by Efraim Lenczner
Translated by Jerrold Landau
Twenty-five years have passed since Dıbrowa Jewry was destroyed along with the rest of the six million, may G-d avenge their blood, and we are still searching in all sorts of places and sources to see if we can find some detail about the variegated Jewish life of that Jewry. However, to our dismay, we are lacking facts from which we can draw and write about the details needed to remember and perpetuate in this memorial book that we are producing as a monument to our dear ones.
The Zionist movement gave a great present to the nation of Israel, in that, from the time of its founding, along with the rest of its activities and institutions, it established a deep and very worthwhile apparatus that did a great deal to unify the house of Israel in the Diaspora, over and above its practical role in the redemption of the Land and education. It penetrated virtually every Jewish home, and through its activities, it forged a strong connection among all the strata and ages, at every opportunity, in every place and all times.
|Keren Kayemet annual bulletin. September 1930. Price 2 groszy.
Dąbrowa Górnicza for the Jewish National fund
Annual bulletin published by the local committee about the activity of the Jewish National Fund in Dąbrowa in the year 5690.
Dąbrowa Górnicza, eve of Rosh Hashanah 5691.
We will now try to glean data from the publications of the Jewish National Fund committee in Dıbrowa, to the extent that we can. This was a committee that was known as being very active, and that fulfilled diligently all 613 commandments imposed on it by the center in Warsaw.
We have before us an annual bulletin published in 1930 by the committee of the Jewish National Fund in Dıbrowa. In addition to the articles written by several members, we learn the following facts from the section on accounting and income, edited by the member Isser Lemkowicz (today Lavie).
|A convention of Jewish National Fund activists in Dąbrowa,
with the participation of Yosef Heftman of blessed memory and Pinchas Fogelman of blessed memory.
Tammuz 5690 1930.
We will continue by looking at the minutes in the bulletin by section, and attempting to derive certain historical facts. We will begin with section a): the charity box division table 1:
In total, 257 [JNF charity] boxes were distributed in Dąbrowa. Jewish Dąbrowa numbered about 600-700 families. We know that a large number who did not have a box in their homes for various reasons demonstrated their faithfulness and love for Zion by donating to the Zionist funds in other branches and at other opportunities.
In table 2 we find boxes that brought in my than 10 zloty during that year.
Mentioned there, and we will mention here, are the names of Jews who were so
close to us. They vary in status and educational level, but one thing unites
them the Zionist idea and their longing for Zion: Szlomo Halpern,
Nachman-Aharon Gutman, Zanwil Lenczner, Shimon Grosfeld, Yaakov-Shalom Fiszel,
Eliezer Tenenbaum, Avraham Lajtner, Chanoch Rechnic, Reuven Grosfeld,
Moshe-Shmuel Hipsztajn, Yosef Rozenblum, Chanoch Gershon Szpilberg, Yudel
Rozenblum, Hershel Klajnman, Hershel Fruchtcwajg, and Moshe Treper. It is too
bad that we do not have the list of the owners of the 257 boxes which
would have given us a clearer picture, and a more exacting slice of the large
portion of Dąbrowa Jewry who were imbued with a nationalistic Zionist
feeling and who dreamed of a more secure and free future in the Land of the
Father. Nevertheless, I can note (as a native of Reden) that of the 15 boxes
that brought in more than ten zloty, ten of them i.e. 66% were
from the Reden colony, even though the Jews of Reden comprised only 20% of the
Jews of Dąbrowa.
In table 4, in the section on pledges, we read about the synagogues and prayer quorums [minyanim] that were active on behalf of the Jewish National Fund:
Beis Midrash of Reden 262.50 złoty Mińska Synagogue 223.00 złoty Aleksander Minyan 17. 00 złoty Mizrachi Minyan 50.00 złoty Śiwek Dąbnik Minyan 15.50 złoty Old Miodownik Minyan 4.00 złoty Krimlew Minyan 2.00 złoty 583.00 złoty
From here, we learn that the Zionist movement also penetrated the Hassidic minyanim. This was something daring, which was often fraught with debates and disputes between the worshippers at the minyanim and the brazen ones who penetrated these minyanim:
In the Aleksander Minyan Yechiel Dąb
In the Śzibek Dąbnik Minyan Moshe Śzibek
In the Miodownik Minyan of Old Dąbrowa Yitzchak Miodownik and N. Rechnic
Table 5: Family holidays, related to the aforementioned branch of the Jewish National Fund. Member David Kożuch writes: Were you recently at some Jewish celebration in Dąbrowa? If so, you certainly met our emissary, with the large, beautiful ledger in which the date, hosts of the celebration, and guests who were present at the family present are listed, as well as their donation to the Jewish National Fund. Aside from the value of the fund, this also has national, educational value 'Let my tongue cleave to my palate if I do not remember thee, if I do not place Jerusalem at the head of my joy.'  do not denigrate the ledger!
In truth, they did not denigrate the ledger, and we read in the following table that the emissaries of the Jewish National Fund visited several family celebrations and collected various sums, including:
The circumcision celebration of A. Fruchtcwajg
The wedding celebration of H. Kricman
The wedding celebration of L. Lubelski
The wedding celebration of Y. Rozen
The wedding celebration of A. N. Szpilberg.
[Collection] plates table 6. The plates on Purim and the Eve of Yom
Kippur had filled the tables for generations. The novelty here was that the
Jewish National Fund made inroads in this realm, and met no special obstacle in
the Reden Beis Midrash. We can see this from the sums that were collected. The
worshippers of the Reden Beis Midrash donated 100.90 z#322;oty of the total sum
of 193.55 z#322;oty that is 52%.
These amounts were collected by:
In this article, we detailed and expanded on several branches of activity of the Jewish National Fund that stand out in particular in the aforementioned bulletin, and mention to some degree the vigorous Zionist activity in Dąbrowa. It mentions the activity in the synagogues, Beis Midrashes, and Hassidic minyanim, for those were the places where the majority of the Jews of Dąbrowa met on all the days of the year. It also mentions some of the people who were active or donated at a level that would appear in the aforementioned bulletin that is in our hands, which, as has been noted, was published in 1930.
A few words about the bulletin itself: Its name was Dąbrowa Górnicza
for the Jewish National Fund. It was published in newspaper style, with
eight pages, with the aim of distributing it free to every Jewish home. This
was no easy matter from any perspective, especially since there were no
subsidies for this.
Therefore we sold advertisements to various firms and merchants who were also admirers of the Jewish National Fund, and convinced that it was worthwhile for them from a business perspective, for the bulletins were distributed gratis in the thousands, and many people would read them. We also sold New Year greetings to relatives in Israel, which would be printed. This made the publication of the bulletin possible. It was distributed with great joy by the Zionist youth to every Jewish home in a single day.
It was impossible to make these efforts constantly. Therefore, bulletins and
accounting of this nature do not exist from other years, which were undoubtedly
no less rich in Zionist activities and events in many areas. It is too bad.
by Abram Josef Tenenbaum
Translated by Jerrold Landau
The rise of the party, its first steps and development took place at the beginning of the 1920s, during the bright period following the Communist revolution in Russia, at a time when a non-insignificant portion of the workers and working intelligentsia were influenced and enchanted by those historic events.
Revolutionary feelings arrived in the Jewish street in an inflated fashion, in a manner that was too high and did not relate to the talents and level of the Jewish worker. Ferment and hope were kindled in the hearts for something not understood pleasant feelings for the footsteps of redemption, for the brotherhood of nations. The sublime portrayal of the Latter Days by the prophet Isaiah appeared on the horizon.
Significant portions of the workers, the intelligentsia, and the youth, in whom a connection to the Jewish past coursed through their bloodstream, saw that there was no point in debating on naked matters that have no connection to reality. Before discussing the class war and social changes, one must attain firm ground under one's feet, abandon the airy pursuits and become working nature. Arise, let us go to Zion must turn into practical action.
Our party had two serious competitors among the workers parties in its first steps the Bund, and left-leaning Poalei Zion. The Bund, a party that had existed for a long time, saw themselves as the guardians, with a monopoly over the Jewish worker; and, given their experience, the final arbiters as to what is permitted and what is forbidden for a party of workers. Our party was called denigrating nicknames by their spokespeople. They saw us as shaatnez , as social-fascists against whom one must wage a battle of destruction. The battle was especially prevalent in the professional guilds that they ruled, and related to as if they owned them.
The prominent personalities of that party and bearers of influence were Itche Bronker, the Grantman brothers, Shabtai and Nachum Szwajcer, and Nuta Szwimer, who served as the secretary of the Jewish community.
The left-leaning Poalei Zion already had an honorable status in the periphery of the city. As followers of the old Borochov school, they were noted for their orthodox Marxism, and completely abandoned the then current Zionist idea. It is self-evident that we could not find common language with them on any issue, whether internal or external. They had more in common in dialogue with the Bund than with us.
The activists of that party were Zalman Brandes, Yaakov Riterbrand, Kornfeld, and Klajnman. They were talented in expression, and invited us on occasion on Friday nights for debates on theory. The debates continued for many successive hours, and attracted many participants from both camps.
Dąbrowa, as a veteran working Polish city, imprinted its stamp on the Jewish settlement, on its economy and spiritual development. They youth did not have a strong economic base. Sources of livelihood were restricted, aside from the Klein brothers who employed a small number of Jews. A significant percentage of the male and female youth were employed the adjacent towns of Będzin, Sosnowiec, and Katowice. They worked in various professions, including commerce and official positions. The vast majority of the Jews of the city worked in the trades, owned small workshops, were shopkeepers, or worked in sacred occupations. The vast majority were observant of the commandments.
There were no gymnasjas [high schools] or public schools under Jewish ownership. Parents with the means would send their children to the Hebrew schools in the neighboring cities.
Jewish societal life was vibrant and energetic enough. There were economic,
commercial and trade organizations; and workers', Zionist, and religious
parties. The youth organizations stood out in particular.
The Poalei Zion Socialist Zionist party had approximately 150 active members who paid membership dues on a regular basis and responded with dedication to every call of the party.
A public lecture took place at least weekly in one of the movie theaters of the city. The party ran extensive publicity campaigns during the times of elections to the parliament, the city council, the community council, and the Zionist congresses.
The party arranged home visits in addition to public gatherings. Pairs of party activists passed through the length and breadth of the city, entering every Jewish home, even the homes of their opponents. This was a chance to publicize the party platform to the masses, and to speak face to face with people in a heartfelt conversation regarding personal and public issues.
The following people stood at the head of the party, and served as its chief spokespeople: Shimon Gutman, Yosef Yizraeli (Jizralowicz), the brothers Moshe and Yaakov-David Szjwek, Noach Krempel, Pesach Zigrajch, Max Treper, Avraham and Leib Wajszalc, Tzvi Kożuch, Tzvi Frajlach, and the writer of these lines. Aside from there members, there were rows and rows of faithful, dedicated members.
During the time of pogroms, when the students of the nationalist N. Z. party in collaboration with the underworld and run-of-the-mill hooligans perpetrated attacks against the Jews of the city, the party organized groups of local and external members to defend the Jewish population. They made the rounds to various points of focus, prepared to return the beatings. The party also reached out with proclamations to the progressive element of the Polish population, especially the socialist camp, to explain the background and the aims of the pogroms.
The influence of the party increased and penetrated more and more into the strata of tradesmen and independent workers, who saw their future in the Land of Israel, and regarded themselves as an integral part of the Working Land of Israel camp. The group that organized with the name of Oved, headed by comrade Rubinstein, was a portion of the landscape of the party, even though they conducted their affairs in a completely autonomous manner.
There was a non-partisan women's circle affiliated with the party, which conducted publicity activities and offered advice to women regarding women's issues. It also defended the rights of working mothers in matters of labor legislation in Poland of that time. Mindel Treper was the coordinator of that circle.
We collaborated and participated in the establishment of the regional secretariat. Despite the lack of workers in various areas of the party, we dedicated thought and time to strengthen the existing party and organize new points.
|Members of the left leaning Poalei Zion
Several of the best members moved to other centers. These were: Comrade Jizralowicz to work with Freiheit in Warsaw, and Moshe Śiwek to Hechalutz in Warsaw. Motel Rosenblum moved to Brazil, where he became the secretary of the party.
The writer of these lines served as the district secretary from 1929 to 1934.
Members of the district council were: comrade Baum of Katowice, Szlang from Kr&ocatue;lewska Huta, Szckocz from Częstochowa, Frenkel from Wolbrom, Pikarski from Sosnowiec, Cukierkandel from Bêdzin, Tenenbaum from Dąbrowa.
The Hachshara depot in our city, named for Borochov and founded by the Hechalutz center, consisted of several tens of male and female workers who received their preparation for aliya. The party served as the patron of the kibbutz, and helped them out. From one side, we received some leeway, and were helped by the party. We got to know numerous new members from various places in Poland, including some who were experienced with organization and societal life.
On the other side, the kibbutz endured a daily struggle for its existence and integrity. We had to worry about employment. It was no easy matter to find work, even non-steady work, for outside people. The party did everything in its power to ensure the economic foundations of the kibbutz. We took advantage of all connections with employment providers. The Klajn brothers, who owned an iron product factory, are to be remembered positively, for they always responded to us with several work positions. Aside from this workplace, which was more or less consistent, we had to run around on harsh winter nights, in mud and rain, to find several additional isolated workplaces. Nevertheless, as has been mentioned, this task was pleasant to us, for this was part of our essence.
A group of members who loved acting formed a drama club. The club began its preparations under the guidance of the artist Lewensztajn, who lived in Dąbrowa. Later, they worked under their own guidance. The living spirit of this club was Moshe Szwimer.
Members of the club earned significant acclaim when they appeared in performances relating to the Land of Israel, or general themes. The impact of the club was very significant when it performed in Dąbrowa and in joint celebrations in Będzin and Sosnowiec.
|Youths of the Leftist Poale Zion Borochov group
Our movement's affiliation with Socialist International obligated us to collaborate and maintain contact with the P.P.S. Polish Socialist party. We fulfilled the commandment of brotherhood between the nations with great energy, and collaboration at various opportunities in activities with an international or local character, such as: joint events on May 1, proclamations against anti-Semitism (which we initiated), a joint stance on political issues, etc.
There were difficult struggles within the ranks of the party on this topic, especially regarding the joint appearance on May 1. The members of the P.P.S. band were tolerant and polite to us, but not the ranks of the masses, who were infused with an anti-Semitic spirit. We suffered degradation as Jews on more than once occasion. When we presented a Yiddish speaker at a joint gathering, shouts of opposition could be heard from the Polish members.
Of course, this type of thing caused bitterness. Harsh debates broke out between the supporters and opponents of joint activity.
There was a broad, inter-organizational effort on behalf of the Working Land of Israel, gathering around it the best of the forces and the finest of the youth of the Working Land of Israel, the left-leaning Poalei Zion, and broad circles of those who appreciated the organization.
Through this, the desire to strengthen the workers of the Land of Israel, to create realities, and to ensure the future of the organization in the Diaspora came to expression more than political continuity.
Every organization, from the left-leaning Poalei Zion, Hashomer Hatzair, Gordonia, Freiheit, and Hechalutz were represented on the league council with the best of their members. The tight collaboration bore fruit. Hundreds of members who paid monthly dues, as well as many circles of friends, donated non-insignificant sums of money on regular occasions, and responded to every call of the league. People with families were prepared to do all sorts of voluntary work. There was mass participation in the public and closed meetings of the league. Publicity material on the activities of the fund was distributed in abundance.
When Najsztat of blessed memory started working for the league headquarters, the league received a new impetus toward orderly organizational activity. He was a major force in written publicity, technical and organizational work, etc.
The Hapoel sports group existed within the framework of the party. The organization conducted its activities in an autonomous fashion, guided by the Hapoel center. They were involved in several areas of sport, under the guidance of experienced counsellors. The main area was basketball. They held practices and played successfully against teams from the area.
Those active in the organization included David Szajer, Asher Krempel, the Wajszalc brothers (Avraham and Yaakov), as well the representative of the party, who served as the contact person between the organization and the party institutions.
The Freiheit youth organization was founded in 1924, approximately two years after the founding of the party. They were divided into three groups: Borochov, Brener, and Sirkin. Each group conducted its own cultural activities in an independent fashion, as well as joint activities with the other groups.
Every evening, and almost all day on Sabbaths and festivals, the hall of the party hummed like a beehive. There was singing and dancing Hora dances and national dances, enjoyment, and the joy of youthful life burst forth afar to the late hours of the night, and attracted the attention of all passers-by and the neighborhood.
Every night, discussions, classes and lectures on Israeli topics and general social questions took place. There were free discussions, studies of geography and Jewish history. A weekly wall newspaper was produced regarding issues of Jewish youth, and youth throughout the world. There was also a section of humor and slapstick. The editors of the newspaper were Tzvi Frajlach, A. Wajszalc, and Tzvi Kożuch.
On issues of Hachshara and aliya, the youth exerted unceasing pressure to circumvent and annul the decrees of the Mandate government. The decrees did not for a moment dampen the enthusiasm and devotion to live for three or more years in various Hachshara depots throughout Poland, under very difficult conditions.
The youth with useful professions abandoned their jobs and their parents' homes in order to work in the Hachshara depots, working in backbreaking work in quarries, brick kilns, or fields so that they could earn the awaited aliya certificate when the time came.
Freiheit placed itself at the disposal of the Zionist funds, the Jewish National Fund and Keren Hayesod, in conducting campaigns and collecting money. It was known that there was some sort of interorganizational competition to see who would exceed the quota and receive a token of recognition from the head leadership. Therefore, during the time of the assignment of districts for the campaign, the youth organizations attempted to be assigned to streets and districts in Zionist areas, whose residents had a Zionist consciousness, such as Reden, Okradzionów, etc.
Every summer, Freiheit organized itself to go out to summer camp for vacation and health, in the bosom of nature. They wore a festive uniform patterned after the youth of the Working Land of Israel.
The order of the day in the camp was set and exacting, filled with a variety of
activities. The day started with the blowing of the trumpets to wake up in the
morning, and ended with evening roll-call, including the waving and lowering of
Aside from hikes in the area and the experience of camp life, there was a great deal of activity in the arena of education and culture. There were study days and seminars, with the participation of personalities from the headquarters or the Israeli kibbutz movement.
They also took the opportunity to organize district meetings, and to determine a collaborative work plan for the future.
The two or three weeks of communal life in the camp atmosphere consolidated and unified the group into one family, and left an impression in the hearts of the youth. The impressive memories, stories and longing to meet again the following year did not stop throughout the entire year.
If Freiheit was the second generation of the left-leaning Poalei Zion party, Scout was the third generation. This was a youth group of the lower grades of the school, who were educated and received their preparation on the lap of Freiheit until the senior age. Moving over to Freiheit was accompanied by a festive ceremony. Moshe Szwimer was the head of the group.
The theme of the activities was similar to that of Freiheit. The group was also
organized into tribes. Aside from various activities, there was also
discussions and classes.
by Mordechai Gotlieb
Translated by Jerrold Landau
I am a native of Wolbrom, but Dąbrowa Jewry was always close to my heart and soul, for I was there for seven years.
I came to Dąbrowa in 1928. Eliezer Tenenbaum of blessed memory was the chairman of the Zionist organization at that time. The secretary was David Kożuch of blessed memory. As is known, there were two factions in the Zionist organization in Poland at that time, the faction of the progressive Al Hamishmar, headed by Yitzchak Grynbaum, today in Israel; and the conservative faction of Et Livnot, headed by Dr. Yehoshua Gotlieb of blessed memory. The Zionist union in Dąbrowa did not belong to Et Livnot or to Al Hamishmar, but was rather affiliated with the central Zionist council of Warsaw. Every member voted according to their conscience in the elections for the national council.
In 1928, I participated and appeared for the first time in a festive academy, organized by the Zionist council of Dąbrowa Górnicza, dedicated to ten years of the Balfour Declaration and five years of the British Mandate.
In those days, sharp debates between the factions on the Jewish street took place in all cities, Dąbrowa among them. Every party brought lecturers and orators from the large cities in order to defeat the competing faction and to attract members from it. After the 1929 riots, the opposition to the Zionist movement in Dąbrowa was very great and strong. It came from two sides, from the Bund Jewish workers' party on the left, and from Agudas Yisroel on the right. The Bund party of social-democratic workers regarded the Zionist movement as a reactionary movement, spreading vain dreams of a Hebrew state in the land of the patriarchs. The Bund, which attempted to mediate between nationalism and assimilation, decided to fight against Zionism in all its forms. This party also saw its role as fighting against religion and Jewish tradition. The opposition to Zionism from the side of the Agudas Yisrael was renewed with greater strength after the Zionists decided to involve themselves in Jewish culture as well.
The Vanos movie theater was full to the brim. I opened the festive academy in the name of the Zionist organization of Dąbrowa with a short Hebrew speech, prefaced with a blessing to the dear, honorable members who were participating in the academy: Dr. Perlman and Dr. Mlodisti from Sosnowiec; Mrs. Necha Bitner, the advisor from the city of Będzin; and comrade Goldstein, who was sent from the central committee of the Zionist council of Warsaw. The academy left a great impression on the Jews of Dąbrowa, and was a topic of conversation for everyone for a long time thereafter.
In 1930, Yitzchak Grynbaum, the well-known Zionist leader visited from the
Zionist council of Warsaw. Eliezer Tenenbaum of blessed memory and I went out
to Ząbkowice to greet him. At night, Grynbaum delivered his exciting and
brilliant lecture in the Odeon movie theater, which was full of people.
Grynbaum succeeded in arousing the Zionist movement from its calm, in
harnessing the tired horses toward new energy, and perhaps also in justifying
the existence of the Zionist movement.
|Herzliya Zionist youth movement
|Zionist activists in the Zionist Histadrut in Dąbrowa
|Zygmund Szpigler and Yosef Kanarek
The people who brought the spirit of Hashomer to our city
Keren Kayemet [Jewish National Fund] and Keren HaYesod committees existed in Dąbrowa, as in all cities of Poland. Its members were honorable members of all the Zionist parties. The following was their mode of operation: once a year, an emissary came from the Keren HaYesod and Keren Kayemet center. He gave a speech in one of the halls of the city, as well as in the Reden Beis Midrash, on the topic of Zionism and means of preparation for Zionist actualization. Then, accompanied by members of the council, he would go to wealthy Zionists and supporters. Through the joint effort, they would sign up the people for large sums of cash or pledges. Not all the signatories fulfilled their pledges, however most of them indeed took it upon themselves to fulfil their promises.
In 1932, the poet Leib Yaffe of blessed memory visited Dąbrowa. He drew hearts with his simplicity, and instilled deep ideas through popular explanation. Everything was natural and clear, and everybody found what they loved in his words. The masses of people found simplicity in his words, and the maskilim found deep logic deep, sharp ideas through simple, fine explanation. Leib Yaffe left an indelible impression upon his audience. All members of the Zionist parties were aroused to comprehensive Zionist activity on behalf of the Keren HaYesod.
The final serious Zionist activity was: every Sabbath eve, the members would gather in the Zionist center for a celebration of the Sabbath [Oneg Shabbat]. They would listen to lectures on various topics by local speakers. On weekday nights, there would be Hebrew lessons, at which everyone could learn the Hebrew language without any payment.
I was chosen as a communal administrator from the Zionist organization. My
activity in the Zionist organization dwindled due to lack of time. In 1934, I
left Dąbrowa to go to the Land. I arrived on June 21, 1934.
by Isser Lavie
Translated by Jerrold Landau
The beginning of the Hashomer Hatzair organization in our city can be seen from the Hashomer organization, which began as a scouting group during the years 1917-1918.
Already in 1917, the founders of Hashomer in our city participated in a national convention of Hashomer in Częstochowa. The Balfour Declaration and the Zionist awakening throughout Poland formed the first impetus to the founding of this youth movement. This process did not pass over our city. The younger youths were influenced to no small degree from these processes. Among the founders of this organization in our city, we find Yosef Kanarek, Szpigler, Shmuel Bialystok, Shimon Grosfeld (all perished), Zeev Cukerman (today in Tel Aviv), Freda Sztruchein-Narkis, Frenkel, Wisloc (in Israel), and Leibel Treper (in Poland). Similarly, the following people are among the founders, who maintained their faith in the movement for many years after leaving, and extended their assistance to it: Emil Grynbaum, Izik Bornsztajn, and Yaakov Fruchtcwajg (all perished in the Holocaust).
The first headquarters of the Hashomer organization was on Sowieskiga Street, under the ownership of Pinchas Szwarcbaum (in Israel). The founders established the image and path of the chapter, which was initially solely a scouting center. Many youths found content in the scouting activity and the social milieu of the chapter. As time went on, the chapter moved next to the Hechalutz meeting place on Fabryczna Street, in the home of Szywek. The pioneering awakening in the Hechalutz chapter also left a mark on the life of the chapter, and the first buds of ideological clarification and the forging of a pioneering path in life could be heard between its the walls. Throughout Poland, the movement forged its ideological and organizational path. The Hashomer Hatzair organization arose with a pioneering leaning. However, there was still a long path to pioneering actualization, and the local chapter still retained its scouting orientation, even though it already affiliated with the national organization from an organizational perspective.
A few individuals from among the founders of the chapter made aliya, but they did not maintain any connection with the movement (Par, Treper, Freda Sztrochajn, Szwarcbaum, Shimon Grosfeld). When they arrived in the Land, they became absorbed in the ideological crisis that affected the Haavoda, brigade, the Hashomer Hatzair movement among them. Some of them found their way into the Kibbutz movement, but quickly became disappointed and settled in the city. Others rejected Zionism and joined the P.K.P (The Palestinian Communist movement), ended up being chased out of the land, and settled in Soviet Russia. After many years, we meet them after the tribulations of the war and the Holocaust beating themselves over their sin, repenting , and even actualizing the commandment of aliya for the second time in their lives.
In the interim, the chapter grew and developed. It was headed by two active members from the young strata: Shimek Gutman (perished in the Holocaust) and Yaakov Rudoler (arrived in Israel after the Holocaust). Pinchas Lustiger (currently in Israel) later joined these two, and later exerted an unusual level of influence on the future of the chapter.
It did not take long for a schism to take place in the chapter in 1925, given the background of personal and even ideological disputes. On the eve of the schism, the chapter still gained youth who in the future would determine its course of development for the coming years. The following members belonged to the group: Rivka and Kalman Barkai (Janowski), Yisrael Frajlach (Simchoni), Kuba Goldberg, Chana and Esther Szpilberg, Alter Pomocznik, Yehuda Londner, Yechezkel Bajtner (all in Israel), Dolek Lajtner (in the United States), and Moshe Szwimer (perished). This group later united with the Lahav educational group, and formed the foundations for the renewal of the chapter. Three female members stood out in the Gutman group: Chana Wisloc, Bela Ungar (both perished), Rozka Waltfrajnd (currently in Israel). They contributed greatly to the chapter in its second faction.
One year later, in 1926, a section of the chapter got together and rented a dwelling next to the Tarbut chapter in Grynbaum's house on Okszi (Ulman) Street. This neighbor influenced the chapter positively from the perspective of the Hebrew language and the social environment that pervaded in the Tarbut chapter. The second section of the chapter gathered together on Krotka Street and conducted separate activity under the direction of Yaakov Rudoler.
After the separate existence of the two factions for one year, publicity
efforts were undertaken by the founders of the chapter: Grynbaum, Bergsztajn,
and Fruchtcwajg, who were not yet officially members of the chapter, but rather
served as a form of patrons.
Their activity bore fruit, and one Sabbath, the two chapters joined together for a unity celebration in the yard of Hershel Bergsztajn, and in the presence of the chapter patron Nachman-Aharon Gutman. A festive roll call took place, and the renewed unity of the chapter was proclaimed.
|The Keren Kayemet corner in the Hashomer Hatzair chapter
The unity activities bore fruit, and the chapter began its first steps as a part of the Hashomer Hatzair movement. In that timeframe, the movement underwent ideological ferment, and it defined itself as a pioneering organization, obligating personal actualization. This process led to the separation of tens of members of the chapter, who were unable and unwilling to follow that path on the one hand. On the other hand, the chapter forged a kernel, headed by Pinchas Lustiger, that assured the development of the chapter in the coming years. The unity of the chapter brought in its wake an organizational structure of large scope. The personality of Pinchas Lustiger contributed to such in no small way. He was an educator with abilities of expression and influence. He was a friend to the students. He succeeded very quickly in gathering around him the finest of the youth who were searching for their path, and saw pioneering actualizing as their way of life.
Along with Pinchas Lustiger, the following members were active during that time: Yehuda Londner, Chana Szpilberg, Kalman and Rivka Barkai, Yechezkel Bajtner, Kuba Goldberg (all currently in Israel). They formed the older strata of the chapter. The chapter moved to Grynbaum's home on Szkolna Street in 1927. Through the efforts of the veteran members of the chapter, the members of the following chapters held a convention in 1928: Zawiercie, Sosnowiec, Częstochowa, Żarki, and other cities. They laid the foundations for a Hachshara kibbutz, which led several months later to the establishment of a Hachshara point in Siemiatycze.
The members of the chapter Pinchas Lustiger, Yehuda Londner, Kalman Barkai, Yechezkel Bajtner, and Kuba Goldberg were the pioneers to going to Hachshara. This was the event for which the chapter had waited for years. All strata of the chapter accompanied the pioneers of the movement, who were actualizing the pioneering imperative, with feelings of pride and satisfaction.
The departure of the veterans of the chapter made it necessary to transfer the leadership to younger members. This was a serious test for them. Members of the Gdud Avoda [Avoda Brigade] entered into the leadership of the chapter. These were Szlomo and Tzila Bronsztajn, Shoshana Bajtner, Pinchas Rozenblum, Lulek Flus, Chaim Knobler, Tzvi Pozmantir, Isser Lavid (Lemkowicz) all who live in Israel, and Tzvi Monta (died in Israel). Most of them took on groups of members, and took over the leadership of the chapter. Some of them entered into communal work and represented the movement in various institutions, such as the Jewish National Fund, Tarbut, and the Fund for the Land of Israel. Our members who were in Hachshara encouraged the younger ones. Their letters were read with thirst, and served as guides for educational activities. After a year, the first of those on Hachshara made aliya: Kalman Barkai and Yisrael Simchoni. This was once again a central event with great influence on the annals of the chapter. The aliya continued, and the rest of the Siemiatycze group made aliya: Pinchas Lustiger, Yehuda Londner, Yechezkel Bajtner, Rivka Janowski, Chana Szpilberg, and others. Thus, did the dream of aliya and personal actualization unfold.
During the early 1930s, the members of the Gdud Avoda served as heads of the chapter. The chapter reached its pinnacle of growth. It broke through barriers, and transferred its meeting place to the home of Rajchman on Third of May Street. The meeting place was expanded to three large, spacious rooms, a vast yard for exercises, as well as a garden. These conditions were conducive to the flourishing of the chapter, and turning it into a vibrant center of life and educational activity. Educational activities took place every evening. The height of activity was on Friday night, and the entire Sabbath was dedicated to educational activity.
The strata of veteran members from Gdud Avoda possessed ideological
consciousness, and founded the Shituf [partnership], which was an
organization structure obligating every detail: giving over the earnings from
work and pocket money from parents, creating cooperative workshops for the group,
and even communal clothing depots that would provide a uniform for all members.
|The Hashomer chapter on an excursion in 1919
|Hashomer Hatzair in Dąbrowa
The return of the veterans of the chapter from Hachshara in Siemiatycze on their way to aliya to the Land also instilled a feeling of power and recognition of the correctness of the educational path. These veteran members helped the youth to no small degree, until they made aliya, thereby forming a basis for fruitful collaborative work between the strata, yielding praiseworthy fruits.
These years were also the years of crisis in both the Polish and Jewish street. The crisis on the Polish street expressed itself in the political realm (Sanacja), which placed its mark on the thinking of the lower classes. Left-leaning factors increased in influence, especially in our district and in our city, where there were a large number of people with class consciousness. This influence increased and also affected the Jewish street. The Jewish community generally became apprehensive, with political restrictions from the Sanacja party, the closing of the gates of aliya after the disturbances of 1929, and the despair that overtook the Zionist movement. The Hachshara point was full of members without hope for aliya. A few sought illegal means of aliya. Thus, seeds of rejection of the tasks of the Jewish youth began to be sown. Many good people adopted this false idea and transferred to the camp of those who were alienated from the consciousness of the redemption of the nation in its land.
This change of values penetrated the youth movements, first and foremost Hashomer Hatzair. Through various means of infiltration, the fruits of the Polish Communist party. In truth: the best of the youth were centered in the Hashomer Hatzair chapters which was the case in the Dąbrowa chapter as well. When the members of the Gdud Avoda set their sights on actualization, prepared themselves for Hachshara and were even prepared to give over the leadership of the chapter to the Tel Hai Brigade that followed after them, the infiltration efforts of the Communists could already be felt. No small number, and even some of the best, abandoned the principles of the movement and joined the strange party, some openly and some secretly. Educational activities, publicity, and organizational abilities to prevent a crisis were then required. The chapter stood up to this battle, and prevailed. After it learned how to utilize appropriate forms of opposition, it went out on the high road once again, continued its educational activities, and once again won over the youth to its path.
In 1931, the first of the Gdud Avoda, Isser Lemkowicz, went out to the Bamesila Hachshara kibbutz, which was located in the Dolbikowa forests next to the Russian border in Pulusia. About one year after he returned from Hachshara, a change of leadership took place once again, and two factions were created in the brigade, each going to different Hachshara locations. One joined the Bamesila kibbutz, and the other faction found its way to the Banir kibbutz in Częstochowa.
Not too long past before most of them made aliya to their kibbutzim. This event once again breathed life into the activities of the chapter. The Tel Chai and Lematara brigades took over the leadership of the chapter after them. Those members too in time continued on their path to Hachshara.
On the street, there was oppression and police administrative actions, and the chapter was forced to leave its headquarters on May Third Street in the center of the city and move to the home of Kisziwenski on a side street (Krotka), where the Hachshara kibbutz of Hakibbutz Hameuchad was also located. Within a brief time, this house turned into a mighty center of communal and Zionist activity, with great mutual influence upon those who were located then. The chapter conducted its regular educational and organizational activities in that house until the German invasion of Poland. Since our city was close to the German border, the chapter fell as the first victim.
Before we survey the existence of the movement during the time of the war and the Holocaust, I will note several general characteristic threads of the chapter in Dąbrowa. In the latter half of the 1920s and during the 1930s, the chapter was a center of Zionist education and individual actualization. It excelled in its ability to gather within itself the working and studying youth, and to form educational units. The educational activities were an experience unto themselves, and left an indelible mark for many years. To the merit of the chapter, the work that arose from within itself indeed unwillingly should be noted. Many who left the chapter founded competing youth movements and factions. One could find former chapter members among the founders of Gordonia, Hanoar Hatzioni, and Freiheit; among the activists of Hechalutz, and the right and left Poalei Zion, in the General Zionists and, on the other hand among the leadership of the Communists. It was fundamental that those who had been educated through the Hashomer Hatzair movement would sacrifice themselves for the ideas that they absorbed and internalized. They were zealous and ready to fight. They would certainly bring these traits to their new path, and, indeed, we were not disappointed with them.
The chapter excelled in wide-branched Zionist activity. Through the efforts of
Pinchas Lustiger, a group of Stam Chalutzim [Ordinary Pioneers] was
founded in 1932. It existed under the auspices of the chapter, and affiliated
with the Hechalutz group. Our members stood at the helm of the activity on
behalf of the Jewish National Fund (they were the secretaries of the committee
and its chief activists). Hebrew lessons in Tarbut took place through the mass
participation of members of the chapter. We were active participants in the
League for the Working Land of Israel and in all general communal activities
that required the participation of the chapter and its activists.
|A group of youths and scouts on one of the Sabbaths in the chapter
The excursions of the chapter were important events, and the Lag B'Omer roll call in Zieloni as well as the parade outside the city were always experiences for the entire town. The chapter excelled in its educational activity related to nature. The excursion and summer camps were the high points of this activity, and always excelled in their exemplary organization and educational and social content. Even though the chapter suffered no small amount from the parents who refused to permit their children to participate in these activities, there were many who came and helped us, and even gave over their children to the educators of the Hashomer Hatzair chapter, which imparted scouting and pioneering education.
In this survey, we will not pass over those who always knew how to assist the chapter. The first is the well-known philanthropist N. A. Gutman, who took the chapter under his wing and supported it morally and financially. Every activity merited his help and appreciation. He participated in festive roll calls. He donated the flag of the chapter, which was dedicated in his presence in one of the large halls of the city. That celebration turned into a demonstration of unity for the chapter. He donated for the purposes of educational assistance for the chapter in cases where the parents were not able to afford the fees for the summer camp activities. There was no activity in the chapter in which his helping hand was not involved. As great as his Zionist and social consciousness was, we certainly cannot pass over two of his relatives, who donated no small amount through their influence upon him and his constant support of the chapter. One was the well-known historian Tulu Nisenblat, the husband of one of his daughters (perished in the Holocaust), who himself was one of the founders of the movement in Galicia and Vienna, and remembered the grace of the movement. The second was Yaakov Fruchcwajg, who lived in house and worked in his economic enterprises, and was also one of the first members of the chapter, who maintained his faith in it. He forged contact with government institutions, and helped to the extent possible to ensure that the activities of the chapter would not be disrupted by the authorities who were inimical to the movement.
We will further mention two people who did not forget the values that were imparted to them by the movement, and paid the movement back after time: Emil Grynbaum and Yitzchak Bernsztajn. The three of them, headed with A. N. Gutman, formed the Ofika the official institution of the leadership of the chapter with respect to the authorities.
It is possible to describe much more about the activities of the chapter and
its communal stature, but the means are insufficient to express all this. We
will also note positively all those who participated in the establishment and
expansion of the chapter, and supported its educational activities. The vast
majority of those did not identify ideologically with it, and did not believe
in personal actualization, but were able to appreciate the educational-Zionist
values that the movement imparted to its charges. Many of these people did not
succeed in reaching secure shores, and perished in the terrible Holocaust that
afflicted our city along with the rest of Polish Jewry that was destroyed
The first shock of the German invasion had passed. The chapter was officially liquidated, as was the case with all communal organizations. However, the chapter began to reorganize again at the beginning of 1940 in the courtyard of Reuven Grosfeld in Reden. Obviously, the scope was different, as was the type of activities. The youths of the chapter who did not leave the city and were not taken to the camps headed the chapter. These included Marek Kornfeld, Eliezer Nusinowicz, Naomi Sporkina (the three of them are in Israel), Mordechai Flus, the sisters Tzila and Lila Lemkowicz, and others, who perished in the Holocaust.
The activity was conducted secretly and underground. Connections were maintained with the movement, and in particular with the chapter in Będzin and the kibbutz in that city. The chapter was guided by Chaika Klinger of blessed memory. Thus did the change of generations of the movement continue on.
The first news arrived regarding members of the chapter, soldiers of the Polish army, who were drafted at the outbreak of the war. The first who fell were Menachem Szajnwaksler and Dov Blicki, activists and leaders of the chapter. There was no news of Mordechai Klajnman, and we do not know what his fate was. Lemel Lemkowicz and Chaim Cohen were situated at the Polish-Hungarian border. The former arrived in the Land after many tribulations in the camps. Chaim Cohen went eastward, and arrived in the Land with his wife Miriam who was also active in the chapter to the safe shores of the Land after years of exile and internment in the camps of Cyprus.
This was the situation until 1941, when the Jewish residents were gathered into the ghettos, one on Grotowice Street and the other on Majeska. At that point, the activity dwindled. A large portion of the youth were taken to labor camps. The chapter was officially liquidated in 1942, and the last members of the chapter hid the flag in the chimney of the building, with the hope of finding it after the war. (However, the Holocaust survivors did not find it later on.)
In 1942, the remaining survivors were concentrated on Majeska Street, around the Great Synagogue. A few people were left behind, the elderly, sick and the younger people who were supporting their parents. In 1943, several tens of families were transferred to Srodula in the Sosnowiec region, from where they were hauled to the vale of murder in the Auschwitz and Treblinka camps. A few succeeded in finding refuge in the fields and forests. Shimon Rozenblum and Chaim Krystal, graduates of the chapter, maintained their stand under inhuman conditions, and sustained themselves. At the end of the war, they came out into daylight from the pit that they had dug for themselves, which served as their refuge (both are in Israel now).
The war ended in 1945. A few graduates of the chapter survived. Most perished in the crematoria along with their parents, brothers, and sisters. A few succeeded in maintaining their stand in the labor camps, and returned to their strength with superhuman energy thanks to the liberating armies of Russia and the United States. A few returned from the forests and expanses of Russia in the east. All returned to destroyed houses, to see if a survivor, relative or family friend survived. However, the disappointment and despair was great for most. The house was destroyed. Tens of individuals survived, including a few from the chapter. Their joy was great when they met each other. The following are the latter graduates of the chapter who survived: Yechiel Flus, Shimon Rozenblum, Chaim Krystal, Shraga Fruchtcwajg, Eliezer Nusinowicz, Marek Kornfeld, Yitzchak Lenczner, Naomi Spokina, Yaakov Zygrajch, Moshe Ajzenberg, Tovia Balicki, and others. All of these survivors from the chapter, from various strata, were bound together by their past experiences, and by the future in front of them. They visited the graves of their parents, wept for their relatives, family members, friends, and members of the movement who did not merit the liberation, and who were tortured and died the death of martyrs. They raised their hopes and eyes toward the Land. There, they would find their charges from the movement, their remaining family members, and the hope to build a new home.
In the interim, there was a great deal of activity there. They organized themselves, and gathered together as survivors. They stole across borders, and made it to the homeland. Members of the chapter were among those involved in the illegal immigration. They were active, and urged others to action. One could meet them on the boats of the illegal immigration, in the camps of Cyprus, until they finally arrived on the shores of the longed-for Land.
The final members of the Hashomer Hatzair chapter in our city completed the chain of pioneering of the chapter that had ben started by the early ones. They broke through boundaries, took down obstacles, and built their homes in the liberated homeland. They live today in kibbutzim: Ein Hasofer, Mesilot, Shuval, Tel-Amal, Kfar Masaryk. One can find them in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, and throughout the country. They are living testimony to the activities of the powerful educational activity of the Hashomer Hatzair chapter in Dąbrowa the chapter which will stand as a monument to the movement and its graduates who did not survive, who perished in the Holocaust.
May their memories be a blessing.
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