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[Page 138]

The Hashomer Hatzair Movement in Dąbrowa Górnicza

by Jehuda Londner

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Dąbrowa was situated next to two large cities, which, at the outbreak of the Second World War, were populated by Jews with nationalist and social consciousness – Będzin and Sosnowiec. All nationalist awakening among Polish Jewry found a proper echo in those cities. That Jewry was also an example for other cities in the arena of youth movements, in their ability to gather the vast majority of the youth into them and to impart the youth with a nationalist Zionist spirit.

Dąbrowa Górnicza was greatly influenced by this ability. Aside from its ability to gather together and organize, it was able to impart nationalist values to the youth. The Hashomer Hatzair in particular did great things in this area. On account of its nationalist character, it was able to maintain its stand and remain strong to a greater degree than the other cities in the wake of all the upheavals that tested the Hashomer Hatzair movement during the period of its development in Poland.

With the liberation of Poland after the First World War and the proclamation of the Balfour Declaration, the Jewish nationalist spirit began to coalesce in the cities and towns. Jewish nationalist youth movements did not exist yet. Hashomer Hatzair was in its nascent stages. It still had the character of the international scouting movement, but the studying Jewish youth found within it a place to express their youthful energy and nationalist aspirations.

Dąbrowa Górnicza did not have many academic, studying youth, but almost all of the few that existed found their way to the Hashomer Hatzair chapter, and had a great deal of influence on the rest of the youth who studied in the cheders and yeshivot, as well as those youth who still lived in the homes of their parents and had not forged a connection with their environment. However, most of them had a silent, pulsating attraction toward the free life of the academic, studying youth, to be like them, to go out on excursions to the forests, to sing together, to dream of a better life, to meet in groups for discussion, and to discuss anything that was on their hearts.

dab138.jpg [38 KB] - The founders of the Hashomer center in Dąbrowa
The founders of the Hashomer center in Dąbrowa

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The confines of their parental homes was vexing to them, restricting every step, and imposing upon them a religious lifestyle that was not always in accordance with the modern spirit of the maturing youth. The academic, studying youth brought to town the renaissance spirit that it drew in 1917 from liberated Poland. In the first wake of the coalescence of the Hashomer Hatzair movement to the nationalist youth movement, the studying, academic youth found in this movement the appropriate venue for their Jewish, nationalistic aspirations.

The Jewish, academic, studying youth brought to town the desire to understand what was transpiring in the natural, social, and economic sciences. Libraries were opened through their indirect influence, and the non-studying youth began to fill their time with reading books. Yosef Wajnrajch, Zygmunt Szpigler, Pinchas Szwarcbaum, Poterko, Naftali Rechnic, Emil Grynbaum, Yaakov Fruchzwajg, Shmuel Wajszalc, Gita Perel, Freda Storchajn, Nusia Storchajn, Gutzia Grosfeld, Shimon Grosfeld, Tzvetl Bajtner, and many others had a deep influence on the rest of the youth. This group gained a special charm when two pillars joined them. These were not people who had studied in an organized fashion, but rather had been Orthodox. Nevertheless, their scholarship and knowledge were boundless: Yitzchak Janowski and Menachem Winszel. They were youths who had been religious just yesterday, and they suddenly switched their religious dress to European style, went about with bare heads, came to the chapter and lectured to the youth on national and philosophic topics. The influence of these two lads on the rest of the studying youth was great. They particularly influenced many youths who were still studying in the Beis Midrash and whose horizons were restricted. At times, these youths were caught studying secular books during the time of their studies in the Beis Midrash. At times, they could be found outside the city on excursions with bare heads, with books of Kant, Maimonides, Rusu, and others under their arms.

In their unique manner at that time, they influenced three girls, gymnasja students from religious homes: Gita Perkal, and Freda and Nusia Storchajn, members of the Hashomer Hatzair chapter who rebelled against the way of life that was agreeable to their parents. They wished to forge their way by ending their studies, and learning a profession that would enable them to live from the toil of their own hands. That step of those girls at that time created waves and was a topic of conversation for everybody.

On the one hand, the ideological deliberations and searching for a path in the way of Hashomer Hatzair during the 1920s; and the founding of the first Hashomer Hatzair kibbutzim in the Land, in Beit Alfa and Merchavia, with the duty of personal actualization [of the Zionist imperative] on the other hand – left their mark as well on the academic, studying youth in Dąbrowa. Going to the chapter already created some sense of obligation. They could no longer continue endlessly with scouting. The chapter created a question mark as to whether to continue their studies and their paths. They no longer saw a point in continuing with the philosophizing about national problems without personal actualization. This youth began to slowly drop off without personal actualization. They also provided leaders and counsellors for many factions.

Elections to the Sejm and the city council led to all types of cosmopolitan slogans on the Jewish street regarding participation in Polish life. The Hashomer youth in Dąbrowa broke apart, and a large group transferred to the left leaning Poalei Zion. Yosef Kanarek, Zygmunt Szpigler, and Mitek Krajcer were among them. Some, headed by Naftali Lesker, transferred to the Bund. Baruch Szenhaft and Zygmunt Krzanowski headed Poalei Zion. Szenhaft was elected to the city council in the general elections that took place at that time. Some of the youth continued to study, started careers, and severed their connection with the chapter. Others dropped off for unclear reasons. This was the first crisis that overtook the Hashomer Hatzair chapter of Dąbrowa from the time of the sprouting of the Jewish youth movement in the city between 1906 and 1917. Pinchas Szwarcbaum and his brother Elimelech remained in the chapter. Leibel Perkal, Yaakov Rudoler, Shimon Gutman, Hashek Sztorchajn (while he was still observant and wore traditional Jewish garb), Shraga Szpilberg, Naftali Rechnic, Nusia and Freda Sztorchajn, Gutzia Grosfeld, Tzeitel Bajtner, and Shimon Grosfeld joined later. Pinchas Szwarcbaum was the head of the chapter. It is possible to attribute many of the achievements of the Hashomer Hatzair chapter to him: the imparting of the ideas of the Hashomer Hatzair path to the members, and publicizing the chapter as a movement through participating in its conventions. When he was a student in Krakow, he wrote articles in the newspaper of the Galician movement, edited by Eliezer Fraj. He served as an example to others in personal actualization when he went to Kibbutz Beit Alfa. More members of Hashomer made aliya to the Land in his wake, albeit not to Kibbutzim. It was his great merit that he was able to serve as a trendsetter for the Dąbrowa Hashomer.

The chapter of Hashomer Hatzair had many ascents and declines, but the Hashomer youth of Dąbrowa were graced with one thing: the desire to maintain the existence of the chapter despite the crises, abandonments, and aliya. A small group of those who remained always consolidated and added golden links to the chain of the tradition of the chapter. That time as well, after a portion of the older members made aliya, there was a temporary downgrading of activity. However, the chapter quickly strengthened, and a strong group headed by Yaakov Rudoler and Shimon Gutman consolidated, and continued the tradition and absorbed new youth who had grown up in the city in the meantime.

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dab140.jpg [35 KB] - A regional meeting of the
A regional meeting of the “Hashomer Hatzair” in Dąbrowa
during ideological deliberations in 1927

During their era (1914), the chapter expanded greatly. Its first headquarters was in the home of Yosef Szobak on Fabryczny St, and later moved to Krótka St.

On Sabbaths, the narrow street bustled with Jewish youth – not only the studying youth but also the working youth. There was a great deal of activity on behalf of the national funds, toward personal fulfilment, with a strong desire to master the Hebrew language. To that end, a group was established whose task was to remind anyone who spoke Polish to speak Hebrew.

A spirit of great activity blew through the chapter under the leadership of Shimon Gutman and Yaakov Rudoler. Both of them gathered a good group of studying youth around them: Chaim Wajszalc, Matilda Kanarek, Andzia and Regina Swicer, Regina Rozencwajg, Natalia Lajtner, Bela Unger, Rachel Waltfrajnt, Fruma Nusbaum, Frania Nusbaum, Nuta Nusbaum, Eliahu Kalb, Yekutiel Lajtner, and Pinchas Lustiger.

This was an excellent group of studying youth, who positively influenced all the younger strata. In 1924, stormy debates took place regarding the ideology of the movement. Echoes of this debate found expression within the group and the chapter in the form of internal journalism, where virtually everyone expressed their thoughts.

The two heads of the chapter, Yaakov Rudoler and Shimon Gutman, were polar opposite characters, who were unable to dwell under one roof for a long period. Shimon Gutman was highly intelligent, and came from a semi-assimilated family. His entire family was immersed in the coal business. As an excellent student in the Yavneh Hebrew gymnasja of Będzin, he displayed his talents while he was still a member of the Polish P.P.S. social democratic chapter. He had a great power of speech and logic. He loved to debate, to convince and to be convinced. He would speak and discuss a great deal with the members on social topics. He read a great deal and influenced others to read. Even though he abandoned the personal actualization of making aliya to the Land, he regarded himself as a good Zionist.

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He demanded that they be connected to the battles of the local Jewish workers. When he left the chapter and moved to the right-leaning Poalei Zion, he “took” a portion of the Hashomer youth with him. Rumors once again spread that the chapter served as a workshop to prepare leaders and counselors for other factions. With time, he became one of the supporting pillars of the right-leaning Poalei Zion, which strengthened under his influence.

Yaakov Rudoler came to the chapter from a religious home, but his father was a progressive man who related to his son with great patience. He also studied in the Yavneh Hebrew gymnasja of Będzin, and was one of the excellent students. He loved sport and scouting. The secret to his success was that he knew how to gather good youth around him, who followed him as an uncoronated leader. He participated in debates on the ideological path of the Hashomer Hatzair movement. He abandoned personal actualization and aliya to the Land. Therefore, he left the chapter and “dragged” along with him the best of the Hashomer youth. Yaakov became one of the beloved and successful players of soccer and other sports in Dąbrowa. In time, he became one of the “patrons” of the chapter, and did not turn away the source from where he was forged.

dab141.jpg [24 KB] - “Hashomer Hatzair” activists
“Hashomer Hatzair” activists

Strengthening of the Hashomer Hatzair Chapter after the Crisis of Abandonment

The years 1925-1926 were the years of the most difficult crisis that afflicted the Hashomer Hatzair chapter in Dąbrowa Górnicza. The best leaders abandoned it. The chapter emptied of its members, some in search of a career and others from fear of personal actualization [i.e. an unwillingness to make aliya]. Only one person remained who did not abandon the movement – Pinchas Lustiger. He came from a non-wealthy home. He received his education in cheders and the Mizrachi religious Hebrew school. He was forced to work to sustain himself and his parents. Pinchas was enthusiastic about every fine idea, and he enthused others. He was fluent in the Hebrew language and earned his livelihood from giving Hebrew classes. He read a great deal of Hebrew and Yiddish literature. He had the personal charm to convince others to read as well. Pinchas dreamed of the beauty and charm of youth. He would spend time alone, wandering through the alleyways of the city, looking at the handiwork and creations of people. At times, he would go to the forests outside the city with a group of friends to listen and hear the whispers of nature.

His influence on the younger youth, who were enthused with ideas, was great. He revived the Hashomer Hatzair chapter after the large-scale abandonment caused by Yaakov Rudoler and Shimon Gutman. The group that he led opened a new page in the annals of Hashomer Hatzair in Dąbrowa Górnicza. With time, he had great influence on many lads and girls. The group was as follows: Pinchas Lustiger, Yehuda Londner, Alter Pochocnik, Esther and Chana Szpilberg, Kalman Swicerczyk (Barkai), Rivka Janowski (Barkai), Yechezkel Bajtner, Yaakov Goldberg, Moshe Szwimer, Zanwil Szwimer, Mania Kalb, Bella Rudoler, Yisrael Frajlich, and Dolek Lajtner. Even though these youths were 16-17 years of age, they dedicated everything they had to the revival of the chapter. They had boundless enthusiasm for the idea of Hashomer Hatzair and a strong desire to know and to learn.

The Beginning of the Path to Unity and Mutual Trust

In order to maintain the mutual trust and unity within the group, so that they would become a strong kernel for a large Hashomer Hatzair in the future, the members of the group decided, under the influence of Pinchas Lustiger, to take a Hashomer oath to be faithful to its path.

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The visit of the emissary from Warsaw, Stingol, who told of Tel Hai and the last path of Joseph Trumpeldor (an early Zionist activist) and his friends, also influenced that decision. The final words of Joseph Trumpeldor: “It is good to die for our land” had such a strong influence on the group that they were left speechless, with tears choking their throats. Without uttering a sound, all of them decided to identify with the final journey of Joseph Trumpeldor and his friends.

One summer night, a group gathered in the chapter that had been emptied of its previous members. They were wearing Hashomer uniforms, and the Hashomer flag was spread on the table. The room was lit with dim light. Pinchas spoke enthusiastically about the task of Hashomer. The song sung at that time in front of the members, “Knowingly or unknowingly, we will follow the path,” was most appropriate for the spirit that pervaded in the room. Following the words of Pinchas Lustiger, everyone approached the flag, raised three fingers, stood up straight, and said, “I swear!”

By nature, the Jews of Dąbrowa Górnicza were good people, with wide hearts, open to communal work and mutual aid. However, they did not regard the Hashomer Hatzair movement in positive light. The simple Jews regarded the Hashomer Hatzair chapter as a den of heresy, and did not want their children to visit it. We were forced to make a great deal of effort to convince the male and female youths to come to us. Those who were already coming would leave their houses with all types of excuses, but did not tell the truth. In order to circumvent the refusal of the parents to send their children to the chapter, we were forced to use various tactics, such as placing guards outside, etc. It is worthwhile to tell about one of the curiosities: during one of the secular discussions on the Sabbath, one of the parents appeared, to our surprise and to the perplexity of the leader of the group. He [the group leader] quickly changed his tune, and spoke with great devotion bout the weekly Torah portion. To our good fortune, a great scandal was averted. The father left satisfied, and the group leader continued with his previous discussion.

We brought boys and girls from poor homes to us, and instilled a youthful spirit in them. We returned the childhood to the children, and awakened in them the desire to study and to read. On more than one occasion, children came to us who were already forced to go to work before they came of age, and had not had the opportunity to acquire minimal education.

dab142.jpg [24 KB] - The “Lahav” [flame] group of “Hashomer Hatzair”
The “Lahav” [flame] group of “Hashomer Hatzair”
following the ideological crisis

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dab143.jpg [39 KB] - A group of scouts in the “Hashomer Hatzair” center
A group of scouts in the “Hashomer Hatzair” center

With us, however, through the power of mutual influence, they were able to complete themselves and continue to study in all sorts of ways. The group leaders, who themselves had not yet come of age, were forced to go to the homes of the parents and discuss with them, so as to remove the obstacles in sending their children to the chapter. The ice slowly melted, and the Jews of Dąbrowa Górnicza regarded the chapter as a valuable educational force. The youth streamed to us without interruption. The headquarters, located in the home of Emil Grynbaum, was too small to contain everyone. We looked for a larger hall, and moved to the home of Sender Rajchman.

The city authorities also inspected our propriety. More than once, we faced the possibility of the closing of the chapter, due to all types of difficulties. Therefore, we found it necessary to seek a solution from the city Nutables. One of the wealthy men of the city, a Jew with a warm, Zionist heart, an activist, Reb Nachman Gutman of blessed memory, agreed to stand at the head of the patrons of the chapter. He would leave his large-scale business affairs in one of his enterprises, sit with us on a barrel among the barrels of kerosene, and listen to our problems. Every time after such a conversation, we felt that we had been taken seriously. We regarded him as a strong defender for our activities. Yaakov Fruchcwajg, Emil Grynbaum, and other veteran Hashomer people joined him. They made it their business to cover a portion of our budget. They appeared with us before the civic authorities against all types of persecution. Thanks to them, we were able to rent two large, spacious halls on Third of May Street, in the center of the city, in the home of Sender Rajchman.

Every year, we conducted a flower day to benefit the library of the chapter. We instilled in the best and finest of the members the idea to establish a carpentry workshop for the members of the chapter. The library provided Yiddish and Hebrew books for the members as well as the children of the city, which could not be obtained in other libraries. The young readers were guided in what to read and how to understand a book, through literary adjudications and discussions of literary topics that were conducted in groups.

That generation, which continued to nurture the spirit of Hashomer Hatzair in the city of Dąbrowa, was no longer comprised of gymnasja graduates. Most went at a young age to work in workshops. The Klein brothers should be noted positively in this regard. They took in many of the counselors and members to their workshops, thereby enabling their sustenance and the sustenance of their families. Others worked in offices or studied professions. The demand for educational supplementation was great. The members posed questions on social, societal, and national issues, issues relevant to the age of majority and personal foundations. The counselors were obliged to give responses. Thus, the idea of founding an internal seminary for intensive supplementation was founded. Groups were formed for literature, history, sociology, and biology. Szlomo Borensztajn (today in Ein Hashofer) was active in this regard.

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dab144.jpg [39 KB] - Keren Kayemet [Jewish National Fund] activists in Dąbrowa
Keren Kayemet [Jewish National Fund] activists in Dąbrowa

Activities for the National Funds and Working Land of Israel

The daily contribution of the simple Jew to the Zionist question or other social national problems was expressed foremost by a monetary contribution toward those aims. It was not always large, but was always given with a full heart and great warmth. However, one had to inspire those Jews, to make the effort to go to their houses and explain it to them in a manner that would be accepted by their hearts. It was necessary to organize city and regional gatherings, and to engage canvassers who would be willing to undertake the effort. Among others, this was done by Mordechai Gotlieb, a good friend of the Hashomer Hatzair chapter; and Isser Lemkowicz, a graduate of the chapter (today in Ein Hashofet). Mordechai Gotlieb, of tall stature, came to our city from Wolbrom, and joined the family of Leibish Zygrajch as the husband of Sara Zygrajch, the daughter of Leibish. Immediately after his arrival, he dedicated his time to the chapter, and delivered lectured about personalities of the Zionist movement and on Biblical topics. He instilled in the chapter the spirit and desire to speak Hebrew. He virtually gave his entire essence to the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael [Jewish National Fund]. He was active, and urged others to be active.

Isser Lemkowicz, the son of a Mizrachi member of our city, followed in the path of Mordechai Gotlieb in his activities for the national funds. In the annual accounting of the headquarters published in Warsaw, Dąbrowa Górnicza was noted being very advanced in its activities for the national funds. The Hashomer Hatzair chapter was noted as being at the forefront of the collection of donations for the funds.

Chana Szpilberg, a graduate of the chapter, did a great deal for the Fund for the Working Land of Israel. She was the daughter of the most desirable of men, the most beloved and revered, Reb Chanoch-Gershon Szpilberg of the Mizrachi. The fund for the Working Land of Israel was not as popular as the national funds. There was a need for a great deal of dedication and persistence of spirit, and Chana Szpilberg was graced with such. The collection was conducted in circles that were close to the working Land of Israel, and more than once, the question was asked, “Why another fund to collection money?” Chana had to respond to this question morning and night, stating that the Zionist laborer had unique roles in the building of the Land, in the establishment of mutual aid organizations, etc. As has been stated, the collection was conducted among the members of the Socialist Zionist organizations, and youth movements close to the working Land of Israel. Every year, the city of Dąbrowa Górnicza was noted for praise in activities on behalf of that fund. This was thanks to the efforts of the chapter graduate, Chana Szpilberg.

Foreign Influences in the Chapter and the War Against them

From the year 1927 until the outbreak of the Second World War, the Hashomer Hatzair Chapter in Dąbrowa was able to demonstrate constant growth.

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The youths who formed the kernel after the crisis of abandonment grew up in the interim, went to conventions, studied and observed what was taking place in the chapters of larger cities, mastered the Hebrew language, learned and taught others. There was vibrant activity in the groups, from the younger group of ten-year-olds until the older groups. The chapter bustled with life day and night.

It was not hard for all types of activists to conduct left-leaning publicity in Dąbrowa Górnicza, a city of coal mines and heavy manufacturing, a city in which great poverty pervaded amongst the workers. These activists desired the souls of the members of Hashomer Hatzair in particular. Their political consciousness, personal honesty, and dedication to ideals were regarded by them as necessary material for the broadening of opportunities for activism. The chapter conducted a battle to save them from their trickery, and to lead them toward the actualization of the ideals of Socialist Zionism. At times, leftist proclamations sent to these young youths were found in the bookshelves of the chapter. The leadership of the chapter emphasized the doctrines of Borochov, A. D. Gordon, and Brenner to counteract this penetration of anti-Zionist doctrine. The chapter once again turned into a study hall for endless debates.

We should admit that they succeeded in uprooting from the chapter several male and female youths would could have more firmly consolidated the chapter. With all this, Hashomer Hatzair of Dąbrowa knew how to stand its own against the parents, as well as against the leftist propagandists, who hoped to take advantage of the weakening in order to hunt souls from the chapter.

With the melting of the snow, a respite in studies, debates, and discussions began. Preparations for summer began. For the chapter, this had the meaning of sprouting, blossoming, excursions along bodies of water, hikes through the forests, and listening to the sounds of nature. The entire group began to prepare to go to the summer camps in the villages.

We did not have any communal or government grants, and maintaining groups of people in the villages required large sums. The chief patron, Reb Nachman Gutman, helped us to some degree. In the later years, we were helped to some degree by the communal council, after many approaches, in terms of health activities for Jewish children. In those days, the center was filled with crates, and all the members, from the youngest to the oldest groups, began to bring all types of food, preserves, and equipment in preparation for going to the camps. The chapter looked like a wholesale food warehouse. The feelings of an individual participant in this endeavor instilled among the members a sense of enthusiasm and a strong desire to succeed. Yaakov Goldberg had the task of visiting these villages on behalf of the chapter, to choose the appropriate location. His discerning eye knew what was good and necessary for a summer camp. The inn had to be owned by a pleasant villager, where it would be possible to have fun and play without disturbance. There had to be a river or body of water nearby, and the area had to be forested. It should be noted that Yaakov Goldberg never disappointed. He was knowledgeable in scouting, field kitchens, and making bonfires. He was especially loved for the trumpet that he would blow in the camp in the morning. This would be like a holy task for him.

We had an additional difficulty above the financial difficulties: the refusal of some of the parents to send their children out of the home to the camp under the supervision of the advisers of the chapter, who were aged 20 or even younger at that time. One had to go to the parents to remove the stumbling blocks. Yehuda Londner and Shoshana Bajtner were very active in this area. A communal policy to include the parents in the activities of the chapter was in practice in larger cities, but in a city such as Dąbrowa, this was an innovation. The parents received the visits to their homes with great interest. Every visit turned into a family discussion on issues of education and the realities of their children. We were forced to listen to other problems, such as progress in studies, etc. – and we were only 20-year-old representatives… We can state that the chapter had success in this area as well. Due to the love and connection that we planted in members of the chapter, the members would fulfil our request to advance in their studies, honor their parents, etc. The parents regarded us as important influencers on the education of their children. It is clear that the vast majority gave their assent to their children going to the summer camps.

In the summer camps, we returned to the youths their childhood and youthfulness. Their fate was in their own hands for a period of several weeks. They became the leaders of the camp, and concerned themselves with their food and clothing. Mutual responsibility was put to the test day by day, and hour by hour. There was a decisive removal of any upward responsibility. They functioned with the help of the counsellors, but were responsible for themselves. This had a great deal of educational influence. Eating together and equal distribution of food created a sense of mutual responsibility.

The summer camp was in essence an uprooting of the chapter from the city to the village to a life of nature. Our educational efforts did not cease for one moment. There too, we held discussions and deliberations, at the light of the campfire or next to lit candles. Leaving a city like Dąbrowa, with its soot and smoke, to a village and nature, made the campers friendlier, more concerned with their fellow. Mischief and tricks found a fertile area for expression.

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dab146.jpg [42 KB] - The “Hashomer Hatzair” at its summer camp
The “Hashomer Hatzair” at its summer camp

The children became healthier, and returned home encouraged and full of experiences. They forged connections with children of other cities, and their horizons broadened.

Chana Szpilberg served for the most part as the “camp mother.” She was loved by all the younger groups, especially by the girls. She played a great role in the success of the camp.

After the older members finished their activities in the camps, and after sending the children home, they also went to wander through the Zakopane Mountains. They also had the desire to free themselves for a period from their family confines. Along their way, they forged contact with foresters or ordinary villagers, and listened to their stories and legends about the history of the places that they had passed through. The experience was great, and it also reflected upon the other strata, and taught them to look at life.

Purim Parties and Ordinary Improvisations among the Jewish Population of Dąbrowa

In the ten commandments of Hashomer, it says, “Do on behalf of your fellow.” This commandment penetrated the blood of the members of the Dąbrowa chapter, and expressed itself in all areas of Jewish life in the city. If anti-Semitic disturbances took place, they were the first to stand up to defense. If a hooligan attacked a daughter, and it became necessary to administer to him several serious blows – there were lads in the chapter who knew how to do this very well…

The Shomrim loved outdoors events, and were diligent in observing them: On Lag B'Omer or November 2 – the day of the issuing of the Balfour Declaration – the Hashomer Hatzair chapter would march together outside the city with the flags of the chapter and the nation at the head. They would march in formation, wearing the uniform of the chapter. Yaakov Goldberg's trumpet and Moshe Winer's drum gathered the Jews of the city together from both sides of the procession. The march was in a unified formation, accompanied by national songs and songs of longing for the homeland. In particular, the harmonic drumming at the intersections made an impression on the scouts. The older Jews would sigh and say with pride, “Behold, our Shomrim march nicer than the gentiles.” An event such as this would remove the Jews of the city from their routine, and add a personal touch and charm to the life in the city. In particular, the general roll call of the entire chapter, with all its groups and its flags, conducted on Sabbaths in the yard of Sender Rajchman, attracted a crowd. The campers marched together from the chapter hall, the girls wearing skirts and ties in accordance with the colors of the group.

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They were organized by group, with the group leaders at the head. They organized in the shape of a chet (ח). The head of the chapter proclaimed the roll call, and the group leaders immediately marched next to him after they commanded their groups to stand in silence, and presented the report on their groups. This impressive roll call ended with a command for all to stand in silence. Trumpets were blown, and they sang “We will make aliya straightaway” and “Let us strengthen ourselves.”

From the dawn of the existence of the chapter, its members knew how to express themselves with sound, song, performances, drama, and stories of the great ones of Jewish history. We recall the academic events dedicated to the memorial day of Dr. Zeev Herzl of blessed memory. The academic event was full of grief and agony over the death of the leader. His picture was covered in black, with lit candles around it. Members of the chapter wore black bands. The evening was full of readings and songs of mourning.

We put on performances about the fall of Tel Hai and the death of Trumpeldor. Yaakov Rudoler played Trumpeldor. Chana Szwajcer was one of the defenders of Tel Hai. We did not have a stage, so we made a stage out of benches. The performance was so convincing that it remains etched in the memories of the members more than the book readings. In the latter years, Alter Pomecznik and Esther Szpylman stood out in the academic evenings dedicated to Trumpeldor, and in other performances. Alter Pomenczik was blessed with acting talent. During one of the academic events, dedicated to Trumpeldor, held in the Wanus movie theater, there was also a sketch “Hachatufim” [the Snatched] by David Frischman. Alter and Esther performed this sketch with such great integrity that the overflowing crowd did not stop their applause.

Two members of the chapter, Yehuda Londner and Shoshana Bajtner, did one of the daring and unconventional things in the city: they arranged a costume party for the kindergarten age children of the city. Esther was not a kindergarten teacher, even though she had a private kindergarten in her home. Yehuda also did not work in that profession. Nevertheless, their internal urge directed them to do such a thing and to succeed. The chapter did not have experience in arranging costume parties for kindergarten children, so the tension and preparations were great. There were many problems: how to appear before the children, how to make them dance and play, choosing songs, and the appropriateness of the tunes. There were issues that experienced professionals solve with difficulty. On one of the winter days of Purim, invitations were sent out in golden lettering to tens of families in the city who had children of that age. The following is the text of the invitation, more or less:

Your children are invited to a costume party
That will take place in the P.P.S. hall Programme:

There will be prizes for the best and the most original costumes.

All sorts of angels, birds, fairies of the forest, snowflakes, and clowns appeared.

dab147.jpg [41 KB] - The textile factory in Strzemieszyce
The textile factory in Strzemieszyce
belonging to members of “Hashomer Hatzair“ in Dąbrowa,
who were the first to pave the way to “hachshara” [training] in 1927

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The band was composed of several young lads, students of the Yavneh Gymnasja of Bedzin, who knew well how to blend the song and the appropriate tune. The children appeared in dance with the help of Shoshana Bajtner – each in accordance with their costume. Finally, all the children appeared in a costume procession, and almost every child got a prize. The following day, this unconventional party was a topic of conversation among the mothers of Dąbrowa.

Hachsharah and Aliya to the Land

From the time of the founding of the Hashomer Hatzair chapter in Dąbrowa in the years 1918-1919 until the consolidation of the idea that normal Jewish life could not be conducted in the Diaspora, and such would only be possible by concentrating the Jews in the Land of Israel, the city grew and its Jewish population became firmly based. Zionist movements arose that also stressed actualization. Indeed, even before that time, the city could tell of aliya of individuals through complex routes, through an internal longing for Zion. However, the members of Hashomer etched in their flag actualization under any conductions.

During those years, aliya to the Land was not that popular. News came from the Land about unemployment, and the refusal of Jewish labor by the orchard owners. This was at the eve of the 1929 disturbances. However, the older members decided despite everything: Hachsharah and aliya! The call immediately found wings in the city, and was accompanied by fear. They saw in it an uprooting from the bosom of the family. In some homes, this almost shook up the foundations of livelihood. The word Hachsharah was confusing to the mothers: they did not know for what reason and why? Dąbrowa Górnicza used to regard the Hashomer Hatzair chapter as bustling, and urging others to action – but to go to Hachsharah? This had a completely new ring. Yisrael Simchoni, Yechezkel Bajtner, Kalman Barkai, Alter Pimocznik, Yehuda Londner, Pinchas Lustiger, and Yaakov Goldberg went. In this manner, they proved to themselves and others that the values of the Hashomer education that they had absorbed throughout all their years in the chapter had turned into their daily bread.

From 1929, the year of the aliya of the first Hashomer pioneers, Yisrael Simchoni and Kalman Barkai, to Israel, a new leaf was turned in the annals of the city. This did not stop until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.

After the aliya of the first and second groups of older members, the chapter continued its existence with new youths, who were faithful, with the same honesty and dedication, to the oath of the earlier ones to be connected to the flag of Hashomer to their final breath. The flag was not abandoned with the Nazi troops invaded the city of Dąbrowa and the destruction of the Jewish community. One day, it was carried to one of the houses in the Reden colony and hidden in a wall, as a testimony to future generations that vibrant Jewish youth lived in that city and fought for the establishment of their nation.

[Page 149]

About the “Hashomer Hadati” Youth Movement

by Devora Rajchert (of the Oks family)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

After a long period, when I once again leaf through a photo album, I see before my eyes completely different characters, whose facial expressions and even mode of dress are different.

This was a completely different type of youth. Our youth had no future during the times of the development of Nazism. The struggle for daily bread grabbed one's entire essence. These were youth healthy of body and spirit, with an aspiration to make aliya to the Land and built their futures in Israel, without thinking about the difficult situation in the Land at that time and the difficult conditions of absorption.

I recall how the youth of all the Zionist groups paraded through our city at that time. However, the religious youth who wished to continue in the traditions of their ancestors did not find a place among their ranks. The Hashomer Hadati movement only arose in 1941, and most of the boys and girls joined it.

A religious movement called Mizrachi had indeed already existed in our city for a long time. Their prayers at the eastern [1] wall were not only directed toward the Holy City of Jerusalem, but also to the existing Zionist movement. Therefore, it did its part toward that end.

After Mizrachi organized a different youth movement called Young Mizrachi and Bruria (a women's movement) that continued in the ways of Mizrachi, they operated in an intensive fashion and even actualized and made aliya. The following stood at the head of this movement: Elimelech Lenczner of blessed memory, Yehuda Oks of blessed memory, Y. Wigodski, Klajnplac, Peretz Gruszka of blessed memory, and Menachem Bokowski of blessed memory. The following stood at the head of Bruria: Esther Oks of blessed memory, Libtcha Lencner of blessed memory, Franka Jagodka of blessed memory, Rivka Bajtner, and Silberfrajnt of blessed memory.

The Young Mizrachi movement helped organize the traditionally oriented sporting youth into Hashomer Hadati. The following stood at the head: Menachem Bokowski, Shraga Feder, Peretz Gruszki, Dvora Oks, and Miriam Bajtner. Their motto was Torah V'Avoda [Torah and Labor].

dab149.jpg [35 KB] - Hashomer Hadati “Mizrachi”
Hashomer Hadati “Mizrachi”: The “Hashmonean” group in 1937

From the top right: Tzvi Rechnic, Hertzko Lencner, Reuven Lewkowicz,
Moshe Rozen, Moshe Szeps, Frumka Kener, Libka Tenenbaum,
Esther Nowomiski, Hela Cukerfeld, Tzipora Judkowicz, Miriam Oks,
Miriam Bajtner, Dvora Oks, Chava Bajtner, Yetka Finkelsztajn,
Yaakov Bajtner, Mordechai Ostrowicki, Fela Gotlieb, Chanan Kener,
Yitzchak Rendel

[Page 150]

dab150a.jpg [25 KB] - The “Bet Yaakov” School
The “Bet Yaakov” School

dab150b.jpg [26 KB] - General Committee of the Torah and Labor Movement
General Committee of the Torah and Labor Movement
Sukkot, 5695 (1935) – of Dąbrowa Górnicza

[Page 151]

We began to work with full energy. We enlisted youth. It is appropriate to note that entire families stood with us. The older members joined Young Mizrachi, and the younger ones joined Hashomer Hadati. This was the case with Lenczner, Oks, Bajtner, Gruszka, Feder, Bokowski, Liberman, Ostrowicki, Rechnic, Gotlieb, Lewkowicz, and others.

The efforts were directed toward Zionism and religion. The younger generation received information about the nation of Israel, the religion of Israel, how to be a good Jew in the full sense of the term. Meetings, classes on history and Zionism, information on the geography of the Land of Israel, and songs of Israel all took place.

Outings took place in the area of the Beskids and Zakopane so that the children could breathe clear air into their lungs. Lectures on current event and communal life took place.

We conducted congregational prayer services, explained what the “Holy Sabbath” is, and attempted to impart an Israeli atmosphere to the children. We were convinced that we were building a new way, a new life, a new Jew, proud and healthy in body and spirit, concerned with one's fellow, one's nation, and one's homeland.

The goal that we set for ourselves was great, with holy purpose. Every one of us marched to 19 Okrzei St. with strength, and those who belonged to the Hashomer Hadati movement could already be noticed from afar. At night, our center hummed like a beehive.

Newspapers were published by the chapter. Every festival was given its true holiness. The Hashomer Hadati chapter developed and progressed in a fine fashion. The older members went out to Hachsharah, and the younger ones continued to work energetically and willingly to actualize their aspirations. It is appropriate to note that we aspired only to make aliya to the Land and to live the kibbutz life. Only Shraga Feder, Sima Liberman, Szlomo Gruszka, and Rachel Feder merited such. They went on Hachsharah and joined Kibbutz Kfar Etzion. They had just succeeded in making aliya when the war broke out and everything was destroyed…

Translator's Footnote:

  1. A play on the term Mizrachi which can mean “Eastern” – i.e. directed toward Israel. Although the name itself is an acronym for Merkaz Ruchani (Spiritual Center). Return

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