in Zalman there was a loyal, honest fighter for their rightful demands. There was not one action or strike when our friends were not in the actual front lines. In Belchatow, the city council had friend Zalman Pudlowski as its chairman. When in 1932, the famous five–month long strike took place, about which the entire Polish press reported – our friends Zalman Pudlowski, Heshke Goldmintz and others, were the main leaders. When the work inspector from Pietrokow held a large open gathering of the textile workers in order to persuade them not to take any action against the factories – he did not want to open the meeting until friend Zalman Pudlowski left the hall. When, upon the inspector's demands the police forced friend Zalman to leave – all the Jewish workers and some Polish workers left the gathering with the song of the “Red Flag” and the “Internationale.” In this guild, the friends Gedalia Stein, Sukhar Przibilski, Levi Goldberg, Alter Rozental, Moishe Jakubowyc, and others, were also very active.

Our friends were also very active in the needle guild, and friend Shloime Zhitinski, almost without interruption, took

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the office of secretary. Among the busy activists of the administration there were Nuteh Goldmintz, Zalman Lefkowycz, and Sh. Zhitinski.

 

First of May Celebrations:

The Belchatow workers annually held May First celebrations and street demonstrations in which many workers from the surrounding areas and villages always participated. The majority were hand weavers. The demonstrations

 

Bundist May First demonstrations

 

were almost always conjoint: the PPS [Polish Socialist Party], the Bund, and the Professional Union. For weeks before May 1, the workers would prepare for the holiday. On May 1, all the factories would stop their work. With particular excitement, our organization would prepare for May First. Weeks before, our choir would echo through Pobjanyc Street, where the Bund was located, with all kinds of fighting songs. All kinds of meetings would take place, and the invocations of the Central Committee would spread to all the Jewish

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workers' homes. The ones who opened the procession were always from the youngest branch of our movement – the “SKIF.” The close to one hundred children, wearing blue shirts and red ties, added a special charm to the marches. Also, the “Zukunft,” in the same uniforms as the “SKIF,” would proudly and energetically march, and always toss out all kinds of slogans. The choir, directed by Emmanuel Yoav, added all kinds of liveliness to the procession. The camp of older Bundists closed the procession.

In the year 1938, in the Bundist procession, the flag of “JOF” [Organization of Jewish Women Workers] was carried, and behind that – were rows of Jewish worker women. This was a new branch of the Bundist family. In this abovementioned organization, the following were active: Rivka Konska, who was the speaker, Esther Nakhe Sztotlender, Brajndel Pojla, and others.

 

In the City Council

In 1925, when Belchatow received rights from the municipal authorities and an elected city council, our organization began directing extensive education work about the significance of this self–governing body for the good of the interest of the people. Closed meetings were held in party locations and open meetings in City Hall with the participation of the representatives of the Central Committee, such as: friends Hershel Himelfarb, Gershon Ziebart, Milman, Efraim Luzer Zelmanowyc, Artur Zigelboim, Moishe Levin, Yitzkhok Samsonowyc, and others. We also shared in appeals, and gave out a special number for the “Head of the Katowa [Katowice] Wakers” and conducted intensive house–to–house propaganda work. To the first City Council, friends Zalman Pudlowski and Henekh Liberman were elected. The devoted work of the Bundist practical efforts in the City Council evoked great recognition for the Jewish workers' population.

Their reports on the City Council tribunal took up most of the meetings. They became the representative speakers of the

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Jewish and Polish poor, and that's how they earned great respect and acknowledgment in town.

It is worthwhile to relay the following facts:

Pobianycer Street was heavily populated by a poor Jewish population and had no water. After long–time demands by the Bundist faction, the magistrate was forced to create a water–well which the town called “Zalman's well.”

The same street, after a stormy conflict with the Bundist faction, had its name changed to Y.L. Peretz [Yiddish writer].

The Bundist faction fought in stormy meetings, with great obstructions from the gallery – and it was quickly implemented – regarding the issue of subsidies for the Jewish secular schools.

At the second City Council elections, in the year 1927, the following were elected from the Bund: Zalman Pudlowski and Shia Zharski.

It came about that the Bundist faction fought against the “Bechatower Berl Kutchme [fur hat]” – which was Shmuel Jakubowyc (alderman), who abused his official position in many ways. As a response to this conflict, he enacted all kinds of gangster–type incidents onto the Bundist councilmen. Understandably, this did not go without backlash from the Bundists.

This resulted in seven Bundists spending three months in a Pietrokow prison.

The influence of the “Bund” increased. In the additional election in the year 1933, friend Shia Zharski was elected as alderman.

The elections to the third City Council were run with a new election ordinance. The number of councilmen was decreased from 24 to 16. Of the elected seven Jewish councilmen, there were four Bundists. The four councilmen were Henekh Liberman, Gershon Brajtberg, Rokhel and Zalman Pudlowski.

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At the beginning of 1933, there was a political action in the country against the new election ordinance. The Bund, along with the PPS [Polish Socialist Party] also in Belchatow, participated in the abovementioned campaign. On March 5 of that same year, there was a General Meeting in the fire department hall. At the meeting, there were representatives from the PPS – Dr. B. Kahn from Tomaszow Maz. [Mazowiecki], and the Bundist Heszke Goldmintz. On January 6, 1934, the class–guild of the Belchatower textile workers organized a large meeting against worsening the social laws. In attendance were the Sejm [Polish parliament] deputy Z. Zaremba, the representatives of the professional class–guilds in the Pietrokow province of Kolodej. The meeting was run by friend Z. Pudlowski.

In connection with the Dollfuss event[1] in February 1934 in Austria, under the Bundist initiative, a protest strike was proclaimed for February 19. During the strike, the entire Belchatower proletariat joined, and that was on a Monday – a market day in town, when the peasants from the surrounding areas were already present during the demonstrations. Our friend, Peretz Frajtag, empowered the many thousands of masses of people with his Polish speech during the street gathering in the new market.

At the same time, just as in the rest of the country, there was a socialist handworkers' union division created in Belchatow as well. The creators of this newly–established handworkers' union were: Mendel Gliksman, Henekh Liberman, Rokhel Pudlowski, Peretz Frajtag, Emanuel Yoav, and others.

The socialist handworkers' union, along with the Bundist City Council faction helped organize handworkers' cards, which actually addressed a life issue for the poor workers in connection to the anti–Semitic guild laws. In the year 1937, the jubilee celebration of 40 years of the Bund, took place in Warsaw. There was a large delegation from Belchatow attending this gathering. These were: Peretz Frajtag, Rivka Konska, Shloime Zhitinski, Yissokhor Przibilski, Esther Nekhe Sztotlander, and Z. Pudlowski. Friend Zalman was decorated by the Bund director Henryk Erlikh, with a medal as main shock–worker

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while selling “the People's Newspaper” during the press days. In order to emphasize the point, during the press days 600 copies of the “People's Newspaper” were distributed – a record number for Belchatow.

 

Culture–Activities of the “Bund

The Bundist organization did not limit itself with internal cultural activities. In spite of the exceptionally difficult material circumstances in which the Jewish workers were living, they managed to create a secular Jewish school. The Polish government, understandably, provided no help. So, with love and devotion, the Jewish people enveloped the school. The teachers often went hungry, but the faith that in this school a new type of person and Jew was being formed encouraged and strengthened them. A cadre of devoted school activists was formed. These were: Henekh Liberman, Melekh Galster, Gershon Brajtberg, Zalman Pudlowski, and others. Evening courses for young and older workers were formed. The location was too small for the large number of children, young and older students.

We also had a local drama circle, which from time to time would present dramatic and review performances under the direction of the teacher of the secular Jewish school, friend Rivka Konska. These were exceptional in the drama circle: friend Emanuel Yoav, Moishe Leyb Fridman,Shloime Zhitinski, Soroh Rivka Zhitinski, Hersh Avigdor Zilberstajn, and others.

The library, the largest in town, had its work done peacefully and modestly. It was the university from which the youth gleaned its knowledge and from which all the above–mentioned activists were created. The quiet and modest librarian, Avrohom Mordekhai Nowinski, contributed greatly to the development of the library.

Thanks to the activity of the Bundist organization, our town was raised to a higher cultural level.

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The Belchatow Veker [“Awakener”]

The Bundist organization would periodically distribute the Belchatow Veker [“Awakener”]. For every city council election, the “Veker” would inform the Jewish population about the multi–faceted work of our representative in the City Council, in the magistrate, and in the professional unions. Reb Zalman would do a lot of work for the “Veker.” Also, friend Levin, well–known Bundist activist in Pietrokow, had a large share in the “Veker.”

 

Press Days

From time to time, the Central Committee of the Bund proclaimed “Press Day” for the “People's Newspaper.” For this event, our committee would mobilize the entire organization. On that designated day, the Belchatower streets were filled with young and old merchants. Our friends always held a prominent place among the exceptional people on the Central Committee for the press event. Once, in fact, our organization was given a large Medem bust, that for many years enhanced the Bund location until the Nazi bandits destroyed it along with the Jewish population.

 

Political Reports

Reports with actual political themes that the Bundist organizations would present, were renowned in our town. Belchatow, which was not one of the large, provincial cities, merited to hear the best Bundist presentations and lectures. There were: the beloved Bund director friend H. Erlikh, B. Szepner, Yakov Pat, Artur Zigelboim, Likhtenstajn, Isser Goldberg, Abrashe Blum, Majzler, Milman, Zelmanowycz, and others. There presentations were really a well of spiritual voice for the population, and the town would wait impatiently for these presentations.

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Resistance – The Reaction at Home

Our town had a great revolutionary tradition. Pogrom incitements never really had a great following with us. The long–time collaborative work between the Jewish and Polish workers gave the expected results. While Pietrokow, Stercow [Strzyżów], and other surrounding areas often suffered from anti–Semitic episodes, our town hardly tasted this. That does not mean that there were no reactionary anti–Semitic elements who wanted to provoke incidents. But they contained themselves because they knew that the Belchatower Jewish and Polish workers would not permit any anti–Semitic provocations.

Not having the opportunity to accomplish anything in the actual city itself, the Polish reactionists began to organize the surrounding village, uneducated elements, and there, the familiar anti–Semitic arguments (your poverty is the Jews' fault, and so on), acquired an easy following. Serious information was passed on, that a band of pogromists were preparing an attack on the Jewish people on a market day. The Bund committee quickly summoned an urgent meeting where it was decided to turn to the PPS [Polska Partia Socjalistyczna, left–wing Polish political party], and also to the leftists, and to the textile union about a general armed resistance. Our request was received positively, and groups were immediately assigned with the goal to create an armed resistance to the NDK [Polish National Democratic Party] and the Sanacja [Sanation (non–partisan bloc) Party] hooligans. Bund representatives went into the Batei Midrashim [Study Halls in synagogues] and called the Jewish population to resistance. The NKD and Sanation “heroes” found out about the preparations, and with great trepidation they called off their planned attack.

This is what happened several times. The Bund always stood ready when Jewish honor was at stake.

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Arrests

The activities of our movement were always a thorn in the eyes of the city reactionists. With irritation, the Sanacja [Sanation] vice–president of the magistrate, Miller, was discussing the Bund. Naturally, his words had great impact on the police, and that's how the first arrest of two busy Bund activists took place: Esther Ekstajn, and Moishe Jakubowycz. Since the Bund at that time was still legal – they created false accusations against some friends, and after they were in prison for a few months in the Pietrokow prison – the courts had to release them. Some time later, the author of these lines was arrested, and also friend Meyer Krizman, but, several months after the arrest, the courts had to release them as well. The wild rage of the city reactionists was particularly focused on friend Reb Zalman Pudlowski. They tried to find all kinds of cunning reasons to be able to send him for a “cure.” Our organization undertook a strong tactic and with the help of the Pietrokow friends Yakov Berliner and Avrohom Weishof (both died in Treblinka) friend Zalman evaded the concentration camp.

The local reactionists believed that with the arrests of the Bundist activists, they would be able to destroy our movement. But they accomplished the opposite.

 

The Activist

It is worthwhile to mention a list of friends who played an important role in the Belchatower Bundist movement between the two World Wars.

Friend Zalman Pudlowski – the son of the well–known religious Jew Moishe Luzer Tomaszower. He was raised in a strictly religious environment. For many years, he learned in Beis Medrash [Study Hall] which was also the yeshiva in town. It did not even occur to his parents that their son who sat day and night in front of the Gemara [Talmud], would secretly be reading

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revolutionary literature. It did not take long, and Zalman became enticed into the revolutionary flow, left the Beis Medrash, and threw himself with all his might and passion into the Bundist work. Along with Yosef Reikh, Eli Twardowski, Avrohom and Henekh Liberman, and others, he established the culture society in Belchatow, which grouped together almost all the youth of our town. Zalman became one of the most important people in the society. The First World War broke out, and the social work was stopped. Zalman was sent into forced labor. As the war ended, and life began to normalize – once again you saw Zalman doing the social work. Along with a group of Bundists, such as Avrohom Leyb, Liberman, Alter Rozental, Berl Leyb, Yissokhor Przibilski, and others, he once again brought life into the Bundist organization. He devoted himself entirely to the movement. He was the speaker in the circles, meetings, and gatherings; he was correspondent for the “People's Newspaper,” secretary of the Bund in Belchatow. He was strongly involved with the intellectual and practical work of the movement. He found time for everything. He was a leader and accomplisher.

 

Zalman Pudlowski

 

For many years, Zalman was vice–president of the textile guild and was loved by the Jewish and Polish textile workers, just as he was hated by the reactionists. He was one of the founders of the Jewish secular school in Belchatow. He was always elected into the City Council, where, along with the other Bundist councilmen, he conducted a bitter struggle for the good of the Jewish population. He was also a councilman in the Sick Fund. You had to be in his house to know what Zalman was for the poor Jewish

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population. He found time for everyone, for everyone – a good word. Because of all his work for society, he neglected his own health. He did not belong to those who give orders to others and themselves do things differently.

Zalman himself was also a member of the Party Council in Poland and was a delegate to almost all the assemblies of the Bund in the years between the two World Wars.

During the time of the great devastation [Holocaust], Zalman was cast into North America, and even in his new home, he did not stop his aid work for anyone who came to him for help. Even today, eight years after his arrival in America, he writes: “This large New York is a tragedy for me, for me Belchatow was perfect.” One can say confidently that Zalman's life story is the story of the entire Bundist movement in Belchatow.

Henekh Liberman – also came from a religious family. He followed Zalman's road from the Beis Medrash to socialism. He was part of each stage of the Bundist movement in our town. In personality, he was the opposite of Zalman. He was cold, always withdrawn, and also bitter in his convictions. With this demeanor, he evoked a serious respect for himself. He was a long–time member of the Party Committee and of other existing blocs. For all the time, without interruption, he was elected onto the City Council. During the Nazi occupation he was in the Lodz ghetto and there was actively involved in the Bund's underground movement. He breathed his final breath in the ghetto.

While the City Council existed, other than the two people mentioned earlier, friend Rokhel Pudlowski (Zalman's wife) was also elected as a member. She came from Pietrokow, became active in the Bundist movement at a very young age, and later – in the Belchatower organization. She died during the Nazi occupation.

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Yehoshua Zharski – from Lodz. He was a devoted activist in the Belchatow Bund organization. He was an alderman in the magistrate for a while. He served the working population in town with heart and soul. He also died during the Nazi occupation.

 

Yissokhor Przibilski

 

Yissokhor Przibilski – He joined the movement as a young man, but he soon became exceptional, and took an important place in the work. He headed circles, took part in meetings, and for a long time was a member of the Party Committee, and a candidate on the City Council elections. Later, friend Yissokhor settled in Lodz, and became an activist in the local Bund organization. During the German occupation, he was part of the local underground of the Bund. According to the report of friend Yakov Nirenberg of Lodz – Yissokhor Przibilski died in Treblinka.

Gershon Brajtbarg: An old, devoted Bundist, a shoemaker. For many years, he was on the Party Committee, and on the administration of the Jewish secular school. Always sick, still there was no work too difficult for him. An exemplary organizer, Reb Gershon was exceptional during the elections to the Sejm [Polish parliament] or to the City Council. In his poor shoe store on Powianyc Street, in Yankel Plakowycz's house, where he lived in one room which was separated with a curtain from the shoemaker's workshop, there were always Bundists present. With the noise of the shoemaker's hammer

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they would spend warm times with him and his wife Golda. We would call Golda “the mother of the Bund.” Friend Gershon and his wife and their two daughters died. The three sons are in Belgium today, and are active there in the Bund's work.

Leybel Pudlowski – a younger brother of Zalman. He came to the Bund in his later years. He acquired the skills quickly and sharply to address issues and problems. He was very active in the movement, ran the circles and led public projects. During the war, he went to Russia, but some time later came back to Poland where he was very active in the partisan movement. After the war, once again he helped re–establish the Bund movement, and was a member of the Central Committee of the Bund. He also belonged to the leadership of the former partisans. Later, he left Poland.

Esther Eksztajn – comes from a very religious and chassidic family. She was very active both with the youth and in the party, and belonged to the leadership of both organizations. Today, she is in Argentina.

We should also mention: Alter Rozental, Berl Leyb, Levi Gerbart, Avrohom and Faivel Naparstek, Yankel Rotstajn, Khamel Dzhialowski, Moishe Yoel Jezhi, Eliye Klug, Berkowycz, Sh. Gelbart, and others.

It is impossible to list all the friends [male and female] who were active in the Bundist movement in Belchatow. Almost all of them were killed. Only a few orphans were miraculously saved. And those who remained, spread all over the world, and remember their home town with love.


Footnote

  1. This was the author of the work of M. Gliksman – (editor). return

Translator's Footnote

  1. Engelbert Dollfuss (4 October 1892 – 25 July 1934) was an Austrian Christian Social and Patriotic Front statesman. Having served as Minister for Forests and Agriculture, he ascended to Federal Chancellor in 1932 in the midst of a crisis for the conservative government. In early 1933, he shut down parliament, banned the Austrian Nazi party and assumed dictatorial powers. Suppressing the Socialist movement in February 1934, he cemented the rule of “austrofascism” through the authoritarian First of May Constitution. Dollfuss was assassinated as part of a failed coup attempt by Nazi agents in 1934. Wikipedia. return

 

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