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[Page 211]

Sokolov Youth

Itskhak Nahari–Mendzshitski
(Kibuts Yagur)

Translated by Tina Lunson

Sokolov – a town like all Jewish towns in Poland. There was almost no “alphabet” school in Sokolov. Boys studied in khedarim and those who were lucky, in a yeshive. Girls went to the Polish government public school (powszichne). Also, a lot of boys went to the Polish public school, especially in the higher classes. Those who had in their earlier years studied in the khedarim moved over to the public school for several reasons (one had to pay for kheyder and a Talmud Torah was not suitable).

 

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A group of Poaley–tsion members (“Freedom”)

 

There was no middle school in Sokolov and only individuals broke away to the surrounding cities (Vengrov, Shedlets and also

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Bialystok or Warsaw) to attend a trade school or a gimnazye, and as many as can be counted on the fingers went to the higher schools. The overwhelming majority were not allowed for economic reasons. And so the urge for self–study and for organizing into youth groups was understandable.

The Zionist organizations occupied a very important place, and even the political parties came to be led by young activists, especially the very strong Zionist parties of all stripes.

The pioneer youth groups were Ha'khaluts, “Frayhayt”, “ Ha'khaluts–ha'tsair”, and “Ha'shomer ha'tsair”. At the end of the1920s and especially from 1930 until the outbreak of the World War, there were more than a thousand organized youth. The youth pursued an answer – not only to develop society and culture – but also purpose. In Sokolov there was no opportunity for economic facilities and Zionism, particularly Worker–Zionism, roused, encouraged, showed a way, and hundreds were fired up with belief in Zionism and left for Erets Yisroel.

 

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A group from “Bafrayung”

 

I was active in “Ha–khaluts” and in “Frayhayt” and was the founder of “Ha'khaluts ha'tsair” in the years 1927 to 1935 (until my own aliye to Erets Yisroel).

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During the same years I was also active in the political party “Poaley tsion” Zionist Socialists.

Political argument and undertakings were not the only content of these organizations, but also cultural, literary activities of a general Jewish or worldly character.

The library named after Y. Kh. Brener was built by individuals, and help from the organizations with hundreds of active readers. It is worth taking this opportunity to mention the members Yosl Rozentsvayg, Zishe Fridman and Yosef Rubin of blessed memory, who devotedly built the library, not sparing any effort or time in enlarging the number of readers and acquiring new books.

And not only passive readers: various literary talks or literary contests, checkers evenings or conferences with Jewish writers and poets. In a word, the library was one of the most important institutions to sate the thirst of the youth (and not just young men!) to know and to study what they could not get in another place.

The library held thousands of Jewish books, originals and translations from classic literature, almost everything that had appeared in print in Yiddish. Now is the time to specify that Yosl Rozentsvayg, Zishe Fridman and Yosef Rubin gave years, day in and day out, to the library while their single intellectual satisfaction, literally a holiday, was when they got a new reader or brought new books from Warsaw.

There were dozens of activists in Sokolov, in the library or in the youth organizations; in the party or in the drama circle or the shul organization, the Prebel shul, Free Scout (from “Frayhayt”), “Keren–kayemet”, “Keren–ha'yesod” – everything was voluntary, with devotion and enthusiasm and not once did the activist have to cover “small” expenditures from his own pocket…

 

The character of the organizations

There were no “golden youth” in Sokolov and no assimilation. The organizations schooled their own leaders and activists. Circles met together several times a week. There was a lack of social venues, so people met in private homes and read, heard a lecture about culture, literature, sociology or social problems.

The activity was multi–branched: self–education circles,

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excursions, summer camps, winter seminars which were central or regional, and so on, one activity more or less completing the other.

The youth pulled away from their earlier path and in the movement acquired a world–view of national and social freedom, sincere in the BATSOYGEN, not seeing any abstract ideal but the opposite – touching each one personally and understanding that it is only with his identifying himself, with placing himself on the side of a realist, is the guarantee that his ideals will not become a Utopia.

The inner relationships were fine friendship and familial. They developed the feeling of reciprocal help, in one word: the organization for him became a second and – many times – a better home…

The youth had received almost no musical education. There was no choir in the town, no orchestra, and no symphonic concerts were heard. They did not know about classical or modern music. The fire department's band played sad or happy marches, according to the need, and that at a very low level. Some learned to sing a

 

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A group of “Haluts ha'tsair” – 1930

 

little in the public school or knew some Jewish tunes from their parents, from the high–holiday liturgy or from Hasidic singing and devotions.

But the youth sang. Yiddish folksongs developed.

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There was no musical notation but a song was sung from circle to circle, from town to town, from place to place, through summer camps, seminars or conferences; and especially the songs of erets yisroel which were brought in by messengers from erets–yisroel. Hundreds of folksongs – songs or regular Hasidic nigunim [complex tunes without words] ¬– were taken around by the youth. Curious: I once went to a presentation by Ha'khaluts–ha'tsair in “Dom Ludovi”. They had written 2 or 3 political parodies to well–known folk tunes and a few years later in Vilna, Leybl Shpizman (secretary of Frayhayt) grabbed me and wanted to sell me (for a price, that I would teach him a new Yiddish folksong) those very parodies that were new. Fresh off the press…

The Yiddish theater provided no few songs, despite their level (which in a small town was not very elevated). The youth would extract the kernel, uncover something new in it and turn it around in their own particular, robust way.

At that time there were not yet any sound–films or radio. Intuition and sensitivity enlarged the limited possibilities; in short, the youth were full of joy and life, an idealistic, dancing and singing life.

The Poaley–tsion party with its hundreds of members was then actually an “older youth organization”. The majority of its members were almost 30 years old (I myself joined the party when I was barely 17). With the history and rich multi–branched activities of the Poaley–tsion party it was certain to take in new members.

Here I will mention just a few members who were murdered during the Holocaust: Alter Shuster, a party leader in Poland, a worker his entire life. Despite his heavy worries about livelihood he did not abandon his community obligations. He was a doer and a teacher. Not always successful in helping himself, he was generally ready to help a friend. He was beloved not only in party circles; he was a leader not only in the areas of small–town Sokolov. In his later years in Bialystok he was one of the party leaders there.

Yitskhak Skole, master and teacher, lived his last decades in Warsaw. He was one of the founders and leaders and also subtle, and an individual, sympathetic person. He came to socialism first of all for ethic and human reasons. A Zionist heart and soul. Permeated with culture and knowledge. Drawn to the book as to something holy. In

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1933 when Hitler came to power, he felt a repulsion to flesh and blood and became an ethical vegetarian. He supported the theory that everything bad and cruel and murderous came from eating flesh and blood. In his later years he also speculated on philosophical questions. In Hitler's hell Skale was active in the Warsaw ghetto, an activist in the public kitchen, helping to organize a Hebrew–Yiddish school network in the ghetto. He was close to the Ha'khaluts circles. He was murdered in the Warsaw ghetto.

Yitskhak Zarembski, a folksy type, an impulsive, energetic activist; there could not be a party committee without the energetic Zarembski; the eternal treasurer of the party, who always covered the party's deficits from his own pocket. He was also always ready to help a friend in need. He was the proprietary member of the party, and his home was the center of the Poaley–tsion affairs. Honest and loyal, he was devoted to the movement; an individual without complaints and limitations, a rare type for whom the word and the heart were one.

Khenokh Zayants, the intelligent young man. The opposite of Zarembski and maybe quite a complement: deliberate, logical, calm and systematic. He never hurried and he was never late. Most of the time secretary of the party, was one of the most important party activists. Always a smile on his lips. Treated everyone with honor, calling up the respect of his opponents. There was no important activity in which he was not the nerve and the tone–setter in the movement. And not only just within the framework of the party: in every general societal party activity Zayants was the messenger. His knowledge and dedication brought the party, and him, recognition and praise.

Exterior – calm. Interior – far from calm. He dreamed of erets–yisroel and more than once told me about his “dreams” of building his life in erets–yisroel; he dreamed but did not achieve…

These are just a few of the dozens of activists, outside the elders who were mostly intimate friends. The murderous hand erased the reserve of Jewish hopefulness and realization of ideals.

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A group from the drama circle of the “Poaley–tsion”, 1922

 

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Uncaptioned
_____________ scouts, Sokolov, 31 September '38 [possibly '36]

 

[Page 218]

The “Frayhayt” Movement in Sokolov

Tsvi Tshekhanovitski (Haifa)

Translated by Tina Lunson

The “Poeley-tsion” party and its youth movement “Frayhayt” [Freedom] were a part of the general political party life in Sokolov.

I will mention the difficulties that the members of “Frayhayt” had to cope with in order to carry out their activities. As there was no local group, the discussions we had about the tasks of our youth movement as well as the cultural work took place in a room at a member's home. The first committee of “Frayhayt” in Sokolov in the year 1927 consisted of the following members: A. Shpadel, Khane Zaklikovski, R. Migzal, Dovid Shtutman, Meyshe Avrom Kandl and the deceased member M. Zshepke. The “Frayhayt” in Sokolov, as in all the Jewish settlements in Poland, rooted Zionist-socialist thought among the young Jews. We were active in all Zionist undertakings that were carried out by the Zionist parties in Sokolov.

We met every Shabes in the Ripke forest, where we would spend the whole day playing various sport games, dance the hora and end with a chat in Hebrew.

Eventually the police noticed us and several members were arrested, among them Sheyne Tenenboym. The “Frayhayt” in Sokolov worked together with the “Poaley-tsion” party and participated in all Zionist activities: “Keren kayemet,” “shekel” selling operations and elections to the Zionist Congress and in all political actions that were offered by the Jewish population, including elections to the town council and general elections where the party had representation.

In 1936 the party decided that the members of “Frayhayt” who were above 18 years of age should go over to the party. We, the younger members, took over the work of the “Frayhayt.” The committee elected at that general meeting consisted of: Volke Shuster, Fishl Felman, Sheyne Tenenboym, Zalman Sobol (all were killed by the

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Nazi murderers), Sore Fleysher (in America) and Hershl Tshekhanovitsh (in Israel).

We already had a location for the Brener library at the “Poaley-tsion” party's location at Alte Shpilman's (killed while being deported to Russia). The cultural work was accomplished with the participation of the party members. The beloved member Henekh Zayonin would often speak publicly about literary topics; Perets Granitshteyn, about Borokhov's theories; Itskhak Mendzshitski, about the Pioneer movement, and Sh. Shtutman, about the writers Mendele and Y. L. Perets. Every Friday there was a kettle evening with the participation of party members. Those discussions were sought out by many young people from various organizations. Thanks to the initiative of the members Yitskhak Zarembski, Yekhiel Elenberg, Yosef Rozentsvayg (all killed) and Abish Vierzshbe (died in Israel) the party decided to take a large and comfortable space at Hershl Fisher's. The “Frayhayt” became literally the largest youth organization in Sokolov. At a meeting of the Leather Union – which was under the influence of the Jewish Communist party in Sokolov – member Tshekhanovitski was elected to the administration in the name of the “Frayhayt” party. That was thanks to the large number of members of our group in the Leather Union, and the active participation that we took there. At the initiative of N. Koyfman a committee was created to collect money for the Spanish fighters, in which the members of “Frayhayt” took a large part. The population of Sokolov also responded warmly to it.

Also in 1934 Sokolov celebrated the campaigns for a working Erets-Yisroel. Member Henekh Zayonts headed up that appeal. And the members of “Frayhayt” took an active part, especially Motl Zaydner and the writer of these lines. We would go to all happy events and collect money. I will remark that our parents always gave money for Erets-Yisroel with great joy. I will also call attention to Henekh Zayonts, as it was literally a wonder the way he worked; every day he collected at all the organizations. We decided to raise 500 zlotych and we reached that thanks to his active work.

After the action the league for a working Erets-Yisroel decided to take a large space. The house that was once the Povshekhne shul became the Borokhov House for the entire league: “Poaley-tsion,” “Frayhayt,” “He'khaluts,” “He'khaluts ha'tsair,” “Ovod,“ “Ha'poel.” The league became

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the largest strength on the Sokolov street. In summer we, “Frayhayt” members, used to make various excursions, in particular to Sterdin, where there was a large “Frayhayt” organization. On Shabes after lunch we would travel to Sterdin and along with the local members we spent the day in the forest dancing the hora and talking about “Frayhayt” issues. The excursion ended with a circle and a presentation by the southern branch of “Frayhayt” in Sterdin. I will mention that thanks to the “Frayhayt” movement, which sent many members to training and who later made aliya, many live today in Israel.

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1928

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1921

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[Page 223]

The Zionist Organization in Sokolov

Y. Grinberg (Tel-Aviv)

Translated by Tina Lunson

The Zionist organization in Sokolov was founded early in 1901. The founders were Leybish Rubinshteyn, Neta Finkelshteyn, Yankev Taytlboym, Avrom Mosnzon (Meyshe-Leyzerke's son) and Avrom-Yitskhak Rozn. Also in that small circle of sympathetic supporters were Pintshe Melamed, Khayim-Shmuel Roznboym, Itsl Dratevke and others. That Zionistic group devoted itself in particular to propagating the Zionistic “shekl”; subscribing to the “Ha'tsifira”; promoting the operations of the Colonial Bank, the Zionist library, and so on. Suffice it to say that the group had to sustain persecutions – both from the government and from Jews who did not “believe” in Zionism but were afraid of the government – and they had to perform their activities in conspiracy and with much security. Of course, Jews from different levels of the Sokolov population belonged to that Zionist group, all united by the idea of the return of Jews to their land, and at that time there was no place for differentiation and parties, which came years later. Except that it was said that the large worker demonstration in 1905 was carried out by “Poaley-tsion” – that is, by the Jewish-Zionist socialists.

In 1912 the Zionist organization in Sokolov was organized anew. Among the activists in that group we find: Yosl Flinder (a student), Ruben Helster, Hershl Tsebulie, Dovid Lustigman (a bookkeeper) and Yankev Grinberg. The organization – which counted a hundred members including women who belonged to it – ran their operations in a conspiratorial manner, through “supervisors” of small groups that comprised no more than eight or ten members, who did not know one another and who appeared on the lists by their initials only. The “supervisor” was the only connection among them. The members also paid a membership fee of six groshen (three kopikes) a week.

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The activities of the Zionist organization included: distributing the sheklim, setting up contribution plates for the National Fund on erev yonkiper at the shuls; distributing artistic panorama cards from “Betsalel,” forwarding money to Odessa to the “Odessa Palestina Committee” and getting receipts in return; distributing brochures and the “penny library,” and soliciting subscriptions for the journal “Dos idishe folk”. This was in the years 1913 to 1914. They also circulated in Sokolov 50 copies of “Ha'oylam”, the organ of the Zionist World Movement (one copy) and the “Ha'tsifra” (several copies) in which there was much interest during the time of the Zionist Congress in Vienna in 1913.

A. Trivaks visited Sokolov in 1913, and with his participation there was, among other things, a women's gathering which was dispersed in the middle of the meeting by the report that the police knew about the meeting. There was a lot of tumult in the town about the Zionist organization, which lasted a long time, until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, when all Zionist work was interrupted.

The Zionist organization was revived with the beginning of the German occupation and was carried out – with complete freedom – in a regular manner. At that time these belonged to the committee of the Zionist organization: Yankl Tikulski, Khayim Zilberman, Dr. Rakotsh, Mendl Loshitski, Yitskhak Skale, Eliezer Shafran, Avrom and Khayitshe Zayonts, Yankev Lustigman and Yankev Grinberg. The committee held its meetings in the residence of Yankev Tikulski. I recall that in order to avoid offending social convention – which I knew to expect as the director of studies at the Sokolover Rebi's Yeshive -– I voluntarily used to extinguish the night-lamp that was burning there at his house, so that no one would know about my participating in those meetings.

From time to time other Zionist leaders visited our town, such as the leaders of the Warsaw organization and of other towns. Also Dr. Gotlib, Atty. M. Hartglas, Yosef Heftman, Atty. Elkhanan Levin from Shedlets, and others visited us. The organization became busy again, though in a broader scope, in distributing the Zionist press, maintaining a Zionist library, Keren-Kayemet work, filling out petitions for the German government about Erets-Yisroel, and work in other Zionist areas.

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Mizrakhi

After that came the differentiation – the emergence of separate Zionist groups, with particular ideological directions. In 1916 Y. L. Shtsharanski visited Sokolov from the Central Committee of “Mizrakhi” in Warsaw and founded a chapter of “Mizrakhi” in Sokolov. Shtsharanski also visited and had a talk with the Sokolov Rebi of blessed memory and very nearly got the Rebi's assent to join “Mizrakhi.” I however stopped the Rebi from signing that particular document which I considered as not desirable for several reasons. The board of “Mizrakhi” consisted of Khayim-Shmuel Roznboym, Faluba Eliezer Shafran, Pinkhas Tshernitski, Shmuel-Leyb Kats, Dovid-tshe Varshavski (now in Mexico), Khayim-Hersh Knorfel, Meyshe Borkhovski, Yehude-Hersh Skphidlover, Meyshe Grinberg and Yankev Grinberg. At the next election to the kehile administration, only “Mizrakhi” members were elected to head the community: Meyshe Borkhovski, Hersh-Tuvye Ber, Meyshe Lustigman, Pinkhas Tshernitski – who had given a written promise before the election that they would conduct their operations according to the instructions of the board of the “Mizrakhi” organization. At the “Mizrakhi” conference that took place in Warsaw in 1916, there were also delegates from the Sokolov branch: Meyshe Borkhovski, Hersh-Tuvye Ber and Khayim-Shmuel Roznboym. Two “Mizrakhi” representatives were also elected to the town council, Alter Kapovy and Pinkhas Tshernitski. The “Mizrakhi” organization also easily created its own minyon that became a center for religious activity and Torah study.

It is worthwhile to relate the following episode, which is very characteristic for the conditions in which we had to conduct the Zionist work. One day a telegram arrived at my address from the Central Shekl Committee in Warsaw with this message: “pzshistompitsh do spzshedazshi shkla”. That was supposed to indicate that we should endeavor to sell the sheklim. It seemed that the post, a telegram with such bizarre content, would elude the authorities who would not understand instructions “to sell glass” (because of an error the telegram came through as “shkla” – glass, in Polish – instead of “shekla”). That resulted in an investigation at the “Mizrakhi” office and research by the members and only later was it explained that this was merely an error in the telegram.

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Later the “Tseyri Mizrakhi” organization was created for younger followers of “Mizrakhi,” and “He'khaluts ha'mizrakhi” for those members who were preparing to make aliye to Erets Yisroel and for that reason needed to go through a training process. They also created a kind of agricultural training-kibuts in Sokolov. At that time there were 50 subscribers of “Ha'mizrakhi”, the organ of the “Mizrakhi” movement. “Mizrakhi” conducted very lively activities and also had visits from the leaders of the party in Warsaw, both rabonim and envoys. Visiting Sokolov as envoys from “Mizrakhi” were Yitskhak Rivkind, Heshl Farbshteyn, Rov Nayfeld (the gathering was betrayed to the police and interrupted in the middle, so Rov Nayfeld of blessed memory had to leave the town), Rov Rapaport from Yendzsheiev, Rov Dinas and others. The “Mizrakhi” organization later developed even more, with its youth organizations, the “Yavne” schools and so on. The “Mizrakhi” group in Sokolov was one of the largest and finest chapters of that party in Poland and played an important role in the Zionist and general Jewish life in the town.


[Page 227]

The Joys of Youth in the Nest of The Young Guard

by Adina Yelin-Landoy, Mesilot

Translated by Adam Ganson

You will find them today in the communes in Israel: in Eilon in the North and in Negba in the South, in Mesilot and Tel-Amal in Beit Shean Valley and in other places. They carry in their heart the radiance of the days of their youth in the nest of “HaShomer HaTzair” in the small town of Sokolov.

The Nest was a small corner of the Land of Israel amidst the grey reality of the town. Young men and women would gather within the four walls of the Nest, their address on Daluga Street in the residences of the General Zionists and afterward at Rogovska Street and finally in the clubhouses, not far from “Sholhoif”. The walls hummed from joyous singing, voices of the Land of Israel's Hora burst forth from there. It was heard outside, and at the beginning they related to the naughty youth with disregard and dismissiveness. Strict parents disagreed with the activities and managed a quarrel with their sons and daughters. However, it was here that these youths found, in the youth movement, their home, here they came to fulfill their desires, youthful desires, here they found the happiness of youth.

However they didn't always sing and dance. There is a time to dance and a time to learn. There were some that were very serious about their studies. Here they deepened their intellectual education, established their ideological path. They thirstily drank from their counselors' body of knowledge and even invited external people and also intellectuals of the city (Zalman Greenberg z”l, Haim Zilberman z”l, Lustigman z”l, and on the contrary those living- Moshe Meislisch and Haim Freedlov) to lecture to them and to expand their horizons.

The Nest charmed the youth of the city. The well-behaved came, but also those from other groups. Everyone was charmed by the joys of youth steeped in seriousness and the understanding of the pioneering roles thrust upon the Hebrew Youth.

They didn't always sit within the walls of the Nest. During summer, their activities were carried out in nearby forests. Groups and legions would set their meetings in the woods in Brezenem Vedel or in the forest in Ragawar Wald or next to Mandelboim's milk barn.

Fullest impressions of the nest were during the hikes during Lag B'Omer. This was an event in the town. Old and young would go out before evening fell to meet the marching guards with the strength under their flags. The gentiles also were amazed by the proud “Jewish Scouts”.

The members of the Nest excelled, and they would organize from time to time, demonstrating the accomplishments of “HaShomer HaTzair”. Applause would greet plays of the drama club, choral singing, gymnastics practice and others.

The Nest excelled at all of the Zionist and Pioneering activities in the city. Activists in the branch of “The Pioneer”, and in the League for a Working Land of Israel, would first collect money for Jewish National Fund.

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The Nest in Sokolov sprouted in the late 1920's. During that time, there was no youth movement in the city. The serious and maturing youth would find their place in political parties and get carried away with material without knowing. A preschool teacher came from a different city and found a way to the hearts of the young ones. She organized them and founded the Nest of HaShomer HaTzair in Sokolov.

In the later years, the activities became difficult. Antisemitism grew and an end came to the care-free hikes in the fields and forests. Trouble and longing were in the hearts of the young people. Notwithstanding, inside the Nest their troubles were forgotten and their hearts ignited.

In those same days the members of the Nest matured and faced the realization of their plans. Those who weren't ready, left the Nest. The others went out for training and afterwards migrated.

The percentage of those same youth to fulfill their desires were not large. Though, these you will find at the communes in Israel, Mothers and Fathers to children who are walking in their ways. The rest you will find in Israel, North and South America, and also in the hearts of those who carry those memories from those days.

We'll remember those that arrived at their goal, but were plucked by the violent acts at the hands of their enemies.


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The Bund in Sokolov from 1900 to 1911

Itskhak Nahari–Mendzshitski
Nosn Fodemberg (Los Angeles)

Translated by Tina Lunson

The Bund – which was organized in Sokolov in the beginning of 1900 by Avrom (Leser) Grinberg, Leyb Fodemberg, Shepsl Berger, the black Yosl, Avrom Tshishinski, Kalman Yekhiel Fridman, and others – was the first political national party that, in my view, brought a new idea and independent thought into the town; that was the party that awoke in the worker youth, and to some extent in the yeshive youth, the consciousness of fighting for economic improvement and political, national, and cultural activity.

From 1900 to 1905 the Bund had hardly any respect from us in the town; from time to time a brochure appeared, or a proclamation that went from hand to hand among “certain people.” And it was read with great interest and caution. Sometimes outside people showed up, with long, untrimmed hair, red shirts worn out over their trousers and belted with broad sashes knotted with fringes that dangled as they walked. These people drew the attention of our young men – shnekes as we youth were called at that time. We followed them with curiosity and interest until they drove us away. As we later realized, they were agitators. They came often to Sokolov from Shedlets and later from other towns to give instruction to the founders of the Bund in order to form birzshes or exchanges, to lead agitation among the workers and organize various actions.

The enlightenment work of the Bund was conducted at the exchanges, in gardens, in the woods, behind barns, and in other secret places. It was all very conspiratorial. But it began to draw the attention of the police, who noted the outside people with their strange clothing and also the hangers-on who followed them around. The police began to follow too,

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investigating their work, and in 1905 the Sokolov police broke in on a lot of leaders of the young Jewish Bundist organization, arrested them, and sent them off to the Shedlets regional prison for sentences of various lengths.

The first arrest came unexpectedly. The young Bundist leaders were, in the beginning, a little shocked and that broke off the activity of the Bund for a short time, but the work was gradually reinstituted and the activity continued.

The ground in Sokolov was fruitful for Bundist activity, as the town had a lot of craftsmen such as shoemakers, tailors, cap-makers, furriers, quilters and others who sold their merchandise in the markets, fairs, and to merchants from far-off Russia. The workers in those crafts worked sixteen to eighteen hours a day and before the Jewish holidays entire nights, for a paltry semi-annual or annual pay-off. Although the worker and the proprietor would meet in the beys-medresh to pray, or for a toast on a celebration, or on being called up for an aliye to the same Torah scroll, there was nevertheless a hidden resentment smoldering in the heart, a dissatisfaction with their proprietors for the countless hours of work every day for small wages. A few workers would individually in some way or another ask the proprietor to raise his wages. Some few received the raise but mostly they had to finish the season for the price that they had been hired for.

The Bundist activists took advantage of the difficult situation of the workers to spread proclamations and brochures, to agitate and awaken the consciousness. Gradually the agitation had effect. The peace between workers and proprietors was weakened. The workers began to be convinced that asking proprietors individually for a larger wage was in most cases a specious conversation. On a certain day the workers declared a strike against Meshe Simkhe Yoel's. Their demand was: twelve hours a day of work for the same wage.

There was tumult in the town. The proprietors had never heard of such a thing. Such presumption: Presenting demands to the proprietor and stopping work, or not giving any more – such a thing had never happened in the history of Sokolov. Meyshe Simkhe Yoel's called the parents of the workers also guilty for the strike. But to

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great wonder he found out that there were tsitsilistn in the town who spoke about the strike without the workers. Meyshe Simkhe Yoel's was obstinate. He would not beg the good-for-nothings to go back to work. Let them strike however they wanted, he thought. When the strikers wired him that they would throw his whole workshop of boots out on a market day, he gave in to the demands.

 

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A Bundist group in 1910
[The sign they are holding seems to read “Bundist Group, Sokolov 1919”
– it's not so clear, it could well be 1910]

 

The first strike won was a great victory for the young Bund in Sokolov. That gave courage for further work and gradually the demand for a twelve-hour work day spread to all the branches. In a short time the Bund was able to introduce a twelve-hour work day in all the factories in Sokolov.

In the first period after its founding, from 1900 until the First World War in 1914, the Bund brought class consciousness to our workers in town for economic improvement, encouragement to read, learn, and elevate the cultural situation for the backward and ignorant--a short period but a large and important piece of work for that time.

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The war of 1914 took away some of the Bundist leaders to the army; others left the town. There were no activists left in town to continue the work, except there was still a commotion in town. True, it was lit by the workers from before the awakening of consciousness, who learned from the Bundist agitation.

Meanwhile people read what they received: a proclamation, a brochure. People were more aware, more ripe, and when the Germans occupied our town and instituted an abnormal life – those thoughts that the Bund had awakened came to be expressed. There was now an intelligent and conscious youth.

Culture clubs were created. Political parties. Drama circles. As in every town, so for us in Sokolov, we had diversity of opinions that led to a division of our Sokolov youth into two opposing political ideologies. On one side the Poaley-tsion headed by Borekh Vinogura, Ayzik Platner, Itshe Farbiazsh, Nosn Koyfman, and others; and on the other side, the Bund with Noske Fodemberg, Borekh Rozenboym, Itshe Shpanke, Shmuelke Bornshteyn, Nekhe Veligura, Gele Grinberg, and others. The Bund rented space for a club from Aron Kopls. We brought in speakers and arranged readings, opened a library, subscribed to the Bundist Lebns fragn (Vital questions) from Warsaw and conducted a little political work.

The work spread widely and blossomed. In 1918, when the First World War ended and there were opportunities to emigrate, almost all the Bundist activists left Sokolov for Argentina, Erets-yisroel, the United States, and other lands. The younger generation that remained took over the work of the former members of the Bund until the outbreak of the Second World War and the khurbn (Holocaust).


[Page 233]

The Bund Movement in Sokolov

Borekh Roznboym (Chicago)

Translated by Tina Lunson

From the little that I know there was already a Bund organization in Sokolov in 1905, but not a very conscious one. It was a pomoshtsh-Bund but more of an spontaneous one – I recall blue shirts and red sashes with tassels, capes and wide hats.

There were no libraries or unions. From time to time one would find proclamations here and there. Members would sometimes take over the study-house on Shabes in the middle of praying, and someone would make a speech; the police came and arrested those gathered.

A few assassination attempts also took place in Sokolov, when Katov and others were shot. Four Bundists were then arrested; they sat in jail for two years in Shedlets, and were later freed. I remember the day of their liberation. Before Peysakh – all the young people of Sokolov went out to greet them. There were hordes of young people all along Shedlets highway; a choir sang Sh. Anski's:

“In the salty sea of human tears
there is a horrible abyss,
it could not get deeper or darker
and it marks a bloody current.”

I also recall demonstrations by the Bund along with the Polish masses against tsarist rule. Between 1905 and 1916 it was quiet in the town.

On the interim days of Peysakh or Sukes the gaiter-makers (the intellectual element among the workers) gathered in a private home where someone delivered a “speech” and they registered all those attending, and they decided on a raise of 5 rubles for the season (a season is 6 months). As quickly as the holiday was over everyone went back to work without a raise. The gatherings were just for the holidays. Now that it is not a holiday, who needs a gathering?

A broad party movement in Sokolov began in 1916 during the German occupation in the First World War. When I

[Page 234]

came to Sokolov from Warsaw a General Zionist organization already existed there, which was recruiting from various groups such as the hospital for the indigent, the fund for poor brides, the committee for visiting the sick, and others that helped the poor in their homes.

The Bund movement began with the distribution of the Bundist weekly newspaper, “Lebns Fragn”. The “Lebns Fragn” quickly sold 150 copies in the first week. On a Shabes day one could see young men and women strolling on the sidewalk with the newspaper. We called a meeting in the forest. A committee was elected which was to organize and legalize the Bund ist movement.

The first location for the Bund was at Hershl Shmerl's on the second floor: a small space, but large enough for a beginning. There we held meetings and arranged lectures, readings, conferences and the like.

Later we began distributing Bundish literature. I remember these:

“From My Notebook” by Vladimir Medem
“Prison Memoirs” by Vladimir Medem
“Economic Currents” by B. Mikhalevitsh
“Culture and the Working Class” by M. Terman
“Weaver Love” by Y. L. Perets
“Flies and Spiders” by Anonymous
“Our Voice”, a monthly journal

Our small space then became too tight for us and we rented the entire second floor from Aron Karpels, a space consisting of a large, light reading hall, a large meeting hall and buffet hall, a kitchen and a library room.

We built a stage in that space. We legalized the place and called it the “Groser Club” in honor of Bronislav Groser, who was one of the founders of the Bund in Poland.

At the Groser Club we conducted widely-branching cultural activities, opened a library, arranged lectures, readings and reports. People who offered various reports were M. Ozshekh, B. Shafran, D. Naymark and others.

We also founded a drama section there and presented under the direction of Avrom Grinberg- Ganeyvim by P. Bimko; Di Nevole by P. Hirshbeyn, Inteligent by P. Hirshbeyn and a

[Page 235]

number of other pieces. The club existed until my departure for America. A professional union was established at the initiative of the Bund. Sokolov possessed a large number of shoemakers, tailors and gaiter-makers. We organized those workers into one union with various sections and declared a general strike of all workers who were members of that union. We demanded and won weekly work, an 8-hour workday and other demands. We even won a wage increase for the bakers, porters and carpenters, who were small in number. That union, as I was informed, existed for a long time.

That is the chapter of the Bund movement in Sokolov in my time.


[Page 236]

The Bund in Sokolov

Khenina Rotshteyn (Los Angeles)

Translated by Tina Lunson

In the following lines I do not pretend to write the full history of the Bund in Sokolov; unfortunately it seems that few of the elder generation of Bundists who remembered the “Fifth Year” are still among the living; and so also of the earthy [illegible] period during the German occupation in the First World War and at the emergence of Independent Poland. I only remember a Bundist venue in Aron's brick building.

 

sok236.jpg
Group of the Youth-Bund Tsukunft [Future]
[Banner reads “Long live the _____ Tsukunft”]

 

The further revival of a Bundist movement among us in town dated from the year 1927, and it began differently from that in most towns where the Bundist organization had created a section for youth and children (known as the youth-Bund Tsukunft and Skif ).

[Page 237]

As for us, in that year we established a Bundist youth organization, and later an organization of the Bund and Skif.

Until then there had only been a few Bundists, who observed their Bundist traditions by reading the Folks-tsaytung. The best known among them was Avrom Shvartsfarb, who also distributed a few copies of the Bundist youth journal Yugnt veker. And so it happened that the journal came to me from a few young acquaintances. And then I founded an organization of youth Bundists, Tsukunft. The group consisted of 7 youths, but in a short time the number grew to over 50. For a long time we did not have any venue and the work was conducted on Shabosim in an open field (known as “behind the barns”) on the road to the Berezene forest, and in the evenings we would all come together on the “exchange”, which was on an empty place in front of our house near the old study-house.

 

sok237.jpg
Newspaper from the youth BundTsukunft”, 1933
[Title reads “Sokolover Veker”; the headline is “To the Working Youth of Sokolov”]

 

In time we rented a space, and several Bundists responded, and a Bund organization was founded as well as a group for of socialist children, Skif, and a socialist craftsmen's union. At that time Khayim Leyb Veydler, a teacher at the Povshekhne school, joined the Bund. Not a native Sokolover (he came from Galicia) he came to Sokolov in 1922. Veydler became one of the most active members in the organization and its chairman. During the town council elections in 1930 he was elected as the Bundist councilman. When in 1934 he suddenly

[Page 238]

died of a heart attack, most of the town attended his funeral. Garlands were carried and for the first time a red flag was openly carried by the Tsukunft organization. For the 30-day observation after his death the Bund gave out a printed publication.

* * *

A large part of the youth in our town began working at a very young age, and so did not have the opportunity to study. One of the chief tasks of the Tsukunft group was the organization of evening courses to teach reading and writing – led by the already-mentioned Veydler and Rokhl Rubinshteyn (wife of Shimeon Rubinshteyn), a former teacher at a TsYShO school in Bialystok. The Tsukunft also sponsored a drama circle that from time to time produced one-act plays and little scenes. It was a special joy in the lives of the youth to meet in summer camps and gather together, so the Sokolov organization took part in such gatherings, in Kalushin, in Podnieshniye between Shedlets and Sokolov, and in a winter camp in a village. In 1933 the Tsukunft printed a one-time publication for us in town. The Skif produced a very beautiful wall-newspaper called “Friendship”.

Bringing in a speaker from Warsaw (and Sokolov liked having the most famous ones) was a big holiday, and indeed H. Erlikh, Yankev Pat, B. Shefner, D. Naymark, Z. Artur and others visited us. With every important world event the youth experienced it too, whether it was the socialist rebellion in Austria or the civil war in Spain, the local venue was buzzing like a beehive.

And so a young person could hope and dream of a better tomorrow…

[Page 239]

sok239.jpg
Posters for the drama circle named after Sholem Aleykhem, at the professional unions, 1936

[Page 240]

sok240a.jpg

 

sok240b.jpg
Private groups in Sokolov between the two world wars

 

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