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[Page 103]

During The Last Period Before World War II

Written by Szlama Szijale (New York)

In 1936 Iza Alter returned to Pabianice from Vilna, where he had studied law at the local university. He returned to Pabianice as a licensed attorney and soon opened a legal practice.

A few weeks later the Poeli Zion committee, of which I was a member, received a letter from Alter in which he wrote the following: “I've come from Vilna, where I was a member of a Poeli Zion student group. I would like to meet with comrades from Poeli Zion in my home, since because of my position as an attorney, I cannot come into your headquarters.” This letter, which I quote from memory, was written in beautiful Vilna Yiddish.

The Poeli Zion committee decided to accede to the request of Comrade Alter and designated four comrades to meet with him: Stycki, Jelenkewicz, Warszawski and the author of this article. We met with Alter in his parents' home one Saturday morning. We were greeted very enthusiastically. A comradely discussion of politics ensued. Comrade Alter informed us that he was a member of Poeli Zion and wanted to remain in contact with us, although he could not be active in party activities at the moment. He was just beginning his legal practice now, but once he was settled in he would be able to participate in Poeli Zion activities.

The young attorney remained in contact with the party. We provided him with copies of the party press of the time both in Yiddish and in Polish, continued to meet with him, discussed things with him and consulted him about political and social issues.

At that time Comrade Alter told us about the difficulties he faced as a practicing attorney. Anti– Semitism was increasing in Poland. It was the era of the pogroms in Przytyk, Czestochowa and elsewhere. The Poeli Zion party in Pabianice organized protest rallies during which Jewish shops were closed and workers left the factories. Due to anti–Semitism Comrade Alter did not practice law under his own name but through a Polish law firm.

Attorney Alter continued his marrano–like relationship with the Poeli Zion until 1939, when the danger of war was already in the air. The Pabianice City Council was disbanded in March 1939 and new elections were called for May of the same year. All the parties began to prepare for the new elections. The Poeli Zion decided to nominate a list of candidates with Attorney Alter at the head of the list. The other Jewish parties were surprised by this nomination.

In Poland at this time, voting was organized to ensure that national minorities and the opposition parties had less representation than they deserved on the city councils. Pabianice was divided into polling districts, so that Jews living in the new part of the town could not vote for the candidate of the Jews in the old part of town. In Christian polling districts the Jewish votes disappeared all together. This meant that Jews could only elect one councilman and that was from the old part of town. It was therefore necessary for those Jewish parties that had anything in common to agree on a joint candidate before the election in order to have any Jewish representation on the City Council at all.

[Page 104]

The General Zionists called a conference of Jewish parties and suggested that Mr. Klejman, the school principal, be the first candidate on the Jewish list. The Poeli Zion disagreed and insisted that Attorney Alter should be the first Jewish candidate. As a result of this disagreement, there was no joint list and Poeli Zion campaigned separately from the General Zionists.

The election campaign in the Jewish community was a bitter one. We contacted the Polish Socialist Party and campaigned together. The Polish Socialist Party called on Christians who lived in Jewish areas to vote for the Poeli Zion list and we called on Jews who lived in Christian areas to vote for the Polish Socialist Party list. We also organized rallies together with the Polish Socialist Party. Our candidate, Iza Alter, was elected with a large majority.

At his first City Council meeting Iza Alter, the representative of the Poeli Zion, read a declaration – first in Polish and then in Yiddish. The representatives of the Endeks [Polish conservatives] and the government party were scandalized and didn't allow Alter to speak. They yelled: “Jews should go to Palestine” and were ready to do battle. If not for the presence of the representatives of the Polish Socialist Party, things would not have ended well.

This City Council meeting was both Alter's first and last one. The City Council, the majority of whose members were supporters of the Polish Socialist Party, was dissolved. A commissar was chosen to rule the town, but the electoral campaign was not forgotten.

I remember a visit to Pabianice by Comrade Zarubavel [Labour-Zionist leader] during the summer of 1939, just before the outbreak of war. Comrade Zarubavel arrived on a Sunday evening. The hall was packed with Jews, both young and old. The guest was greeted with song, the Poeli Zion “Oath” and the “Hatikvah”. Comrade Iza Alter chaired the evening. Zarubavel spoke about the situation of Jews caught under the rule of the Hitlerite Germans in occupied countries and called for Aliyah to Eretz Israel at all possible costs. The crowd responded to the speaker enthusiastically and warmly. Tears come to my eyes when I remember the last days before the Holocaust. No one thought at that time that Jews were about to be brought down and destroyed.

After this rally a banquet took place in the home of Comrade Alter. We celebrated until late at night.

After the Holocaust began, Iza Alter, the Poeli Zion idealist, ended his life in the infamous Lodz torture camp Radogocz. The Germans tortured him and then shot him to death. All honour to his memory!

 

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Iza Alter

[Page 105]

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Hashomer Hatzair commemorating the yortzayt of Dr. Theodore Herzl, 1923

 

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Boys' group at Hashomer Hatzair under the leadership of Dawid Dawidowicz
Row One (from right to left): Sz. Warszawski, N. Szpira, J. Szynicki, Frydman
Row Two: M. Szeradzki, G. Pakyn, D. Dawidowicz, J. Dzjaloszynski, A. Zylberberg

[Page 106]

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Girls' group at Hashomer Hatzair under the leadership of Hela Frankenberg
Right to left: R. Szynicka, M. Rotnberg, Z. Korn, H. Frankenberg, J. Szynicka, E. Rajchman

Finally I want to name some comrades who were active in the Poeli Zion movement in Pabianice:

Abram Jehuda Stycki,

Kalman Rybsztejn,

Mojsza Jidel Srymutki,

Szlama Jelenkewicz,

Mojsza Szternbach

Jechiel Grinszpan.


Amongst the Borochow Youth were:

Mojsza Warszawski,

Chaim Pawlowicz,

Raca Papjernik,

Jichak Bresler.

Jakob Lakser.

[Page 107]

Amongst the members of the sport–organization “Sztern” [star] were:

Majer Federman,

Wolf Lidnycki,

Szlama Baczkowski,

Polek Bornsztejn.

* * *

The Revisionist Movement in Pabianice

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Written by Gerszon Rajchman (Tel Aviv)

During the mid–1920s a growing dissatisfaction with the boring development of Zionism – adding another acre here and another goat there – spread amongst Zionists. The Revisionist opposition appeared in the Zionist movement. I was one of those who were enthused by the idea of an active struggle for a Jewish State. In 1927, I began to organize a Revisionist group in Pabianice. The ground there was fertile. We founded a temporary council consisting of:

Abram Szpira,

Pinchas Rotnberg,

Mojsza Kempinski,

Natan Strumutki.

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Pabianice's first Revisionist committee
From right to left: M. Kempinski, N. Srumutki, G. Rajchman, P. Rotberg, A. Szpir

[Page 108]

Then we got down to intensive work.

A group of young people joined the Revisionist movement who had once belonged to Hashomer Hatzair. We created a meeting place and instructors came from the Betar organization in Lodz. The commander of the group, which grew appreciatively, was Engineer Jichak Lublinski from Lodz. The group was called the Brit Hatzahar.

The success of the Brit Hatzahar in Pabianice was best reflected in the elections to the Zionist Congress, where we received a hundred and fifty votes.

It wasn't easy to carry out Revisionist activities. The General Zionist Organization waged a bitter and stubborn battle against us. They looked for all kinds of faults and looked at us as wreckers of the Zionist movement. At that time, Central Zionism was dedicated to working for the present. That meant working for the elections to the Polish parliament, the city council, the Jewish community council, etc. The Land of Israel became a side issue for them, while we believed that the basis of the Zionist movement should be the building up of the Land of Israel.

Our organization took over the rooms and the library that was named in memory of Moric Faust.

In addition, we founded a Betar group in the neighbouring town, Lask. It was run by Jichak Nejdat from Pabianice. In April 1933 we founded the Brit Hachaial [military union], which attracted a large group of comrades from the very start.

When I left for the Land of Israel at the end of April 1933, Revisionist activities were going full steam ahead.

After I left for the Land of Israel, the leadership of our movement was taken over by a very capable comrade. His energetic leadership gave good results. They brought out the well–known leader Dr. Szechtman and then they brought out the great leader Zev Jabotinsky. This was an unusual success for such a relatively small city.

The leader of the movement was also elected as the delegate to the nineteenth Zionist Congress in Prague.

After he left for the Land of Israel in 1935, the leadership of the movement passed into the hands of Mordcha Podemski. Together with dedicated comrades he led local Revisionist activities until the tragic end.

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Revisionist members and leaders before the Aliyah of Regina Weycman

[Page 109]

At the same time that we founded the Brit Hatzahar, we also founded Betar, which was led for many years by Engineer Jichak Lublinski from Lodz.

Jewish boys and girls from Pabianice received appropriate education in Betar, learning the world view of Revisionist Zionism.

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The visit to Pabianice of Revisionist leader Zev Zabotinsky

* * *

Supporters of the Jewish National Fund

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One of the first local committees of the Jewish National Fund
Sitting (from left to right): Michal Fogel, Mrs. Frydman–Joskowicz, Aron Bras
Standing: Abram Szpira, Yechiel Zilber, Abramovicz and his sister, Moszkowicz

[Page 110]

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The Jewish National Fund Committee, 1931
Sitting (from left to right): Wyner, A. Blicbau, P. Joskowicz
Sitting: M. Skurkowski, A. Wynter, D. Dawidowicz, Goldberg

 

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National Fund Committee 1932
From left to right: Wajsman, A. Rajchbart, Wyner, A. Wynter, F. Joskowicz, B. Halberg, Jelenkewicz

 

During the 1920s, as Zionist communal activism spread throughout Poland, youth groups appeared in cities and towns whose primary responsibility was to collect money for the Jewish National Fund. Young Zionists of all kinds belonged to these groups. They didn't limit themselves to traditional work for the Jewish National Fund, but tried to create a mass movement to spread the ideas of the Jewish National Fund. They had amazing influence on the growth of Zionist awareness amongst the masses.

Our city was the first in Poland to found such an organization, which had an important place in the Zionist community and enjoyed the good wishes of all as a result of its ongoing, fruitful activity.

The head of the group and also its organizer was Jechiel Zylber. He worked out rules that set an example for others, and which allowed the youth group to operate in an appropriate manner.

[Page 111]

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The Jewish National Fund Committee in 1933
Standing from right to left: Moszkowicz, J. Jonjak, Wiener
Sitting: P. Joskowicz, Moszkowicz, Kepkorczyk, A. Wynter, Jelenkewicz, Wagman

The group was very successful and all who belonged to it remember it with deep sentiment.

The group was very meaningful to its members because it was a non–party or above–party meeting place for Zionist youth of all shades. It led cultural activities and organized various events for the comrades, like excursions and similar outings.

 

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Jewish National Fund group during an excursion to the municipal forest in Lasek

[Page 112]

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After a Jewish National Fund fundraiser

 

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“Our Fund”, a Yiddish publication of the Pabianice branch of the Jewish National Fund, 16 February 1934. The main article is about Menakhem Mendel Usishkin

 

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