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The History of the Jewish Workers Party
Poalei-Zion (Left) in Chelm

by Shmuel Szargel, Israel

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

In 1916, under the occupation of the German-Austrian regime, several comrades who were followers of pre-war Poalei-Zion Party [Marxist-Zionists] came together in complete secrecy and elected party leaders from among themselves, connected with the central agency in Poland and began to carry out their activity as a party. The above-mentioned central agency welcomed the newly arising organization with interest and sent the poet, Leib Malach, to Chelm and, a little later, Kopl Dua, the political activist. This provided courage and the party organization undertook a wide series of political and communal activities. At first the leadership of the party was in the hands of Wewke Gotlib, Shlomo Diment, Yankl Szroyt, Leibl Rozenblat, Ruchl Robkowska, Ahron Dovid Hipszman, Meir Baum, Yankl Dreksler, Nakhum Laks, Binsztok, Leyzer Feldman, Borukh Beker, Moshe Larber and others.

Of the intelligentsia remaining from the Austrian occupation army, which also benefited other parties, Poalei-Zion in Chelm drew great communal and cultural strength from Captain, Dr. Moshe Kanfer and his wife, Gezela.

At first the party work was limited to only purely economic help for the poor Jewish populations. The largest, finest house at Lubliner 27 was rented from Berish Kuper and a tea hall, which served as a workers' house, was arranged there. There, just as in the meeting places of other parties, those Jews in Chelm without income and unemployed found support in the form of receiving free lunches, distribution of food products and so on. The party founded a cooperative bakery to better be able to serve the needy Jewish population in the cellar of the meeting hall and a consumer's cooperative on Przechodnia Street.

In the evenings and on the Shabbosim [Sabbaths], the premises were used for widespread cultural work that brought vitality among the Jewish workers. The first Jewish folkshul [public school] and the Borochov Library were founded at that time.

When the Jewish parties were legalized with the rise of the Polish Republic, wide horizons opened for the activity of the Poalei-Zion party, which was later transformed into the largest and most esteemed workers party in the city. The work grew and expanded so much that in order to provide a faithful picture of all of the activity one must stop at many branches [of the activity]. The party was active in political life and in the professional movement, in the city council and in the

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Jewish community and in the field of Jewish worldly education and Jewish culture. A youth movement arose under the leadership of Shneur Waserman, Akiva Winik, the Szargel brothers, Ruwin Frucht, Dovidl Goldrajch, Manes Citrin, Yankl Zisberg, Yitzhak Kornzajer and others.

The first group of political actions by Poalei-Zion in Chelm was the election campaign for the first Polish Sejm [parliment] in 1919.

At that time Poalei-Zion in Chelm was the only party in the Jewish street that took part in the elections. The Jewish bourgeoisie parities in Chelm and in the region did not present their own lists, not wanting to mix in the territorial conflicts between Poland and Soviet Ukraine that aspired to Chelmszczyzna.[1]

The Poalei-Zion party was successful in influencing large portions of the Jewish working class and poor on behalf of their election victory.

The result of the voting was: the election of Dr. Maks Rozenfeld as a deputy to the first Polish Sejm.

Dr. Maks Rozenfeld died on the way to taking up his mandate and Dr. Yitzhak Sziper, who then joined the right Poaeli-Zion and later moved entirely to the general Zionists, took his place.

Of the later Sejm election campaigns where the Chelm Poaeli-Zion played an important role it is worthwhile to remember the Selrab bloc.

The (left) Poalei-Zion in Poland joined a bloc with the Ukrainian Peasants Party – Selrab for the Sejm election in 1928, so that in two election districts thickly populated by the Jewish and Ukrainian masses they would appear with a joint list. Here an important and responsible task fell to the Chelemer Poalei-Zion: on one hand, the political education about the significance of such a bloc and on the other hand, the technical execution of such a large election campaign. This also required large sums of money.

The awakened interest in the city and in the region for Poalei-Zion and the victorious result of the first Sejm election campaign was discounted as usual. Normal party work was strengthened and established in the city and party organizations were created in the nearby shtetlekh [towns] so that at the first Poalei-Zion regional conference of Chelemer and Lublin provinces that took place on the 10th of October 1919 in Lublin, taking part from the Chelemer region were:

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Hrubieszów, Wojslawice, Tyszowce, Lyuboml, Dubienka, Włodawa and Rejowiec.

The 1st of May 1920 was celebrated by the Poalei-Zion to an extraordinary extent. The May meeting was opened in a fully packed hall. The Yugnt organization arrived in the middle with its own flag, which evoked great enthusiasm from the crowd. The room became too small and the meeting had to be moved to the courtyard. Poalei-Zion [members] standing in rows with flags and slogans, marched to the marketplace where they joined the general demonstrations of the P.P.S. [Polish Socialist Party] and the Bund.

For the first time in the history of Jewish Chelm, Jewish workers and young people demonstrated in the streets of the city with red flags while singing Yiddish revolutionary songs.

A joint meeting took place at the marketplace. (All of the speeches were given in the Polish language. These were the conditions that the P.P.S. had


A picture from before the voting for the first Sejm in Poland. Representatives of the Central Committee of Poalei-Zion: in the center Sh. Juris, [who] traveled to Chelm from Rejowiec for the election meeting


set at the negotiations for a joint May demonstration) and after this the general procession marched through the main streets of the city.

The impression made by the pogroms and the “Hallerczikes” [anti–Semitic followers of Polish General Jozef Haller], who chased after Jews with beards, was still very fresh in the minds of the international workers at the May demonstration.

However, the war that Poland fought with the Soviet Union began to take other forms: the Red Army took the initiative and moved deeper into the country. The Polish ruling circle answered with … increased anti-Semitic and cruel persecutions of the Jewish workers movement.

In July 1920, searches were carried out in all of the Jewish workers institutions and simultaneously in the homes of all Jewish communal workers, bourgeois as well as proletariat. The searches were carried out in a brutal way. All leading activists were arrested.

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The premises were requisitioned or sealed. The inventory was demolished.

Two weeks later, after the arrests, all state offices were evacuated from Chelm, also taking with them the arrested worker activists Ahron Dovid Hipszman and his brother Hirsh, Mosher Lorber, Nakhum Laks, Feder, Moshe Distler and Bluma Lewensztajn from Poalei-Zion.

The Poalei-Zion Party transferred the work onto illegal rails. A meeting of the remaining, not arrested members of the party committee took place in a most secret manner in an attic where Leibl Rozenblit lay hidden. From this attic, the above-mentioned leaders had carried on the entire party work during this illegal era. (Several years later, Leibl Rozenblit went to Warsaw and later to France where he also was very active as a member of the central committee of the left Poalei-Zion.)

According to a decision at the deliberations held then, the Comrades Regina Distler and Roza Lewensztajn, who after long searching succeeded in learning that the Chelemer arrestees were in a Kielce jail, left. The Yugnt leader, Akiva Winik was delegated to the Sejm deputy Dr. Sziper, to inform him about the arrests and to ask for his intervention with the central government. After his return, he [Akiva Winik] was also arrested.

The discussion about the problems that stood on the agenda of the world congress and the Polish national conference began among those in the ranks of Poalei-Zion.

Taking part in the first national meeting of the Poalei-Zion councilmen in the city councils and kehilus [organized Jewish communities] in Poland that took place in Warsaw in the days of Shavous [spring holiday celebrating the receiving of the Torah], the 25th and 26th of May 1928, were the alderman Mordekhai Evri and the three councilmen, Ahron Dovid Hipszman, Moshe Beker and Shmuel Barg.

In 1930, after a break of 10 years, Poalei-Zion again succeeded in receiving permission to organize a May demonstration; such demonstrations already took place yearly. And with each year the marchers under the flags of Poalei-Zion grew more numerous and larger.

From the 7th to the 9th of October 1930, a regional conference of the Poalei-Zion parties of the Chelm region took place in Chelm. Delegates from Wojslawice, Nekhan [Miechy], Ruda-Opalin, Dubienka, Włodawa and Kovel took part.

The agenda of the conference was:

  1. The political situation in the country and the guidelines for the Sejm election campaign;
  2. Organization of the election campaign;
  3. Election fund;
  4. Report of the World Congress of Working Eretz-Yisroel, which took place in Berlin.
At the 25th anniversary of the Poalei-Zion Party and the 15th anniversary of the Chelemer organization in May 1931, a commemorative gathering was organized. In his opening speech, Yakov Beker gave an overview of the 15 years

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of Poalei-Zion activity in Chelm. Moshe Beker spoke in the name of the “society evening courses” and Tsysho[2]; Moshe Baum in the name of Yungt; Efriam Wadzager in the name of Yungbor [Young Borochovists – followers of Ber Borochov, a Marxist Zionist]; Comrade [Yakov] Zrubavel reported on the theme “From the Pioneers to the Masses.” The choir sang workers' songs; the dramatic circle under the leadership of Hilel Szargel performed various numbers very successfully. At the end, 50 members of Yungbor rhythmically marched with red flags in their hands.

In June 1931 the party carried out a campaign “Against Unemployment, Reductions and Fascism.” A series of gatherings and mass meetings took place. A meeting was supposed to take place on Sunday, the 26th of June, which was banned by the starosta [village head] at the last minute. It was ordered that the hall be closed that evening. Therefore, a short meeting took place on Post Street the next night in an illegal manner.

In March 1932 Poalei-Zion took an active part in the campaign to help the heroic fight of the striking coal miners. At meetings of the city council and the kehile [organized Jewish community], Poalei-Zion factions proposed appropriate resolutions with a demand to support the striking coal miners. The starosta forbid the holding of a public meeting. On the 16th of March, the Chelemer Poalei-Zion called upon the Jewish workforce to strike in a day of solidarity with the general strike throughout Poland. The Poalei-Zion strike committee was wherever there was a workshop of workers. On that day the police were very energetic in arresting many comrades.

In December 1932 a public farewell gathering was supposed to take place for the departure to Brazil of Juliek Wajsman, a managing committee member of the kehile, and his wife Serka, a teacher at the Jewish folkshul [public school]. However, the starosta did not permit the gathering to take place. The Poalei-Zion Party said goodbye to one of its oldest comrades in secrecy.

In January 1934 the entire movement was active in the work of organizing a widespread communal campaign against the new social-protection laws. In all professional unions, in Yugnt and the sports club, educational meetings took place and secret protest resolutions were adopted.


Yugnt organization of Poalei-Zion in a May procession in 1936

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One the largest political campaigns carried out by Poalei-Zion was in May-June 1936 at the workers congress in the fight with anti-Semitism. Dozens of gatherings and political meetings of the members of the professional unions and other institutions were carried out. Meetings and house meetings of streets and regions took place. The joint election gathering was supposed to take place on the 6th of June in a series of large halls in the city. But at the last minute an order arrived from the starosta that as the interior minister had forbidden the congress, he would not permit the organization of election gatherings.

The municipal interparty election committee of the congress decided at its meeting that the Chelemer Poalei-Zion was authorized to send 16 delegates to the congress in the following manner:

For the distribution of ballots 5
The Needle Union (the largest in the city) 1
All remaining Poalei- Zion professional unions 1
The Tsysho Organization 2
The Borochov Library 1
The councilmen from the city council and the kehile 6
Total 16

After the pogroms in Przytyk and Brisk, anti-Semitic hooligans also began to rage in Chelm. The economic boycott and the anti-Semitic tax machine caused the ruin of a large part of the Jewish population. The strata of the jobless and needy grew greater and denser. The Poalei-Zion Party answered by fighting harder at the city council and the kehile for the rights and equal rights of the Jewish masses, for party aid for the jobless and needy and also worked to expand the professional [union] movement.

The 17th of December 1938. That year, just as every year, a large Borochov memorial was organized for the 21st yahrzeit [anniversary of the death] of the unforgettable leader and teacher B. Borochov. None of the attendees at the great celebration realized that this was the last celebration in Jewish Chelm.


Eretz-Yisroel Work

The problems of Eretz-Yisroel – the ideological and the daily pragmatic – occupied a respected place in the political and educational work of the Chelm Poalei-Zion. The party in Chelm actively took part in the collections for the “Palestine Workers Fund” and prepared groups for emigration to Eretz-Yisroel. In 1925 a successful book collection was carried out for the fraternal party in Eretz-Yisroel; several hundred Yiddish books were collected and sent.

A protest meeting took place with the participation of Dr. Borukh Eizensztat, against the Palestine office that

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did not consider the poverty and the emigration needs of the Jewish working class in distributing the certificates [issued by the British Mandate in Palestine allowing legal immigration to Eretz-Yisroel]. (The certificates were distributed among all Zionist groupings except for the left Poalei-Zion.)

A protest meeting took place on the 10th of September 1928 in connection with the persecutions against Yiddish in Eretz-Yisroel and the attack on the Poalei-Zion club in Tel Aviv at which the speakers Mordekhai Evri, Yakov Beker, Dovid Goldrajch, Chaim Gutman and Feywl Frid appeared and spoke.

The bloody events in Eretz-Yisroel of 1929, just as everywhere, also evoked great agitation, bitterness and protest in Chelm. In connection with the events, the Poalei-Zion Party carried out a large publicity campaign with gatherings and mass meetings of all unions and cultural institutions.

A meeting about “the bloody events in Eretz-Yisroel” took place on the 31st of August 1929 with the participation of Yakov Beker and Juliek Wajsman.

Several weeks later a report by Comrade Zrubavel on the subject of “The Teaching of Palestinian Events” took place in the municipal cinema, Wersal. On that evening, Comrade Zrubavel reported about the development of Yiddish literature and culture in Palestine and the role of Poalei-Zion in the spread of the Yiddish printed word in Eretz-Yisroel. A large sum of money was collected on the spot on behalf of the aid fund for the Eretz-Yisroel Poalei-Zion Party.

Summer, 1930. Despite the great heat, a publicity campaign was carried out about the participation of Poalei-Zion in the World Congress for Working Israel that took place in Berlin. In September 1930, the party itself had passionate discussions about the agenda of the Congress and the declaration that was published only in Hebrew. The organizers of the Congress had barely agreed that a Yiddish translation of the official Hebrew declaration would be provided. At one of the party meetings at which the question was discussed, the porter, Motl Karp, called out during his appearance: “I am a porter. I can carry two sacks of flour even at one time, but I do not know if I will be able to carry two declarations at once…”

In 1936, during the unrest in Eretz-Yisroel, the party carried out widespread publicity work at meetings, mass meetings and gatherings.

In May 1938 a solemn appearance was arranged of Comrade Leibl Ben-Shmeuni, the representative of the Eretz-Yisroel Poalei-Zion.

The Chelemer Poalei-Zion took a very active part in the elections to the Zionist Congress of 1938, just before the Second World War. The party succeeded in persuading a large number of Jewish workers to take part in the voting under the flag of Poalei-Zion.

In June 1939 the last large

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public demonstration for Eretz-Yisroel took place with a lecture by Comrade Zrubavel. The call from Comrade Zrubavel still rings for me like an echo and as the last warning to save ourselves from the coming storm.


The Professional Work

At the time when Poalei-Zion already had a good workers party and Yugnt and other important locations, such as the school, library and people's university and other institutions, the work began to infiltrate the professional movement. They had to convince the comrades that they had to become members of the professional unions then in existence, which were under the influence of the Bund and “reds.” As a result, the general election meeting in October 1925


Executive of the Poalei-Zion in 1930
First row from the right: Chana Szargel, Yakov Feterzajl, Ester Szrojt–Warzager and Metek Evri
Bottom row: Sh. Szargel, Y. Beker and H. Warzager


of the needle union (which was completely under the influence of the Jewish “reds”) chose two Poalei-Zion comrades for their managing committee.

A great deal of effort and energy was placed in the organizing of each union and sections that had not yet been organized until then, such as the trade employees, printers, factory workers, gaiter and belt makers. The successes in the professional area can be summed up in the organization and founding of a “cultural office,” a division of the central council of the local professional unions in Poland, which was under the influence of Poalei-Zion.

Vigorous work in the professional area was accompanied by strikes and fights for better wages, leaves and so on. Meanwhile, the economic crisis in the country sharpened and there was much unemployment among the Jewish working class in Chelm with the arrival of the winter of 1927-28. In addition there was the sudden bankruptcy of Shmuel Rubin and partners' mill and the number of unemployed families increased by several dozen people.

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The leadership of the transport union, to whom the last ones [employed by the mill] who were not then organized [into a union] turned, made attempts to receive compensation for the unemployed remaining mill workers, but nothing came of it. With the approach of spring, the work began on the [building for the] train management (in the context of the decision of the Polish government to move it from Radom to Chelm so as to create a secure Polish majority in the Chelm area where the majority of Jews and Ukrainians lived) and this brought a bit of a revival. The cultural office opened an office for worker rights where over 150 Jewish and 30 Polish unemployed workers registered. It is an example of how far the influence of Poalei-Zion had penetrated into the professional [union] movement and among the Polish workers so that the Polish workers who registered at the “office” declared that they did not trust the Polish office. And non-skilled Polish workers came to the cultural office and asked that they be permitted to join a professional union.

In September 1928, the mill workers asked to be organized in a separate mill-workers union. As soon as the union was legalized, it joined the action for higher wages. After a three-day strike, they won: 1) a wage raise of 25 to 35 percent; 2) the recognition of the union; 3) the hiring and dismissing of workers only through the union. The action involving all of the mills in the city was led by Councilman Moshe Beker, the secretary of the union. On the 18th of October a solemn gathering of all of the mill workers, Jewish and Polish together, took place in honor of the victory. Councilman Mordekhai Ervri, speaking for the Poalei-Zion faction in the city council, and Yitzhak Kornzajer, speaking for the Chelm Professional Class Unions, appeared with speeches of greeting.

In later years the professional union of mill workers carried out a series of wage actions. During one such action, the mill owner, Meir Frenkl, brought out a revolver and threatened to shoot the union representative, the Councilman Moshe Beker. But the resolute attitude of the above-mentioned comrade and of the workers near him forced the owner to give in to the declared demands. This had a colossal effect not only on the Jews but also on the Polish workers who during the city council elections agitated and partly supported the Poalei-Zion list. In March and April 1937 the sit-down strike in a mill by a group of mill workers lasted several weeks. The demands of the workers were: a modest wage increase that the owners did not want to give. The striking workers did not leave the mill during the course of the strike. The professional council proclaimed an action to collect [money] from all of the members of all of the professional unions for the strikers.

In 1929, the union of construction workers was organized and legalized. But a difficult struggle

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endured in defending the painters. The master craftsmen responded to their right to organize into a professional union with terror and harassment and even had several workers arrested, saying that they were communists.

Because of political party disputes that took place in the clothing union, which had come under the influence of the “reds,” the women's clothing division left them and joined the needle union of the left Poalei-Zion at Lubliner 10.

In the summer season of 1929 the above-mentioned women's clothing trade union carried out a wage action with success, which had a great influence on the further organizing of all of the needle workers. In later years, the needle union, under the leadership of Poalei-Zion, which already included nearly all of the Jewish needle workers in the city, distinguished itself with its active and [class] conscious activists and emerged as the avant-garde of the Jewish organized working class. There always was the warmest sympathy and support from the organized Jewish workers movement for the frequent actions for wage increases and against wage reductions carried out by the needle union.

Among the activists in the needle union were: Gruna Brik-Zilberman, Shasha Rozenblit-Rozenblum, Fayga BauM-Beker, Ester Szrojt-Warzager, Menakhem Kopelman, Chaim Borukh Warzager, Ruchl Apelcwajg, Liba Elzter, Moshe Stal, Bentshe Micflig and Yitzhak Apelcwajg.

A division for milliners also existed at the needle union for a short time.

The Trade and Office Employees Union, which was organized in 1925 with a small number of manufacturing employees, was the second largest by 1929 in size and scope among the professional unions and encompassed almost all of those employed in the city. Both the managing committee as a whole and the managing committee of the division of those making inexpensive clothing were very lively and active. The actions and strikes carried out by the union, which often became very embittered and sharp, helped the employees achieve wage increases and oppose wage reductions. Working for a percent was abolished and paid leaves were achieved and working on the night of Shabbos [Sabbath] was ended.

Among the activists in the Trade and Office Employees Union were: Mendl Winer, Hersh Edelsztajn, Daniel Feldman, Shmuel Szargel, Chaim Warzager, Chaim Bibel, Elyokim Elster, Moshe Bakalacz, Szechterzon, Yankl and Shmuel-Yosl Beker.

The Printers Union came to an agreement with the Polish print workers in the city in 1929 and they took them into their ranks. It was thus transformed into an international union. The managing committee that was elected that year on the 26th of June consisted of A.D. Hipszman, Feldman, Wolfson, Hersh Berman and Shlomo Szapira.

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In February 1935 a campaign was proclaimed [to require] every institution to employ at least one unemployed older worker. The campaign was crowned with success. Yankl Waserman, Meir Zonenszajn and others were among the leadership. The women in the candy factories also organized. Their earnings were very low, actually hunger wages. On the 28th of June 1929 the first demands were sent to the bosses for a 20 percent wage increase. A few immediately gave in to the demands and the rest only after they [the workers] went on strike.

On the 10th of August the organizing meeting of the bakery workers took place. At first they organized as a division of the food union and later they became a separate Bakers Union. The working conditions of the bakery workers were very difficult. The unhygienic, primitive facilities of the bakeries; working 12 hours and more daily and, mainly, that the work was night work. There was a bitter and difficult struggle for each small attempt to better the conditions for the bakery workers. Later, the plague of unemployment in the trade arose and it was established that each employed comrade give [his job for] one night a week to an unemployed comrade. In 1931 the master craftsmen began to seize the wages of the employed, cheap, unorganized workers. The union leadership established special controllers that checked the bakeries every night. On one such night, during the oversight at a bakery, they got into a sharp argument with the owner of the bakery. The latter called out the police and six bakery workers were arrested for several days. Several workers were terribly beaten at the police [headquarters]. However, this strengthened the union, which proceeded with its activities. Tuchsznajder, Elster, Mandelbaum, Globen and Licht were elected to the trade commission.

Organizing the porter workers was very slow and difficult. These were the older, weary men with tendencies and habits that were antithetical to class-conscious organizing and fraternally working together. However, the union was successfully organized thanks to the strenuous effort and work done by the porter Motl Karp. On the 12th of August 1929, he held the first organizing meeting with the porter workers. From then on, work started on gatherings and meetings, distribution of the workplaces [the locations each porter would have as solely his responsibility, such as at the train station] and economic actions. It was unanimously decided at one such gathering to criticize and condemn the ugly and bad habits of the porter workers who were abusive to each other and used ugly and coarse expressions to each other. Everyone who did not consent to this decision would pay a penalty to the union in the amount of one zlote.

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The union activists actually would explain that there were cases when the porter workers could not control themselves and, knowing that they would be punished, would call out: “And I give one zlote to the union and say to you again in deyn tatns tatn areyn [in your father's father – an insult to someone's ancestors]

After more than a year of professional work without coordinated management, the professional council of the city committee of Poaeli-Zion called a conference of the existing professional unions on the 7th of October 1929 in order to create a central municipal leadership of the professional unions.

Members of the following managing committees of the professional unions took part in the conference: needle-trade employees, printing, food, construction, transport, hairdressers and textiles: 54 delegates in total. Presentations were made by Yankl Beker, Yitzhak Kornzajer, Moshe Beker and Moshe Baum. In addition to the usual questions, there was discussion of the political situation in the country. One representative from each union was on the established organizing committee of the local central council of the professional unions in the city.

Horse-drawn carriages, an old, firmly established means of income for hard-working Jews in Chelm – men with healthy fists for answering hooligans when it was necessary – also realized that they needed to organize.

The first organizing meeting of the horse-drawn carriage drivers took place on the 21st of February 1930. Alas, they did not carry on much professional [union] activitiy…until the arrival of the bloody storm of anti-Semitism. Under the influence of rising Hitlerism in Germany, the Chelmer anti-Semites, among other rival trades that they brought to Chelm from Prussia, were Christian carriage drivers who grabbed the [main jobs] at the train station and forced the Jewish carriage drivers to stand in a side, back alley. Later, in 1938, the police ordered the Jewish carriage drivers to wear visible markings on their hats, “Jewish carriage driver” and the gentile carriage drivers should wear markings “Christian carriage drivers.”

At the end of 1930 the textile trade was organized. Twenty female workers had been strongly exploited. They went on strike. The strike was particularly strong at the manufacturer Mernsztajn. The entire Poalei-Zion movement appeared to help the striking women, help them both in the strike committee and in the strike fund.

On the 23rd of January 1931, after six weeks of striking, the strike was completely won. Bluma Natlich and Ruchl Grinberg were among the most active in the division.

In the very midst of the fervor of the textile strike, the musicians sought organizational help. And when the textile strike was declared at an end, a strike was declared at the cinema, Korso. The owners

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made use of strike breakers. The professional movement answered with a call to the Jewish population to boycott the cinema. There were almost no Jewish visitors to the movie showings. The police stood on the side of the management and arrested the [union] security guards and the representatives who had issued the call [to boycott] and they [the management] instituted a lawsuit against them [the arrestees]. The presidium of all of the professional unions was called to the police commissariat and official reports were filed against them for taking part in the boycott activity. The work inspectors threatened the closing of the union. All of the means of terror did not frighten them off. The strike and the boycott continued until the management was forced to give in to about 60 percent of the demands that had been made.

Shortly later, when sound film came in, the musicians union failed.

In February 1931 the workers at the egg exporting warehouses asked that they be organized into a union.

On the 10th of June that year the professional union of the egg workers received a notice about a 25 percent wage reduction. It was decided to reject the wage reduction at a specially called meeting and to issue a demand for paid leave. The egg merchants answered with a general dismissal of all of the workers. When the representatives of the union pointed out to them that the wage reduction was illegal because, according to an agreement with the workers they [the egg merchants] were obligated to pay the current salary until the new year, there was a cynical reply: “We keep our commitments when it benefits us.” A sit-in strike was declared. The owners and the police removed the workers from the warehouses and put four prisoners from the jail in their place. The prisoners, under the guard of the prison police, worked for half a day and after the energetic intervention of the leaders of the professional unions, who pointed out that it was unacceptable to use prisoners as strike breakers, the work of the prisoners was halted in the afternoon. The strike was won after four days. The owners also had to pay [the wages] for the days of the strike. The secretary of the egg union was H. Y. Mantszarsz.

In October 1933 the hat makers organized as a division of the needle union. The first activity for an eight-hour workday and a wage increase of 25 percent to 40 percent was completely won.

The Metal Workers Union was organized in March 1937.

The photographic workers organized in April 1937 and created a Photographic Workers Union.

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At the same time, attempts were made to organize the Polish workers, which were not successful.

In July-August 1939, the leather workers sought organizational help. Gerszman, Hochman and Yankl Beker spoke at the founding meeting of the newly arising union.


Youth Activities

In the course of the up-hill progress of organizing and strengthening the professional unions, they did not forget the young people and the very youngest members of the proletariat who came to the workshops to learn a trade and were used in a disgraceful manner both by the owners and by the older workers. To solve the special youth problem, youth divisions of the largest unions, such as the Needle Workers Union and Hairdressers, were trained.

On the 14th of August 1929 the first large meeting of the Needle Youth Division took place. Ester Szrojt, Moshe Stal and others spoke. Questions about minimum wages, better treatment and so on were discussed. A managing committee and a cultural commission were chosen. The managing committee was warmly greeted by the representatives of the Poalei-Zion Party and Yugnt.

The union managing committee was therefore forced to lead a struggle for a supplementary wage for the youngest of 50 groshn a week. And in 1935 there even was a fight for a special holiday wage for the youngest hairdressers.

The Poalei-Zion activists in the professional unions did not only worry about the quantitative growth of the professional movement, about drawing in the most widespread masses in the ranks of the professional class unions, but also for deepening the class consciousness of everyone working and for the political education of the union leadership cadres.

Therefore, the professional unions under the leadership of Poalei-Zion really grew and the influence of Poalei-Zion also grew within the professional movement.

While there were worries that the professional unions were not drained of their political content and did not change into a mechanical tool of only economic struggle, they themselves changed through this, becoming powerful, fighting institutions for the widespread working classes.

It should also be understood from this why all political, financial and election activities of the Poalei-Zion Party were

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so warmly supported by the professional unions and their large membership and why the number of devoted votes for the list of Poalei-Zion would rise so greatly from one time to another at various elections.

In addition, it is necessary to mention that both the moral and the material support of the members of the professional unions came from their good will, that there was no external or internal pressure.

There was a very loyal relationship with members in the unions who held different views! There was never any case in which someone was harassed or discriminated against because the members of the union had their own political-party ideology.


Kehile Council and Managing Committee

During the kehile [organized Jewish community] elections in 1924, Poalei-Zion received 126 votes and one seat (Ahron Dovid Hipszman). The term of office for the kehile, where Anshel Biderman was the chairman, lasted for seven years. At the meetings of the council the Poalei-Zion councilman, Hipszman, would appear sharply against the step-motherly relation to the interests of the Jewish worker and masses of the people. Dissatisfaction with the kehile council and managing committee grew among all parts of the Jewish population. The news about new voting was received with great satisfaction. The election was designated for the 20th of May 1931. Everything was prepared for this election contest. The starosta [village chief] prepared for it. Right at the start, on the 26th of March 1931, he arranged to seal the premises of Poalei-Zion, the premises for the Evening Courses Society that also served as the premises of the professional unions as well as the premises of the Borochov Library. Despite the persecutions Poalei-Zion carried out a widespread, mass campaign work with meeting, gatherings, house propaganda [campaigning door to door]. The results of the election were as follows:

Party Votes Councilmen
1) Poalei-Zion 363 3
2) Agudas Yisroel 292 3
3) List of the former chairman 243 2
4) Artisans 229 2
5) Philanthropic institutions 154 2
6) General Zionists 165 2
7) Kuzmirer Hasidim 101 1
8) Mizrakhi 86 1
9) Retailers 49 0
  ---- ----
Totals 1,682 16

The results of the election were a surprise, especially because only men of 25 and older had the right to vote.

Poalei-Zion appointed three councilmen: Ahron Dovid Hipszman, Juliek Wajsman and Berl Akselrod, and when Wajsman and Akselrod were elected to the kehile managing committee, Fishl Kopelman and Yankl Szrojt took their places and when Szrojt left, Fishl Iliwicki [took his place].

The first meeting of the newly elected kehile council drew a large number of Jewish workers and ordinary people who filled the small kehile room and the corridor and they even stood on the stairs wanting to catch at least a word, a sound of what was being considered at the meeting. However, they left in disappointment because after the first item, the election of a managing committee, the meeting was adjourned.

The civil majority at the kehile were frightened by the great strength represented by the Poalei-Zion faction on the council and the managing committee and decided among themselves to continue to run the kehile economy themselves and in the old way. (This meant taking care of and serving only the religious interests of a certain part of the Jewish population.)

Many months passed and no meetings were called. However, the unemployment, poverty and need of the Jewish population kept growing and there was an urgent, daily demand for help. The Poalei-Zion faction then decided to oversee the kehile and every day, in the early morning hours, a minimum of two comrades from the faction were in the office of the kehile and requested, pressured and demanded of the official and of the chairman that they eliminate the accumulated charges and the like in all cases of need for support, for notes to doctors and to the hospitals.

The newly elected kehile chairman, Dr. Wilenka, completely stopped serving at the kehile offices. Therefore, one found Juliek Wajsman, the Poalei-Zion councilman sitting on the chair of the chairman at the kehile offices. The situation lasted several months until the kehile chairman in agreement with the starosta [village head] called a meeting of the council for the 24th of November 1931. A group of policemen, who only let into the gallery Jews with beards and long kaftans, stood at the entrance to the meeting. The starosta sat near the presidium. When the chairman opened the meeting in the Polish language, the Poalei-Zion councilmen shouted, “Yiddish, Yiddish!” The shouting stopped when the chairman began to speak Yiddish. The atmosphere at the meeting became heated when the Poalei-Zion councilmen protested against the bringing of the police to the meeting and demanded that they be removed. The starosta answered the leaders of the kehile that he brought the guards himself and he had absolutely forbidden allowing the Poalei-Zion councilmen speak. The latter insisted on their rights and demanded that they be able to speak. The starosta reached an agreement with the chairman that members of the managing committee did have to be allowed to speak.

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Juliek Wajsman, who received permission to speak, proposed that they urgently consider the questions: 1) the anti-Semitic excesses; 2) a census; 3) suspend members of the council for committing abuses. There again was turmoil. The starosta shouted that they should be quiet or he would begin arresting them. Wajsman answered him sharply and directed the starosta to arrest him. Wajsman, protesting against such arbitrariness, was led out by the police. Akselrod began to speak and declared in Polish that the entire Poalei-Zion faction was in solidarity with Juliek Wajsman and if the meeting was to continue everyone would have to be arrested or Wajsman had to be freed. The speeches and protests from the Poalei-Zion councilmen lasted less than an hour until the starosta ordered that [Wajsman] be freed. Right after the first item, as soon as the election of the chairman and vice-chairman, the meeting was quickly closed when they began to proceed with the agenda, so that they would not have to deal with the further points on the agenda. Many further meetings looked the same.

The meetings were very tempestuous at which small, paltry sums of only 1,000 zlotes for social aid and for the Jewish folkshul and the Children's Home were considered in a budget of 160,000 zlotes for the years 1932-33.

Many months passed and no meetings of the council or of the managing committee took place. At the beginning of 1933 there was a meeting of the council. Two questions were on the agenda: 1) an urgent proposal by the Poalei-Zion faction about an activity [to provide] coal; 2) an activity report by the managing committee. Before the agenda was considered, the chairman of the council made a proposal that a telegram of welcome be sent in honor of the new constitution and he added: “We do not yet know what the constitution will give us, but we need to applaud it.” Hipszman, the councilman, spoke very sharply against the proposal to applaud the new constitution. He showed its dangers for the entire working class and particularly for the Jewish [workers] that lay in wait. He proposed not applauding it, but protesting against the new social protection laws. The coal campaign was then supported with 1,000 zlotes. After hearing the report, Councilman Akselrod, in his appearance [before the council], gave a very biting critique of the activities of the managing committee. He listed a series of questions about the need and poverty among Jewish workers and the ordinary Jewish people who were not being helped and he ended with a motion of mistrust of the managing committee that was adopted by a majority vote.

The last election to the Jewish kehile took place on the 5th of September 1936. Poalei-Zion received 389 votes and had three councilmen: Yakov Beker, Berl Akselrod and Ahron Dovid Hipszman. Later,

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Ahron Dovid Hipszman


when Beker and Akselrod were elected to the managing committee, Fishl Iliwicki and Yisroel Hercman were elected to their seats on the council.

It was the time of the Przytyk and Brisk [pogroms]. We already felt the incoming storms. But alas, it must be noted that a large majority of representatives of Jewish Chelm did not see and did not understand what kind of time they were living in, and when a passionate discussion developed at the first meeting of the newly elected kehile council, when Y. Beker proposed as an item to be considered “the situation of the Jewish masses,” the council chairman closed the meeting immediately after the choice of an election commission (to elect the managing committee). The Poalei-Zion councilmen and those gathered in the gallery did not leave the meeting hall, but listened to a report from Councilman Yakov Beker about the situation of the Jewish masses and the events in Eretz-Yisroel.


Yugntand Yungbor

At the end of 1917 and the beginning of 1918, a society, Matan Basayser [anonymous giving], which set as its purpose to provide help to the impoverished, dejected Jewish masses, was founded by a group of young people, a number of them even Yeshiva [religious secondary school] students. Thanks to the initiative of the leading comrades of Poalei-Zion of that time, the young people's group in time was transformed into an organized group to create the Poalei-Zion-Yugnt [young people] in Chelm. The newly arisen Yugnt organization developed very rapidly and in a short time was transformed into the largest youth organization in the city. Akiva Winik, Shlomo and Yitzhak Fiszer, Cyrl Dubkowska, Mosher Kelerer, Motl Brand, Yosef Hendel, Shneur Waserman, Dobele Waserman and Yitzhak Kodnzajer were members of one of the first Yugnt committees.

One of the most important tasks that the Yugnt organization took upon itself at that time was eradicating illiteracy among the Jewish working young people. Thanks to the initiative of the youth committee, an evening school was founded in a room in the Folkshul [public school] where young workers came to learn to read and write after a hard workday.

In the election campaign to the first Sejm carried out by the Poalei-Zion Party, Yugnt

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worked very actively [with the party] and had a great part in the election victory.

The Yugnt organization was a creative, exuberant source for the Poalei-Zion Party. For years dozens of Yugnt comrades were sent over to the ranks of the party. All of the best and most active volunteers from the party came from the Yugnt organization.

In 1919-1920 Yugnt had it own meeting place at Reformacka 6. A dramatic section for the young was also created there which later grew along with the dramatic society for the adults and for years had a respected place in the cultural work of the Party and Yugnt.

At the beginning of 1924, when a number of leading Yugnt comrades left Chelm, a Yugnt managing committee was called together under the leadership of Yankele Pinchesowicz where a new Yugnt committee was elected consisting of Hilel Szargel, Mendl Szulman, Beinush Gotlib, Yitzhak Ceber, Yisroelke Fiszbajn and Yankl Binsztok. The committee took to the work energetically. Standard young people's circles for culture and propaganda were established; Shabbos [Sabbath] day excursions to the Hrubieszow Woods; the spreading of the young people's press and the revival of the evening school. The Yugnt committee had to put in a great deal of work to gather the financial means to support the evening school.

Lipa Gotlib was arrested on the eve of the 1st of May 1924 for spreading the May appeal of the Yugnt Central Committee and the journal, Di Yugnt Fan [The Yugnt Flag]. He was kept in jail for seven months until his trial. He was brought to his trial, which took place on the 22nd of November, locked in chains. He was sentenced to a year of hard confinement.

On the 7th of February 1926, Yankl Pinchesowicz, the leader of Yugnt and one of the most active comrades of the Poalei-Zion Party, died at the age of 23. Over 1,000 people took part in his funeral. Ribbons and garlands were carried by the Poalei-Zion Committee, Yugnt Committee, Tsysho [Central Jewish School Organization] Board of Trustees and Pedagogic Council, the managing committee of the Evening Courses Society and others. In the center of the city, Wipusz, the leader of the secret police, shoved into the marching funeral procession and tore away the ribbons and arrested Chaim Bilen for shouting, “Nie dawaj” (do not give). The premature death of Y. Pinchesowicz was a heavy blow to the Yugnt organization and a great loss for the Chelm Poalei-Zion.

This was a time of tempestuous revival of the youth movement and through it of the entire Poalei-Zion movement. The activists began to penetrate the professional movement. Ester Szrojt, Ruchl Apelcwajg, Yochoved Brik and Chana Teper-Szargel

[Page 172]

gathered the young needle workers around themselves and thus transformed the needle union, which had been under the influence of the Jewish “left,” into a strong opposition. Shmuel Szargel, Chaim Warzager and Chaim Bibel were active in organizing the union of workers employed in trade. Mendl Szulman organized the hairdressers union and other young activists helped with the founding of the remaining professional unions.

The first lecture circle at Yugnt, which was created then, was led by Dovid'l Goldrajch. The circle would come together once a week in the Noakh and Miriam Krajdman family house. The above-mentioned young people belonged to the circle.

The active youth work also enlivened the region. Young activists went to the neighboring shtetlekh [towns] and also helped to build youth organizations. The Chelemer Regional Committee of Yugnt, which included the shtetlekh of Rubienka, Wojslawice, Tyszowce, Uchanie, Luboml, Wlodowa and Ruda-Opalin, was founded in 1928.

A regional meeting of the young people in the Ruda region lasting two days took place on the 24th of July 1928. One hundred and fifty young people from Chelm, Wojslawice, Tyszowce, Wlodowa and Ruda-Opalin took part.

A one-time publication, 10 Yahr [Ten Years], was published for the 10th anniversary of the Chelm Yugnt organization, printed on two sides, with 1,000 copies, in a large format.

The move to Chelm of the teacher Chaim Gutman greatly benefitted the young workers. He was the spiritual patron of Yugnt. He took over the further leadership of the lecture circle and provided the initiative for the founding of Yungbor. The technical organizing work of erecting a beautiful children's organization that numbered around 120 children was led by Sholem Goldhar, who was very energetic and full of initiative. However, after a short amount of time he left for the linke [left] and the leadership was assumed by Chaim Warzager and, later, by Shayndl Warzager and Shlomo Rajn. In time, their own circle of Yungbor instructors was trained, such as Efroim Warzager, Fayga Niclich, Gesha Grinbaum, Rayzele Szklacz, Shlomo Warzager, Mirl Tenenbaum, Ester Magier, Shayndl Elcter, Sura Cimerman, Welwl Barg and many, many others.

The innumerable independent cultural-political activites, the magnificent Yugnt and Yungbor events; the May and Borochov commemorative gatherings; the anti-war days; International Youth Days and Women's Days and more and even more magnificent youth meetings; the

[Page 173]

excursions and daytime Shabbos [Sabbath] in the suburban forests; the hearty banquets that would often be organized when saying goodbye to comrades who were leaving or during the transfer [graduation] from Yungbor to Yugnt and from Yugnt to the party and so on. All of this was a great and significant contribution to the cultural life of the Jewish settlement in the city of Chelm.


Evening Courses for Workers Society

With the creation of the Poalei-Zion Evening Courses for Workers Society in Poland, a division also was created in Chelm. The party premises at Lubliner 27 also were the location of the Evening Courses Society.

It was the time of the blossoming of Yiddish literature and culture in Poland and it can be said boldly that Poalei-Zion wrote a prominent page in the history of cultural creativity and educational work in that era in Jewish Chelm.

All of the Jewish literary figures, artists or cultural workers, who would travel through Poland, were invited by the Chelm division of the Evening Courses for Workers. [Yakov] Zrubavel and Dr. Josef Kruk, Peretz Markish and Dr. Rafal Mahler, Borukh Glazman and Alter Kacizne, Dr. Borukh Eizensztat and Nusan Buksbaum, and many, many others visited our city through the invitation of the society.

The literary events that would occur were very impressive and drew attention.

People's universities were organized at the above-mentioned society and lectures by Shneur Wasserman, Ruwin Frucht, Ytizhak Kornzajer, Akiva Winik and others on various cultural and scientific questions took place regularly. From the city's intelligentsia, Feywl Frid and his wife, Dr. Leah Frid, Dr. Oks, Dr. Skuler, Dr. Yosef Feldman and Moshe Lerer gave lectures along with Mendlzon, Kratke, Glincman, Bornsztajn and Kornblit from the young students. Kornblit's lectures drew a very large number of visitors and were given regularly for a very long time.

It is especially worthwhile to remember the dedicated and multifaceted activities of the well-known and talented teacher, Moshek (Moshe) Morgnsztern, who not only gave lectures at the People's University, but, in his time, was the most responsible secretary and leader of the Evening Courses Society. He led the evening school and he, himself, was the most active teacher who taught the young workers to write and to read without a groshn in payment. He also actively helped the Poalei-Zion Party in various other areas.

The Chelmer delegates took an active role in the Cultural Congress that was organized by the central managing committee of the Society of Evening Courses in Warsaw.

[Page 174]

The managing committee of the society would very often wrestle with great economic and financial difficulties and yet the cultural work was not interrupted. The harassments and persecutions by the regime and the frequent sealing of the premises would hinder and impede the vigorous spread of cultural and, also, sometimes stopped the cultural work for a time. But as soon as the disturbances were removed and the premises were reopened, the normal cultural activities were revived and renewed.

On the 14th of September 1933, the activity of the Evening Courses Society across the entire nation was stopped according to an order from the Interior Ministry. An intensive search was carried out of the Evening Courses for Workers Society and the cultural center for the Jewish working class in Chelm was locked and sealed.


Borochov Library

The Jewish Workers Library named for Ber Borochov was founded by Poalei-Zion during the first years of Polish independence in the center of the city at Lubliner Street number 51. There was among its 400 readers during the first years of its founding an outstanding number from the Polish worker intelligentsia. The number of books reached around 8,000 Yiddish and Polish [books]. All campaigns and undertakings on behalf of the library would take place with great success. Among its leaders during the course of its existence were Dr. Moshe Konfer, Feywl Frid, Moshe Lerer, Akiva Winik, Moshe Beker, Yakov Zwi Szargel, Dovid Goldrajch, Doba Waserman, Yitzhak Kornzajer, Yakov Beker, Yehosha Kratke and Shmuel-Yosl Beker. The latter dedicated almost 10 years to the library until the outbreak of the horrible [Second] World War.

The library managing committee, which would be elected at party meetings, took care of buying the new books, repairing and binding the old books and for the cultural-esthetic appearance of the rooms.

The reading room that was active at the library with short interruptions contained newspapers and journals from almost the entire Jewish world.

The party and Jugnt would also use the library room for cultural and professional work. Therefore, the library also “benefitted” from the persecutions endured by the Poalei-Zion Party. The starosta [village head] sealed it many times and it [the library] had to wander from place to place and this disrupted its full development and expansion.


Dramatic Circle and Choir

At the time of illegality, when political work was very inhibited, the comrades of Poalei-Zion created the first dramatic circle in the city, which served simultaneously as a source of income for the party organization.

[Page 175]

Among those taking part in the dramatic circles during the years 1918-1919 were the following comrades: Itshe Achtman, Meir Baum, Yosef Dreksler, Ruchl Dubkowska, Rywka Herc and Noakh Goldhaber. The directors of the circle were Sholem Goldbaum and Shmuel Szimel [and] after him Feywl Dreksler, who remained the leader and director of the circle for many years and transformed it in time into a municipal theater that also served the neighboring shtetlekh.

The work of the first dramatic circle was very earnest and faced a great challenge. The dramas and tableaus that would be presented in the largest theater rooms of the city would draw large groups of the Jewish population.

The dramatic circle did not transform itself into a professional theater group, although many of those who took part later led dramatic circles and some of them, such as the Ziglboim brothers, Piniele and Feywl, completed their theatrical training in Dr. M. Wajchert's


Musical and dramatic circles of the Poalei-Zion organization at Lubliner 27
This photograph was taken in 1928


theater school in Warsaw and they took part in the well-known experimental Warsaw Youth Theater.

For a long time comrades Rayzele Kelberman, Ber Feldman, Perele Laks, Serke Zisberg, Moshe Klerer, Ruwin Frucht, Rukhtshe Sobol, Itmar Wajc, Avraham Berenfeld, Feywl Zigelboim, Rukhtshe Lazar, Gershon Nisen, Avraham Cikl. Sara Szalit, Yankl Zisberg, Dovid Czechowicz, Yakov Szargel, Shimeon Mandlbaum Motek Diker, Yehezkiel Milsztajn and Moshe'le Dreksler took part in the success of the dramatic circle.

When Feywl Dreksler left Chelm, others took his place and at various times took upon themselves the difficult and responsible role of putting together, organizing and leading the dramatic circle. The most capable came forward, such as: Avraham Cikl, Motek Diker, Hilel Szargel (he adapted the dramatic material, painted the scenery, directed and also acted), Mikhal Ribeizn and Zaynwl Zalctreger.

[Page 176]

The vocal evenings, which would be carried out with the participation of Serke Zisberg, Moshe Klerer, Avraham Bernfeld, Itmar Wajc, Shimeon Mandlbaum, Nota Kuper and Bentshe Torn, must also be mentioned.

During the short time Yakov Zwi Szargel spent in the city when he came to Chelm as a guest in 1934, he put together an original evening of stage adaptations and song.

The appearances of the choir, under the leadership of Chaim Gutman, a teacher from the Jewish Folk-Shul [public school], which were new in Jewish cultural Chelm and would draw many hundreds of listeners, need to be recorded. The accomplishment of building up a choir of workers' children, which was carried out by Bentshe Torn after Gutman's departure, was one of the most important and remained so until the end of days [the destruction of Chelm].


Sports and Physical Culture

bhere always were Poalei-Zion groups that were involved with sports and physical culture, but an official sports club that was a member of the worker sports central, Gwiazda (Stern) [“star” in Polish and Yiddish], was organized in 1930. In a short time, four divisions were established: 1) ping-pong; 2) light athletics; 3) gymnastics; 4) football (soccer). The latter two developed particularly well. A special sports corner with the appropriate equipment was organized where gymnastic exercises with the participation of many dozens of young people and older workers would take place at designated hours. The beautiful displays of gymnastics and pyramids were used later at evening [events] and gatherings. The football division developed very rapidly and very quickly appeared publicly in football competitions with the strongest and oldest sports clubs in the city. In one such competition with the football team of the 7th Pulk [regiment] at their field, the young sports club, Stern, played so well and with such supremacy that it so frustrated the Polish players and they began to play brutally and one of their players intentionally gave a sharp blow to the goalkeeper, Manashe Atlas, and broke his leg. Play was interrupted and Comrade Atlas was taken to the hospital. After this, many football competitions took place with great success.

In 1932 sports competitions between the Stern clubs in Chelm and Lublin took place for the Stern Central cup.

The fifth division, the swim section, was created for the summer season of 1932. And a swim stadium was created – the only one in the city.

A larger number of athletes, in special uniforms and under their flags, took part in an all-Poland Stern competition that took place in Warsaw in 1933.

[Page 177]

A large sports commemoration took place on the 9th of December 1933 in the Rosursa Hall with the participation of a representative from Stern Central to celebrate the beautiful successes of the sports club and its divisions.

At the head of the leadership of the club stood: Yehosha Kratke, Shmuel Yosl Beker, Manashe Atlas, Altr Galik, Shmuel Zajdfodim, Mordekhai Elcter and Zishe Kornfeld.


Chelemer Folks-Blat

The sympathies and good feelings that the Poalei-Zion Party awoke for itself among a significant number of Jews [led to] a search for an opportunity for constant direct contact with the masses and this could be attained only through a public forum. And in the second half of 1928, the party started to publish its own newspaper.

The prospectus for this organ, which indicated the maturity of the party and its devotion to the masses, was published on the 7th of September 1928. The name – Chelemer Folks-Blat [Chelm People's Newspaper] – and the editorial colleagues

[Page 178]

then consisted of the comrades: Yitzhak Kornblit (chief editor), Chaim Gutman (proof reader) and Mordekhai Evri, Sholem Goldbaum and Moshe Beker (colleagues) were the expression of what the newspaper would be.

The Chelemer Folks-Blat, which served as a non-rigid party weekly newspaper about culture, political and communal questions, brought joy and enthusiasm among friends and respect and recognition among opponents. The articles and the stories, the poems and the belle-letters always stood on an appropriately high level. Friends and comrades from abroad also participated: Shneur Waserman from Argentina and Avraham Brik from Jerusalem, Yakov Zwi Szargel from Tel Aviv and Hersh Sziszler from South Africa. The editorship, which later went to Feywl Frid, Yakov Beker and Hershl Lerer, with the participation of previous comrades, tried to improve the newspaper from week to week.

Alas, because of the well-known economic difficulties in which Jewish Chelm then found itself, the newspaper had to close, not lasting for a full two years.


A May demonstration in Chelm in 1930


Translator's footnotes
  1. Chelmszczyzna – Chelm Land – an historical region during the First Polish Republic. It was part of the Ruthenian Province. Return
  2. TsyshoTsentrale Yidishe Shul Organizatsye – Central Yiddish School Organization – was a network of Yiddish schools created by Socialist and Yiddishist activists in Poland in the 1920s. Return


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