This work is dedicated to the unknown Zionists of Bukovina who died in Transnistrien on the far side of the Bug and in the harsh North and who unlike us didn't have the joy of seeing the creation of Israel.
The Awakening The First World War had ended. The Jewish people had done their part on all fronts and suffered like no others the consequences of the war and its aftermath. The present was dismal, but the future glimmered with hope. The Balfour Declaration and the later Palestine Mandate were the beginning of a new epoch in the history of the Jewish people.
Very characteristic for the spirit of those days is the article On the Threshold, written by M. Brus which appeared in the East Jewish Newspaper of November 29, 1919 and from which I quote the following lines, there dies the enslaved people of the Diaspora, bleeding from a thousand wounds, on the banks of the Dnieper and the Weichsel, on the swampy plains of Lithuania, on the lowlands of Hungary, on the cold steppes of Siberia, there is heard the groaning of its death rattle. Will the entire Diaspora generation really die on the threshold as occurred with the desert generation? We stand before the threshold, we the young generation, aware of victory and shaken at the same time and don't know if we should give voice to cries of victory or of mourning. We the youth will step over the threshold for our vision is directed forward. And we will make an end to the rootlessness, the tragic superficiality of forfeited lives. Only your Diaspora soul, your great longing will we take with us like a holy relic into the new life.
Although there was no lack of anti-Semitism in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, the Bukovina Jews, because of their rising influence and the key positions that they had won in politics, business and the culture of the land, were filled with a feeling of equality and security which they paid for with love of their fatherland and with absolute loyalty to the monarchy. Now the political landscape had changed. The biter experiences of the Jewish brothers from the Romanian Old Kingdom presaged a period of bitter fighting for equal rights and against anti-Semitic persecution, and this perception was only slightly softened by an optimistic judgment of the new direction, which with the help of the victorious Entente was documented in certain international commitments which Greater Romania was obligated to honor.
It was a turning point in Jewish history. If many had drawn the correct conclusion from the contemporary events and had they within the frame of the possibilities available at that time gone to Eretz Israel and had the Jewish people in its totality grasped the full significance of these changes, it is possible that the creation of the Jewish state and also certain political developments would have gone forward at a faster pace and when the great catastrophe took place a rescue net would have existed to catch those who were falling.
There was a relatively small stream of people who went to the Jewish land, small in comparison to the number of people swept up by the trauma and turbulence of that time, which set masses of people in motion and which led to the tragic situation of the Jewish people.
Also, only few from Bukovina went to Eretz Israel, although these few were young people, deeply permeated by the Zionist ideal who willingly gave up their homeland and often promising careers and success for hard physical labor on the stony and swampy ground of Palestine.
A letter from that time written by Jehoshua Bierer, an effective leader in Haschomer Hazair in its beginnings and son of Dr. Josef Bierer, which was published in the Ostjüdischen Zeitung of July 8, 1921 testifies to healthy optimism and willingness to make sacrifices of those few. When I was in the 3rd class in the gymnasium wrote Jehoshua Bierer from Eretz Israel, the mathematics professor said to me that he would send me to break stones since I was worthless for anything else. In spite of the fact that I graduated from the University, I followed the good advice of the professor and have taken up stone breaking. The work here is very honorable and rewarding.
The masses remained. The laws of inertia proved to be stronger than the call of history and soon the honeymoon of the Balfour Declaration was over and political and financial difficulties started which made the emigration of large masses to Eretz Israel impossible.
The Bukovina Jews were enthusiastic about Zionism for a long time. Herzl's brand of Zionism with its Western stamp found a lively echo among the intellectuals, to whom the cultural, political and also language conditions from which the creators of modern political Zionism emerged were not unfamiliar. Although through language and customs, they were partially assimilated into German culture, they had by no means lost their connection with Jewish culture and the spiritual world of Judaism or given up their national uniqueness and their national Jewish thinking and consciousness. The specific political cultural political conditions in this piece of land where five nationalities coexisted, as one would say today favored the retaining of the Jewish character.
In the wider strata of people, Yiddish was still the everyday language and the number of those who were true to the Torah and closely tied to the Jewish writings as well as the adherents of Chassidism and followers of the various Zaddikim dynasties were not small. The connection with neighboring Galicia caused a fluctuation of the population in the border areas and from time to time brought new residents into Bukovina Judaism whose culture was deeply rooted in the Hebrew scriptures. During the Romanian era, the relation with the neighboring Bessarabia which at certain times was a path for refugees from the Ukraine and Russia, among them valuable scholars and propagators of old and modern Hebrew culture had a similar stimulating effect. The different social strata were always open minded to the National concept and the influence of the intellectuals on their thoughts and emotions was not always small. The new times found them emotionally prepared for the growth of the Zionist movement after the Balfour Declaration and the day of San Remo, but the practical personal conclusions that sprang from the identification with the idea moved in a modest framework compared to the drama of that time. And so the masses remained in their Galuth lands [lands of exile], which had changed their political faces, in spite of the unpromising future and the visible signs of the beginning of the difficult fight that stood before them. And so began the work of the present, as the fight for equality and humane living conditions was called in the Zionist terminology, a fight with many successes and many disappointments and setbacks until the fatal end.
Work of the Present Work of the Present was also part of the Zionist work program in Bukovina and was divided into two main areas, that of the external state politics and that of the internal Jewish politics. Externally, the concern was the growth of anti-Semitism, the fight for formal and actual citizens' equality, the acquiring of federal citizen's rights, the safeguarding of national cultural rights as a minority in the state, the defense of our commercial position and participation in the political life of the state. Internally, the concern was the winning of the Jews to Theodore Herzl's solution, the strengthening of the Zionist influence on the Jewish masses and the Jewish youth, the fight against assimilation of different shades, elimination of internal fighting between Jewish parties, the fight for the use of the Hebrew language in Jewish schools, promoting the use and spread of the Hebrew language and culture and Jewish cultural values in general as well as the building up of social support systems in connection with corresponding Jewish organizations abroad.
Zionist thinking permeated both types of our Work of the Present, but it was, however expressed more visibly in the area of internal work. The glow of the years after the war with their messianic hope was soon extinguished and it gave way to a ridged restraint. The realization of the Zionist ideals seemed again to be displaced into the future and now the concern was for the assertion of the Jewish people in the Diaspora and the improvement of their living conditions there until the day of fulfillment had come. In spite of the general realization of the necessity for the Work of the Present in all its forms, there was no reduction in fanatic Palestine work, which in the Zionist state organization of Bukovina saw a harmful dissipation of resources. Now and then this theme dominated the scene at many conferences and offered a wide field for internal arguments. Seen in retrospective, one can't deny the necessity for the Work of the Present, but on the other hand, it is also true that later a time had come when an unclouded outlook dominated by illusion and an endless optimism should have grasped the hopelessness of our situation and the onrush of the impending catastrophe. It could be that the piercing scream and appeal for resistance by all means was lacking, the hopeless rearguard action against the anti-Semitic wave devoured all energy, inter-party fights clouded the picture, and questions of the Aliyah were handled then as before in the usual routine manner. It never came to resistance at the last minute and then came the surprise attack and we sat in the trap.
Characteristic for the political philosophy of the Bukovina Zionists in state  politics was their tendency to go their own national  way and not to affiliate themselves with the existing Romanian state political parties. For this purpose, separate organizational forms were created to make possible an independent national politic and which encompassed the majority of the Bukovina Zionists. But one would be incorrect in drawing the conclusion that all the Bukovina Jews who didn't fit into this framework which over time changed its form were not Zionist or even anti-Zionist. This could only be said about members of the Bund, Jewish Communists and members of Agudath. Except for these groups, the overwhelming majority of Bukovina Jews were sympathetic to the goals of Zionism and even though Zionist activity and political participation generally went hand in hand within the framework created by the Zionist organizations, there were not few outside of this framework who were devoted to Zionism.
That which, however distinguished the path of the separate political organizations of the Zionists was their pride and confident attitude and the abandoning of all forms of stadlon (that is personal influence of the senior figures in the reigning politics) and the courageous insistence on right and law. It there was a possibility to go their own way in elections, they took it; if this possibility didn't exist, one didn't go along with the crowd, but allied themselves with allies outside the Jewish camp, who were the least influenced by the Jewish point-of-view, or who represented the strength of freedom and democracy. This political path led to no few conflicts in the Jewish camp with all those who believed in taking other paths.
Already in the first years after the war, it came to an intense fight with the party of the then member of parliament, Dr. Beno Straucher who even in the new Romanian era wanted to assert his earlier position of leadership. Indeed, he named his politics and party National Jewish, but his methods of assuring his influence with the people and asserting his leadership position conflicted with what the post-war Zionist generation expected of their leaders and the ethical demands it placed on them. In spite of his repeated public profession of being a Zionist he stood remote from every practical Zionist effort and also in politics, he went ways which conflicted with Zionist concepts of state politics and Work of the Present.
There also was missing the connection with the source of Jewish knowledge and his gift of rhetoric which appealed to the masses was so filled with conventional pat phrases that it failed to appeal to the intellectuals. An opponent like Dr. Mayer Ebner was far superior to him in culture, intellectuality, ethics and connection with Jewish values and the Jewish intellectuals, above all the Jewish youth streamed to him and the party he led. Then the old politician who in no way wanted to cede his position resorted to morally questionable methods which overshadowed his past good works. His personal fight against Dr. Mayer Ebner took on ugly forms. He gained the support of the Romanian Liberal Party which in spite of its liberal name represented the peak of reactionary politics in Romania. Dr. Straucher allied himself with this party whose officious organ, Viitorul preached anti-Semitism. Only so could he achieve some success until he stepped down from the political stage. His Zionist opponents, above all Dr. Mayer Ebner, showed a sense of nobility after his fall. A generous honorary pension was guaranteed for him by the Jewish community of Czernowitz and as he expressed the wish to spend his last days in Eretz Israel he was also offered this possibility, which however he did not take advantage of.
Inside the Jewish not anti-Zionist camp there was a trend which similar to Dr. Straucher's view was against the so called combining of state politics and Zionism and which rejected national Zionism, so named by one of its leaders. It was the organization of the Romanian Jews, led at first by Dr. Adolphe Stern and later by Dr. Wilhelm Fildermann whose main field of activity was in the Old Kingdom. Also, the dispute with this organization and the small circle of its Bukovina adherents marked the path of Bukovina Zionism. The ideological state political fight also involved the so called registered Jews who were members of Romanian parties. Also among them some were Zionist leaning, but their political course conflicted with the accepted concept of Work of the Present and state politics.
After this general description, I want in the following lines to present some data that describes the state political activity of the Bukovina Zionists.
At the beginning of 1922, the Zionist State Committee of Bukovina entered in the election battle by introducing the candidacy of its president, Dr. Mayer Ebner on the list of the opposition to the Liberal Party and approved an alliance with the Romanian politician, Dr. Dori Popovici who was considered a friend of the Jews. On the list of the Liberal candidates was Dr. Benno Straucher in the Chamber and Dr. Salo von Weisselberger, former mayor of Czernowitz during the Austrian era in the Senate. The opposition candidates had no success and again the next year competed against the Liberal government. At that time, there still was no organizational framework and state politics was led by Zionist state committees which called mass meetings and took positions on questions of the day as for example in March 1923 when the question of the constitution was discussed. The involvement of the Zionists in state politics aroused the opposition of the U.E.R. and at their congress in February 1923 Dr. Adolph Stern, the president of the U.E.R. and at the same time, president of the K.H. in the Old Kingdom supported the idea of Zionism, but was against the so called National Zionism, that is, he was against Zionist state politics. The pure ideological dispute with U.E.R. didn't prevent the sending of Dr. Mayer Ebner to the conference called in Bucharest in 1923 attended by the representatives of Judaism from all four Romanian provinces because there the political differences didn't take on any ugly personal overtones.
This internal Jewish conflict appeared however to create among the ranks of the Zionists the desire to define the scope of their activity within the framework of state politics and this desire was expressed by a decision to discuss the issue at the 10th state conference of the Bukovina State Zionist organization which was held in January 1926. It was concluded at the conference that the Zionists of Bukovina, have now as before the greatest interest in the question of Jewish work of the present, and in view of the internal Jewish conditions, the conference also decided that the Zionist organization wouldn't take an active part in state politics. At the same time, the party council of the Bukovina State Zionist organization decided that activity in state politics should not be a part of the Zionist program and to complete the fusion of the Zionists with the new Jewish Unity Party on the basis of parity. The combined parties were to create the national organization (Nationalverband) of Bukovina Jews and to strive for a alliance of all the Jews of Greater Romania. Already in the next months the newly created Unity Party allied itself with Prof. Sbiera's newly created opposition block in the City Council (Gemeinderat) election.
In May of the same year parliamentary elections took place. The Unity Party joined forces with the party of General Averescu which took over power after the fall of the Liberal party. Averescu's Bukovina list was led by Minister Dori Popovici and their candidates Dr. Mayer Ebner and Karl Klüger were elected, the first to Parliament and the second to the Senate.
The idea of national State politics struck roots and won more and more ground, also in the other provinces of Romania. At a conference of the four State Zionist organizations of the country chaired by Dr. Mayer Ebner which took place in December 1924, the decision was made to create a national organization of the Jews in Greater Romania. The development of this organization was slow but steady. After a fairly long time the decision was made to empower the state executive, to at the correct moment start working with the Jewish national citizens parties for the purpose of participating in state politics with the goal of uniting in a national organization which would be created at a later point in time. Years went by and first at the beginning of 1928 preparations were made for the creation of a country wide association of the Jews in Romania which was to combine the Jewish national associations of the various provinces. The country wide association, called the Federal Party [Reichspartei] was formed and meanwhile negotiations were conducted with the U.E.R. to bring it into a common political organization for all the Jews of Romania, but only much later, in February 1930, was formed the Central Committee [Zentralrat] of the Jews of Romania whose members consisted of representatives from the Jewish Federal Party and the U.E.R.
The period after the election of the candidates of the Unity Party to the law making bodies of Romania in May 1926 was a period of consolidation for this party when its representatives assumed positions of power in the Jewish Communities.
The year 1927, brought a setback, however. In July, 1927 Parliamentary elections held by the Liberal Party which was again at the helm brought the ruling Liberal Party, the expected government dowry, that is a large majority. The opposition party had no success. The Unity Party took a benevolent view of Dr. Markus Krämer's candidacy, but otherwise remained neutral in this election. Dr. Straucher's Jewish National People's Party allied itself with the U.E.R. and their candidates Dr. Straucher and Dr. Salo von Weisselberger were elected from the Liberal list, the first for the Chamber and the second in the Senate. The idea of an independent national politics suffered a setback. The mentality of joining with the ruling party to gain protection was successful and caused a strong reaction from national circles. The internal Jewish fight became more intense.
The year 1928 brought a change in the political life of Romania. The National Zaranisten [Democratic National Farmer's Party] took its turn at the helm of government. Even the Jews of the nation expected an improvement in their situation. The liberally inclined Sauciuc Saveanu, professor of history at the Czernowitz University became Minister for Bukovina.
In November of 1928 the Jewish National Association for Bukovina joined the Democratic National Farmer's Party in an election alliance since the efforts to create a Jewish candidate list were unsuccessful. Dr. Ebner, the president of the Jewish National Association ran in the Czernowitz election district for the Senate and was elected. Altogether seven Jews were elected to the Chamber, three of them as candidates of the Jewish National Association, Dr. Josef Fischer and Dr. Theodor Fischer (Jewish National Association of Transylvania) and lawyer Michael Landau (Zionist Organization of Bessarabia, the Social Democrat Dr. Jakob Pistiner (Czernowitz) and three National Zaranists. Five Jews were elected to the Senate, Dr. Mayer Ebner as candidate of the Jewish National Association of Bukovina, Chief Rabbi Dr. Niemirower as Virilist in his position as representative of the Jewish Community and three National Zaranists. The four Jewish Parliamentarians who were representatives of Jewish National Associations, Dr. Mayer Ebner, Dr. Theodor Fischer, Dr. Joseph Fischer and Lawyer Michael Landau founded a Jewish parliamentary club.
In the summer of 1931 new elections for the Romanian parliament took place. The National Zaranist regime was replaced by the Jorga regime. Meanwhile, the idea of a Jewish candidate list was maturing. The list was announced and achieved notable success. It won about 64,000 votes or approximately 2.29% of the votes. Dr. Mayer Ebner won in Czernowitz, Dr. Manfred Reifer in Kimpolung, Dr. Max Diamant in Storozynetz, Dr. Theodor Fischer in Soroka and Dr. Joseph Fischer in Marmoros. In the Bukovina district, no less than three Jewish candidates were elected as deputies. However, according to the agreement to make possible a representation of the Jews from the Old Kingdom and Bessarabia by by Jewish National Deputies from these provinces. Dr. Mayer Ebner and Dr. Theodor Fischer abdicated their mandates in favor of Attorney Michael Landau and Dr. Samuel Singer at the request of the central board of the Jewish Federal Party. The national education work of the Zionist organization contributed to this success in the election.
The new government did not endure for long. After hardly one year it was toppled and replaced by the government of Vajda Voevod. In July 1937 new elections took place which again brought success to the list of Jewish candidates. The required two percent was again exceeded and five candidates from the list were elected. Elected were Dr. Mayer Ebner in the two Bukovina districts Czernowitz and Storozynetz, Attorney Michael Landau in the two Bessarabian districts Soroka and Chotin as well as Dr. Josef Fischer in Marmaros-Szigeth. Dr Ebner chose Czernowitz and Dr. Ernest Martonin took his seat in Storozynetz. Attorney Landau chose Chotin and Advocate Misu Weissmann took his seat in Soroka.
Parallel with these successes in the domain of state politics ran the successes in local politics. Toward the end of 1930 Karl Klüger, president of the Bukovina Joint Committee and one of the leaders of the Unity Party became vice mayor of Czernowitz. Other prominent members of the Zionist movement who over time held important positions on the City Council and Municipal Council were Dr. Salomon Kassner, Dr. Markus Krämer, Dr. Manfred Reifer and Klara Klinger.
Although the national idea was popular, fate would have it that a dramatic rise of the democratic element in Romania was almost immediately followed by period in Germany in which National Socialism leapt from success to success and the anti-Semitic parties of Eastern Europe were encouraged. The fight against anti-Semitism in the Romanian Gola [exile or Diaspora] became a rear guard action in which despite heroic battles, position after position was lost.
The following lines will demonstrate how in the course of the years the signs piled up and grew into a warning message of history which could not be misinterpreted.
The sound of weapons had hardly stopped and the wounded were still not healed, the pogrom had decimated the Jewish people in the Ukraine and already the sign of the swastika appeared warningly in our firmament. The Jews of Bukovina already felt the change in early times, but in the 20s the signs became ever clearer. For a while, it was little bee stings that revealed the anti-Semitic spirit, for example, a temporary ban on the distribution of foreign news papers or the exclusion of Jews when judges were appointed at the beginning of 1923 in the Austrian times, there were a considerable number of Jewish judges in Bukovina or the obligation put on Jews for one year to prove their citizenship, but certain activities among the Romanian youth and students gave far more grounds for concern. Fascism began to find followers in Romania and anti-Semitic elements began to become involved.
In December 1933 A.C. Cuza, an anti-Semitic professor at the Iasi University founded his Christian National League and at the beginning of 1923 preparations were made to organize Fascist groups in Romania (FNR). The demand for numerus clausus [limit on number of students] for Jewish students was raised and anti-Semitic disturbances at the universities of the land became the order of the day. Also, the swastika appeared in many villages in Bukovina. Jewish students at the Czernowitz University were driven from the school by Romanian students armed with clubs and cudgels who were screaming, Jews to Palestine. The club houses for the Jewish student organizations Hasmonaea and Heatid were defaced with Swastikas. The Jews reacted. It came to battles between the Jews and the anti-Semitic students after which the Jews were arrested and later released because of the intervention of the leaders of the Zionist organization with Dr. Ebner at their head. Swastikas appeared at the Czernowitz University and Fascists carried out autodafes in the streets of the city burning newspapers considered to be Jewish. In the Bukovina provinces, dreadful cases of maltreatment of the Jews by police and customs officials occurred. Abuse of Jewish soldiers in the barracks was an every day occurrence.
Jewish youth defended themselves against anti-Semitic attacks. Jewish students in respected institutions who tore down the Nazi propaganda were thrown out of school. The Zionist organization of Bukovina held protest meetings. Their legal protection bureau intervened with success in many cases, and the Presidium was able to obtain military protection as on the occasion of the Cuzist conference in Kimpolung. The East Jewish Newspaper spoke out courageously and condemned with sharp words attacks by civilian, political and military organs.
The year 1924 brought a strengthening of the anti-Semitic wave in the city and provinces. In the provinces traveling Jews were attacked beaten senseless with fists and clubs. In Czernowitz student followers of Cuza broke into Jewish theater performances, demonstrated in the streets of the city in public plazas with the cry, down with the Jews, smashed the windows of Jewish establishments and beat Jewish passersby. Police protected the demonstrators and when Jews tried to defend themselves or tried to take counter measures they were threatened with arrest. The news spreading among the Romanians that the Jews planed a revenge attack on the Romanian National Theater led to a concentration of the military. The odd result of this situation was that for a time, the authorities forbade Jewish theater performances.
A short time later, the anti-Semitic attacks, introduced with revolver shots started again in the city of Czernowitz and in the parks surrounding the city and they turned into a regular hunt of the Jews. A poor Jewish pretzel vendor in one of the gardens was nearly beaten to death and the police remained passive. In a lead article in the East Jewish Newspaper (What to do? Our Rallying Cry), Dr. Mayer Ebner called for the Jews to defend themselves. Jewish self defense groups were organized. It came to a clash in the center of the city with anti-Semitic extremists in which the leader of the extremists was wounded by being punched and stabbed. The consequence of this event was that a judicial process was initiated against Dr. Ebner. The officials, aware of their guilt hesitated to proceed further and the process was ended.
Also the years 1925 and 1926 were rich in anti-Semitic incidents in city and state. 1925 is the year of the birth of the Iron Guard, whose leader Zela Codreanu in 1924 shot the new prefect of the city of Iasi, Manciu who advocated order. Codreanu was freed by the court in 1925 which was heartily celebrated by his adherents. In fall of 1926 the well known Fallik[B] affair exalted anti-Semitic acts.
The year 1927 brought growth to the anti-Semitic Iron Guard, led by Zelea Codreanu, which compared to Cuza's group was considered moderate. The rising hate of the Jews led Dr. Myer Ebner to speak about the Jewish question and anti-Semitism in the Romanian Parliament and he as well as members of Jewish clubs repeatedly sponsored interpellations in which they took positions on anti-Semitic attacks. Mistreatment of Jews by soldiers or officers as for example in 1927 in the Bukovina village of Jablonitza or in railroad trains and on train stations, as on the Dorna-Darmanesti section in August 1927 became ever more frequent.
In December 1927, just at the time of Dr. Weizmann's visit to Romania a student congress attended by thousands of Romanian students was held in Oradea-Mare (Grosswardein) and it was accompanied by severe excesses, devastation, destruction of synagogues, plundering and attacks both there and in Cluj (Klausenburg), the capital of Siebenbuergen.
The National Zaranistic regime of 1928 at first brought some small degree of relief. Maniu published a declaration against anti-Semitism. The leader of the new democratic regime seemed to be serious about fighting anti-Semitic excesses. However, this breather didn't last long. Anti-Semitic feeling and thinking had set itself to deeply in the body of Romanian society and the success of National Socialism in Germany inspired the Romanian anti-Semites to new actions. Also, the National Zaranistic regime proved itself to be to weak to combat them, all the more so because the anti-Semitic intellectuals had succeeded in infecting the souls of the Romanian farmers with this poison and Maniu's party was primarily a farmer's party. There was also no lack of anti-Semites within the leadership of the National Zaranistic party, the Jew hating Vaida Voevod being one of them.
In September 1929 brutal attacks took place in Radauti, Dornestie and its surroundings. Jews were attacked at railroad stations, thrown out of trains and sometimes robbed. In spite of the National Zaranistic regime the police and gendarmerie stood idly by while these attacks took place.
In 1930, these excesses took an ever more brutal form. Clearly, the success of Nazi success and propaganda encouraged the Romanian anti-Semites. In the summer of this year anti-Semitic attacks of a vicious nature took place in Vama, Kimpolung, Balaceana and Suceava. It came to mishandling of a district prefect and a police chief and the truth of what Dr. Ebner had predicted in a tua res agitur [for your benefit] article directed at the regime. In Balaceana and Suceava brutalization and plundering of Jews took place. Jews were notified of the day of reckoning and were told to sell cheaply. Also in other parts of the land like Balti and Borschaanti-Semitic hooliganism raged. Borscha was torched by Cuza's followers, 230 houses, three churches and four synagogues were burned and hundreds of Jewish families were made homeless.
The Jewish Parliament Club felt it was necessary to call a conference to which all the Jewish communities and organizations of the empire were invited which was attended by approximately 200 delegates and at which, protests were made against the ever more threatening forms of the growing anti-Semitism. Dark shadows were falling over the Romanian Jews and still worse could be seen coming in the future. German National Socialism celebrated triumphs. On September of 1930 107 National Socialists entered the Reichstag. One speaks of Germany's Black Sunday after which a difficult time dawned for German Jews; but the future proved that it was even a blacker day for Romanian Jews as well as for the Jews of Europe in general and the Jewish people in its totality. In Bucharest inflammatory National Socialist pamphlets written in German were distributed.
The anti-Semitic rabble-rousing went further. Mobs of farmers came from the villages into the provincial cities of Bukovina and had gatherings. The Jews of these towns lived through hours of fear. Anti-Semitic fanatics who belonged to the Iron Guard and the Archangel Michael were freed by the courts.
In spring of 1931, the National Zaranistic government was followed by a cabinet of Professor Nicolai Jorga. Jorga had a good personal relationship to the anti-Semitic leader A. C. Cuza and he had a strange attitude toward the Jews. We will treat the Jews humanely but they must behave humanely he declared shortly after taking office. The thorn in this humanely declaration is obvious and it elicited a well thought out reply by Dr Ebner. Jorga's cabinet was disappointing and short lived and in its place in 1932 came the government of Vajda Voevod who in spite of his declaration to the contrary proved that he had no good will toward the Jews.
In addition to the usual charges against the Jews that provided the excuse for the lashing out of sadistic and xenophobic instincts and which were rooted in religious and racial prejudices, can be added the Pauschal accusation that the Jews were the spreaders of Communism in the world and in Romania.
German National Socialism was on the march. Out of East Prussia came news about the pogrom mood that ruled there. Representatives of the approaching Third Reich arrived in Romania to meet with the leaders of the Cuza's LANC (Liga zur Verteidigung der christlichen Nation) [League for Defense of the Christian Nation] to feel them out. The poison of Nazi propaganda spread in East Europe, primarily in Poland and a wave of anti-Semitic attacks rolled through these lands. Also in Czernowitz, a trial of Jewish youth accused of spreading Communist propaganda provided an excuse for anti-Semitic excesses at the beginning of 1933. The process of commercial impoverishment of the Jewish masses of Romania continued. In the communities of Bukovina, the tax officials committed atrocities when collecting taxes from the Jews. Under the most difficult conditions, continuous insults, vituperation and actual physical attacks the parliamentarians of the Jewish club carried on their fight in Parliament for the defense of their people. Anti-Semitic speeches by Cuza were interrupted by heckling and were answered, insults were reacted to and one defended oneself against actual attacks. Deputy Michael Landau was mishandled by Cuza's followers in the chamber. Deputy Misiu Weissman (later under the name Namir, ambassador from Israel to the Benelux countries) was attacked by Cuza's son during a debate about an article on ritual murder that appeared in the student publication Curentul Studentesc and he defended himself.
The 30th of January, 1933 had arrived. Reich [German Reich] President von Hindenburg had named Adolf Hitler to Reich Chancellor. One still didn't grasp in Jewish circles the fatal significance of this event, but the consequences were not long in coming. The brutal campaign of extermination against the Jews started with terror, boycott, plundering, pogrom agitation and Jewish fatalities. In Romania like in Eastern Europe, the naming of Hitler as Reich Chancellor was a signal for the flaring up of the anti-Semitic movement. In Czernowitz, new attacks took place in February, 1933 and the Polish Telegraph Agency reported that the anti-Semitic demonstrators were armed with bricks and clubs. A short time later the Jewish Pavilion Theater was destroyed by demonstrators. Also in other parts of Romania, anti-Semitic agitation increased and with it, the feeling of unease and threat. Cuza's storm battalion (Lancieri) as well as the Iron Guard and the Arch Angel Michael saw that their time had come and armed themselves for the storm.
Vajda's government fell and gave way to a liberal government under the leadership of Ducas. In 1934 new elections took place in which the Jewish Federal Party [Reichspartei] didn't succeed in getting the minimum 2% vote. In Czernowitz not Dr. Straucher, but the Jewish member of the Liberal Party, Michaelson was elected from the Liberal ticket. The premium system won the Liberal Party the majority and insured it the government, although shortly after the election, Minister President Duca was shot by members of the Iron Guard. Now the anti-Semites went for broke. Their fight was not only directed against the Jews, but also against the ruling party and using the recipe perfected elsewhere, their terror was to make the country ripe for their storm and their government's ascending to power. The coming years until the departure of the Liberal government at the beginning of 1937 were marked by efforts of the Liberals to fight off the anti-Semitic spirits which they in part called upon themselves.
In view of the growing danger, all the Jewish parties published an appeal to the public conscience which to be sure made an impression, but had no lasting influence. Parallel developments in other countries already had made any change of softening of the anti-Semitic course impossible. At that time there were already clear sighted Jews who could see the terrible shape of the future. One letter from a German Jew published 11/27/1935 in the East Jewish Newspaper reproduced in shortened form below testifies: The death sentence for the Jews of Germany has been pronounced. There is an absolute will for extermination which will execute itself in every form. The poison emanating from Germany spreads like a plague the danger for Jews grows everywhere
In March 1936 there was an occurrence in Czernowitz which was reminiscent of many features of the Fallik Affaire, but the reaction of the Jewish community to the incident was different from the reaction in the Fallik Affaire. Mathematics professor Norbert Preminger caught a student cheating during an exam. Dr. Preminger struck the student in the faced and bared him from the exam. Taking revenge, anti-Semitic students attacked Preminger, breaking his skull and blinding him in one eye. As a consequence, students as well as diverse Romanian, Schwabisch and Ukrainian elements from the suburbs banded together, beat Jewish passers-by and students and severely wounded many of them. The tone of the reaction of the Jewish community was apologetic as if the community had a part in the misdeeds of the few. The Czernowitz Jewish community which in the past was so proud had become demoralized and frightened. As a sort of reward for the Jew's retreat, the authorities moved to protect them. Preminger who was made a cripple by a young criminal was forgotten.
One can't deduce from this that nothing new occurred on the anti-Semitic front in those years. This apparent All Quiet on the Eastern Front situation was actually the background for a chain of small incidents taking place here and there, in the city or the country, on railroad trains and railroad stations. These day to day events had a crippling and demoralizing effect. In those days, in the second half of 1936, the evacuation plan crafted by Seew (Vladimir) Jabotinsy, the gifted leader of the Revisionist Zionists was a lively discussion topic in the Zionist camp and was critically viewed by Zionist leaders in Bukovina and Romania and elsewhere and in retrospect, it seems it was to harshly judged.
In those days, others instead of thinking of a flight to the Jewish land, considered a flight out of Judaism. To our honor it must be said that despite the bitter need, these were few in number. At the beginning of 1937, in Bukovina 200 Jewish families entered the Orthodox state church and one spoke of an upcoming solemn mass baptism, but also this path, which the anti-Semites wanted to block, as the future was to show did not provide flight or rescue from the fate of the Jewish community. They even want to take the church from us, wrote full of genuine or pretended outrage the Porcuna Vremii (Commandment of the Times), the organ of the Cuza's party. In such times moral weeds flourished and so emerged among us a certain Jew whose name should be forgotten by posterity who wrote an article for anti-Semitic Curentul publication condemning the Jews.
Meanwhile, the anti-Semites reached for new methods. In the Bukovina village Straja (district of Radauti) the anti-Semites ordered the Jews to leave within two weeks or they would be driven out by force and their houses would be destroyed. The Jews of Straja didn't give in and barricaded themselves in their houses. Similarly, th Jews of Arbore, another Bukovina village didn't give in, in spite of bomb attacks against their houses. Their attitude, in a certain sense was symbolic of the attitude of Bukovina Jews in particular as well as that of the Romanian Jews and the East European Jews in general. In this connection, the question emerges: In the course of the years, what was the fate of the courageous Jews of of Straja and Arbore and what would have happened to them if they had collapsed under the pressure? We still can't give a definite answer to this question, but it remains and stands before us in the entire tragedy of its general meaning and with all its uncertainty and its nagging doubts.
Also, less brutal anti-Jewish methods were weighed in many circles. Through a subtle interpretation of the law, a way was found to strip hundreds of Jewish families of their citizenship. The union of the Attorney's Chamber dealt with the question of the nationalization of the profession which latter came and meant exclusion of the Jews and even today, Jewish lawyers are hindered from entering the Justice Palace in Bucharest. The Senate of the Czernowitz University took measures which practically meant dissolution of the Jewish academic societies. The number of Jewish students sank from year to year and in the academic year 1936/1937 at the University in this predominately Jewish city out of 2263 students only 198 were Jewish. Collection for the Zionist fund was temporarily banned.
The picture in the immediate surroundings was darker. From neighboring Poland came bad news. The poverty of the Jewish masses grew and the pogroms increased. Anti-Semitism became a component of official politics.
As in a Greek tragedy, the last act approached. In November, 1937 the Liberal Minister President Tatarescu stepped down and was again entrusted with the setting up of the cabinet, which then, in addition to the members of the Liberal Party had two members of Jorga's party. In December of the same year, new elections took place at which the Jewish Federal Party participated for the last time without success. The elections brought a strong upswing in the anti-Semitic parties and the king entrusted the leaders of the anti-Semitic Christian National Party, A.C. Cuza and Octavian Goga with the creation of the new government. A reign of fear began in city and country. In Czernowitz, a brown house was set up where Jews were detained and mistreated. The first steps were taken to introduce discriminatory laws following the pattern of the Nuremberg legislation. A new law for the examination of citizenship made it possible to rob Jews of their rights. The publication of the East Jewish newspaper as well as that of several progressive newspapers in the capital city was banned. The Romanization of businesses spread and Jews were banned from many professions such as law. Romanian women up to age 40 were forbidden from being employed as household help in Jewish homes. The new measures led to a flight of capital and shook the foundations of commerce of the city. After only six weeks this regime of terror fell and a new government with Liberal ministers which continued its former policy of moderate commercial anti-Semitism took its place and this was followed shortly thereafter by a dissolution of all parties and the parliamentary regime and the creation by the king of the National Front [Frontul National]. From then on, the government of the National Front led the destiny of Romania and WWII broke out during the rule of this government. The drama's last act began.
The first task was to end the differing interpretations of citizenship [cetatenie] and serfdom [supusenie] and on the other hand to prevent the Jews from being degraded to the status of second class citizens in spite of the peace treaty of St. Germain. It took a bitter fight to include in the constitution, the conditions of the federal law of September 20, 1920 dealing with the civil and political equality of the Jews, which were decreed by the peace treaty of Saint Germain. In spite of everything, the resolution was not satisfying because article 133 of the constitution didn't mention the peace treaty. There followed various decrees, which in no way clarified the situation, so that the danger existed that thousands of Jews could loose their civil rights. In actuality, many Jews were stripped of their citizenship by the government. The law of February 24, 1924 about gaining and loosing citizenship brought no resolution, but rather a tightening of the conditions. Especially the Jews in the adjacent provinces were in danger of loosing their civil rights and the danger increased in the following years as the ghost of the revision of the citizenship lists made the civil rights of the Jews uncertain. The enemies of the Jews found clever ways to twist the intent of the law to give their actions the appearance of legality. In later years, in spite of de facto disenfranchisement the citizenship document was still important in so far as its absence meant being barred from certain professions and even eventual exile.
Hand in hand with this years long fight for Jewish civil rights, the fight of the Zionists for actual civil rights in state politics took place in various arenas and against legal or administrative measures which were aimed at Jews, or which could be interpreted to be used against Jews such as the rushed Romanization of the legal system in Bukovina, removing the Jewish community's right to levy taxes, denial of their Zwangscharakter, restriction of the number of Jews at the University, discrimination against Jewish students in state run schools, discrimination against Jewish soldiers with one year's service obtaining officer's rank, tightening of the Sunday no work restrictions etc. At the same time the Zionists intervened in many common Jewish problems such as: the question of the Jewish refugees from the Ukraine, for whom in his time Minister President Averescu took a humane position, in school questions and in the way the law treated the school system, attacks by civilian and military officials, etc. At the same time individual Jews were granted protection under the law against injustice and attacks of the officials. According to a report in the year 1924, the Legal Bureau of the Zionist State Organization in the reporting period from Jan 1, 1922 to January 11, 1924 had granted legal aid in 876 cases.
The general political line dictated involvement in the political life of the state on the side of progressive and democratic forces. When at the beginning of 1933 thousands of workers at Polesti demonstrated and committed acts of violence the regime proposed a law that would give it the power in certain circumstances to declare martial law over the entire country. The Jewish Parliament Club voted against this proposal because Jews were devoted to democracy and that one shouldn't enact this stricter law against workers who fought hard for their bread. The same line of thinking suggested that one shouldn't simply deliver young Jewish Communists and Communists in general to the tender mercies of the police lackeys and expose them to the loathing which at that time was connected with that situation in the eyes of the Romanian public and the danger for the Jewish minority.
The material need of the Bukovina Jews as well as that of the Jewish refugees from the Ukraine and Jewish brothers from other parts of the country encouraged the organization of social aid. It was a characteristic of the Bukovina State Zionist organization that they viewed social aid as an integral part of their work of the present. An enthusiastic supporter of this viewpoint who was not always unopposed was Dr. Markus Kraemer, who already in the first post war years was honorary leader of the Department for Social Aid of the Bukovina State Zionist organization. At the beginning of 1921 various Jewish social organizations formed the Aid Committee for the Jewish Homeless From the Ukrainian. Large numbers fled over the Dniester to Romania to escape the Ukrainian pogrom mobs and here they sought and found refuge by their fellow Jews. The Department of Social Aid, whose membership included such men as Dr. Max Diamant, Karl Klueger, etc. was formed to help these refugees. In March, 1922 the leadership of the Department was assumed by Dr. Max Kraemer who had just returned from abroad and who obtained help from the Joint [American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee] and other foreign organizations. The Bukovina Jewish Immigrant Committee whose board consisted of members of various Jewish parties worked with the Hias [Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society] organization to obtain passports and providing relevant information. In framework of the department for social aid, the Bukovina State Zionist Organization took part in the work of ORT and the Joint which under the initiative of their department leaders founded O.S.E. (Organizatia Sanitara Evreeasca), a drive for hungry children and the Bukovina Help Committee for the starving Jews of Bessarabia because at that time there was famine among the farm families in the Jewish colonies of Bessarabia.
Education Work and Home Front
A part of the education was directed outwardly, not the most intensive part and not the most all encompassing, but never the less, not the least important. The free unfettered development of Zionist activity depended heavily on the attitude of Romanian officials. Much also depended on the well meaning attitude of the Romanian representatives toward the League of Nations. This was the entrée to making contact with leading Romanian personalities, as in the summer of 1922, when Dr. Mayer Ebner was received by the Minister President Jonel Bratianu in Dorna Vatra and in the course of this audience, after a long discussion of Zionism, Jonel Bratianu expressed his sympathy and understanding of the concept. Also, the visits of Zionist leaders who had prestige internationally as well as in Romania, like that of Nachum Sokolow in 1925 or Professor Weizmann in 1927 elicited pro-Zionist declarations by Romanian ministers. And so, in a letter to Sokolow, who at that time was visiting Romania the Foreign Minister, J.G. Duca expressed his sympathy for Zionism and this caused Dr. Ebner to declare in an editorial that there were two principals that determined the position the Romanian government assumed toward the Jews, namely the considerate handling of the Jewish refugees from the Ukraine and the accommodating attitude they had for the Zionist organization. An expression of sympathy for the Zionist effort also came from the Foreign Minister Mitilineu as he received Dr. Imanuel Olswagneer the representative of the Zionist World Organization in 1926. In this connection, we should also mention Dr. Mayer Ebner's speech on the Romanian Jewish question in a Cabinet meeting in December, 1926, during which he also spoke about Zionism. Public expressions of sympathy for the Zionist cause were also given by the Titulescu, the Foreign minister at that time, Interior Minister Duca and the patriarch Miron Christea during the visit of Prof. Weizmann to Romania toward the end of 1927. Representatives of the government appeared as invited guests at the first State Zionist conference of the Bukovina Zionist state organization during the post war period. Much importance was attached to maintaining a good relationship with the English Council who had his residence in Czernowitz. So spoke Council Cameron, who was a friend of the Zionist cause, at a banquet which took place in November 1921 to celebrating the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration the following empathetic words: If I was a Jew and I was 20 years old I couldn't imagine anything more beautiful and ideal than to go to Palestine as a Chalutz [pioneer, early Israeli settler. Plural is Chalutzim].
Closely tied to the internal education work was the cultural work of the Bukovina State Zionist Organization, as well as its fight over the Jewish schools. In close connection with that was the Hebrew speech movement.
Various cultural organizations of diverse characters which were either created by Zionists or led by them or strongly influenced by them completed the network of Zionist cultural activity like the Society for modern Bible study (called Jeremia) led by Messieurs Salomon Grossberg and Dr. Salomon Kinsbrunner, the Jewish club Massada, the Jewish Historic Society (a creation of Dr. Manfred Reifer), the Society of the Friends of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (President Prof. Dr. Hermann Sternberg) which brought prominent men of the Jewish intellectual life like Prof Martin Buber, Kurt Blumenfeld, Docent Grau etc to give lectures in Czernowitz, the Zionist Student associations which spread the framework of their cultural activities beyond the circle of their members like the Emunah in whose meeting hall lectures for the public were held or the Hebronia which in the frame work of their Toynbee Hall afternoon lectures drew speakers on diverse topics from all circles or the Zephirah whose hall for a period of time was the meeting place of the Hebrew Club, the Hasmonaea, with its cycles of lectures and the Heatid, etc, so also the science association of Jewish High School students which in the framework of its cultural commission had a Jewish study group, lecture cycles on Jewish problems , Hebrew and Jewish literature and in addition well attended and animated literary and public banquets (like for example over Schabatai Zwi and David Hareubeni) and poetry evenings.
Not least of all, the blame for this development could be placed on the Jews of Bukovina and the Zionists because when the Jews were really serious about the national Hebrew schools and there were no blocking assimilationist tendencies in the region, they were successful as in Bessarabia where there was a network of Hebrew schools which included state recognized gymnasia. The dogged determination of Bukovina Jews, Zionists included to continue with German language and culture, even in the Romania era led the officials to ignore the demands for national schools, which they didn't take seriously and to accelerate the Romanianization process. There were no few Bukovina Zionists who were critical of this philosophical division. The conflict in the Jewish camp between the proponents of Hebrew and those of Yiddish gave the officials a welcome excuse to ignore the conflicting demands of both sides but it doesn't sufficiently explain the failure to create national schools since there were times when the proponents of Hebrew and those of Yiddish agreed on a common program as in 1921 when a plan was proposed for parallel classes with instruction in Hebrew and Yiddish in the elementary schools. The plan also stipulated that in the middle schools Hebrew was to be the language of instruction while Yiddish would be taught as a subject. Zionist circles sought to halt the decline of the Jewish schools which had already begun during the twenties, but there was no longer any way of halting their accelerating decline.
In the school year 1923/1924 Dr. Efriam Porath the former director of the Hebrew teacher's seminar in Iasi and Hebrew gymnasium in Soroka, a leading Hebrew language researcher was named as director of the organization which had in 1924 about 700 members and in 1925 it was reported to the General Congress that there were three kindergartens in Czernowitz (later 4), a 5 grade Hebrew elementary school with 110 students, language courses for youth and adults as well as a school for the education of kindergarten teachers. On a parcel of land contributed by Miss Malvine Sabinski the cornerstone for the building of a home for a Safa Ivrit school on Bridge Street, located in the lower part of Czernowitz, was laid in August 1928. Here also, it later turned out that what was accomplished was far below the expected and hoped for. In 1931, there already existed a Hebrew gymnasium in rudimentary form which was hardly started before it was threatened with being shut down and which proved to be impossible to further develop.
These modest successes were achieved with great difficulty. It was difficult to achieve more given the existing circumstances. There was a lack of adequate buildings and above all a lack of money. The connection between Safa Ivrit and the Zionist State Organization was close, but the organization didn't always enjoy that measure of support necessary to achieve its goals. Also, at certain times the cooperation suffered from the opposition of Dr. Bierer to the leadership of the Zionist organization.
Thanks to the initiative of the spiritual leader of the Czernowitz Jewish community, Chief Rabbi Dr. Abraham Mark, a Zionist in every fiber of his body who was murdered by the Nazis under tragic circumstances a Beth Hamidrash was founded where the Talmud, Midrash, Pentateuch and Jewish religion philosophy were read. Chief Rabbi Dr. Mark and Rabbi Dr. Kessler were the principal lecturers in this institution. During the era of the Unity Party, the development of courses instituted by the Jewish Community for the education of Hebrew elementary school teachers was directed by him. He was also the leader of the Culture Department of Safa Ivrit and directed the courses for the education of Hebrew kindergarten teachers.
The Safa Ivrit didn't restrict itself to the teaching of the Hebrew language, but strived to be a center of Hebrew cultural activity. Within that framework, Hebrew discussion evenings were held and foreign guests were invited who gave lectures on Hebrew cultural problems.
Also spontaneous actions of individuals or groups were a part of the general movement, like for instance Josef Schaefer's Sokolow group which offered free Hebrew language education or Hebraist Har Schoschaim's Gdud Meginei Hasafa (later teacher and journalist in Tel-Aviv). In 1930 the Achad Haam club, among whose members were the leaders of the Hebrew Language Movement was started and it held its lectures and gatherings in the meeting hall of the academic association Emunah and held it's Hebrew Stammtisch (Schulchan Ivrit) in the Café Europe. There were similar developments in the provincial cities where individuals who loved the language were successful in creating Hebrew circles. One example of this was the activity of Professors Feldmann and Biber in Dorna Vatra.
In 1931, the Bukovina section of the B'rith Ivrit Olamit was founded. During the same year, within its frame work a Midrasch Ivrit was opened in which the old Middle Age and new Hebrew literature was taught. Lecturers were Dr. E. Porath, D. Rabinowicz, N. Siegelbaum and others. From then on the Hebrew cultural work was concentrated in the two organizations B'rith Ivrit Olamit and Safa Ivrit. After the 13th Zionist State Conference in December 1932 the newly elected culture commission directed the State Executive Committee, led by the writer of these lines to establish a closer connection with the local branches of B'rith Ivrit Olamit and Safa Ivrit. Among other things, an imposing and heavily visited, cooperatively run Bialik celebration was held in Czernowitz at which in addition to the guest Dr. Imanuel Olswanger, the presidents of the cooperating organizations spoke. At a Hebraist conference in Bucharest during January 1933 contact was made with Hebraists from other provinces of the empire, a central committee was established with its headquarters in Bucharest and Dr. B. Kaswan, one of the leading figures of the Hebrew and Zionist movements in Bukovina, who was to become a martyr for his Zionist beliefs was selected as the representative on this committee of the Bukovina Movement.
Of a special nature and already a part of the capital of the internal front were the relationships between the Hebraists and the proponents of Yiddish in Bukovina. During the early post-war years the rivalry between the two groups and the efforts of each to win the loyalty of the Jewish masses led to forceful passionate discussions and arguments. Later, however the followers of both groups come to the conclusion that Hebrew wasn't the enemy of Yiddish and visa versa, but that both had a common enemy, namely the use of foreign languages and the indifference to Jewish cultural values of both colors. And so, as noted in an earlier chapter, both sides agreed on a common school program. As in 1925 the fight for a private school law was fought, proponents of both Hebrew and Yiddish worked together and their solution was to shut down neither the Hebrew schools nor the Jewish schools but to leave that decision to those who ran the schools. This joint approach was not without success but unfortunately, the few possibilities offered by the private school law passed at the end of 1925, were used to very little or absolutely no effect. The experts on Hebrew language and literature also had knowledge of Yiddish language and literature and also in Zionist circles there were those who loved Yiddish fiction. Events in Yiddish cultural life, the visit of foreign Yiddish authors to Czernowitz or the 20th anniversary of the Czernowitz Yiddish Language Conference were also followed by us with great interest. On the other hand, the experts in Yiddish language and Yiddish literature in the circle of the Yiddishists had not lost contact with the Hebrew source and so the relationship was maintained. Characteristic for the common front against the use of foreign languages was an episode in 1930 at the first plenary congress of the newly elected council of the Jewish Community, since the representative of the Bund, Yiddishist Markus Kaswan expressed his disappointment that the discussions were held neither in Yiddish or Hebrew.
Not least of all, the willingness of both sides to compromise was a result of the existing conditions. The Hebraists of Bukovina knew very well the limits of their possibilities and knew that they wouldn't succeed in giving Hebrew the importance in the Jewish streets of Bukovina that it had in the cities of Lithuania or Poland or Bessarabia.
To close this theme it can be said that the goals of the Hebrew language movement in Bukovina were modest and the successes were also modest. Above all, the aim was to sow the healthy seeds for later re-awakening and to prepare the Zionists language wise and culturally for Eretz Israel, and there was a modest amount of success in meeting these goals.
In another area of the internal front the Zionists fought to win the Jewish Community.
For many years, the Jewish Community was the domain of Dr. Straucher and he understood how to make it into a political bastion with whose help he was able to win state political positions. And so things were seen by the diverse Romanian political parties. Hardly had they succeeded in getting government positions, they would then help their fellow office seekers to get positions in the Jewish Community. They did this in anticipation of gaining support from the Jewish electorate.
The Jewish Unity Party which had become the state political arm of the Zionist organization fought to prevent the assimilation of the Jewish Community and to secure their autonomy which was based on free elections. In this fight they collided with the dictatorial position taken by Dr. Straucher and later on the ambitions of various Jewish politicians who for the most part were allied with Romanian parties and who were aided by them. Certainly, for the Zionists the Unity Party's conquest of the Jewish community was a political goal in the internal Jewish battle and a way to advance the national and Zionist goals, but this detracted in no way from the zeal with which the Zionists worked in all areas of the widely branched social work of the community.
Already in the first post war years Dr. Straucher's position in the Jewish Community was strongly contested and was a common goal of various groups. The maturing Jewish youth had no use for him since he had very little understanding of their goals and way of thinking. Typical of this attitude was a conflict with the youth organization Hashomer Hatzair whose meeting room in the Jewish National House he had closed at the beginning of 1924. Directly after the creation of the Unity Party at the beginning of 1926 he showed a willingness to divide his leadership position with the Zionists and to have a directorate with three branches for the Jewish Community. The negotiations broke down however and he remained the sole director.
The success of the candidates of the Unity Party in the parliamentary elections which took place in May 1926 smoothed the way into the community. Their representatives with Dr. Ebner at the head moved into the Community, took over important departments and accomplished important work. From then on, with occasional interruptions and setbacks the Jewish community came under the aegis and influence of the Zionists even though from time to time they divided the leadership with other parties or a person not belonging to the Zionist party took the leadership of the Jewish Community Council [Kultusrat]. Many leading Zionists divided their time and energy between the real Zionist work the Zionist work of the present within the framework of the community. Dr. Leon Schmelzer was at certain times the vice president of the community and worked diligently at this task. The members of the Executive Committee [Vorstand] after the Unity Party took over were Dr. Markus Kraemer (Chairman of the Social Work Section), Prof. Julian Silberbusch (chairman of the School Section), Dr. Theodor Weiselberger (Civil Rights Section), Moritz Liquornik (Hospital Section) and Engineer Platzmann (Building Section) who together introduced the Zionist era .At a later time, the School Section chairmanship which was considered vital by the Zionists passed into the hands of Dr. Josef Mann.
The assumption of the government by the Liberals after the parliamentary elections of July 1927 brought Dr. Dr. Straucher back to the Community as Gerent but when the National Zaranistic Party took over in November 1928 the members of that party removed him from office and Dr. Salomon Kinsbrenner and Dr. Severin Lazarovicz, both Zionists who were close to the National Zarianistic party were appointed to share the office.
Approximately one year later in September 1929 there was a further change in the leadership of the Community. Dr. Carl Gutherz became Gerent, the members of the Unity Party Dr. Isidor Schiffer and Moritz Geiger took over the Social Work Section, Engineer Masimiliam Zwilling got the Building Section, Dr. Lupu Rappaport got the School Section and Jakob Goldschlaeger got The Hospital Section. National Zaranistic Party member Dr. S. Rosenzweig took over the Commerce Section.
The elections which finally took place in May 1930 in the Council of the Community achieved a majority for the ticket of the Unity Party led by Dr. Ebner but in the establishment of the new Council, they weren't successful making the party's candidate Gerent and so Dr. Karl Gutherz was chosen by lot to hold that office.
In 1935 the Council was reformed, chaired by Dr. Markus Menczer and with the Zionists Carl Klueger and Dr. Oskar Deutsch as vice presidents. The chairmanship was shared by Moses Solomowicz.
Again, there were new elections in the summer of 1937 in the Council of the Jewish Community. Also this time the national religious block formed by the followers of the Unity Party (now the Jewish Federal Party) and other associated groups were successful, but this time just as in 1930, other groups were successful in preventing the election of a Zionist as president of the Community. Again, Dr. Carl Gutherz assumed the leadership. His vice presidents were the Zionists Dr. Elias Weinstein, chief editor of the Czernowitz Morning Paper and Messrs. Wolf Greif and Gustav Segall. None of these gentlemen were members of the Unity Party.
The paths these small groups took were different than those of the willful assimilationists or those whose world view led them to assimilation and their influence on those who were assimilated out of inertia or indifference was not small and in any case greater than their numbers would lead you to believe. A certain portion of students were receptive to ideas which were presented in the attractive form of a philosophical way of thinking or presented as path breaking forms of the future, whose core content, however was assimilation. On this basis it had to come to ideological conflicts within these circles, which often occurred in a neutral appearing framework. Sometimes it was followers of the German Jewish philosopher Constantin Brunner - whose views about being German or being Jewish, hate of Germans, hate of Jews and what he found in the way of similarities, analogies, connections and alternating relationships which all turned out to be blatant errors which collided against reality with tragic consequences who almost created a Constantine Brunner movement and gathered around themselves a circle of the assimilated. Sometimes it was groups who gathered around the Czernowitz professor Kettner, modest and really harmless appearing circles for studies of philosophy or certain philosophers like Kant and Spinoza where assimilation built its nest. Very flattering for the cultural level of the Czernowitz Jewish population were those forms of intellectual activity, but their anti-national and anti-Zionist character was unmistakable although even some Zionists who sought high level intellectual activity wandered into those cells and often alone or together with a small minority had to defend their Zionism.
The bankruptcy of the assimilationist idea couldn't stop these isolated skirmishes but the overwhelming majority of the Jewish population of Bukovina was nationally disposed and stood by the Zionist flag. Much more serious were the conflicts with that form of assimilation that only with the Jews and not other peoples had the accompanying appearance of a Communist world outlook.
The continual worsening of the living conditions of the Jewish masses in East Europe and the rising recognition of how untenable and inescapable the situation was and Communism with its idealistic philosophy lured a part of the Jewish youth into the Communist camp. Often, it was similar reasoning that drove some to the left and others to the right.
The ideological conflicts with the Jewish Communists wasn't about their views of the desired state and forms of commerce, but rested on their views of their own people. Unlike Communists of other peoples whose world view didn't hinder them from advancing the national, cultural and territorial political aims of their people, the Jewish Communists were ready either to completely give up on Jewish national goals and throw them overboard like unnecessary ballast and this was the so called red assimilation which was unique to Jewish Communists and which fought against the Zionists or to give up on a territorial solution and to satisfy themselves with demanding favorable conditions for the nurturing of Jewish culture and this for the Zionists was unsatisfactory and wouldn't guarantee the maintenance of the Jewish people as such or to propose territorial solutions like Crimea and afterwards the Biro-Bidjan project, which were rejected by the Zionists and which proved to be mirages.
The contrasts in thinking were great because they touched on an essential basic tenet of the Zionist idea and the discussions were held with great passion on both sides.
As always, the guide post in this conflict was Dr. Mayer Ebner who armed with his broad education inserted a noble note in this conflict. He was seconded by the unforgettable Dr. Theodor Weisselberger with his Zionistic eruditeness and deep knowledge of Zionist theory. A high point in this polemic was the discussions which took place in 1932 concerning Otto Heller's book The Demise of Judaism which ended with the words, so clearly repudiated by history, Next year in Jerusalem? No, next year in Birobidjan!
In the eyes of their enemies, the Jews of Romania were responsible for Romanian Communism. All the Jews suffered under this blanket accusation and the discovery of Communist cells as well as trials of Communists were often accompanied by anti-Jewish demonstrations and excesses. This, however didn't cause the leaders of the national Jewish movement to leave Jewish brothers with different ideas to suffer injustice and loss of civil rights and in spite of the associated danger for the Jewish Community the Zionist leaders attempted to protect Jewish brothers with different ideas from unlawful terror and politically arbitrary methods. In his lead article (Against Blanket Accusations - East Jewish Newspaper of February 1, 1933) Dr. Ebner stated that the Communist beliefs of a part of the Jewish youth were by far not treason and didn't signify aggression against Romania because those youth were also striving for the good of the Romanian people. In the atmosphere of those days, those were courageous words which were typical of the way the Zionists characterized those with differing viewpoints.
The Jewish Communists fought illegally and their fight was directed mainly against the ruling government and in their minds the social revolution must also bring the answer to the Jewish question. For this reason, their part in the internal Jewish conflict was much smaller than that of the Bund, that Jewish worker movement within the wider framework of the Social Democratic Party which fought against the cosmopolitan tendencies within the framework of their own party and which had a national Jewish coloring. Here the points of contact were more numerous and therefore offered more causes for conflict.
The fight of the Bukovina Bund members against the state Zionist movement was sharp and implacable. Every setback to the Zionist work in Israel, which caused us concern gave them another opportunity to characterize Zionism as a mirage which distracted the Jewish people from their real interest. When there was unrest in Eretz Israel, financial crises, emigration, restrictive ordinances, white books, restrictions on immigration they never failed to use this as propaganda and that which deeply saddened us gave them an opportunity to again and again characterize Zionism as bankrupt. The vendetta was carried out in the East Jewish Paper on one side and the Bund publications Forwards and Dus naje Leben [The New Life] on the other side as well as in brochures and public gatherings. On the side of the Bund, Dr. Joseph Kissman who now lived in the United States wielded a sharp pen and distinguished himself by his genuine knowledge of the subject. His opponents on the Zionist side were Dr. Mayer Ebner, Dr. Theodor Weisselberger and others.
Many years have passed since then and much has changed and in the mirror of the past a rosy curtain conceals the idealization and the good natured pardon of those who fought against us. We don't want to argue today, but only to serve the historical truth in order to avoid future errors and as much as it hurts us that in our critical judgment of our situation in the Galuth [Diaspora] and in our sad predictions we were correct and not the Bund with its optimistic belief in the possibilities of a normalization of Jewish life in East Europe and they should be joyful that they were wrong in their judgment of the Zionist idea and the Zionist building up.
In order to lay out all the facts we should mention a small anti-Zionist group, the Agudists who were almost meaningless in Bukovina. They existed, but their influence was restricted to a small circle of orthodox Jews who rejected Zionist ideas. The majority of the pious Jews were under the influence of the Misrachi among whose leading members were the former spiritual leader of the Community Chief Rabbi Dr. Abraham Mark as well as Raw Meschulem Rath who now lives in Israel. It was a sort of provident policy of the Bukovina Zionist State Organization and its leaders to support the placement of men sympathetic to Zionism in the high rabbinic offices of the city of Czernowitz. The choice of Dr. Abraham Mark as Chief Rabbi of the Czernowitz Youth Congregation in January 1936 and that of Raw Meschulem Rath in January 1936 as Rabbi of the orthodox Community as well as the appointment rabbis sympathetic to Zionism for posts in provincial cities as such as Dr. Jakob Nacht in Radauti in March 1924 were important milestones on the way to winning the religious Jews of Bukovina to the Zionist idea. It lessened the influence of the anti-Zionist propaganda of Aguda which could hardly gain a foothold in Bukovina.
Here also, the passage of time brought surprises. Aguda in its present form has become an advocate for Israel and its representatives are ministers in the government of the Jewish state.
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.
History of Jews in Bukowina Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright © 1999-2023 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 2 Mar 2009 by MGH