by Sarah Hamer-Jacklin
There was already a Zionist group in Radomsk by 1906; its leader was Moishe Lewkowicz. The group agitated for Zionist ideas, held meetings and sold shekels and marks for the National Fund. The Zionists davened in Ferszter's small shul. It was also their center.
There was also a group of young Zionists (Tzeiri-Zion). I was a member of the group as well as friends Zisman, Tiberg, Mordekhai Zelig Kaminski and eight other associates, a total of twelve members. At the beginning, we had a meeting hall in the market. Later, when we could not pay the rent, we received permission to hold meetings in Ferszter's small shul. Every Shabbos, in the afternoon, one of us would read a chapter of Jewish history aloud, or something from the Zionist newspaper Der Velt. At every wedding, bris or other joyous occasion, we would sell Keren Kayemet [National Fund] marks. We also established a library where every Jew could exchange books for three kopeks a week (I was the librarian).
So the calm, cozy work continued until the Uganda Plan was made public and a territorialistic movement (Z.S. [Zionist-Socialist Worker's Party]) was established. Once a young man from Czestochowa, Dr. Josef Kruk, came to Radomsk and he spoke in broken Yiddish because he was raised in the Polish language. He thundered against Ussishkin*. His speech was influential in the creation of a socialist group. We took to the work and organized strikes by the shoemakers, tailors and carpenters, poor workers who alone had barely made a living.
The times were precarious then, right after the Russo-Japanese War; Jews hoped for better times, but pogroms were carried out against the Jews and there were arrests for the smallest amount of socialist activity. The young were disappointed, and, anyone who could, emigrated. One of those Radomsker emigrants was me. Of the Radomsker group who then left for Canada, I alone survive.
*Translator's note: Russian Zionist leader
by Dovid Krojze
Tzeire Zion was a small group when it left Kultura. At the beginning, this group included Nakhman and Dovid Gold, their sister Dobcha Gold, Yankel Aronowicz, Yosel Englerd and his sister Heiche, Leah Telman, Belche Cymberknop, Abraham Birnbaum and Wolf Behm. Their activity found support among the city's young people. But after a while, when they had recruited a large number of members among the enlightened youth, they could no longer tolerate the atmosphere prevailing in the Beis Yakov synagogue. They rented a separate meeting hall in Meshugener (crazy) Solche's house.
The activities broadened with the growth of the party. A children's home was established under the direction of Mrs. Kszepitski (later the children's home controlled Fareinkte). Hebrew courses were taught by Dovid Gold and Czeczszewotski and 'peoples' meetings' took place with the participation of Izrael Mereminski and Lewertowski (Ber-Leib). A large protest meeting took place after the Lemberger pogrom, and Nakhman Gold and Dovid Krojze appeared.
Two historical events had a great influence on the young people: the Balfour Declaration and the Russian Revolution.
Right after the proclamation of the Balfour Declaration, some young people from Radomsk left for Eretz-Yisroel. At that time, this was not easy. When the young men arrived in Katowice, they were detained, and nothing was heard about them for months. Later, news arrived that one of them, Benyamin Rozenbaum, had been killed in a railway catastrophe. The rest did not reach Eretz-Yisroel.
In 1917, Najmark's son, an enlightened young man, a student of Berish Sztatler, departed. His first letter created enthusiasm in the city. In 1918, a member of Poalei-Zion, Shlomoh Waksman, left. His letters were read in the Beis Yakov prayer house, and made a strong impression. Then, Moishe Zandberg departed.
The example of these pioneers infected not only the young Zionists, but the members of Fareinkte, too. So, in 1919, Henekh Kalka left for Israel; in 1920, he was followed by Yosef Rozencwajg, Yehoshua Kalka, Shlomoh Waksman, Yehieil Dovid Buchman, Shie-Eliezer Rubinsztajn, Tuvyah Rubinsztajn, Wicentowski and Yankel Lande. From Tzeiri Zion : Dovid Gold, Nakhman Gold, Abraham Birnbaum, Dobcha Gold, Leah Telman, Heiche Englerd and others.
In this way, the [relatively small] Tzeiri Zion group made its great contribution to the national renaissance of the Jewish people in our city.
|The council of Tzeiri Zion during the celebration after the proclamation
of the Balfour Declaration (1917).
Standing (from the right): F. Winer, Jakubowicz, Zisman Ofman
Sitting: Y. Fajngold, Toibshe Gold. Blumsztajn, Y. Englard, _____, R. Krojze, Dovid Krojze, Cukerman (flag carrier)
by Y. Ben-Shlomoh
During the First World War, when the political situation became a little easier, the Jewish Workers' Party in Radomsk was restored. During the Czarist regime, particularly after the revolutionary years 1905-6, the activity of the Workers' Party had been almost completely discontinued.
Fareinikte (United) was previously known as the Z.S. (Zionist-Socialists), which merged with the Seimowtzes. It was virtually the first party organized in Radomsk during 1915-1916 and there were various reasons for this. First, many older party workers remained in the city, such as Hershel Krojze, the Kalka brothers, Leizer Bajgelman and others. Second, one of the theoreticians and principle leaders of the party, Dr. Yosef Kruk, and a large number of party members who influenced its resurrection, lived in the nearby city of Czenstochowa. Comrade Rafael Federman often came to Radomsk to give lectures and comrade Shmul Frank often came to see artistic performances [held by] Kultura. Both they and other comrades significantly assisted in the development of the organization in Radomsk. A large circle of young members, such as Abraham Winter, Pinye Kalka, Dovid Kohn, Yosef and Yeshayahu Fajerman and many others, actively assisted in the development of Fareinikte.
|The committee of Fareinikte in 1919.
Standing from the right: R. Zandberg, Sh. Wielunski, Kh. Iyckowicz, Abraham
Winter, Shlomoh Winter, A. Horowicz.
As with those in other workers' parties, many Fareinikte party activists later
left Radomsk. A portion emigrated to other countries, a portion settled in other cities.
A respectable number also went over to the Bund and that was a factor, too, in
the significant dwindling of the activity of Fareinikte. But a small number of
members, with the devoted Dovid Kohn at the head, maintained the name of
Fareinikte until the outbreak of the Second World War. Dozens of members of
Fareinikte, as with all of the other Jewish political and social parties, were largely
annihilated by Hitler's assassins.
by Dovid Koniecpoler
Dedicated to the memory of my mother Hana, of blessed memory
The Renewal of the Organization
After the heroic revolutionary spurt in the years 1905-1906 the Czarist authorities suppressed with force every activity of the workers movement. We, however, the young people who were born at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century absorbed the progressive ideas and were full of admiration for the heroic sons and daughters of the various peoples in Czarist Russia and especially, for the Jewish revolutionaries who fought for and won important social achievements for the workers. In our childish memories are engraved the demonstrations for freedom with the blood-red flag at the head, which were so brutally suppressed by the Czarist regime. Our young hearts warmly sympathized with the striking workers, who symbolized in our eyes the struggle for freedom against the despots and oppressors.
Radomsk, at the end of the first decade of the 20th century, did not possess any special cultural institutions and political organizations from which we young people could derive satisfaction. Hazimir was the only corner of culture at that time, where from time to time dramatic and musical events took place organized by the director Gelbard and the composer Bensman. I remember the performance of Sholem Asch's Mitn Strom and the first act of Halevy's Di Yidn in Hebrew. However, these serious literary activities had to give way to light operettas such as Dos Pintele Yid, which in the end were also silenced and a dead silence dominated life in the city.
This is how Radomsk looked during the First World War, which brought with it hunger, expulsions, epidemics and other woes.
In the years 1915-1916 the young people again took up cultural and social
activities. During a late autumn evening in 1915, Dovid Krojze called me to
Kultura, where I met M. Z. Rozenblat, Icze Grosman and a visitor from
abroad Comrade Krul (I do not remember his first name), an emissary from
the Poalei-Zion union in Poland, who once again took up his activities after an interruption
during the first war years, secretly, under the noses of the German-Austrian
occupiers. The old members promised the guest to build a section of the social
democratic worker's party Poalei-Zion in Poyln in Radomsk.
Activities during the time of War
After a short time we did build a section of the Poalei-Zion party in Radomsk and the following joined: M. Z. Rozenblat, Dovid Krojze, Icze Grosman, Dovid Koniecpoler, Abraham Lipszic, Shlomoh Gabrial Waksman, Yehieil Tiger, Moishe Zandberg and Fishel Pariz. The activities were intensive right from the beginning.
At the same time, the old members of other Jewish workers' parties such as Z.S* and Bund organized their organizations in Radomsk in a similar way. The Z.S., which had a tradition in the Czenstochower region, was particularly active. This, of course, exerted influence on us, too, to initiate our activities. We joined with the old members in Czenstochow, above all with Comrade Simeon Waldfogel, a leader from the Warsaw [Central Committee] and thanks to him we established a valuable contact with the Warsaw Central Committee.
However, internal peace in the party did not continue for long. While the union
supported the position of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party P.Z.,
M.Z. Rozenblat agitated for the Socialist Workers' Party-F.Z., which had its center
in Vienna and published the Yiddishn Arbeiter.Party-F.Z..
From the beginning we drew from both wells. Little by little, however, we young people identified with the Warsaw union and took over the leadership of the party in which I stood at the head.
After a short time, we recruited a significant number of members from all strata: workers, shop employees and so-called well-to-do young people. We often arranged lectures by Warsaw comrades, such as Comrade Mule Edelman, Leizer Lewin, Mietek, etc.
Here Comrade Dua from Jedrzejów must be remembered, about whom legends were literally circulated, that he belonged to the first Poalei-Zion group in Vilna, was exiled to Siberia from which he escaped and that the name Dua is only his pseudonym.
All of the members assisted in creating our organization in a relatively short time, so that we could proceed to independent, professional, political and cultural activities.
We decided to carry out the first strike among the bakery workers who seemed to be unenlightened.
We invited them on a wintry Shabbos in the morning in 1917 and promised our help in obtaining better working and salary conditions. The bakery workers, who were helpless and beaten down, simply did not want to believe that it was possible. After a short but vigorous struggle, we achieved success with all of the demands we presented to the bakery owners, who at that time did [well financially].
I remember an original strike, which we carried out in the wooden button factory, Fortune, owned by the Fajerman family, which had closed with the outbreak of the war. We decided that the workers deserved compensation, because it was not their fault that they had lost their work. We carried out this action together with the F.F.S., because many Polish workers worked in the factory. The struggle was much harder and I must now admit a little bizarre, too. [It was decided] that the factory would be requisitioned and then the owners agreed to pay each worker a certain compensation.
About the strange strike in the cartridge factory of the Grunis firm, we will tell further on.
Our party-section grew at a very rapid rate. Many friends joined who I will remember here: Abraham Kamelgarn, Hershel Yakubowicz, the Feldberg brothers, Fishel and Motel, Y. Rozencwajg, Sh. Rozenblat, Leisze Walinski, Sh. L. Rybinsztajn and the Krojze sisters, whose names I do not remember, but without whose cooperation and help we would not have been able to carry out our work.
Khol Homed Pesakh 1917, a regional conference was scheduled in Bedzin to which we had the right to send 3 delegates. The comrades Yusef Rozencwajg and Fishel Pariz traveled with me. On the train, we met Comrade Shulman Muny of Lodz, who traveled as a delegate from the central committee.
As residents of an Austrian occupied area, we were only able to travel as far as Dabrowa-Górnicza and from there we sneaked across the border of the German occupied area. These two areas were divided by a small bridge, which we had to cross. Comrades from the German side provided us with the necessary papers and we easily arrived in Bedzin.
The conference was for we young members of the leadership very important because we were able for the first time to familiarize ourselves with the approach to different problems, which occupied the Poalei-Zion movement at that time. The conference opened in a special conspiratorial place, it transferred to an attic room and in the end in a kheder, which simultaneously served as a shtibl for davening. There we became acquainted with the older members: Manasses Eidel Yudenherc*, Feiner, Wulf and, also, at that time a young man, Comrade Merkin, appeared for the first time. He later became famous under the name Maks Erik. This Comrade Merkin, with his report of the cultural work, surprised not only we young people, but the older members, too. All saw in him significant strength**. The meeting strengthened our consciousness and stimulated us to further work.
Meanwhile, the war was being carried out, true, far from Radomsk, but its ripples were strongly felt by us in the city. Great poverty was widespread. Unemployment grew and people took up various 'unkosher' livelihoods, such as smuggling and the like. This situation strongly impeded the party, professional and cultural work. Regardless of the conditions, the work was continued. Better working conditions were won; lectures and literary evenings were arranged.
One such lecture was arranged with Comrade Yitzhak Lew of Warsaw. In order to arrange the lecture, it was necessary to receive a permit from a certain official name Temerel. This was an older, typical Austrian functionary and in addition, a sick man. He always had one response, Not allowed. We did not relent; Comrade Lew sent to us a synopsis of his lecture in German on the nature of Eretz-Yisroel, and we received a permit. When the auditorium was already full (not a small thing, a public lecture at that time!), Temerel arrived and requested a chair on the stage so that he would be able to ensure that the lecturer really spoke German and held to the synopsis. Comrade Lew and I, although greatly intimidated, reassured him that it would be in order. The lecture was very successful. The speaker, in the course of two hours discussed, the Poalei-Zion program and dwelled upon the task of the movement in the context of the development of Eretz-Yisroel.
|*||Died in Czenstochow in 1923 after an unfortunate fall.|
|**||Later committed to the Communists and perished in the S.U.|
Temerel in the end, it turned out, became tired of sitting at the lecture of which he understood nothing and left the hall.
Meanwhile, the news began to arrive about the defeats of the Russian military and the coming revolutionary events began to be felt in the air. It should be understood that censorship [tried to keep us from learning] the truth. However, it was carried in the air and strengthened us in our struggle.
Making use of the general mood, we carried out a series of actions in the backward workplaces. These were small workshops and little factories where the majority of the workers were women. The conditions were particularly difficult in the cartridge factory of the Grunis firm. We turned here to a particular method of struggle, which is worthwhile recalling.
There were up to 20 women employed in the cartridge factory, who worked under severe working conditions and for negligible wages. We decided to storm the fortress. We presented demands, carried out negotiations and in the end stopped the work. The owner, a Hasidic Jew, called the fathers of the workers, the majority of whom were learned and religious Jews, to the rabbi. Understandably, this was all done very privately. As my sister also worked in this factory, we knew about this immediately and began counter-activities. We successfully won the fathers over to our virtuous struggle and most of them decided to inform the rabbi that the demands of the young people were not so outlandish and they could not exert their influence on this question.
The rabbi's Din-Torah (religious suit) was set for the close of Shabbos. I and my friend Sheike Rozenblat* went there and naturally met the manufacturer and some of the fathers in the so-called Beis-Din (religious court) room. After Havdalah (ceremony ending Shabbos) the rabbi came in accompanied by the manufacturer. Seeing us, he greeted us in a friendly manner and began to ask the fathers what they think of the matter. They told him that for a 9 to 10 hour workday the workers do not even earn enough for bread to satisfy their hunger. We noticed that the rabbi was not actually competent to decide the matter. He began to draw back from the whole matter. At the manufacturer's question, [How did you get involved in this matter that should not concern you?],the rabbi admitted that the question must be taken up directly with us rather than with him. Naturally, Grunis had to give in. He came to our meeting hall and subscribed to our demands.
The events of the war, in the meantime, had taken on a whole other character. All attention was given to the revolutionary events in Russia. The news from there was limited because of censorship, but enough to carry away our young souls.
* Died in 1938 in Piotrkow prison.
In Poland, there were important changes. The Polish Legion created by Pilsudski in the Austrian-German Army was dissolved. Pilsudski renounced the loyalty oath to the German regime, which General Bezeler requested from him and he was interned in the Magdeburger Fortress. The Legionnaires were interned in several camps in Poland.
The Polish military organization, F.A.W. very diligently carried out secret activities. We maintained a contact with them and sometimes received information about them from our Center. Many new faces appeared in Radomsk and very few of us knew who they were and which tasks they were fulfilling. The Austrian regime was not as remote as it had been. Time worked against it. The aspirations of the ordinary people who lived under the Austrian regime were awakened. We did not learn enough information about the Balfour Declaration and the rise of a national home for the Jewish people in Eretz-Yisroel.
All of the news came in a hazy form, but it was enough to improve our mood. The declaration of the Fourteen Points by the American President Wilson made a strong impression on us and we started to believe that we had lived through the last war. Why actually not? The Russian Czar had already abdicated. The days of the Austrian dynasty were numbered and the distinct voices of the republican and socialist opposition against the German Kaiser Wilhelm were being heard. A new, free and just world was opening for the persecuted Jewish people.
Our organization becomes more active. We make use of every means in order to spread the idea of Poalei-Zion, for the social and national movement. Elections to the city council are proclaimed and we take part in them. According to the election statute, a candidate for councilman must be at least 30 years old and there was no eligible candidate among us. Therefore, we supported our sympathetic friend Icze Urbak, who was elected as a councilman. We did not place any great hopes in the city council. However, it was a platform and electioneering itself had a great political significance.
We received surprising news from Central in Warsaw that our two prominent
comrades, Borokhov and Zrubbel were in Russia and that Comrade Borokhov was
taking an active part in the convention of the national minorities. We decided
to invite the Comrades to Radomsk as soon as they would be in Poland. Destiny,
however, wanted something else and, in December 1919, death cut short the
young, creative life of Ber Borokhov, the ideologue of social and national
liberation of the Jewish worker. Instead of a joyous reception, we,
unfortunately, had to arrange an evening of mourning. We expressed the great
devotion and affection of our movement in the program for the evening. We
invited Professor Wilenberg from Czenstochow, who described the life and the
activities of the great deceased with photographs. Despite the fact that
railway traffic had virtually stopped due to a snowstorm, Comrade Szurek still
came to us in order to honor the memory of Ber Borokhov with his lecture.
Our Activities at the Close of the War
The first six months of 1918 can be boldly marked with the birth pangs of the new world as we then believed. In the Polish streets, preparations for the great historical event, the renewal of the Polish independent land, were already evident. The Polish military organization F.A.W. arranged open mass meetings and made every effort to take power. The next people's commissar in our city was a member of the small circle of our organization. Alas, I cannot remember his name. However, his appearance and the way his mouth was a little crocked to one side remains in my memory.
All of the Jewish parties found themselves in the meeting hall of Kultura. Poalei-Zion then expropriated the wedding hall belonging to the Zaks family, in order to arrange their workers' corner. When I look back, I recall the energy with which we worked, not sparing any strength and not stopping for any difficulty. And we actually achieved what it was possible to achieve.
Not being able to give out appropriate proclamations and appeals ourselves, we translated the Polish and reworked the wording of proclamations from an earlier period, so that they would be ready for the appropriate moment. We created a commission with Motel Feldberg* at the head, to buy weapons from the Austrian soldiers because we were preparing ourselves to organize a self-defense organization against the Polish hooligans. We helped our friend Yitzhak Zaks buy instruments from the Austrian orchestra.
Our meeting hall, indeed, was the central point of the young among the working masses in the city.
On the 10th of November 1918 we received a message through a railway worker that two of our members could be present at the take-over of the railway from the German regime (the administration of HGM Radomsk had belonged to the Austrian occupying regime; the railway was in the hands of the Germans).
Promptly at six in the evening we, Comrade Leibush Zandberg and I, arrived at the building where the rail freight was taken care of and together with some workers went to the train terminal. All was set in advance, who should take over the office, the scale, the telegraph and telephone, etc. Everything was carried out without any resistance. The railway treasury was almost empty. Naturally, all of the offices were occupied by Poles, former railway workers.
Unemployment and poverty was widespread. Only the bakers were employed and there was terrible need among the remaining workers. We decided to create a low-cost kitchen where one could receive lunch and supper for a small payment. The monetary support for the purpose was collected from among the well-to-do businessmen, who had become rich during the war. And under the guidance of Sh. L. Rybinsztajn, my brother Pinche and some
* Perished during the tragic events in Czenstochow, together with his wife.
female comrades, such as the Krojze sisters and others, for a long time there was a low-cost kitchen in the Worker's Home.
We also created a professional council. It was headed by Sh. Rozenblat, others and me. Comrades Fishel Pariz was entrusted with organizing the young; Comrades Waksman, Kamelgarn, Gliksman, and Fishel Feldberg and others were responsible for the presses, pamphlets and money matters.
Every issue of the Arbeiter Zeitung was for us a well of news and knowledge. Thus passed the first weeks of Poland's independence and our organization.
The first open mass convention of Poalei-Zion was scheduled for the end of December 1918; we began to prepare for it. It is, indeed, difficult today to relate our experiences of that time. We were devoted with life and limb to the idea of the national and social liberation of the Jewish people and of all other subjugated people. In Russia, the Bolsheviks under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky had taken control of the government and created the workers' dictatorship. Trotsky used his famous slogan, No peace and no war. Poland was again independent after 150 years and Yusef Pilsudski, a former Socialist stood at the head. In Germany, one felt the last struggle of the old Wilhelm government and the beginning of a new order. A complete change occurred in Eretz-Yisroel, too. The old rotten Turkish regime was expelled. The English military regime acquired the land. A new world was being born and the Poalei-Zion movement had to work out a program, which would fit the new age.
With the greatest tension we waited for the convention in which all of the leading personalities of the Poalei-Zion world movement would take part.
Our section took part in continuous meetings and discussions, which dealt with the daily arrangements of the convention and tried to work out political resolutions.
We elected three delegates, Dovid Koniecpoler, Leibish Zandberg and Sheike Rozenblat. Yusef Rozencwajg, Moishe Zandberg and four more comrades, whose names, alas, I cannot remember, traveled as guests.
The influence of the Russian Revolution had an effect on part of our movement and it was necessary for Comrade Mulye* as chairman to bring to bear, a not small effort, so that the convention would end in peace.
* Translator's note: This name was previously spelled Mule.
On one side were Comrades Zalman Rubaszow, Yarblum, Dr. Yitzhak Sziper, Borukh
Cukerman and Rudel, who followed the so-called right line and on the second
side Comrades Zrubbel, Dr. Mikhal Kan and almost the entire Ts. K.
of Poland who followed the so-called left line. The delegates from Lodz and
Radomsk followed the leftist position. Even though the convention ended in
unity, there was the feeling in the air that sooner or later problems would
arise from the left and right. The principal thing was that the convention
proclaimed the unification of the Poalei-Zion organizations of
Galicia and Poland.
The New Age
Coming back from the convention, we felt that we had entered into a new age of party work. There were new problems and tasks for us. At any rate, that is how it seemed to us and that is how we wanted to see it.
Work in our organization was carried out with all of our energy and dedication. Because of the unnatural economic situation, we created a food cooperative and later a bakery, too, which was supposed to satisfy the needs of our members and the poor masses. Our members carried out this undertaking under the leadership of Leibush Zandberg and Abraham Kamelgarn.
Elections to the Workers' Council were supposed to take place at that time. The elections were to be secret and direct. Here we received the first political blow. Daszinski proclaimed that the P.P.S. would not sit together with the Communists in a Workers' Council and they voted for a separate Workers' Council. The Communists did the same. The Jewish workers did not want to participate in a split of the workers and decided to carry out the election separately among themselves and then join a united Workers' Council. We came out of the voting with a significant victory over all of the other workers' parties. However, for practical purposes it came to nothing. A united Workers' Council was not created in Radomsk.
Our work grew to a great extent and we no longer were able to carry it out with our local [manpower]. Then a comrade came to us from Gombin, who significantly helped us in our work while we undertook new and responsible assignments.
|The party council of the Jew. Soc. Democr. Workers' Party Poalei-Zion in
Standing (from the right): Gewercman, Moishe Zandberg, Sh. Rozenblat, Meir
Yarblum, D. Koniecpoler, L. Rybinsztajn, Sh. Zambek, C. Wloszczowski.
The head of state Pilsudski issued a decree about elections to city councils. We exerted all of our strength and achieved [the election of] two councilmen and a lawnik, i.e. a representative in city hall, Comrade Yakow-Shumel Haze.
The importance of our party grew considerably and we were active in all areas. In order to assist us, Central delegated to us Comrade Pasternak, a bookkeeper, who took care of the books of the economic institutes and helped us maintain contact with the Polish workers' parties as a proficient and intelligent comrade.
This was the heyday of our party in Radomsk. On the Central Committee it seemed very appreciated because at that time we were visited by the most prominent and most distinguished comrades from the Center, among them Szaul Amsterdam and Dr. A. Sh. Yuros, who came for the election of the first constituted Seim in 1919. Poalei-Zion won a mandate in Chelmer circles. However, Dr. Rozenfeld suddenly died. Dr. Yitzhak Szifer took his place. Comrade Dr. Yuris particularly liked our city, which responded to him with much sympathy. His lectures always drew a large number of listeners.
The same must be said about the witty lectures of Comrade Yarblum. The only visit and lecture by Comrade Nyr (Nakhum Yakow Rafalkes) is engraved in my memory. He came to us in the spring of 1919. Poland was already at war with the Soviets; the young men were mobilized. Just on the day when Comrade Rafalkes arrived, the Polish recruits decided to have a fling in the Jewish areas. Yet, the lecture took place and in it the lecturer touched on all of the actual problems. The situation was then oppressive and a group of comrades spent almost the whole night in a conversation about the Russian Revolution, about our movement and the like with Comrade Rafalkes.
Here I want to remember Comrade Emanual Wolinski of Lodz, who later became a rich manufacturer from a poor worker, thanks to his brother. However, he was very loyal to the service of our party and assisted in its electioneering.
We experienced great joy with the news that the Central Committee decided to
delegate Comrade Zrubbel to visit us. It was necessary for us to make the
appropriate preparations immediately, and this was not an easy thing. The name
Zrubbel had to be printed on placards with large letters and such letters were
not available, not even at our largest printer, the Fajnski Company. We had to
cut out special letters from wood. Everything was finally finished and we
prepared ourselves, it was Friday, to welcome our great and sincerely loved
comrade. An hour before we had to go to the train station to receive our guest,
I saw him through the window of our house striding right to our home.
The joy was very great. At the same time, we anticipated a severe reprimand. My mother's warm welcome to our home had, however, smoothed over everything. We received a slight reprimand, If there was no one to wait for Comrade Zrubbel, Comrade Zrubbel came to wait for Comrade Dovid
I was destined to listen to a second rebuke that day. The committee together with our guest waited in the furnished rooms of Little Eva (unfortunately, I do not remember her surname) for the announcement that we can enter the theater room. It is already eight o'clock, eight thirty, and no one comes. A messenger is sent to find out what is happening and he does not return.
Comrade Dovid, Zrubbel says, I already have a beard. However, one must learn to shave on his own beard. My mood was easy to describe. However, this was not all; we decided to go to the theater. Arriving behind the scenes at the theater, Comrade Zrubbel found a peephole in the side of the curtain and [our luck]!he can only see the first two or three rows, which are sparsely filled. He declares that he is traveling right back. With luck, another comrade finds another hole in the middle of the curtain and he calls to Comrade Zrubbel. One can see that there are hundreds of people in the room. No one could come to call us because everyone was involved with the cash-box and Comrade Sh. L. Rybinsztajn was making sure that order was maintained and that no one with a cheap ticket could sit in the first rows.
That is how the visit of our dear comrade was carried out with great moral and material success in spite of all of the incidents.
This was actually the period of the ascent of the Radomsker Poalei-Zion
organization. Then came 1920-1921; Poland, is involved in a war with the
Soviet Union, concludes a treaty with Petlura and wants to annex the Ukraine,
they even manage to conquer the city of Kiev, but the counter-offensive begins
and the Soviet military reaches the outskirts of Warsaw. Everything is
paralyzed. Our comrades leave Poland and emigrate to Eretz-Yisroel
; a number are mobilized in the military. I, too, left Radomsk for a short time
and went to Warsaw, where I remained for six months. When I returned, it was
already difficult to resurrect the party organization with the same stature as
earlier. After a year, in 1922, I moved to Czenstochow.
Very intensive activity by the Poalei-Zion party both during and after the First World War led to a split of P.Z. into right and left and there was stagnation in party activity. Internal causes led to a standstill. Some administrative members emigrated to Eretz-Yisroel; others were mobilized into the Polish military or left Radomsk. Persecutions by Polish government organs of the leftist workers' parties, in particular of leftist Poalei-Zion and the closing by the regime of the workers' home in Shul Street, gave rise to the situation.
After a certain time, several comrades decided to revitalize the party. Not having a meeting hall, they gathered at the cabinetmaker's workshop of the Koniecpoler family. White paper with snacks was spread on the tool benches. And a meeting was carried out attended by the women and men members, Ite Zilbersztajn, Etke Koniecpoler, Yakov Szmul Haze, Yehieil Tiger, Fishel Pariz, Henekh Birencwajg, Gitl Krojze, Sheike Rozenblat, Mordekhai Moszkowicz, Moishe Dudkewicz, Dovid Lipszic, Finche Koniecpoler and Yeshaiyahu-Ber Goldberg.
After a long discussion, it was decided to found a section of the society Evening Courses for Workers in Radomsk.
After much effort, we were successful in renting a meeting hall from Emanuel Wolkowicz on Stacia Street.
|The managers of the organization Evening Courses for Workers
Standing from the right: Leibush Moszkowicz, Ite Zilbersztajn, Henekh
Birencwajg, Etke Koniecpoler, Y. B. Goldberg
On a certain Shabbos evening attended by a large group of workers and young people from all of the parties, there was a solemn opening. As a result, other Evening Courses were opened in the following days with a varied study program. The men and women comrades also organized an artistic section. Before the end of the program someone turned off the electricity and a gang from the Yiddish section of the Communist Party barged in and wounded several comrades with knives. When the lights were turned on, it could be seen that Comrade Moishe Przyrowski was seriously wounded and other comrades were slightly wounded. With luck, the police did not use the occasion in order to close the meeting hall and we were able to continue our work.
The courses were very well attended. The library under the leadership of Comrade Yehieil Tiger became richer and richer with books from week to week. A dramatic section was founded under the leadership of Comrade F. Pariz, which held several performances. Lectures on general political and Zionist themes were also arranged.
Comrade Henekh Birencwajg founded the professional unions, which a large number of workers joined. A youth section was created, too.
|The Committee and Members of the Leftist Poalei-Zion
Sitting (from the right): R. Hampel, Sh. Rozenblat, Y. Sh. Haze, Kh. Tiger,
Second Row: F. Pariz, M. Moszkowicz, Y. Baum, , Kh. Birencwajg, A.
Zibersztajn, Y. B. Goldberg, H. Klajnman, M. Erlikh.
Top: B. Dudkewicz, R. Kopelowicz, M. Dudkewicz, , E. Przyrowski, G.
Wloczszowski, Etke Koniecpoler,
Sitting (from the right): R. Hampel, Sh. Rozenblat, Y. Sh. Haze, Kh. Tiger, Heptler
Second Row: F. Pariz, M. Moszkowicz, Y. Baum, , Kh. Birencwajg, A. Zibersztajn, Y. B. Goldberg, H. Klajnman, M. Erlikh.
Top: B. Dudkewicz, R. Kopelowicz, M. Dudkewicz, , E. Przyrowski, G. Wloczszowski, Etke Koniecpoler,
Our party grew strong despite police provocation and arrests. We can boldly say that in a certain era this was the strongest party of the Jewish workers' collective and the masses. Thanks to efficient work, the party scored a great victory in the city council elections and received 684 votes and two mandates for the city council, as well as a lovnik (a member in the leadership of the managing committee). The lovnik was Yakov Sh. Haze* and the councilmen were Comrades Sh. Rozenblat and Yehieil Tiger.
Through our initiative, in 1926 the managing committee [of the city] organized a summer colony in Wisnicze for Jewish children. The managing committee also gave subsidies for the Jewish libraries, children's home and other Jewish institutions.
Our faction placed on the agenda of the managing committee the important question of employing Jewish workers and officials in the state enterprises. After a great struggle, this point was, alas, rejected, both by the Polish reactionary councilmen and the P.P.S. (Polish Socialist Worker's Party), the last with the intention of increasing the enthusiasm [of the workers towards their party]. Our faction carried on with the struggle for workers' rights, and swung the Polish workers' representative to vote for the proposal, which received a majority. Our Comrade Fishel Pariz then received the post of locksmith in a state institution.
Comrade Fishel Pariz represented our party in the Jewish Kehile.
Thanks to the Evening Courses, library and lectures and to the P.Z. press, the Borokhovist ideas were popularized among the workers and masses, particularly among the poor and unenlightened strata of the Jewish population. A sport-club, Shtern (Stars), was also created where the Jewish workers received physical education and took part in general competitions.
Our First of May celebration despite police provocation were distinguished by demonstrations in the streets of the city.
Thus, the Jewish workers in Radomsk had carried high the flag of the Jewish Social-Democratic Workers Party Poalei-Zion until the 30's.
The leftist Poalei-Zion party added a special shade of color to the generally colorful bouquet of the Jewish workers' movement: the shades of red blue and white during the process of implementing the ideas of socialism, democracy and Zionism. In that era this natural triangle shaped the communal life in Poland and [among the Jewish workers], who struggled for a better and more beautiful life here and for a new and creative life in Eretz-Yisroel. In the ranks of the leftist Poalei-Zion was found the answer to our social and national dreams and desires.
* In later years went over to the Bund
by Abraham Litman
The Radomsker Bund had its home on Strzalkowska Street next door to Fareinikte&ä148;, in the Groiser-Klub. There the noisy Jewish young people carried out widespread cultural activities in the form of workers' courses, lectures, a reading room and so forth. However, above all, the Bund was occupied with organizing the workers in professional unions, in order to struggle against the exploitation of the Jewish masses and to better their economic condition.
In 1921 the professional union of the needle workers was organized in Leibel Gelbard's house, which in time counted many members. The founding meeting took place in Krakower Street 41 and around 75 workers took part. Haimel Ickowicz of the Bund, Pinhas Kalka of Fareinikte, and Dovid Koniecpoler of Poalei-Zion represented the political parties, which were invited to the meeting.
The union was illegal. However, it carried out its activities with devotion. The chairman was Leibel Gelbard, Secretary Yame Wajsberg. Malche Sandomirski of Poalei-Zion was also chairman for a time. Pinkhas (Pinye) Kalka was active in the union, too. Although, like the whole Kalka family, he was a Fareinikter.
The executive of the Bund consisted of five members: Abner Jarkhmial, Haim Ickowicz, Leibel Gelbard, Abraham Dikerman and Hershel Bromberg.
Active among the older Bundist were Old Man Szreiber, Ale Borda, Mordekhai Ahron Rajkher, Fishel Gerszenowicz, the Geler (Blond) Szime, Leizer Tajnski, Abraham Banaf and Feiwel Fiszelewicz.
The Bund would organize lectures by distinguished leaders, who came from Czenstochow, Lodz and Warsaw. When such a lecture occurred, the entire Jewish intelligencia filled the room and it was a great yom-tov. The thirst for learning was very strong and the activities of the Bund in the cultural field were numerous.
The Bundist club in Radomsk also greatly assisted the Jewish workers who returned from Germany in 1917 after the First World War. When they arrived in Radomsk and asked for help, it is true that we alone could not help. We sent a delegation to the rich Jewish businessmen and sought help for the wanderers from them. The delegation consisted of Comrades Rozenberg, Ickowicz, and Mejinski. These comrades had an effect on the rich businessmen who received them very warmly. This was Rozenbohm, Mordekhai Goldberg, Fanski, etc. They sent food to us and we opened a kitchen where wanderers received a plate of soup with bread.
Although the Bund was organized as a revolutionary workers' party, which rose for the purpose of struggling for socialism, it became a people's movement in the Polish cities, shtetlekh and in our Radomsk, too. Not only the workers and craftsmen belonged but also the middle class and particularly the intelligent young people even from the well-to-do homes.
In the later years, between the two world wars (1918-1939), the Bund played a significant role in the general Jewish political-social life and remained devoted to its basic revolutionary ideas as a workers' party. As in other cities and shtetlekh in Poland, in Radomsk, too, the Bund carried on an important struggle for the rights and well-being of the Jewish workers and enslaved masses in the governmental, municipal and Jewish communal institutions, for the autonomy of Jewish life. The Bund dedicated itself particularly to the professional activities of the workers' movement and it served as a natural liaison officer between the Jewish and Polish workers.
With its multi-faceted social-cultural activities, through the distribution of the Folks-Zeitung, journals and books from the publisher Culture League and through organizing gatherings, lectures and evenings in which a variety of speakers and writers would present their ideas, the Bund was active in the progressive general social and cultural development of the unenlightened masses, for which backwardness was at that time the greatest adversary in their struggle for a better tomorrow.
True, the Jewish masses in Poland and in Radomsk did not live to see their better tomorrow. Their tomorrow was drowned in a sea of innocent blood, which was spilled by the murderous executioners, the carriers of Fascism and dark nationalism in the 20th century.
|The Bund Executive Committee in 1921The
From the right: Leibel Geldbard, Haim Ickowicz, Comrade Abner, Hershel Bromberg, Abraham Dikerman
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