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[Page 57]

Youth Movements in Ludwipol

 

Memories from the way of life
of the Zionist and pioneering youth in Ludwipol

by S. Z. Smoller

Translated by Sara Mages

Our first road in life was in the Heder of three great Torah scholars: the teacher Rabbi Zaidel Gorfinkel, Rabbi Yitzchak Wasserman and Rabbi Gershon. There is no need to explain the nature of the Heder, and the way of life in it, because these things are well detailed in various places, but I would like to pause a bit and talk about the more “modern Heder” founded by Mr. Galicki z”l.

“Modern,” what does it means? In this Heder we no longer sat on long benches at one table, but sat on skamikot, which are benches and tables as in other schools. Here we also learned, in addition to Torah studies, a foreign language from a teacher from the Russian School, arithmetic and literature. There were breaks after each lesson and also the punishments became more modern. Apart from beatings we were also punished by standing in a corner facing the wall and sometimes also standing on our knees.

In the winter we also studied in the evenings and returned home to the light of kerosene lanterns, candles, or lanterns made of colored paper. In the snow season we dragged snow sleds up the hill and then we slid down with cheers and joy, we threw snowballs or made snowmen. Since we did not have gym teachers, we invented sports games such as racing with barrel hoops and the like. During the war the games took on a war like character and we conducted wars between one street and another.

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After the revolution came a long respite from studies because of the raids of the Haidamakas gangs and the others, which were expressed in robbery, murder, fires and destruction of property. Then, the Okhrana and the Jewish police organized themselves in the town for self–defense, and with their help some order was imposed and our existence and security were assured.

 

Members of “Hashomer Hatzair” in Hakhshara (Częstochowa)

 


The beginning of the Haskalah Movement
and the growth of the youth movements in Ludwipol

by Nachum Feldman

Translated by Sara Mages

The tremendous political events, which took place in the years following the First World War, left their mark, only slightly, on the way of life in our remote town. The shocks to the foundations of the Czarist regime, and the onslaught of revolutionary political forces who called for a change in the law of nature, dragged behind them only a few of the townspeople. Even those who were swept by the power of propaganda were few and did so in a modest manner and not in an organized manner.

Most of the youth remained stagnant, unreservedly loyal to the tradition of their forefathers and behaved in the usual way without showing any sign of dissatisfaction or opposition. The Haskalah Movement, which lit fire in the hearts of young people in the big cities of Russia and Poland, did not enter the remote town until 1918, or, as it was called, “the year of the great fire.” Some believe that this difficult year created new values that left their mark on the spiritual development of the town in the ensuing years.

The fire that struck the town and the typhus disease that caused many casualties, aroused echoes among large circles of Polish Jewry. With the active help of the Joint, which was a multi–option support institution in those days, aid shipments began to flow into the town to help rehabilitate the victims. Jews from other cities, who saw it their duty to rehabilitate the town from its spiritual ruin and not only from its physical destruction, also arrived to our town with aid shipments.


[Page 59]

The Segal Couple

by Nachum Feldman

Translated by Sara Mages

A wonderful and active couple, who had done a great deal for the townspeople in those days, was the couple Yosef Segal and his wife whose name before her marriage was Dr. Kagan. They arrived in 1918, immediately after the fire, when the terrible typhus epidemic raged in its full force of destruction. Mrs. Segal (Kagan), who was a physician by profession, immediately took on the task of healing the sick. She worked day and night, without fear for her health and strength, to heal the victims and even to serve water and bread to the hungry.

While his wife was engaged in medicine, Yosef Segal realized that he also had ample room for activity. Before that, he worked as a Hebrew teacher in a remote region in Russia, a place from which he was exiled by the Communist regime. He aspired to immigrate to Israel and realized that if he did not do so immediately, at the beginning of the establishment of the government, he might be too late.

As stated, Segal, who was loyal to the sublime ideal of disseminating the Hebrew language, got up and established a school. The place, where the institution was built, was far from fulfilling its demands because he lived in a partially burnt house,

 

The activists of the Zionist movement in Ludwipol parting from Yosef Segal and his wife on the occasion of their immigration to Israel in 5685 (1925)

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because he lived in a partially burnt house, but, after all, it was a successful school especially in the difficult days when our young people were hungry for bread and knew sickness. The Hebrew language flourished among the young generation and with that he laid the foundations for a future cultural life.

The Segals were wonderful people who had done a lot for the town. Although they came from a distance – they acclimated to it and felt as if they were an inseparable part of us, and so did the townspeople. After spending about eight days in our place, until the ruins of the town were rebuilt and the plagues were controlled, they immigrated to Israel and built their home in Rishon LeZion.

In the early 1950s, about a year after I arrived in Israel, I visited them at their home together with Yona Rever (Blushtin), and they were not tired of telling what had happened and found them in the town at that time. It's a shame that, at that time, we did not put the words in writing, because it was enough to fill a chapter full of content in this book.

Today, the Segal couple is no longer alive. They left behind a son, a daughter and grandchildren. To us they left a left a bundle of pleasant memories of people who helped to make history in our town by their blessed actions for the benefit of its residents.


[Page 60]

Hashomer Hatzair

by Nachum Feldman

Translated by Sara Mages

The Tehiya [Revival] Movement called the newborn, “the young reader,” because one of its declared goals was to read books that had previously been “treifah” [unfit] and didn't enter a Jewish home. These books were passed from hand to hand and read discreetly so that the adults would not notice. The books were bought from the meager pennies that each youth contributed, as best he could, for the purchase of a book and another book. Even though I was also a member of “Hashomer Hatzair” movement in later years, my senior friend, Yehudah Rever, told me about the beginning of the movement. According to him, “Hashomer Hatzair” was an existing fact in town in 1920, and the person who established it was Leibale Rosenzweig from the city of Sarna who came to the town especially for this purpose. One day, this Leibale gathered all the youth in the plaza behind Meniskov's estate and there he lectured them on the ideas and principles of “Hashomer Hatzair,” and it was not long before the best of the town's youth rallied around the symbol and flag of “Hashomer Hatzair.”

The organization within the ranks of “Hashomer Hatzair” aroused anger among the parents who saw in the “youth revolt” the weakening of their rule. The youth were no longer disciplined as they had been before, they stopped praying or “doing a blessing,” and if they had done so, it was evident that it was only a matter of duty. From the outset it was known that the old generation's war against the younger generation was a lost war, and when they realized that they couldn't overcome them, they laid down their weapons and let things roll naturally.

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Ankorim and Ankorot in the ken of “Hashomer Hatzair” with the ken's leader Moshe Smoller and the group's leader Sara Feynman, 1929

 

The leadership of the ken parting from Yitzchak Frimek, 1930

[Page 62]

The ken in 1931

 

The ken in 1932

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Soon, “Hashomer Hatzair” became a valuable educational institution in the town. The movement initiated various cultural projects, staged plays, organized parades and held talks on different subjects. Even though “Hashomer Hatzair” advocated socialism, the wealthy among the youth, and children of the intelligentsia among them, gathered around it while others knocked on its doors and were not accepted.

The first members of “Hashomer Hatzair” in the town were: Aharon Rever, Yitzchak Faigel, Zusia Shehori, Binyamin Shtadlan, Tova Hazan, Rivka Reznik, Bluma Zalman, Sara Shlain, Zeivil Smuliar and Rachel Smuliar. Their average age was between ten and thirteen. (The readers will forgive me if I omitted names from the “first,” because what happened more than forty years ago may be forgotten).

When “Hashomer Hatzair” flag was hoisted they did not let it go for about two decades. When the group of veteran leaders completed its duty, some of its members continued to Hakhshara and some immigrate to Eretz Yisrael, a replacement group came and filled, with no less devotion and talent, the positions of their predecessors.

The new leadership, which dealt with unification and integration, was composed of: Avraham Serbnik, Chaim Kleinman z”l, Shneor Zalman, Leibel Gorfinnkel and others. After them came a new leadership.

When I was a member of the ken [chapter] of “Hashomer Hatzair” its leaders were: Gershon Rever z”l (who passed away in the Second World War), Moshe Fel (today in the United States), Yitchak Goldman (in Russia), Chaim Katz (in Canada) and Tzvi Tuchman (in Israel). Many young people knocked on the movement's door, but they had to be fit to be accepted. They were required to observe the ten commandments of the movement in writing and verbally, prove in their behavior, knowledge, and relations with people that they were capable of being members of the movement and those, who failed in these early tests, were not accepted.

On Lag BaOmer, or 20 Tamuz, there was a huge procession of all the youth who were organized in “Hashomer Hatzair” movement. They marched to the nearby forest in Adamovka and spent the whole day there playing games, singing and dancing. In the evening they returned in a group singing Hebrew marching songs to the light of lit torches, and even the Ukrainian villagers stood by the side of the road and cheered the little Jews. Many of them looked at us enviously because the desire to return to the land of our forefathers united us and the dark Diaspora could not overshadow the joy of the holiday.

The close connection with Eretz Yisrael stood at the top of the list of the movement's tasks. Every time an emissary came from Israel we swallowed his words thirstily. When Jews came to visit the town they were immediately invited to the ken to lecture on what was happening in Israel. A new song that appeared in Israel or a new dance, especially folk dances, immediately absorbed within us. The same applies to special events that were noted in our town, and all this by the well–organized “Hashomer Hatzair” movement.

In the second half of the 1930s, around 1936/37, the Polish authorities began to restrict the steps of “Hashomer Hatzair” movement. A decree was issued that the Zionist movement would not exist without a special permit from the authorities, and such a permit wasn't given to “Hashomer Hatzair” on the grounds that it was a left–wing socialist movement, elements hostile to the regime (i.e. communists) find shelter in it and since the town is located a short distance from the Russian border this movement cannot exist.

The truth is that we, the young members of the movement, did not know exactly what communism was and had very little idea of the Russian regime on the other side of the border. This was never a topic for us to think about and the counselors never brought it to us for a discussion because, after all, we had topics closer to our hearts to think about.

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When the news came that we were forbidden to meet under the decree of the authorities, we did not want to accept the decree and decided to fight at any cost. We decided to convince our instructors to continue their activities despite the authorities' decree. Of course, the counselors could not accept our advice because we, the young people, are not responsible for out actions.

And not so adults who were expected to receive the most severe punishments. The solution was found in the form of conspiratorial organization. We met frequently in the attic of one of the members, but we did not sing together because we only met for a friendly chat. At that time, Yitzchak Rotbord was the head of our ken and he risked himself and showed up for our meetings. Once, the police surprised us at such a meeting. As far as I remember, it was in the attic of Matityahu Feynman whose daughter, Rachel, was a member of our group. Although we were young we were not at a loss. First, we hid Yitzhak in a haystack on the roof, and after we made sure that no one would find him we descended from the attic and sat in a semicircle in the warehouse (which was called kamer [chamber]). After the police inspected the place and found no adults with us, they ordered us to disperse and not meet again.

As part of its efforts to eliminate “Hashomer Hatzair,” the police also threatened the members' parents who were not really to blame. The meetings began to be rare and over time they almost ceased.

Later we found a solution in a very original way. We decided to organize within the framework of “HeHalutz Hatzair.” The organization of this movement was permitted and it was granted a permit. An emissary from the movement came, I think from the city of Klesiv, and his name was Moshe. He established the chapter of “HeHalutz Hatzair” in the town. Except for the emissary himself, and the authorities, everyone knew that we intended to continue to be members of “Hashomer Hatzair” even though, on the outside, it was another movement. I cannot remember exactly the ideas that the emissary of “HeHalutz Hatzair” brought to us. It is difficult for me today to analyze the differences between the two movements. But this is a reminder that our devotion to “Hashomer Hatzair” was so great that we swore to be loyal to the movement. To be exact, I mean those of us who formed the cohesive nucleus of the members of “Hashomer Hatzair” that I belonged to (because, in the meantime, also others, who were not previously members of “Hashomer Hatzair,” were added).

The emissary of “HeHalutz Hatzair” taught us two songs in Yiddish that conquered the town in a storm, and we sang them for quite a long time. These songs were “Das Tsighele” [”Song of the little goat”] and “Geslach mit Moyern.”

The truth is that, here and there, especially on the eve of the outbreak of the Polish–German war, communist ideas also crept into us. These ideas were whispered by word of mouth because we knew we should not talk about them. These were beautiful stories about the Messianic era (that is, the realization of communism) when there was no shortage in the world and there will be no war of races and classes, in short, a world that is all good. Although teenagers are often tempted to come up with such ideas, it is hard to say that there were enthusiastic supporters among us for these ideas, since we did not know how to reconcile the contradiction between the realization of communism and the return to Eretz Yisrael. The most concrete proof that the ideas of “Hashomer Hatzair” could not coexist with the communist ideas was, that the Soviets, when they entered our provinces in 1939, furiously chased “Hashomer Hatzair” and the nickname they attached to this movement was “The Jewish Fascist Movement, HeHalutz Hatzair”…

[Page 65]

The ken parting from Zeivel Smoller in 1933

 

A group of graduates on the eve of their departure to Hakhshara, 1936

 


[Page 66]

Hashomer Hatzair” in the underground

by S. Z. Smoller

Translated by Sara Mages

When the leadership of “Hashomer Hatzair” in Ludwipol passed into the hands of the younger stratum its members were - Yehiel Feiner, Dvora Achstein, Sonia Frimak, Bluma Faigel, Moshe Werner, Manya Werner, Dvora Gorin and Bila Rever and I was the head of the ken [chapter].

This generation was a vibrant generation, with initiative and a new and fresh spirit. It was full of energy and new ambitions, and looked forward to the future.

At that time the movement was in the underground and we had to hold the ken's meetings by the Sluch River, not far from the village of Hovkow, behind tall rocks that merged with a vast and exciting landscape. We arrived at this place in boats, which in itself was a tremendous experience. Another experience was the oath to the flag and the movement which was accompanied by lifting three fingers (symbolizing: one nation, one language, one country), and the singing of the anthem. This occasion gave rise to tremendous enthusiasm, a dream and hope for a better future.

In order to be worthy of fulfillment we were active in all fields, starting with activities for the national funds and finishing with activities in the spiritual field. We expanded the library, which constituted a major part in the youth's spiritual life, organized evening classes, helped the orphans and the needy, collected money on flower days for the funds, held sweepstakes, balls and plays, etc.

 

The ken in 1938 under the guise of “HeHalutz Hatzair

 

The school ceased to function after the departure of Gorovitz and Segal, but after a great deal of effort we managed to persuade Simcha Orbach from Rivne to accept the role of teacher and instructor. After Simcha left for Hakhshara we brought Moshe Smoller from Koretz. He founded the first class that studied Hebrew without help and translation from Yiddish, and also managed the ken of “Hashomer Hatzair.” This class formed the foundation for the establishment of “Tarbut” school.


[Page 67]

“Gordonia”

by Devora Weissman (Goren)

Translated by Sara Mages

Already in its early days “Gordonia” attracted many young people and also “stole” members from “Hashomer Hatzair” movement. The youth was especially attracted by the vibrant life of the movement which included: cultural activities, excursions in the area, sporting performances, Zionist activities (of course) and educational presentations.

The first founders of “Gordonia” were: Yitzchak Gendelman from Brezne, Asher Alavsky, Bela Rever, Bluma Velman, the writer of this lines and another member.

I remember the market (bazaar) day in which the movement was represented in a special kiosk of handicrafts and paintings. The members were regular visitors to the town's library and from time to time published, on their own, a wall newspaper about Zionist and global issues. Many members participated in Bible classes which took place on the Sabbath at “Tarbut” school. The members of “Gordonia” also participated as representatives in various committees such as: culture committee, Kern Kayemet committee and others. The Hebrew language also took its exclusive place in the youth movements and, more than once, as we passed through the town's streets in the evenings, the Hebrew language was heard from all sides.

 

Gordonia's” Hakhshara battalion, 1933

 

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Time passed. Bluma Velman traveled to Rivne; Ashe Alavsky traveled to Vilna and the members, Moshe Alavsky and Chaya Shtarkman, took their place in the local leadership. Substantial help was given to the ken [chapter] by members from the main leadership and the district leadership.

Hakhshara point was also established in our place for the graduates of “Gordonia” in Ludwipol. Thanks to the hard work of our members this point lasted for a long time and gave a push to many members to leave the Diaspora and immigrate to Israel (we need to mention here that among the members in the Hakhshara point were also members from other locations, such as Yakov Piksman from Mezhirichiwho now lives in Israel), and by this they were saved from the Nazis' claws. It seemed that within a few years many young people would immigrate to Israel, and here came the Holocaust…

With sadness and grief the remnants of “Gordonia,” and other youth movements, remember today in Israel the vibrant life of their friends who were unable to immigrate and were destroyed by a cruel hand.

May their memory be blessed!


[Page 68]

“Gordonia” and the kibbutz near Ludwipol

by Nachum Feldman

Translated by Sara Mages

“Gordonia” captured second place among the pioneering youth movements in Ludwipol. This movement was established at the end of the 1920s, approximately in the years 1926-27, and within a short period of time managed to gather around it dozens of youth of all ages.

The “Gordonia” movement was a popular movement in which boys and girls, from all social and economic circles, found their place.

“Gordonia,” like “Hashomer Hatzair,” had its own uniform and its own symbol and, as the traditional blessing of “Hashomer Hatzair” was “Chazak V'Ematz” [“Be strong and courageous”], the graduates of “Gordonia” blessed each other with “Ale V'Hagshem” [“Immigrate and fulfill”].

It was typical for the youth to flock from movement to movement, especially at a time when one prospered more than the other. To this, of course, were only external signs and it is hard to say that the youth were deeply interested in the ideological differences. If a movement was blessed with emissaries, or the songs they sang were more prevalent, or it had a beautiful club and trips, all these, of course, fascinated the youth. More than once, individual groups joined another movement after leaving the movement to which they belonged. Not only that, when they found the right time they left the new movement, returned to the previous movement, and so forth.

There is no doubt that the “Gordonia” movement, like “Hashomer Hatzair,” contributed a significant part to the infiltration of the pioneering Zionist spirit to the town and, like “Hashomer Hatzair” movement, also encircled dozens of youth of all ages.

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I remember that in the 1930s “Gordonia” established a kibbutz in our town. The truth is that we, the youngsters, knew about the creature called a kibbutz only from the adults, and they explained to us that a kibbutz could only be established in a large city where it was possible to find workplaces. Therefore, it was clear to us that kibbutzim existed in Warsaw. Vilna, Czestochowa, Baranovichi etc, but it did not occur to us that also in a remote town, such as Ludwipol, it was possible to establish a kibbutz. But, lo and behold, what we thought could not be done logically, was established and became a fact.

The kibbutz numbered several dozen members, most of the kibbutznikim [members] were residents of the nearby towns and a few came from afar. It was easy to identify them by their clothing: all wore yellow boots and leather coats.

And if you ask, what was their occupation in a remount location such as ours? You will be surprised that they were “hewers of wood and drawers of water” and, of course, they lived in poverty and the food they ate was barely enough to break the hunger. However, for their praise, one can say that they lasted for about two years.

Until the kibbutz was founded we assumed that the work of chopping wood was only intended to the farmers, and that there was no Jew capable of doing this work. These young men came and proved that this opinion was wrong. They proved that even young Jews can do hard and arduous work!

And when we talk about chopping wood, let me explain to the Israeli children what does this mean.

In our area in the Diaspora the winter was very hard. It lasted about six months, from October to March, and at that time the temperature was about forty degrees below zero. In these harsh winter days it was necessary to light an oven so as not to freeze in the houses, and this was done by lighting wood in the oven because another combustible material to produce heat was not available (coal did not reach us and kerosene was expensive and used only for lighting).

At the end of the summer, or during the winter, every Jew prepared his own firewood for the whole winter. The wood were brought in the form of logs (kletser), meaning, without branches, and they had to be sawed and then cut into small pieces.

It is difficult to say that the young men, who came from near and far, were trained in chopping wood. They did not even have the proper tools and they had to undergo difficult adjustment. On the other hand, they had to compete with the local peasants who chopped wood for a living and were not willing to give up their source of income.

It was also difficult for the young people to overcome the compassion felt by the town's women towards the Jewish boys (“A poor Jewish boy must chop wood”), and only out of this feeling of pity they, more than once, took the service of the young people from the kibbutz and gave the job to the gentile…

We, the children, rebelled against this pity and were proud that our older brothers knew how to do a craft that was not acceptable to Jews. Therefore, we fought more than once to give the young people the work and helped them, as much as we could, with our small hands.

I must say that the main source of income for the kibbutz was not in chopping wood for the townspeople. It should be remembered that there were also several “organized” workplaces and these were the sawmills. One was Pikowski's sawmill which stood at the outskirts of the town in the east, and the other was in Hamilovka, a distance of about ten kilometers

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from the town. Members of the kibbutz also worked in both places. With that, it should be noted that in organized places, and also in private work, the wages were meager and, as I said, they barely lived from it.

Apart from wood chopping the young men worked in any job given to them. In fact, I did not mention “water drawing” because I did not see them doing this work. However, it can be assumed, for certain, that they did not differ from all the other townspeople who engaged in this work throughout the year.

There was plenty of water in our area. The town was surrounded by rivers and water wells, and as far as I remember, there were three to four wells in our area but it was necessary to bring the water to the houses. The water was carried in buckets. At first they carried wooden buckets and later they gradually moved to tin buckets. In the summer it was a relatively easy job. You approached a river, or a well, with a bucket, drew a full bucket, or several buckets, and brought them to your home. But in the winter it was different!

 

Members of the local leadership of “Gordonia” parting from Efraim Kuzivel in 1933

 

In the winter it was difficult to draw water from the well because the severe frost that accumulated around it made it difficult to access it. It was very dangerous to draw water from the well because of the possibility of slipping next to it.

And if you ask: if there was a well, why did they go to the river to draw water? The answer is, it was possible to drink and wash with the well water but the water was not suitable for cooking. Most of all, they were not suitable (or so they claimed) for the samovar. For this reason it was necessary to walk to the river and draw water from there.

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In the winter the river was completely frozen and the thickness of the ice sometimes reached a depth of one meter. Therefore, it was necessary to take an ax and cut a hole in the ice (what was called polonka), and after you reached the water it was necessary to lie flat on the ice, lower the bucket into the water in order to draw water from the hole. The digging of the hole in the ice and the drawing were also quite difficult and a woman could not do them. If you passed by the river and saw a woman doing this work, would not you help her? All the more so if you were a kibutznick! Therefore, it is safe to say that the young men, whose place of residence were far from the river, helped to draw water.

And when we talk about water, I will also point out that even the rainwater did not skip our town, and this water was mainly used for laundry and washing the hair. Therefore, each type of water had its own use.

To conclude this chapter about Kibbutz Gordonia in the town, I will add and say, to the praise of the young men, that although most of them came from affluent homes, they quickly adapted to the harsh conditions prevailing in the town and won general admiration, especially among the town's youth.

Members of the local leadership of “Gordonia” parting from Efraim Kuzivel in 1933

 


HeHalutz

by Yehudah Rever

Translated by Sara Mages

If my memory does not mislead me, the branch of “HeHalutz” in Ludwipol was organized in 1919-1920. I remember that it was told that Yehudah Schwartzman (now in Israel - Yehudah Shachori) worked as a carpenter's apprentice for Michael Shindel because he wanted to go to Eretz Yisrael where only professionals were needed. Hershke Tuvavin also worked with him and both belonged to “HeHalutz.” We did not even know the meaning of the name. All we knew was that “HeHalutz” [the pioneer] headed the camp, meaning that they would be the first to ”HeHalutz” committee in 1927

 

General meeting of “HeHalutz” in 1929 next to Chovakov Castle

 

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immigrate to Israel. Later, the branch grew, Moshe Leib Fikovsky, Shneior Tuvavin, Yitzchak Casspi, Sara and Nechama Blankman, Ita and Breindel Etestein joined along with many of those who constituted the organized youth. Not all of them realized the idea of immigrating to Israel, some for lack of money and those who had money to immigrate but did not want to separate from the family. But some of them immigrated and live with us today in Israel.

The activity of the branch occasionally suffered a decline after the activists immigrated to Israel. Time passed before others took their place and operate the branch that dealt with activities for the national funds, and prepared members for immigration to Israel by providing information and departure for Hakhshara [training] points until immigration. It can be said that “HeHalut” branch was also the first to organize the local youth, and the branches of “Hashomer Hatzair,” “Gordonia” “HaOved” and “Betar” were organized after it.

In my time I remember great activity in the branch of “HeHalutz” in Ludwipol. It was in 1930-31 when I left “Hashomer Hatzair” (where I was educated since childhood) and moved to “HeHalutz,” and together with other devoted members we began a wide-ranging publicity campaign. We received young members who were organized in “HeHalutz Hatzair,” organized classes for the study of the Hebrew language, rented a large hall at the home of Elka Yasnobulka and maintained a beautiful club. Members left for Hakhshara but sat for a long time and waited for their turn to immigrate. Unfortunately, the gates of the country were closed from time to time and only a few were allowed to immigrate. Fruma Rotbord and Breindel Shpilke immigrated at that time, and if the Second World War, in which many perished, did not break out maybe many more would have been able to immigrate and remain alive.

The remnants of the youth movements will bear in their hearts the memory of the members who were not able to fulfill their aspiration of living in an independent country, and fell as they proudly carried the name of Israel in the desolated Diaspora as their eyes raised to Zion.

 

HeHalutz” committee in 1927

 


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“Beitar”

by Nachum Feldman

Translated by Sara Mages

I remember that the “Beitar” movement captured the town by storm. The emissaries of “Beitar,” who came to the town to establish this movement, and later “Brit HaTzohar” (the Revisionist Movement) to which the adults belonged, excited the masses in such a way that many were willing to leave and abandon their homes and families and go to fight for the integrity of the homeland. The slogan, “In blood and fire Judah fell, in blood and fire Judah will arise,” did not fall in an empty space, and soon it gathered around the movement's flag several hundred people of all ages and classes.

Until the Revisionist Movement was established there were some people in town who did not define themselves as belonging to one movement or another, although most of them were Zionists, or, as they used to call themselves, “I am a simple Zionist.” Few were able to define, with certainty, to which pioneering movement they belonged to.

All the political events that took place in Eretz Yisrael in the 1930s, and their implications on the Zionist movement and the world's Jewry, also found echo in our town. Suddenly we were blessed with emissaries, speakers and just good Jews, and each was sent with the clear aim of not allowing the Revisionists to take control of the town. Suddenly we became the center of interest of various movements who fought to capture the souls of the town's Jews.

The struggle with the Revisionist Movement extended far beyond a substantive debate and got into a fist fight until the police had to intervene. But, of course, the police was not in a hurry to intervene because it did not care if Jews were beating each other and breaking each other's heads!

Whenever an emissary, or a speaker, of one movement appeared, the followers of another movement interrupted his speech, and when the verbal disturbances increased, they got into an argument with their hands and more than once people came out wounded and bleeding.

Many “thugs,” if you can call them that, belonged to the revisionists. They were mostly the butchers and wagon owners who constituted the nucleus, and others also gathered around them. I do not intend to, heaven forbid, harm the dignity of those who were members of this movement, but I must point out that most of them admired physical strength, and the idea of conquering the homeland “in blood and fire” fascinated them more than the redemption of the land by the Jewish National Fund. Also, “eye for eye,” during the bloody riots of 1936, was more acceptable to them then “restraint.”

The initiators of the Revisionist Movement, who belonged to the movement's ideological circle, were: Chaim-Adil Shalifer, Akivah Wasserman, Shlomo Zamdweis and Moshe Tiktin.

Shlomo Zamdweis came to us from the city of Sarny where he was the leader of “Beitar. He was a tall handsome-looking young man, impeccably dressed, and looked like an officer in the Polish army.

[Page 74]

Shlomo quickly managed to concentrate several dozen teenagers. Most of them withdrew from other movements and a few, who were not organized, found a place for action within this movement.

Militarism was one of the foundations of the movement. Military orders, or semi-military, with wooden rifles or swords, “marches,” military marching songs, training in boxing and judo. There were, of course, also ideological discussions that were usually related to historical military issues, the heroism of the Jews in the past and the like, and all this in order to instill a fighting spirit among the youth.

There were also sports competitions between the movements, and when one movement won, victory immediately turned into a political event, and it also happened that a soccer game ended with mutual blows.

The Beitarim used to taunt the Shomrim and regarded them as communists whose slogans for the building the country expressed faith in the communist idea. Not once they called former members of “Hashomer Hatzair” by the name communists, and the latter called the Beitarim by the name “fascists,” “Mussolini,” and the like. I remember, for example, that the members of “Hashomer Hatzair” sang in those days the song: “Friends, what will we do without work, where will we work? There are Arabs in Petah Tikva, Bedouins in Nes Ziona, where will we work?” The Beitarim added another section: “Halutzim and Shomerim in Birobidzhan and Crimea you will work, there are no Arabs there, there are no Bedouins there, there is work there, and there you will work.”

In general, it can be concluded that the Beitar movement acted in its own ways to increase the connection between the Jews and Eretz Yisrael. And as this movement struck roots in this remote town other movements sent emissaries, organized various cultural activities and, in times of peace of mind, the veterans of various movements found common language and said to each other: After all, we have one common goal - to abandon the bitter Diaspora and to come to Eretz Yisrael.

 

O God of vengeance,
O Lord; O God show vengeance

 

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