After the war between Poland and Russia, in 1920-21, Jewish youth began to show interest in the Zionist nationalist ideology. Zionist parties, WIZO, a choir, a library, and a sports club, Gwiazda (Hakochav), were founded. The founder was Ferdinand Wulkan. In 1921, the club changed its name to the Kadima Sport Association. Its chairman was the attorney, Dr. M. Goldberg. To begin with there was only a soccer division, and subsequently there came into being gymnastics divisions with 30 participants. I moved from Dziedzice to Oshpitzin in 1924 to assume my appointment and joined Kadima as a supporting member. The financial status of the association was in dire straits. There was hardly any outreach, nor was there a particular desire to expand the association, since the Zionist parties were earnestly competing with each other in attracting young chaverim to their parties. Dr. Goldberg resigned his chairmanship in 1925, and a general meeting was called in the hall of the Hertz Hotel. All the leaders of the parties participated, each with a view to taking advantage of the opportunity to exploit the sport association for its own purposes, which endangered the very existence of the association. I was elected by a majority to chair the meeting, and after strenuous debate between the parties I was elected to chair the association as well.
At the first meeting of the committee it was decided to expand the sports activities by acquiring a hall for gymnastics, a sports field, and a hall for the association. The leaders of the divisions and those responsible for the activities were chosen. At the first meeting of the Jewish National Fund, headed by Mrs. Lieberman and Mrs. Adler, it was decided that the Kadima Association was non-partisan, and that its sole function was to engage in the physical education of Jewish youth. It was also agreed that children and youths could be chaverim of the association without paying membership dues and be issued training clothes free of charge, and that the chaverim of all the parties could be members of the association. On this basis, within a short time, there were 200 gymnasts. There were three groups of 30 lads each, two groups of girls, and two of children, all of whom trained three times a week between 6 and 10 PM. As a result, many parents contributed money; yet there still was a deficit. We joined the world association of Maccabee in Warsaw and the Silesian soccer league at Bielsko. In a short time, Kadima found its place in the second league of Silesia.
In order to provide the minimal requirements for the boys to play with a will, I was able to obtain contributions for the considerable expenses of the soccer division. The team caused me much anxiety. Impatiently I waited for their return from competitions in Silesia, Tyczyn, Zywiec, etc., to ascertain that they returned in good order. The Kadima team was the only Jewish team in the second league, and due to anti-Semitism the crowd would throw stones at them and plot against them in various ways. Prior to each out-of-town game, I turned to the administration of the second league in Katowice, requesting that they send an observer as well as police, at our expense, in order to prevent untoward incidents.
We provided ping-pong tables, chess sets, etc. There was a steering committee meeting every week, and in order to raise money we conducted entertainment evenings which allowed us to rent three rooms for the Kadima membership, where reports on the activities of all the divisions were submitted and future plans discussed. All of our appearances were well attended, and many guests also came from the surrounding area. Special mention should be made of the ladies of WIZO, the Jewish National Fund, the Keren Hayesod, and chaverot of Kadima, who worked diligently towards the success of our events. Our entertainment evenings soon became popular. The major events were under the sponsorship of Dr. Lezer of Krakow, who supported Kadima as a Maccabee subsidiary. The Maccabee in Bilice helped us as much as they could.
We progressed constantly in organizational and technical aspects. We sent two instructors (coach-trainees) for courses in Troppau, and on their return they served as district inspectors. We were charged with the organization of new branches of Maccabee and we sent, for this purpose, some of our best boys to Chrzanow, Trzebinia, Zywiec, etc., to organize the branches and to run the sports activities. In this manner we were in close touch with all of the Jewish sports organizations of the district. I left Oshpitzin in 1933, and my active participation in Kadima came to an end. Following me, and elected to the post, were Dr. Przeworski, Dr. Sternberg, Dr. Druks, and others. I want especially to mention that during my tenure, Pinek Leitner [?] served as secretary, and that much of the success of Kadima is attributable to his energetic and dynamic efforts.
The tenth anniversary celebration of the Kadima Sport Association of Oshpitzin was held on June 28-29, 1932. Dr. Reich, the deputy mayor, provided access to two school buildings to house the out-of-town teams and guests. The Leibler family, owners of the Hertz Hotel, allocated a large hall for the festivities and a number of other rooms. The railroad stationmaster, superintendent Max Blumenstock, instructed the station orchestra to be at the service of the organizers for the two days. The director of the cargo department at the station, Morris Ferster [?], loaned equipment for the stage at the sports field. Dr. Przeworski saw to the first-aid requirements, and the Sola Soccer Club provided its soccer field.
Sportsmen from Krakow, Trzebinia, Bedzin, Sosnowice, Katowice, Bilice, Dziedzice, Chrzanow, Szczakowa, Tyczyn, and Zywiec came and participated in all the events. The festivities began with a parade of all the sportsmen, which left from the little marketplace and proceeded through the big marketplace and the main street to the sports field. The tallest boys, carrying 12 blue and white flags of the association, led the parade. They were followed by delegations of the municipality, of the kehilla, and of all the Zionist parties, and by out-of-town guests. On both sides of the street the Jews of the town cheered them on, pious Jews with beards and payot among them. The opening commenced with the singing of Hatikva and the Polish anthem. The opening speech was delivered by the chairman of Kadima, N. Kleinberger.
Then came a display of gymnastics by all of the sportsmen, and a ballet by the children closed the opening festivities. A race by sprinters followed and then a soccer game between Kadima and the Krakow team of Maccabee. A well-attended evening of entertainment was held at the Hertz Hotel. The following day there were competitions in all of the branches and prizes were awarded to the winners at a public ceremony in the evening.
Mmes. Lieberman, Adler, Druks, Loew, Ferster, Weinheber, Leibler, and Kleinberger, among others, provided much assistance towards the successful festivities, and all the committee members of the association devoted their full energies during the two-day period. Messrs. Geller, Ferster, Leitner, Koenigsberg, Kleinman, among others, were especially outstanding in the organizational efforts.
The Jewish soccer team named Kadima was founded in Oshpitzin in 1922, taking the name of the town's Jewish sports association. Quite painful birth pangs preceded its arrival, since apart from the youth who knew how and wanted to kick the ball, there were no resources to acquire equipment, to rent a field for practice and play, nor to finance the ongoing expenses. Every player had to somehow acquire his personal equipment and to solicit contributions for Kadima in order to be able to rent a field for practice and dressing rooms.
The stadium where the team began to train was the Targowica, a field that was used for selling cattle and horses, but which stood empty most of the days of the week; there we practiced with enthusiasm and stubbornness, young sportsmen who came from all strata of the population. This was quite a small group to begin with, expanding and progressing until it was officially accepted into the second league of the Polish soccer organization.
Parenthetically, the great devotion and active participation of Dr. Goldberg, Dr. Przeworski, and Mr. Kleinberger, in the running of Kadima's general activities should be mentioned here. Their particular interest in the soccer division led to welcome successes.
After two years of practice and competition, the division achieved impressive results. It competed with well-known teams, had successes, and reached the top of the second league roster. There was much joy in the Jewish community as they observed the victories and advancement of the Kadima players.
At the 10th anniversary celebration of Kadima in 1932, there were public sporting events in which our team excelled. I remember the race from the railroad station to Jagiellonska Street, when our colleague Ami Hess took first place, and the record achieved that day by the soccer team when it defeated its famed rival, the Maccabee team from Krakow. The boys were roundly cheered in admiration and gratitude.
The team began to fall apart in 1934 due to a lack of players, since a number of them had left town in search of jobs as the economic situation worsened. The Andek [?] party, notorious for its battle against Jews, entered the political arena and the Jews were the first victims.
In conclusion, it is worthwhile noting the great importance of Kadima in the lives of the young and in the community. Many of the town's residents regarded it as a source of Jewish pride
The organizers and leaders of Kadima were: Ferdinand Wulkan, Dr. M. Goldberg, N. Kleinberger, Dr. E. Reich, Moshe Leib Hannenberg, and Mr. Tevel [?], who stored our equipment.
I begin the article with the activities of Hashomer Hatza'ir because I was a member for many years, as a trainee, then as a group-leader, and later on, the leader of the branch until I left my birthplace in 1930.
The Jewish tradition of bringing a 13-year-old to the synagogue so he can be called to the Torah and recite the Haftorah transformed me into an adult. I was in a state of great fright when my truly pious mother cautioned me that from that day on I was obligated to observe all the mitzvot and be personally responsible for my sins. From her viewpoint, my models of piety and honesty were to be both my grandfathers: the Bochner rabbi, R Yudel Tzinger [?] and the celebrated Oshpitzin preacher, R Michel, the magid. The path that had been outlined by these two God-fearing talmidei chachamim, whom I deeply loved, should have served as guidelines for my future lifestyle.
The inner sparks that had been ignited while I recited the Haftorah began to blaze in a totally different direction.
One pleasant springtime evening, two young ladies stopped me on the street and suggested I should join the ranks of Hashomer Hatza'ir. They coaxed me, and I became convinced. I will never forget these two fascinating young ladies. I suddenly felt that my adolescent years were bestowed with obligations and rights. I had a right to sing, dance, and jump. My eyes were permitted to stray and look into a book by a thinker, a poet, or a scientist.
Those two girls were the founders and leaders of the Hashomer Hatza'ir organization in our city. Both live in Israel: Ziga Siegman in kibbutz Bet Alpha, and Bronka Gruenbaum in Beer Sheva. My group leader, Nionka Steinmetz, had a weakness for literature. She tried to influence her charges – and she succeeded. Every book that she read she would recommend to us, and we, one after another, also read it and discussed it.
One of the most important tasks that Hashomer Hatza'ir called for was the learning of Hebrew by the trainees. This undertaking was the province of a girl who knew the language perfectly, the pioneer in this area among all the women in town; her name was Bella Frisch. This girl displayed an iron will and a troubled soul. Raised in a strictly pious home, she nevertheless joined the ranks of Hashomer Hatza'ir. She devotedly carried out all the assignments she was given. From her viewpoint, the struggle of Hashomer Hatza'ir for honesty and social justice in the international proletarian sense was too feeble. She, with her fighting spirit, was prepared for much more. She therefore started out on a long path of searches. She was arrested for illegal activity. Later, you will find her among the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, and after the war she became one of the main figures among the party leaders of new Poland.
Almost all of the organizational work of Hashomer Hatza'ir was done by women.
That great friend of young people, the talented Zlamek Goldstein, unfortunately fell ill, and his participation was limited. He died in Italy on the way to Eretz Yisrael.
Shmulik Lerer, who for a time was our group leader, left to study at the Politechnikum [Technical Institute] in Lwow and there became infected with a modern political disease. He perished during the war. The organization also had its Jewish mother as a patroness. The prominent and dynamic Mrs. Lieberman displayed much concern and gave much attention to the organization. When we arranged for a flower day, she put her well-tended garden at our disposal and picked the prettiest flowers herself and gave them to us. I then came to learn that flowers speak volumes.
Of the members of my group, there is today in Israel Moniek Siegman, who made aliyah before the war and lives in Kiriat Eliezer; the late Hanie Hass came after the war. Lonek Goldstein, Ziga Turner, and Hermek Weinheber perished in the Shoah. The writer of these lines decided to leave the trodden path of Hashomer Hatza'ir and to wander off to the socialist paradise. Only in 1957 did I fully open my eyes and come to understand that for any Jew, from right to left, there is only one homeland that is the State of Israel.
The role of mobilizing the youth, children of the rank and file, was filled by the Gordonia youth organization. Its two founders, Alter Ferber and David Kleinhendler, made aliyah many years ago. Alter worked for many years at hard physical labor, and David was employed by the national theater Habimah [both deceased].
I want to mention another leader of Gordonia, my dear and unforgettable friend, the late Heshek Laulicht, one of the greatest intellects of our town. He was warmhearted and amazed us all. Heshek, formerly a yeshiva bochur , was a prodigy who in only six months prepared himself for entrance to university and who, in very short order, attained three doctorates at the Krakow University: law, philosophy, and philology. He also was fluent in 12 languages.
Heshek Laulicht expressed disapproval of Hashomer Hatza'ir which, through its Marxist training, caused a great proportion of its youth to experience conflicts and ideological dilemmas that led to their being swept up in the arms of the Communist Party. In opposition, he molded the pro-Eretz-Yisrael education of Gordonia. History later proved how right Heshek was. Nearly all the chaverim of Gordonia made aliyah before and after the war, while a great proportion of the Shomer youth made detours, only to later become bitterly disappointed.
Members of the Gordonia organization now living in Israel are: Sala Silbiger, Mina Scharf, Yetke Goldstein, Salka Gruber, Sala Goldberg, and others.
The Hechalutz organization was the pioneer of Zionist activity and aliyah in our town. Its activity during the course of two generations was multifaceted and fruitful.
I can recall some of the names of the chaverim of the first generation who made aliyah : Yosef Kuperman, Sarah and her brother Elek Jakubowitz, Avrahan Lieblich, Eliezer and Cilla Gleitzman, Dora and Berek Weinheber. Yisrael Shmuel, Malka Bochner, Yakov Braun and others are still living.
A number of those of the second generation that made aliyah , together with chaverim from Wadowice and Bielsko, founded Kibbutz Avodah in Nes Tziona. Of this group, the following are now in Israel: Rozhia Jerud, Sheinde Braun, Pesia Sigman, Yosef Mandelbaum, Reuven Lamm, Chamash and others. Nina Stein, Shlomo Silbiger, and Motek Lamm died in Israel.
Yehoshua (Ziga) Feiler lives in Tel Aviv and is one of the activists of the Oswiecim Landsmanschaft.
The founder, theoretician, and leader of the Akiva organization was Hans Loew, one of the most well-liked people in town. He had a pleasant, interesting personality, and he treated his political opponents as he did his best friends. Hans Loew and his coworkers Selma Schachter, Zurek Steuerman, Shmilek Reicher, Chaike Galitzer, and Sabina Wulkan were able to organize a youth group and inspire them with national pride and civic ambitions. In praise of this organization, it must be said that the doors of Akiva were open to children of the lower classes.
The following leaders of Akiva are living in Israel: Zurek Steuerman in Haifa and Sabina Wulkan in Holon. Chaike Galizer is an active member of WIZO in Germany.
The nestor [wisest of men] and standard bearer of Zionist activity in our town, the unforgettable Dr. Uri Druks, was the founder and head of the Betar organization. With the founding of Betar, for the first time there openly appeared in our town a youth that was prepared to go to Eretz Yisrael in any way possible and to fight in armed conflict against the British occupiers.
Who would have believed that such a handsome bocher, with such a gentle appearance as that of Moniek Frister [?], would change into a heroic fighter in Eretz Yisrael? He devoted the best years of his life to that struggle.
While we were studying in cheder and sat bent over the Gemore, a boy with long payes sneaked out of the cheder, and there he would carve wooden rifles, and during recess he distributed them among us and taught us how to shoot. It seems that already then he dreamed of becoming a fighter. Wolf Kempler (that was his name) realized his dream in the ranks of the battle groups against the British occupiers.
An interesting oddity: the Betar activist, Otek Radziwiler, became an important functionary in the Communist Party of the People's Republic of Poland after the war.
It was a pleasure to see youngsters in long coats and round velvet hats spend Shabbat afternoons on the green fields together – with girls. They conducted activities there, and long discussions were held on various problems. This was one of the multifaceted activities of the religious-national youth organization. I remember the names of three of the girls: Tanka Hollander, Dobe Scharf, and Chanke Schneider, and four of the boys: Avrohom Wasserberger, Avrohom Grubner, Glass, and Avrohom Zlotarow.
A second oddity: the God-fearing Avrohom Wasserberger was able to win the trust of the highest functionaries of the Communist Party and take up a very important key position in the economy.
The pious and modest Beis Yakov girls met from time to time in order to study chapters from the Tanach, Jewish history, religious laws and customs, Jewish philosophy, etc. It would, however, be a mistake to think that they had narrow horizons. I often had the opportunity to become convinced that they had read the best classic works and that their general knowledge was broad and profound.
The acuity, lightning-like grasp, and depths of soul of the diminutive Malka Schlesinger-Gross were acknowledged by all the youth. I recall several names of these well-brought-up and easy-going girls: Rozha Englander, Esther Schnitzer, Chava Hamelsdorf, Freida Zwerling, Ruchtche Bombach-Halberstam, and Mina Blumenfrucht. Only two of them survived the war: Rozha Englander lives in Haifa, and Chava Hamelsdorf lives in Holon.
The Youth of the Communist Party
These were people who set aside their personal lives, distanced themselves from their families, refrained from pursuing careers, etc., and stood ready to serve all of mankind. They truly believed that the theories of Marx and Lenin were about to become reality (wishful thinking for 100 years hence). They paid dearly for their naive beliefs through long years in prison and deterioration in health. Bilhah Frisch, Hantche Wulkan, Doba and Gusta Gruenfeld, Serna Fertig, Sala Ebersohn, Ilek Barber, three sons of Gimpel Bornstein, and Rochel'ke and Bilhah Silbiger survived the war. They are scattered all over the world. Karola Jerud, Rega Fertig, and Rozka Priver perished during the war.
Kadima Sport Club
The following three founders and activists of the Kadima Sport Club are living in Israel today: Amek Hass, Siga Feiler, and Maniek Geller. Three more live elsewhere: Herman Goldberg and Heshek Mansdorf in the United States, and Motek Bergman in Brazil. Brunek Geller, Feivel Ferster, Emil Goldberg, David Leschner, Beitche Jakubowitz, Pinek Leitner, Shimek Barber, Mendel Fleischer, Shimon Hirsch, Ferdek Wulkan, and Yissachar Bernstein perished during the war or died since then.
The Kadima soccer team developed into a power after many years of activity and capably measured up to foreign teams. There were 50 boys and girls who participated in the gymnastics division. Nearly all the members participated in the ping-pong division. The Kadima Jubilee was celebrated with a grand parade in the main streets of the city. The procession of sportsmen included all the Jewish sports teams of the district and was accompanied by a huge orchestra. The jubilee celebration elicited much recognition from the Jewish and Polish population.
In short, the Oswiecim Jewish youngsters were productive and ambitious and exhibited a great deal of national [Jewish] and personal pride.
Subsequent to Mrs. Sarah Schnirer's inspiration and her proposal to establish a network of special schools to teach girls the entire gamut of Jewish learning, the foundations of Torah, Jewish thought, etc., and successfully carrying it out by establishing a number of Beis Yakov schools, a number of the prominent Balebatim of our town met and chose an organizing committee whose goal was to establish a Beis Yakov school. Heading the committee, which in the course of time became the school administration, were the communally-minded and well-known Messrs. R Eliezer Sternschuss, R Avrom'tche Gross, R Moshe Wulkan, R Shimon Danzig, R Zalman Meisels, R Menashe Blaugrund, and R Kalman Bornstein.
In truth, the lack of a school for girls had been felt for some time, since boys, after all, were sent to Cheder from the age of three, where they learned the Alef Beis and later to read and write Hebrew and Yiddish. Girls, on the other hand, began only at age six to attend public school, where they learned general subjects in the Polish language. In order to avail the girls of some knowledge of the Hebrew letters so that they could read a bit and be able to pray and write Yiddish, they were sent to the wife of R Avigdor Melamed, where they learned very little.
Since the girls spent most of the hours of the day in the public school or in an environment which was primarily Polish, it had come to the point that many of the girls not only knew very little about Jewish basics, as far as Hebrew or Yiddish culture was concerned, and could barely read and write Hebrew. In their homes, too, the spoken language was slowly becoming mostly only Polish. When the news of the planned Beis Yakov school was heard, there was an actual rush of enrollment and applications to be accepted in this school. True, there were some extremists who opposed the very idea of teaching Torah to girls and they expressed their opposition in tangible concrete ways, which caused quite a bit of distress to the parents who sent their children to Beis Yakov. In the synagogue of the Admor R Elazar Rosenfeld, for example, no one who had sent his daughters to Beis Yakov was permitted to lead the prayers or to be called to the Torah. This was like a miniature excommunication.
This attitude changed completely after a few years when the school had proved itself as a producer of a generation of fine and earnestly pious girls, who continued the ancestral tradition, on the path of Torah and deeds, and not merely by rote, but through profound understanding and clear conviction.
The beginning was small and like all beginnings beset with great difficulty. An apartment was prepared and the first classes were housed there. The appointment of Mrs. Sarah Wolf as the teacher of these lower grades was very fortuitous, since Mrs. Wolf had a broad education and had much knowledge of Jewish thought, was a marvelous educator, expressed herself marvelously with powerful eloquence, and most importantly had a charming personality, all of which influenced the pupils to excel and set the tone for their attitude towards the school.
In a short period, more and more classes and pupils were added, but in spite of all the efforts of the committee and its secretary, R Kalman Bornstein, it was difficult to find accredited teachers. The Krakow Seminary produced a cohort of new teachers every year, but they were too few in relation to the much greater demand. Accordingly, at the beginning they were helped by graduates of the school who led various study-groups in the study of Hebrew, Tanach, history, Yiddish and general literature, as well as groups for drama, song, art, embroidery and handicrafts, cutting and sewing, etc. There was also much activity for Aliyah preparation, the Keren Hayishuv, summer camps, and more. This laid the foundation for the B'nois Agudas Yisroel, and capable girls were given the opportunity to show their mettle and display their talents. The first group-leaders were Sarah Frisch, Esther Schnitzer, Malka Gross, Zisel Rosenberg, Esther Schindel-Frei, and others who gave much of their time and effort in their devoted work for Beis Yakov and received a proper reward for their toil when they were privileged to see their charges grow into group-leaders of the lower grades coming after them, and even as teachers in the same school.
After many efforts and no few personal interventions, the center for graduate teachers at the Beis Yakov Seminary in Krakow, sent us Mrs. Goldfaden, Mrs. Halberstam, and Malka Gross, and since then the school grew apace. In the last few years before the war, the number of pupils reached many hundreds, and they reflected glory on all responsible.
Every year a cohort of around 100 students completed their course of study at the school for girls and nearly all of them practically automatically went on to join the B'nois Agudas Yisroel. Here they found a warm reception and continued in their cultural, social, and practical activities.
The girls who led the organization of group-leaders were very talented and active. They organized various activities for the members and maturing girls such as handicrafts, song, drama, and various courses. There were lectures on various and sundry topics. They also worked with great energy for Eretz Yisrael by raising money and propaganda efforts towards Hachshara and Aliyah.
A most important aspect of their work was doing for others. Mutual aid and work was accomplished without fanfare and publicity, but with devotion, with heart and soul. This was the help given to the needy, and supplied to everyone requiring it in the form of loans to the families and gifts to the children. Most especially they provided prepared Shabbat and holiday meals; Challah and wine, meat and fish and side-dishes for the genteel, formerly well-to-do who had fallen on hard times, but would not ask for assistance. The Shabbat meals were delivered to the homes of the needy by a small group of girls who were privy to the secret operation, headed by Rochel Halper and Yetka Ringer. A major portion of the foodstuffs that were distributed were contributed by Mrs. Feigel Halper as secret gifts.
In the years before the war, the B'nois Agudas Yisroel had become the largest youth movement in town in terms of numbers and were known for their good qualities and good deeds, everyone of them.
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