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Left Poalei-Zion

by Yakov Kener

The beginning of the activity of a Poalei-Zion [Workers of Zion – Marxist-Zionists] organization in Czenstochow occurred in the summer of 1904. Its activists were: Shimeon Waldfogel,

 


A group of the first Poalei-Zionists

Standing from right to left: Dovid Borszykowski, M. Berman, Z. Warszawski
Sitting from right to left: Moshe Ceszinski, M. Montag

 

a tailor, who came from the village of Krzywanice, near the neighboring shtetl [town] Sulmierzyce; Meir, a local tailor journeyman, who worked in the same workshop with Shimeon and Moshe Ceszinski, a son of middle-class parents who, as was expressed then, “supported the workers.”

However, Shimeon Waldfogel, who conspiratorially was known as “Feigele,”[1] was the soul of this set of triplets. Shimeon had previously devoured many illegal brochures and he was very drawn to the workers' movement. However, he had no desire to join the Bund nor the S.Z. (Territorialist Zionists) because both Jewish workers' parties, which had existed in Czenstochow previously, did not support Eretz-Yisroel, but he, Shimeon, as a 14-year old boy, working in Radomsk and a member of the Zionist library, already dreamed of going to Zion.

In groups of three, the above-mentioned Poalei-Zion pioneers in Czenstochow began to spread the ideas of the party at the workers exchange until they created three such

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small groups of 10 men and each of them led such secret groups. The Czenstochow Poalei-Zion organization, which already numbered over a hundred male and female workers, grew out of the separate small groups.

As the youngest organization, it could not be compared in strength with the two older and already strong Czenstochow institutions – but it was taken into account in the city and at political strikes, in street demonstrations that often took place in that era, Poalei-Zion had its representation in the general strike committees. Hundreds of Jewish workers marched in the large street demonstrations of 1905 under the Poalei-Zion flag through the streets of Czenstochow with Shimeon Waldfogel in the lead as flag bearer.

 

During the Period of Reaction

The failure of the first Russian Revolution in 1905 brought with it persecutions of the workers movement by the Tsarist regime and the best known communal workers of all political beliefs had to escape abroad. Moshe Censzinski left for Vienna (Austria) and from there to America. Shimeon Waldfogel left for Germany and from there for Paris, where he worked as a tailor and was active in the local trade union movement.

Meanwhile, the workers movement lived through an era of suspension, in Czenstochow, as in all other cities in Poland. The Tsarist reaction rampaged and the working masses rolled up their flags, postponing their open struggle for another time.

In particular, the Jewish workers movement, which did not have any large factories as its base of activity, shrank. Organizations that numbered in the thousands were reduced at that time to several dozen and hundreds became smaller groups. The Czenstochow Poalei-Zion, which was strongly reduced, also had the same fate; yet it was active under the leadership of the young Moshe Oderberg. In the end, he also had to escape abroad.

Comrade Yeta Graj, who in now active in the Poalei-Zion organization in Los Angeles, California, also immediately left for America.

Comrade Moshe Oderberg in now in Chicago and had been the leader of the local left Poalei-Zion organization for dozens of years. Before escaping from Czenstochow, he succeeded in strengthening and assuring that the organizational and ideological nucleus of Poalei-Zionism would take root, so that when Shimeon Waldfogel retuned to Czenstochow from Paris in 1913, it was possible for him to transfer his experience in the West European workers movement and further build a strong Poalei-Zion organization.

He was deeply involved in the founding of the illegal professional worker unions and, simultaneously, in the professional movement, re-erecting the political party groups. Shimeon Waldfogel again became the former “Feigele” in Czenstochow, who flew from one meeting to another, from one city to another and everywhere encouraged and awoke the masses to professional organizing and to political activity. He sought the “enlightened” and assembled those returning from Tsarist exile and gathered the battle-ready around him. Thus things proceeded until the 1st of August 1914, when the First World War broke out and the political-social life again suffered a blow.

 

Under the German Occupation During the First World War

When Poland was occupied by German and Austrian troops in 1915, the communal strength quickly recovered from the sudden blow it had received at the outbreak of war. The most urgent task at that time was the fight against hunger and epidemics that were spread by the war. Shimeon Waldfogel then devoted all his energy to organizing the aid institutions for the Jewish masses and, with the support of the remaining Poalei-Zion comrades in Czenstochow, a work home that functioned the entire day as a free-of-charge tea hall and inexpensive people's kitchen was created immediately that, incidentally, was the first Jewish work home in all of Poland. The tea hall and the people's kitchen were a great deal more than a hall for the provision of food. They were transformed into political and cultural clubs for the local Jewish labor force and they

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also served as a model for the remaining Polish provinces. The workers gathered there and discussed the latest war news and the post-war problems among themselves. There was support for the lost and homeless Jewish families from the small, surrounding shtetlekh [towns]. There, in the Poalei-Zion workers home, the political consciousness of the Jewish masses was forged daily. Thus, was the soil prepared for the later blossoming of the Jewish workers movement! When the German occupiers were driven from Polish soil, the Jewish workers and folk-masses immediately swam to the communal surface with their various kinds of political, economic and cultural organizations.

 


The managing committee of the Poalei-Zion Cooperative

Standing from right to left: A. Gotlib, L. Zajdman, Y. Gotlib, W. Landsman, S. Szaja
Sitting from right to left: Mrs. Koniecpoler, G. Frajman, Y. Berman, A. Berkowicz

 

The Poalei-Zion organization, just like other parties, quickly grew into a mass organization with widespread economic and cultural institutions. During the first post-war years, the Poalei-Zion organization in Czenstochow had a good reputation for its products-cooperative and consumer shops. Of particular great significance was the bakers cooperative, in which were employed dozens of workers and employees. The Poalei-Zion bakers cooperative was a blessing for the poor population during the constantly growing scarcities. The bakeries not only gave employment to the workers for normal wages, but it also made it possible for the members of all cooperative stores to receive the appropriate quantity of bread for a normal price every day and thus created an effective resistance to the illegal bread trade on the black market that was spreading greatly then.

The bakers cooperative that was founded with the financial help of the “Joint” [Distribution Committee] had its own horses and wagons, with which the bread was taken to the cooperative shops every morning so that the member-customers would not need to stand in long lines.

However, the Czenstochower Poalei-Zion was not satisfied with only providing the Jewish population with bread. The organization also founded a library, a children's home, a dramatic circle, an evening school, a youth club and, simultaneously, was active in the political and professional (trade unionists) area.

 


A group of Poalei-Zionists

Standing from right to left: Kotlarcz, A. Wajs, Goldberg, Zajdman, G. Frajtag
Sitting from right to left: Turner, P. Tuchmajer, R. Sajadczik, S. Szaja and A. Litman

 

In 1920, when typhus was raging in Poland, Shimeon Waldfogel died in Sosnowiec as a victim of this illness and his death strongly affected the further activity of the Czenstochower Poalei-Zion organization.

New activists did appear, but Feigele's enthusiasm was missing. Shimeon's widespread range was missing and the orphaned Czenstochow Poalei-Zion organization found it difficult to take its place in Jewish life, for which the deceased Waldfogel had wanted to fight.

The Czenstochow Poalei-Zion organization consisted entirely of workers and toilers.

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It did not possess – not then and not in the later years – any professional intelligentsia or determined young people and this also made its struggle for ruling positions in Jewish workers' life more difficult. Therefore, the Czenstochow Poalei-Zion organization always was for workers' unity and when the parallel worker institutions actually were united, as for example, the libraries, the children's homes and the professional unions, this desire for workers' unity found favorable grounds in the ranks of Poalei-Zion.

In the autumn of 1920, when the Poalei-Zion movement split into right and left, the entire Czenstochower organization and all of its institutions remained in the ranks of the left Poalei-Zion movement. The left Poalei-Zion never relinquished certain privileges that came to it by right to be able to more quickly take a stand for worker unity.

The library, the professional unions and the children's homes were united under a general joint management committee in which left Poalei-Zion received its representation and they loyally worked there until the outbreak of the second world slaughter. However, in general, this meant that they did not at all relinquish their ideology or their political positions. [The work of] peace and war was to be kept separate – this was the motto of their daily work.

United in the professional area, however, they did not permit any political action at which they did not appear independently with their own voting list or with their own political slogans, even when they had no certain prospect of a concrete victory. United in the school system or in the area of the library they, however, simultaneously on their own led the struggle against clericalism, against illiteracy, against fascism and for Palestinism [support for Eretz-Yisroel].

While the older party comrades, under the leadership of A. Pregski, Kh. Birencwajg, Leibus Tenenbaum and, later, M. Szwarc and the councilman, Avraham Blum, were mainly active in the joint managing committee of the trade unions, in the library and in the school system, the “young” were active in the area of cultural activity, sports, summer camps, anti-clericalism and in various other areas.

The writer of these lines had the occasion several times to be the speaker from the Czenstochow Poalei-Zion young people at various public undertakings and I always left [these undertakings] with a feeling of deep spiritual satisfaction from the enthusiasm and with the deep seriousness with which our local youth organization breathed.

In the early 1920s, the Poalei-Zion young people were under the leadership of the Comrades Baremhercik and Jozefowicz, teacher-workers, who then emigrated to Paris and, finally at the end of the 1920s, Sholem Kalberg was the leader, who then emigrated to Canada. Later, the youth work was led by Avraham Blum, the baker-worker, who in 1939 was saved by escaping to the Soviet Union and is now active in Moscow in the ranks of the Polish Jews, the tailor-worker, Yisroel Szimanowicz, who perished in a Nazi concentration camp, in Mauthausen (Austria), and Dovid Jakubowicz, who survived and is active in the camp of the liberated Jews in Feldafing (Bayern).

Let us be permitted to remember here in only a few lines just a small part of the lively and exuberant activity of our Czenstochower Yugnt [Youth] on the basis of my observations during my visit there:

In April 1926, a public protest of the young workers in connection with a draft law that the Polish reaction had introduced in the Sejm to take the right to assemble from the young. Four or five hundred young male and female workers filled the large meeting hall. The entrance to the hall was besieged by agents of the secret police. The young activists also distributed reproduced leaflets in the street in which they called on the young to protest against the assassination attempt on the rights of the young.

In December 1927 a large public memorial for the 10th yohrzeit [anniversary of a death] of Ber Borochov [took place] which was transformed into to a beautiful demonstration for proletarian Palestinism.

In the autumn of 1928 [there was] a public demonstration against the fact that in the Soviet Union

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the party of left Poalei-Zion was dissolved.

In September 1929, when the organization had its own premises, a celebration [was held] in honor of the international youth day in the forest outside the city and after, dozens of young people marched into the city singing revolutionary songs.

Particularly during the year 1929, the Czenstochow Poalei-ZionYugnt and the party excelled in selling thousands of declaration cards for the Pre-Palestine Workers Congress that took place in Warsaw and sent an appropriate number of delegates.

The Czenstochow Poalei-Zion – the party and Yugnt – would demonstrate under their own flags in the general workers procession every 1st of May and in the evening hold their own May assemblies.

 

The Cultural Activity

The Poalei-Zion Cultural Society, Evening Courses for Workers, would arrange public lectures every year during the winter months on various themes and almost every week brought speakers from either Warsaw or Krakow. The Messrs Dr. Borukh Eizensztat, Dr. Rafal Mahler, Mina Abelman and Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum, may he rest in peace, often came to Czenstochow to give lectures. The Messrs Avigdor Bursztyn and Lubek Szmerler, about whom there has been a lack of signs of whether they are still alive, would often come from Krakow. During the various election campaigns, the Lodz Messrs Chaim Brand, Yisroel Stolarski, Moshe Citrinowski would come as speakers and to public celebrations. The Messrs [Yakov] Zrubavel, Y. Lew, N. Buksbaum, the author of this article and still others often came there [Czenstochow] with political readings. The Jewish masses in Czenstochow were always ready to listen to the Poalei-Zion speakers and they always responded with sympathy to every political or financial action carried out by the Czenstochow organization.

In the ranks of Czenstochow Poalei-Zion Yugnt an event took place that made a strong impression at that time and it is worthwhile here to remember this event because it was very characteristic of the spirit of the Jewish working class in Poland. A young locksmith-worker, Eliezer Wajs, a child from a poor working family, belonged to the Yugnt organization. At the readings and at private, internal educational circles, the young Wajs heard his fill of the necessity of education and about the lack of our own intelligentsia so he decided to stop working in a workshop and begin to study. This was very difficult to carry out in the economic conditions of that time. His plan sounded like a fantasy and his parents, because of economic need, were against this fantasy. However, Eliezer Wajs was encouraged by the organization and his older brother, who was earning a little bit, promised to support him financially. Wajs began to study with stubbornness and he finished his gymnazie [secondary school] courses in a relatively short time, or as was said in Poland, he received his matura [secondary school certificate]. He then left for Krakow where he, under the most difficult financial conditions, studied at the law faculty in the local university, until he received the title, “Doctor of Law.” During all of the time of his studies, he did not break with the organization. In the evening hours in Czenstochow, and then in Krakow, he carried out educational work at the Yugnt organizations of the cities mentioned. He led elementary courses for the young people who came from small shtetlekh [towns], or from the villages, and had not had any education. He devoted himself to the work of the Yugnt organization libraries with special love and energy. Later, he even wrote a large brochure about how the libraries needed to be led and the secretariat for library education at the Central Office of the communal evening courses in Warsaw had 5,000 copies of his booklet published.

In Krakow itself he was the chairman of the famous Y.L. Peretz Library that belonged to the left Poalei-Zion organization and, under his leadership, this library blossomed as one of the nicest and largest Jewish libraries in Poland. The Central Committee of the Society of Evening Courses for Workers also organized a special four-week

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course for librarians which Dr. Eliezer Wajs led and at which he was one of the most important lecturers. In order to lead these courses, Wajs had to free himself for a month at a time from the private work that he did in Krakow as an assistant to a lawyer there. However, he did not let any obstacle stop him from realizing his dream, the desire to spread education among the working young people and to strengthen the Jewish library system.

The Czenstochow Poalei-Zion organization and the local Jewish working class in general was proud of its landsman [person from the same town], with its Eliezer Wajs, who in a short time was transformed from a locksmith apprentice into a lawyer with the title doctor. And he would sometimes come home to his parents for several days; this visit was always a celebration for the organization with his readings, conversations and reports.

However, this joy did not last long because he became very, very sick with the flu in the month of November 1930, and on the 10th of November, he died in the very bloom of life at age 30 of complications of an inflamed kidney.

The Krakow comrades immediately sent telegrams to Czenstochow about this and in the morning when the funeral was to take place, a delegation arrived from Czenstochow, which consisted of his brother and two other comrades who demanded that Eliezer Wajs be brought to his home city for burial. Those in Krakow bent to the desire of his family. They wrapped the body in a red flag and brought him to Czenstochow where, on Wednesday, the 12th of November, a giant funeral demonstration took place. Hundreds and hundreds of comrades left work and came to give their last respect to the only intelligent and important cultural worker who grew out of their own ranks. At the opening of the grave, he was eulogized by both his own comrades and representatives of all of the other political groups in Czenstochow and the left Poalei-Zion then observed every yohrzeit [anniversary of a death], always remembering him with respect and with veneration.

However, Dr. Eliezer Wajs was not the only esteemed Poalei-Zion activist who rests or has rested at the Czenstochow Jewish cemetery. Next to Comrade Wajs, the grave of the Sosnowiec councilman Moshe Judenherc is located or was located – who in 1924 was murdered in the very bloom of life at the age of 36 when entering a train at the Czenstochow train station.

Over the course of eight years, Moshe Judenherc was a representative of the Jewish workers at the Sosnowiec City Council, chosen by the left Poalei-Zion. He fought with great bravery from the city hall dais against anti-Semitism and because of this was much admired and beloved among the Jewish masses in all of Zaglembie and its surroundings. Therefore, it is no wonder that the Czenstochow Jewish worker and common people and the Sosnowiec Poalei-Zion, erected a magnificent marble headstone over his grave after his tragic death, while in Sosnowiec itself a people's library was built in his name, which functioned until the outbreak of the war.

 

Under German Occupation in the Years 1939-1945

We do not as yet know what happened to the Czenstochower Jewish cemetery during the Hilterist occupation. We do not know if, perhaps by chance, the German people and cemetery defilers took care of the generations-old cemeteries of Sosnowiec and Czenstochow where the bones of Shimeon Waldfogel, Eliezer Wajs and Moshe Judenherc among others rest. However, we know that the young Jews in general and, particularly, the Poalei-Zion comrades from these two cities did not only in the pre-war times regard the memory of our guides who perished with reverence and respect, but during the war in the most difficult ghetto conditions, they also were devoted and carried out the unwritten testaments of their above-mentioned three deceased comrades.

Here, let only one fact be mentioned about the desire to fight and about the readiness to fight of the Czenstochow left Poalei-Zion, of the melancholy but simultaneously heroic, ghetto era of 1943.

When the Warsaw ghetto prepared for its famous Uprising against the Nazi murderers, the

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Czenstochower Poalei-Zion organization, through the secret underground channels, received from Warsaw, from the leader of the left Poalei-Zion – from Dr. Adolf Berman – a call to come immediately to Warsaw with weapons in their hands to help the success of the Uprising.

A group of 10 young, courageous and physically powerful comrades, under the leadership of the above-mentioned comrades, Dovid Jakubowicz and Yisroel Szimanowicz, sneaked out of the Czenstochow ghetto and over a day and night they finally smuggled themselves to Warsaw with the help of the left Polish underground movement. However, upon reaching a suburb of Warsaw, it was impossible to enter the Warsaw ghetto, which already stood in flames and was surrounded on all sides by the bands of German murderers.

The 10 brave heroes, for lack of a choice, had to return to Czenstochow in sorrow and pain where they met the same fate as the entire Jewish population: deportation, active resistance and death. Yisroel Szimanowicz was tortured in the Mauthausen slave labor camp; while Dovid Jakubowicz survived and is now in Feldafing [Displaced Persons Camp], where he is active as the secretary of the left Poalei-Zion in Bayern [Bavaria] and, simultaneously its representative in the Munich central committee of the liberated Jews in the American zone in Germany.

Meanwhile, what happened to the remaining eight as, in general, with all of the other older and younger Poalei-Zion comrades, is unknown to us. However, it is known to us from the first issue of the Arbeter-Zeitung [Workers Newspaper], the organ of Left Poalei-Zion in Poland, which is now published in Lodz, that the Left Poalei-Zion has been revived now in Czenstochow and it again is carrying on vigorous actively among and on behalf of Jewish survivors in Czenstochow.


Translator's Footnote

  1. A feigele is a small bird; the surname Waldfogel means “forest bird.” Return


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HaShomer HaTzair

HaShomer HaTzair [The Youth Guard – Socialist Zionists] occupied a very honored place in the social life of Jewish Czenstochow. The Jewish youth movement arose in several large cities in western Poland at the start of the First World War. Under the influence of the German Wandervogel [can mean hiking or wandering bird] movement, of the Polish scout movement and of the HaShomer in Israel, the young people began to gather and organize in scout groups, which over time developed and crystallized ideologically. Driven by the longing to live independently and to be active, and as a reaction to the one-sided, exclusively spiritual education of the Jewish young, the Jewish youth movement embraced the scout form. The Jewish scout groups arose at almost the same time in several large cities in Poland.

The Czenstochow group belonged to this first scout organization. It was founded by young gymnasts, workers and those employed in trade. During its first years, when the movement still carried the clear scout character, it was received with great sympathy in the Zionist circles. They found a patron in the well-known Czenstochow community worker, Henrik Markusfeld, who offered a

 


A group from HaShomer HaTzair

 

comfortable apartment for the use of the organization, a large place in his house on Kościuszka Street (later Aleja Wolności).

A short time after its rise, a large number of the young Jews in Czenstochow belonged to the scout organization.

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In 1917 the first conference of the scout organization in Poland took place in Czenstochow. Representatives of the Jewish scout organizations from Warsaw, Lodz, Piotrokov, Bedzin and other cities came together at the premises that later were taken over by the Jewish Sports and Touring Union. It was decided here to create a general national organization. A constitutional conference was called and it proposed adopting the name HaShomer HaTzair.

In later years until the outbreak of the Second World War, HaShomer HaTzair occupied an important place in the life of the young Jews in Czenstochow. Its members stood out with their special scout clothing. For years HaShomer HaTzair demonstrated on Lag B'Omer,[1] marching in closed ranks under their flags and to the sounds of their own so-called field orchestra. From time to time, it arranged beautifully prepared evenings and amateur presentation for the public. However, the outward appearances were only accompanying manifestations of an intensive work that was carried out daily in the “ken” (ken – nest; that is what the premises of the organization were called). Here, life boiled in the ken. Young people from 12 to 20 gathered daily. Group after group trained in various physical and scout exercises or studied. Important educational work was carried out in physical and spiritual areas. The character of the Jewish generation, the generation that provided the builders of Eretz-Yisorel and the ghetto fighters, was forged here. Here in the ken the young people built a worldly outlook. Here, the young searched for a way in life.

HaShomer HaTzair produced the type of Jewish intelligent young people for whom spiritual creation was not unfamiliar, that could not be indifferent to communal problems, who were active in the ranks of all progressive communal movements. Yermiyahu Gitler, who stood at the head of the Czenstochow Jews during the last tragic years – in the years of the ghetto – was one of the builders of Czenstochow HaShomer HaTzair.

However, this is not the main point. Over the years HaShomer HaTzair crystallized and adopted concrete goals, drawing in the new Jews, the young Jewish generation, by building a normal Jewish life in Eretz-Yisroel. The most concrete educational purpose was – to make real the Zionist and socialist ideal in the kibbutz [communal settlement], in Eretz-Yisroel. And from the first years of its existence, there was a continuous emigration of Czenstochow Young Guards to Eretz-Yisroel and to the kibbutz.

Here in Eretz-Yisroel, you will find them all over and above all in a kibbutz. Czenstochower Guards are in the following kibbutzim [plural of kibbutz]: Beit Alfa, Mishmar HaEmek, Ein HaHoresh, Ein Shemer, Gan Shmuel, Mesilot, Negba, Ein HaShofet, Mitzpe Hayam and in the youth kibbutz Gal On near Ness Ziona. In addition to the Hashomer HaTzair kibbutzim mentioned, a group is located in Kibbutz HaMeukhad in Beis Oren. [There was] a long chain of emigration from 1920 to 1939.

In addition to the intensive educational work, the nest also actively took part in various comprehensive communal movements and undertakings.

The nest excelled in the work of Keren Kayamet L'Yisroel [K.K.L. – The Jewish National Fund]. It stood in the first rank [of support] for many years. Let us again remember the name of Shmuel Horowicz (Kuc), who worked with K.K.L. for many years up to the last minute in the ghetto. The nest was active in the Tarbot [network of secular Hebrew schools] movement. They lived in the nest as in the atmosphere of Eretz-Yisroel; the Hebrew language sounded alive here. HaShomer HaTzair took an active part in all of the Tarbot endeavors.

HaShomer HaTzair held a special place in HaHalutz [Zionist pioneer movement]. The bogerim [adults] (the older strata, aged 18-20) joined HaHalutz in 1923. HaHalutz immediately was revived in Czenstochow. Shomrim [Guards] stood at the head of the work, as well as in the League for Working Eretz-Yisroel.

There were good relations between HaShomer HaTzair and TOZ [Society for the Protection of Health]. The well-known health society found a devoted friend in the Shomrim. HaShomer HaTzair carried on collections of money. The HaShomer HaTzair organization appreciated the worth of a healthy body. Year after year, the Shomrim, with the support of TOZ, went to the village to their colony during the summer.

Shomrim workers were found in the professional unions, in the workers' library (led by the Independent Socialist Workers Party, under the leadership of Lipszic). The general national and international Shomrim movement took an active part in the Czenstochow nest.

Czenstochower Shomrim took an active part from the above-mentioned first preliminary conference in 1917 to the active fight in the ghetto-war

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at various significant moments in the national movement. Here is a list of Czenstochower members: Iszojewicz (or Ishi in Tel Aviv), Yermiyahu Gilter, Yosef Heyman, Bolek Fajglowicz (now Gan-Shmuel), Shimeon Wajntraub (now Beit Alfa), Chaim Landau (now Mesilot), Moshe Klarman (now in the Jewish Brigade) comrade of Kibbutz Mitzpe Hayam and others.

Czenstochow also was the center of the Keliec-Zaglembie Galilie (region). The above-mentioned comrades carried on the work. Regional conferences and meetings took place here.

Czenstochow became an important place in the general Shomrim movement in 1928 when the Czenstochow garden farm moved to the authority of the Shomrim world movement. Hakshore (preparation) [agricultural training for potential emigrants to Eretz-Yisroel] Shomrim from various areas in Poland and Galicia were concentrated here [in Czenstochow]. The primary leadership (the national center) of Poland, of Galicia, the top leadership (main leaders of the world movement), Yitzhak Birnbaum, Avraham Hercfeld, representatives of the press took part in the harvest festival (the celebration of the harvest) of 1928. Meetings of the central committee took place here from time to time. The farm also was a central place for the nest. The Czenstochow shomrim met there with shomrim from other areas in Poland. The Shomrim from Lithuania and from the border areas (Kresen [western Ukraine]) influenced the Czenstochow Shomrim, bringing in much liveliness, strengthening the feeling of membership in one large family.

A hakshore kibbutz [settlement] was concentrated on the farm starting in 1932, which penetrated into various working places in the city, into factories. Comrades from the farm were active in the city and in the nest.

The hakshore settlement aroused sympathy in the best circles. HaShomer HaTzair was seen here in its reality, a kind of miniature of a kibbutz in Eretz-Yisroel. Visitors from various circles were carried away, seeing a new type of Jew. I remember two facts. Dr. Szobad, a well-known non-Zionist activist from Vilna, visited Czenstochow as a guest of TSYSHO [Tsentrale Yidishe Shul Organizatsye – Central Jewish School Organization; a system of schools organized by the Bund]. He also visited the farm. In the evening during his reading arranged by the Jewish School Organization, he spoke about the great impression the Shomrim at the farm had made on him.

Dr. Josef Kruk, of the Independent Workers' Party, visited the farm during Passover 1934 – [he was] not yet a Zionist. He also was impressed by the lively collective of the Shomrim youth and from then on, he was a friend of the Shomrim farm.

During the last tragic and heroic years, the Czenstochow HaShomer HaTzair continued its work. During the first years of the ghetto, before the total annihilation, it brought young people the belief in an ideal that did not let the young people despair, become broken; it tempered its character and made it capable of revolt.

A heroic chapter that still needs to be written is the last days in the ghetto. Here, too, the Shomrim were in the first row.


Translator's Footnote

  1. Holiday celebrated in the spring during which it is customary to go on outings and to light bonfires. Return


Political Persecutions and Trials

by A. Khrobolowski and H. Zigas

Political Persecutions in Tsarist Times

As one of the first well-known political trials in Czenstochow, the trial that took place in connection with the Polish demonstration in 1874 at the opening of the Pravoslavna [Russian Orthodox] church Magistratski Square was a symbol of Russian rule.

In 1906 a trial of a group of Russian soldiers from the Czenstochow garrison who belonged to a branch of the Russian S.S. (Socialist Revolutionaries) took place in Czenstochow.

Leaving aside all of the arrests, political and military terror actions in 1904-1906 that are mentioned in other articles, we will only record the political persecutions, murders and trials that that took place after the liberation movement was suppressed.

At the end of 1906 several workers from the hat-makers' union were shot during a dispute. The charges against them were difficult to learn. They only knew that they [the workers] had been on strike and had gone to pick blackberries in the woods. According to Stalipin's account, they were arrested and were sentenced to be shot as bandits.

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The trial of Private Vasili Denisov, who was accused of belonging the P.P.S. [Polska Partia Socjalistyczna – Polish Socialist Party] was supposed to take place in Piotrkow Court in1913. The trial was postponed for several days because of his health. Vasili Denisov was betrayed to the police along with other members of the fighting division of the P.P.S. by the arrested Sukenik.

In May of the same year several workers at Czenstochowianka [a factory] were arrested in connection with a strike of 5,000 workers. The strike took place because the master craftsman Ejchler insulted a worker. The master craftsman was thrown out of the factory by the worker.

In July 1912 a trial took place in Czenstochow of a large group of “revolutionary avengers,” under the leadership of Dluczewski. The lawyers Szumanski, Berson and Medalus appeared as defenders. Five of the judged were sentenced to hanging, but because of a demonstration the sentence was changed to 20 years of hard labor. Others were sentenced to various terms of hard labor and external exile.

On Shabbos [Sabbath], the 4th of October 1913, at one in the afternoon, the police and gendarmes with the Pristov [police commissioner] Abruzow at the head, surrounded and arrested everyone taking part in the Bundist gathering near the Klejarnia [adhesives factory]. Approximately 60 people, mainly tailors were arrested (see the article “The General Jewish Workers Bund” by Sholem Herc for details about this arrest).

Moshe Ceszinski and the entire managing committee of the then legally registered bakery workers professional union were arrested at midnight on Friday, the 23rd of January 1914. The arrests took place as a result of a denunciation by a bakery owner.

Moshe Ceszinski had visited [was brought to] the gendarmerie because of a series of articles about the professional unions and the sick funds that had been published by A.C. in the Czenstochower Wokhnblat [Czenstochow Weekly Newspaper] under the pseudonym, “a worker.” The direct cause of his arrest along with the bakery workers was that he, as coworker at the Czenstochower Wokhnblat, had been invited by the presidium to a legal meeting of the managing committee of the bakery workers in the Harmonia hall. Therefore police spies included him in the list of the leaders. He was in the Czenstochow jail for a few months.

 

Under German Occupation During the First World War

Mass political arrests and expulsions took place at the time of the German occupation. The arrestees mainly were sent to the Modlin Fortress, near Warsaw. Among those sent to Modlin were: Shimeon and Fela Biro (Birencwajg), arrested in Germany for anti-war activities in the Independent Socialist Party. And Kaneman was arrested in Czenstochow for his activities in the Social Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania.

 

In Independent Poland

In August 1920 a search was carried out at the Wiedza Robotnicza [Workers Knowledge] Society, previously the Kasprzak Club[1], and a group of its members were arrested. The society was a legal one and all of its members were registered. Poles and Jews as well as a number of women belonged to the society.

Anshel Judkewicz was sentenced in October 1920 for belonging to the Kompartei [Communist Party] and for spreading literature. The judges were: Kaczarewski, City Councilmen Januszewski and Gawendzki. The lawyer Rumszewicz defended the accused. Judkewicz was sentenced to one year in jail and the loss of all his rights.

A new series of political persecutions and trials began with the rise of “independent” Poland.

The first large political trial in Czenstochow took place in 1922. The Polish “Defensive” ruled then instead of the Russian gendarmes and police. Its leader was Janusz, a former member of the Polish Socialist Party who founded and led the provisional workers council in the name of the Polish Socialist Party. His helpers were: Zdanowicz – the overseer who tortured the arrestees, Hibner – a German and “Squirmer,” who could read and write Yiddish, which helped him a great deal in his espionage work. Later came “Janek,” a former Social Democrat.

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A regional conference of the ZM'K (Zwiazek Mlodczeczi Komunistycznej [Young Communist League]) then took place in Zawade that was denounced to the police by one of the Poles taking part. About 17 people were arrested, among them: Bayla Temerowicz, Maks Opatowski, Alya Lewensztajn, Salek Zilbersztajn, Borukh Brakman, Sholem Tobiasz, Shlomo Librowicz, Herman Zigos and Koniarski. Bayla Temerowicz was broken under torture and gave the names of the leaders of the conference.

The trial took place in Czenstochow in September. It lasted four days. Appearing as witnesses for the accused were Dr. Markusfeld, Dr. Gajzler, Dudek Szlezinger, A. Chrabalowski, R. Federman, Aleksander Ben, Shaya Nirenberg, Josef Kazmierczak, Shmuel Goldsztajn, Mendl Asz, Dr. Bram and Jan Hempel, publisher of Książka [The Book – a communist publications cooperative].

The lawyers defending the accused were: Honigwil, Dudacz, Dombrowski, and Brajter from Warsaw, M. Koniarski from Czenstochow and Wuczinski from Piotrkow.

Opatowski, Lewensztajn and Zilbersztajn were sentenced to 15 months in prison. All of the rest were freed.

Dembal, the communist deputy in the Polish Sejm [parliament], brought a parliamentary question in connection with the trial, protesting against the fact that the act of accusation began with the words, “A band of criminals came together in the holy Czenstochow to undermine the foundation of the Catholic Church and of the social order.”

Wolf Zlatnik was one of the most active among the communist young people. He led the student group and wrote in the journal, Swiatlo [Light]. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

In May 1926, the “Revolution” of Pilsudski still ruled the government of the Chjeno-Piast [coalition of Polish political parties]. The communists took part in the general demonstration on the 1st of May. On Teatralna Street the police on horseback waited for those who stood at the gates and they made many arrests. Among the arrestees were Opatowski, Lewensztajn, Zilbersztajn, Brakman, Tobiasz, Librowicz, Ruczka Rozenfeld, Shlomo Kaneman, Moshe Richter, Krimolowski – student, Wolf Zlatnik, Leaszka Kachman, Leon Tenenberg – a student, Yitzhak Tenenberg, Moshe Shuchter, Ester Zbarowska, Feygl Zbarowska, Zigas and Szajnwald.

They spent seven months in the jail. A number of them were freed. Opatowski, Lewensztajn, Zilbersztajn, Zlatnik and Zigas were accused of “state treason, according to article 102 of the Russian Codex.” Others were accused under article 126 of agitating against the government. With the help of Lawyer Wuczinski from Piotrkow, all of the testimony was [thrown out] and the trial was annulled.

A trial took place again in 1927 and W. Zlatnik, Ester Zbarowska and Ruczka Rozenfeld were sentenced to 4 years in prison. Tenenberg and several others in the area received two years in prison.

In 1928, in the county court in Piotrkow, Laya Szwierczewska of Krzepice and a group of communists were sentenced. She succeeded in escaping when she was being taken to a dentist to heal a tooth and she became one of the leading people in the communist organization in Berlin.

Later, Wolf Zlatnik resumed his political activity and became the director of the Bank Kupiecki [Merchant Bank] in Krakow.

The students Perec, Bem and Pruszicki, also were among those who were sentenced for taking part in the communist movement. It is characteristic that their parents belonged to various political movements in 1905. A. Perec was a Bundist, Bronya Bem was an S.S. [Zionist Socialists] member and Pruszicki, a brother-in-law of Adolf Bril, was considered a Social Democrat sympathizer.

Leaszka Kachman, Krimolowski and Elek Lewensztajn were sentenced a second time to four years in prison in 1928.

During the same year in Lodz, Dovid Richter also was sentenced to four years in prison. Previously, he had been arrested often and was tortured.

In 1935, Yitzhak Tenenberg was sentenced to four years in prison. Ruczka Rozenfeld was sentenced in 1937 to four years of serious imprisonment in Warsaw.

Laya Tenenberg, a nurse, was sentenced with a group of arrestees in Warsaw to eight years in prison for activity in the military division of the communist party.

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Two Czenstochow provocateurs, Moshe Szuchter and Herszlikowicz, were shot as a result of a sentence from the communist party. Because of Herszlikowicz, many communist activists were arrested all over Poland.

Our party in Czenstochow also suffered from police terror and persecutions, although not in as great a measure as the communists.

In 1920 the entire Bund committee was arrested. Among the arrestees were Yosef Aronowicz, Bundist city councilman at the Czenstochow city council, Yosef Izraelowicz, Zalman Tenenberg (perished at Auschwitz), Mendl Braun, Grinbaum, Czanszinski and Chaim Dovid Wolhendler. The arrestees were held at the Dombier prison camp, the first concentration camp for political arrestees. There is more precise information about this arrest in the article, “General Jewish Workers Bund,” by Sh. Herc.

In 1920, the Fareinikte [United] club at Aleje 43 was liquidated through a decree by the Czenstochow starosta [senior official]. In connection with this, the Czenstochow city hall requisitioned the hall of the club and gave it to the police who installed their branch there. Later, the same hall was transferred to Christian officials as a private residence. The halls of many groups of professional unions located at the club also were requisitioned. The two Polish Endekes [“Endecja” – “Narodowa Demokraczja” – anti-Semitic, Polish Nationalist Democratic Party] newspapers in Czenstochow agitated for a long time against the Fareinikte club, saying it was a communist nest in the very center of the city. Denouncers went to the government in Warsaw and, at the order of the government, the club was liquidated and the hall was requisitioned.

The trial of Rafal Federman, who was accused in court by starosta Griboszinski of insulting him as a state official, took place the same year. The quarrel between the starosta and R. Federman took place because of the ban on giving a speech in Yiddish. R. Federman argued that the ban was against the constitution, which protected the rights of national minorities. From that time on, the edict about Yiddish was annulled in Czenstochow. As revenge, the starosta accused Federman in court.

The lawyer, Mieczysław Kaniarski, defended the accused. R. Federman was sentenced to three months in prison. However, a general amnesty freed him from the sentence.

In 1923, during the election to the Sejm, the police and the National Defense carried out a police raid at all institutions and offices of the Independent Socialist Workers Party, which had presented Dr. Josef Kruk as its candidate for the Sejm. In connection with this, house searches took place of the private residences of all of the people who were on the party's candidate list. Many party documents and private writings were taken during the searches.

On the 5th of October 1926, the trial took place of the editor of the Czenstochower Dos Neie Wort [The New Word], A. Chrabalowski, for an article published in 1923 entitled “The Quiet Murder,” which protested against closing the Bundist society, Our Children and the dozens of schools administered by the society. The court consisted of the judges: Walaszinski, chairman; Kamienbrodski and Keler. Lawyer Mencznicki defended the accused. Dr. Moric Grinbaum, Dr. Josef Kruk and Josef Stanisz appeared as witnesses called by the accused. The trial lasted all-day and ended with the release of the accused.

On the 19th of November 1926, the trial took place of Dr. Josef Kruk who was accused of treason against the state for his appearance at a mass meeting in Czenstochow that the foreign minister of the Soviet Union, [Georgy] Chicherin, held in honor of the prime minister of Poland, [Aleksander] Skrzyński, where in a toast he [Kruk] referred to “kochajmy się” (Let us love each other), and called on the Polish workers to follow the example from above.

The main witness against the accused was Commissar Kulinski (a former worker from Rakow). The witnesses for the accused were Dudek Szlesinger, chairman of the meeting, and Bialek and Antony Domanski. The defender was the lawyer Botner from Warsaw.

Dr. Josek Kruk was sentenced to a year and a half in prison. He was held in the Czenstochow and Piotrkow prisons for a long time.

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Later, he was freed by the court of appeals in Warsaw.

A great deal has been written in the country and abroad about the sadism and torturing of the political arrestees in Poland. In a letter from the Czenstochow political arrestees to their friends in America, dated the 6th of April 1929, we read:

“We, Czenstochow political arrestees, finding ourselves behind the bars of Polish prisons for many years, being by chance (now) in the Czenstochow prison, turn to you. Comrades, with a call that you come to help us in our situation.

“For our fight in the ranks of the revolutionary proletariat, for our devotion to the ideals of the working class, for our devotion to the cause of the worker and peasant state, for our striving for a better and brighter morning, for our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters whom we cannot nonchalantly observe living in need and fear for the insecure morning, for this, we have declared a fight [against] our local clerical-nationalistic rulers, because we will be free people in a freer system – the executioner and blood-thirsty fascism has thrown us in Polish jails for many years, wanting to crush in us the will to fight, to suppress the revolutionary idea.

“You have certainly heard how we 'live' here. It is difficult to describe what we go through here daily. We suffer from hunger, need and cold. The prison regime feeds us with spoiled, frozen potatoes, smelly, filthy soup and dark, muddy 'bread.' It nauseates us when we take it in our mouths. Our relatives have no way to help us because many of us were their only providers. Hunger tortures us so much that we faint and during the long winter nights we toss on the plank beds not able to sleep because of hunger.

“There are comrades here among us who have found themselves in prison several times and struggle with their remaining strength.

“Therefore, it is no wonder that many of us suffer from tuberculosis. We have no medical help, except iodine and … powders.

“The prison regime, which is composed of inhuman creatures, observe that hunger does not break us, so they turn to every means to suppress us physically and spiritually. We have fought daily with the jailers and various prison dignitaries and high officials. We are thrown into dark cells for the smallest rebellion.

 


Signatures of the Polish arrestees on a letter sent in secret from the prison

 

“This all makes our life unbearable. At every step and stride we have had to defend the honor of the revolutionary and class-conscious proletariat.

“However, we can affirm to you with pride that no persecutions, cruelties or suffering weakens our will to fight for the cause, which is the purpose of our lives. No prison, no dungeons, no legal penalties will suppress the fighting spirit in us. We use the time that we spend here to increase our knowledge so that we are able, when we leave prison, to again stand in the ranks from which we were torn away.”


Translator's Footnote

  1. Marcin Kasprzak was a Polish Socialist and a member of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania Party. He was executed for participating in resistance against the Russian rulers of Poland. Return


[Page 157]

Jewish Fighters on the Fields of Spain

(Dedicated to the illustrious memorial of the Czenstochow heroes:
Adam Dawidowicz, Heniek Guterman, Leon Inzelsztajn and Godet)

  “… If I had the strength
I would have taught the stones
To block the road of tyranny…”
(Lord Byron)

The Civil War in Spain was the laboratory of world fascisim, where Hitler with the aid of his partners, Mussolini and Francisco Franco, prepared the world slaughter of 1939-1945.

The bloody attack of the hangman did not come suddenly.

The European people from a series of nations bravely and stubbornly stood against the fascist dictators. For example, against [Pierre] Laval in France, against [Józef] Pilsudski in Poland, against Prince Starhemberg in Austria, against the Spanish Falangists [Alejandro] Lerroux and Antonio Maura, against the Belgian, Swedish and Finnish fascists…

It began with uprisings in 1934: the days in February in Vienna, Graz and Linz, the uprising of the masses under the slogan of the Einheitsfront [United Front]. As always, the bourgeoisie helped the fascists strangle the uprising and hanged the leader from Graz, Koloman Wallisch [and] the leader from Linz, Reichelberger. The enraged French workers and the progressive members of the intelligentsia with battles in the streets of Paris, Marseilles and Lille answered the provocations of the “crosses of fire” of Dario [Fo] and [Léon] Degrelle and signed their victory over fascism with their blood. The 400 great capitalist French families, led by Petain, threatened to turn the people over to Hitler.

In Spain, the land of great poverty and of the great luxury of feudalism in which the 13 richest families possessed 67 percent of the entire Spanish soil, the government of the “Popular Front,” which at the time came out with the slogans popular for hundreds of years of land reform for the landless peasants and land workers, of labor legislation and a minimum wage for the municipal workers and artisans, for social support and public education, won [the election] in February 1936.

The spring for the Spanish people began: schools, hospitals for the poor, the division of aristocratic land under the direction of the Agricultural Minister, Vincente Urime [Uribe is the correct surname], medical care for children and mothers – this all was like a dream come true for the enslaved, starving Spanish people, over whom the Catholic Church has ruled for hundreds of years, the hated Guardia Civil [civil guard] (the police) and the brutal exploiters – the grandees and marquises of the Spanish court, such as: Marquis de Espinos, Prince Oliva and the like.

On a warm day, in the summer of 1936, the 18th of July, the Workers' Olympiad, the proletariat sports competition, to which hundreds of foreigners were invited

 


Jewish fighters on the fields of Spain
[a Czenstochower is marked with an X]

 

was supposed to begin in Barcelona. Among them also came a group of Jewish children from working Paris, children from our cultural institutions in France. Everything was prepared so that the Olympiad would be transformed into a holiday of international sports competition for the working masses in the progressive countries in Europe, as a means of opposition against the Nazi Olympiad, which workers did not attend. But instead of songs and a march with flags through the “Avenida Catalunya,” at seven o'clock in the morning shots came from the barracks of the Spanish Army whose officers in Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona and Malaga gave

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the signal to rise up against the new democratic government of the Popular Front.

This was on the 18th of July 1936.

A date that will remain in our memory forever, because it also signified the end of a new revival in Spain for thousands of Jews who had come to Spain at the call of Spanish Foreign Minister de los Rios[1]. These were the great grandchildren of Sephardic Jews from Turkey, Greece, Macedonia and Eretz Yisroel, who had been driven out during the Inquisition as well as the new immigrant Jews from Poland, Germany, Austria and France whom anti-Semitism had driven in search of new homes and whom the Spanish Popular Front government had widely and sincerely welcomed to Spain after 1936.

The date was the chasm that opened years later for the millions of Jews of east and west Europe when Hitler, with the quiet agreement of the great democracies, enslaved Spain and began to burn the nations south and east of Spain.

We will not forget the date because of the thousands of Jewish fighters from all over the world covered in glory and we will recognize the Jewish names because they covered with their blood the old Spanish homeland from which the brutal feudal Catholic Church drove their great grandfathers and grandmothers 600 years before.

This fact explains that in February 1936, when the Popular Front government won, Jews began to return to Spain…from Tarnopol and Tel Aviv, from Berlin and Rome, from Athens and Lodz, from Constantinople and Trieste.

And when, at dawn, the shot from the barracks was heard in Barcelona and Madrid, the Jewish gymnasts, sportsmen and teachers who were heading for the French border, turned around – to fight against the officers of the Francoists and the officers of the Franco clique, against officers of the richest Spanish families. At the same time, soldiers did not take part in the uprising in the three largest cities in Spain; they were against Franco, for freedom, for land, for bread, for the Spanish people.

Spain was the center of the world's attention. A bloc of states was organized that consciously and consistently helped Franco with all of their terrible means of power: weapons, money, propaganda and legions of aid…

It clearly came to expression in France, Spain's bordering nation and the only country whose masses proclaimed without preconditions support for the Loyalists in Spain. From there, from the small border town of Serber between France and Spain, small lines of people, who came from 28 nations, began going across the rocks, the boulders of the Pyrenees Mountains at night to help the people of Spain in their heroic struggle against Franco. They walked with enthusiasm and self-sacrifice, young and middle aged, not speaking a work of Spanish, people from all professions, education and religions, with only one wish: not to let Franco and world fascism defeat the people of Spain because behind the people of Spain stood the families of people from all of Europe and with beating hearts they thought about the path of their own fascists at home.

They went against cannons, machine guns, against Nazi airplanes that spread death and ruin. Not having any military training themselves, the majority had been in fascist jails and concentration camps at home for many years.

Serber, the border town, saw thousands of young men and women who entered Spain and placed themselves under the jurisdiction of the Loyalists, forming the famous and glorious “International Brigades.” There were five “International Brigades” on the battlefields of Spain: the 11th Thalmann Brigade, the 12th Garibaldi Brigade, the 13th Polish Brigade named after Jaroslaw Dabrowski, the 14th French La Marseillaise Brigade and the 15th Abraham Lincoln Brigade – the Americans.

In 1937, while the Polish 13th Brigade fought on the front at Aragon, the Jewish workers and artisans from Polish cities and shtetlekh [towns], from the emigrants in Paris, Brussels and Antwerp, from Holland and Czechoslavakia, from Austria and Eretz Yisroel organized a Jewish unit based on the decision of the headquarters of the 45th Division, where the commandant was the Polish General Walter, today's hero of the fight for Warsaw and Silesia in the Soviet- equipped and armed Kosciuszko division that marched through Poland with the Red Army

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on the victory march to Berlin. The Jewish company in the Palafox Battalion was grouped under the name of the Jewish worker Naftali Botwin who was shot in Lemberg in 1929]…[2]

The company was named in honor of Botwin, the martyred hero who shot the Polish spy and traitor [Josef] Cechnowski. In the trenches of Aragon, the historically first Jewish fighting unit in Spain was organized by dim light, face to face with the enemy, which was only about 30 feet from the Polish fighters. The company had its own commander and a battlefront journal, Botwin, which would appear every month in the Yiddish language.

For the first time in 500 years, Yiddish sentences were sent from Paris to be printed in Albacete, not far from the old university city of Murcia [in Spain], where the anti-Jewish laws of the Spanish monarch were once printed – a Jewish newspaper, Der Freiheit Kemfer [The Freedom Fighter].

Hundreds of young and middle-aged fighters passed before my eyes and before my heart. My arrival in Madrid as a member of the Anti-fascist Writers Congress in June 1937 was fascinating as an episode that no director of a modern film could stage.

Riding on the largest and widest street in Madrid, Avenida Prado, the column of automobiles with the participants of the Congress (we traveled from Barcelona and from Valencia to Madrid in a total of 84 vehicles) stopped on a side [of the road] to meet with the representatives of General [José] Miaja, the commandant of Madrid and of the Madrid Front. A young, excited blond solider ran along the column and held a Neye Prese [New Press], a Yiddish newspaper from Paris in his hand. He waved the newspaper like a flag, waiting until the members of the writers' congress would declare themselves as Jews and would stop him…I actually did this and the young soldier's joy was indescribable…He knew that the congress was supposed to open in the evening; he had taken a furlough from the front, which, as has already been said, was 20 minutes by tramway from the center of the city, and had gone to look for a Jewish writer. When I asked his name and told him mine, he became even redder, blushing more…”Gina Medem! My comrades from Feunte Franseze [French Source] will not believe me that I have seen you…” Therefore, I wrote my name and the date on the same newspaper as a joke.

We came to an agreement that at the congress in the morning several of his friends from his battalion would come to the official greetings from the writers to the Congress. He then told me how to say his name: Feldman – then I started the car and he left, running, as he had come, and waving the newspaper. I did not see him again because, on the same evening, the fascists set off one of their explosions under the house where they had dug a tunnel to our lines and he was injured along with a group of Spaniards…

Several Polish-Jewish Front fighters came on another day to greet us: Sewik, Yosek Mazel and Benyamin Lipszic, known under the name Barcelo Lorento, a member of the Bundist youth organization Tsukunft [future] in Warsaw who came to fight in Spain.

Yosek Mazel (Sulinski) born in Russia and educated in Warsaw, was later an editorial member of the Polish Brigade weekly Dąbrowszczak. He was the inspiration and the most unaffected, tireless archivist who helped me in the publication of my book in Madrid: Yidn – Freiheit-Kempfer [Jews – Freedom Fighters]. He gave me unlimited interesting details and dates about the 13th Brigade where he later organized the Naftali Botwin Company. With pride he related the fact that our Gershon Szur and Captain Elbaum, the first commandant of the Botwin [Brigade], fought the Spaniards, [along with] Greeks and Jews from many nations, [including] Matias Kac from Hungary, Yona Brodski from Eretz-Yisroel, Efroim Wauzek, Shlomole Feldman, Rotenberg and more and more.

*

Polish Jews were represented in the Spanish battalions in the largest number because the greatest percent of the emigrants would come from Poland, the first fascist country, with an outspoken fascist Sanacja [Pilsudski's political movement, whose slogan was “moral cleansing” - sanitation] government in Eastern Europe.

It is not important that every young Polish man came from Paris, Brussels, Argentina, Eretz-Yisroel or Austria; their motherland was Poland. The very first Jew who fell at the gates of Madrid, immediately after his arrival in Spain and a few hours after being on the battlefield, was Albert Nakhomi Wajz, a young

[Page 160]

fighter from Poland, a resident of Eretz-Yisroel. His memorial was dedicated in Jewish Paris, which in 1937 organized a historic museum of documents from the Spanish people's fight in the name of the first hero, Albert Nakhomi Wajz. Right afterwards, the Jewish fighter, Landau, fell, then Kirszenbaum and Natan Czak, the author of the battle hymn of the Dąbrowszczak Brigade that was sung by all of the anti-fascist Poles and the fighters on the [battle]field.

It is difficult to write about the glorious lives and struggle of the Spanish people and not mention the glorious, unassuming and heroic figure of Bobrush Nussbaum, the working child of Warsaw, whose older brother was murdered at age 20 by the Warsaw “Defensive” in 1934 during a metal workers strike in Warsaw, and who, at age 16, was the only support and provider of food for his mother and five younger children. He threw himself into the fight against fascism in Poland with all his young fervor and immediately was thrown into the Polish fascist murder pit of Kartuz-Bereza, the concentration camp that did not have to feel shame when compared to Dachau, Belzec and the later Majdanek… Kartuz-Bereza, where people became crippled overnight by murderous blows with rubber clubs, became tubercular from sleeping naked on asphalt in winter, where young men left with white hair after the Inquisition-like investigations of [Colonel Waclaw] Kostek-Biernacki and [Tadeusz] Wojciechowski…

And Bobrush Nussbaum bore everything, counting the days until his departure and studying a map of Spain copied from memory from his meager months in school as a child by a weak, flickering lamp and hidden from the prison guards under the lice-covered straw mattress. Bobrush prepared for his legendary journey to Spain where he dreamed of taking revenge for all of the blows, all of the persecutions of his mother at the prison walls by the gendarmes and for the death of his beloved brother…

His trip, without papers, without money and without knowledge of a foreign language, of the five countries of which he had to sneak across the border: Czechoslovakia, Austria, Switzerland and France, in addition to the Polish and Spanish borders, rings like a legend: arrests, hunger, sleeping on benches in Prater Park in Vienna, going on “a leg of the journey” from one jail to another until the Jewish community in Geneva gave him clothing and a little bit of money and he arrived in Paris. Here he was fortunate: he left for Spain… After a short education in Albacete, the site of the instruction courses for the International Brigades, Bobrush went to the Polish Palafox Company at the front at Huesca where he took part in the battle of Zaragoza.

The battalion went first. They drove out the fascists. Bobrush was in a machine-gun group. His only love was his “Maxim,” the heavy machine-gun. He cleaned and oiled it like a beloved toy; he sent out piles of bullets to the fascist murderers; for the brothers in Kartusz-Bereza, for the murder of Naftali Botwin, for the gallows of Cáceres where General [Antonio] Aranda machine-gunned 1,800 Spanish workers for their refusal to fight against the Republic.

The battalion left for the distant fascist hinterland. They went ahead for three days. The Moroccan cavalry surrounded the battalion – the group was too far away and had no cover from the artillery – it was a heroic advance-march, but they were alone. The order was given to retreat to their own lines. And Bobrush and a small group of machine gunners covered the path of the battalion back to the Loyalist lines. They were so close to the city of Zaragoza that the lights of the city could be seen. Mowing down the Moroccans, Bobrush sang Dambrowski's Hymn, “We shall return; not one of us will be missing.” The battalion broke through. The group of machine gunners grew smaller; only Bobrush remained. And here, in Villamayor de Gallego, sending out the last ribbon of bullets, Bobrush, with a song on his lips, was felled by a fascist bullet from a sniper not far from the first line of our trenches…

Bobrush, the child from Żelazna Street, the young, strong-as-iron martyr of the Polish prisons, his mother's beloved son, the defender of the Spanish people and its best defender, the best shot in “Worinski,” his company, the founder of the battlefront newspaper Adelante (Forward) was no more.

*

Every city in Poland left a son under an old olive tree or in the vineyard: both a Pole and a Jew. Names that were

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legendary, names of pioneers in the fight against Hitler and against Hitlerism, names that will be sanctified for as long as even one progressive person remains in the world, because they were our first teachers on the battlefield, who did not separate a word from a fact, a slogan from an action, because they were the inspiration for the Waldbrüder [forest brothers – partisans] who fought four years later, in 1941-1944, on the roads of Kielce, Lublin, Czenstochow, Warsaw, Tarnow, Lemberg and Lodz against the same Hitler and Franco, who could not take Madrid with the weapons they had in hand.

Every city in Poland had a dear name on the cemetery in the area of Madrid. There is a special cemetery for the International Brigades and it is a passionate, but proud accident that we read the first name on the first grave: Izzy Kupczik, Brooklyn, New York… and Kupczik is a lucky one; he died in a hospital among witnesses, a nurse held his hand, a doctor gave him medicine and did not betray with a look that [Kupczik's] death was near.

But [for] Albert Nakhomi Wajc, the Polish Palestine emigrant Jungkraut and Moshe Landau and Chaim Elkan and Warszawski and the Czenstochow hero, Captain Adam Dawidowicz and his landsman [person from the same town], the very talented soldier and painter, the child of workers, Heniek Guterman?

Where is their last rest? Under which tree, under which pile of ruins do their exploded bodies lie? The sanitary groups had to dig feverishly, laying Flaczik like a worm, to bring the dying hero to our lines to protect him against the defilers on the side of the wild Moroccans.

*

My first meeting with Heniek Guterman took place in Madrid at the editorial offices of Dąbrowszczak. I saw a young, very pale soldier on whom the uniform lay wide and crumpled, not sewn for him. He noticed my gaze and said with a smile, “I am not elegant, I know; the responsibility falls on the Polish judicial system.” He had the fine, ashamed smile of a person who rarely smiled. However, then his small face with gray-blue eyes and thin nose suddenly would become young and handsome. It usually was worried and old. It was autumn, 1937, after the battles in Kichorna and Brunete, when the wounded returned to the front and new groups voluntarily arrived from Figeroa near the French border.

I learned from Yusek Mazel, the editor of Dąbrowszczak that Heniek Guterman had just spent four years in the Kielce jail, that he was 26 years old and that he had great talent: a sculptor and illustrator. I understood why he always sat in the coldest, darkest corner of the large hall, where five national groups worked at five journals. He was so extremely modest that he did not permit anyone to look at his work. He had just come from the front for a few weeks of rest because he had lost weight and his commandant, Zigmund Moliec, had sent him to Madrid to work on a magnificent marble figure, which represented the struggle and the death of the first Polish commandant of the

 


Heniek Guterman
(a self-portrait)

 

Polish battalion, Mickiewicz, a coal miner from France, born in Sosnowiec, named Antonio Kochanek. He fell near Madrid, defending the famous Casa Blanco, The White House that the fascists set on fire and where the heroic Leon Inzelsztajn, a Czenstochow shoe-worker also fell.

As Heniek Guterman kept coughing, we, the Polish group, got together at an hour when the fascists were not bombing the city and went to look for a small electric oven to warm the room.

This did not help Heniek. He argued that, “Man must harden himself, only with you in America is there such dissoluteness that you must have steam and central heating. We are front soldiers – and Madrid is the front.”

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However, the Italians, the Americans and the French editorial staffs fervidly supported the Yiddish project – and we went to search for an oven. A crafty 14-year-old Spanish boy, Mario, sniffed out as if from the earth a hidden small oven in a half-empty shop. The merchant did not want to sell it to us on the pretext that he only had things for the front. However, Mario told him that when the front was heated by electric ovens Franco could, God forbid, enter Madrid. We bought the oven for 180 pesos and laughter reigned in the large hall of the commandant of the brigades when the oven on a very long cord went from one editorial table to the next. The only one who did not warm himself was Heniek Guterman…

The young man was one of rare consistency. When he said something it was a law for him and his neighbor. When he finished the sculpture and sent it to France, as a means of gathering aid for the Army in Spain, Heniek was given a second mission: to illustrate the Polish brochure, written for the Third Brigade for the mothers and sisters in Poland that was called, Di Biks un Dos Harts [The Gun and the Heart]. Heniek asked me to find for him to draw [various] types of people among our Spanish and Polish nurses and employees of the childrens' homes. We would sit in the kitchen of the commandant in the evening where it was warm because we had coal from Asturias and while the women either knitted or sewed or prepared packages for the front, I spoke to them and asked them to pose for Heniek. When he needed male types, we would go through the streets of dark, clouded-over Madrid in the evening with a salvaconducto [safe passage document], permission from headquarters, and enter a small bodega [cellar] where we would sit with a small glass of wine with old militiamen (luftschutz [air protection]) waiting for an alarm. Heniek would quietly and seriously sit down at the table, ask me to carry on a conversation with the residents of Madrid (He only knew one word in Spanish: “Fuego al enemigo!” [Fire on the enemy!]) and not look to his side. The old bakers and carpenters from the suburb immediately grasped [what he wanted] and wanted to take him to the commandant: “Why are you drawing our faces: who ordered this?”

However, [with] the military [identification] card with General Mejacho's name, a few declarations and the “hermano foloko” [brother folk], the Polish brother continued to draw. I saved the album when leaving Catalonia and I found another small picture in it that he had drawn of me when he needed to illustrate a woman who was writing a letter to her son in Spain. Heniek Guterman only once spoke about himself when he again left for the front in the direction of Lérida, after the breakthrough of the fascists at the ocean in 1938.

He lost his parents very early. His family members each took a child. Thus, Heniek was raised by his uncle, his brother by another uncle and his sisters by an aunt. The children were torn apart and Heniek became lonely early on. He studied at the Czenstochow ezkola powszechna [elementary school]. At 14 he became a tailor's apprentice in Czenstochow, first with an uncle and then he left to work in Warsaw. There, the real school of life opened for him. He became acquainted with young, Polish professional workers and he attended evening courses to learn the language and history of Poland, as well as other subjects that the four years of elementary school could not give him. He went on the road of a class-conscious worker, took part in organizing widespread anti-fascist work among Polish and Jewish workers in Warsaw and returned to Czenstochow as a mature, capable young man with a desire to fight for a free Poland and with the dream of developing his artistic abilities in the area of sculpture. However, he was arrested in Czenstochow in connection with the wave of protests against the bloody oppression of the peasant strike in Poland. His arrest brought a sentence of four years in prison.

He used the four years to educate himself even more, as far as possible within the framework of a Polish prison, the location of the same bloody attacks as the murdering of political prisoners during a hunger strike, as Heniek related the tragic events in the Kielce prison, when after serving four years, he came to see his relatives and immediately left for Spain.

A restrained, but tenacious and courageous fighter, he voluntarily reported to an intelligence group at night, during the battle for the city of Lérida [Lleida].

He left his trench in the morning – and never returned. No trace was found

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of him when they went to search for him. The thought was that the fascists caught him at his task and tortured him to death because Heniek would have let himself by hacked to pieces and would not have talked…

His smile and the gleam in his eye remain with me. When I asked him to create the title page for my Spanish book about the Jewish fighters, he drew his own face in big grotesque, bold lines. His steel helmet was clasped tenderly to his gun… and both were symbols of his militant worker's nature…

Heniek Guterman! We will search for your grave in free Spain, which we will once again help liberate. This we promise you today, in Autumn 1945, when the dead in Spain cannot sleep…while a new war rages in Asia against a colonial people.

Heniek Guterman only spoke about his family once: his sister was somewhere

 


Leon Inzelsztajn

 

in Czenstochow and his brother, whom I met in Amsterdam in 1939 and told him about his quiet, strong brother. And he said to me: “When he was still a child, Heniek showed his strength. He never complained about anything. He wanted to study, more than anything, and he never asked for anything.”

His personal life was short, too, cut off. Prison had separated him from his dearest [woman] friend: both of them had to pay with their best years for wanting a free Poland and their short encounter in Spain was cut short by death.

Leon Inzelsztajn was a worker from Czenstochow, a shoemaker by trade. He left for Belgium in about 1934, when the Polish “defensive” chased after him, because he was known as an organizer of the shoemaker trade.[3] He was among the group of “French-Belgian” volunteers who came to Spain. He was assigned to a machine-gun company of the Dabrowski Battalion. As a politically responsible volunteer, with great courage and discipline, he always was there where the danger was the greatest, where the young, inexperienced, volunteers face to face with the murderous fire of the enemy, could have fallen in panic – then his brave, high voice would be heard and his machine gun would mow the ranks of the attacking fascists. Thus, when his company was surrounded on all sides, he alone with his machine gun created a path for his comrades and made it possible for them to return to an olive tree grove.

“The White House, the Casa de Campo,” became the victim of the beast. The most dedicated volunteers of the International Brigades felt with every nerve that the entire world

 


Leon Inzelsztajn examining an enemy grenade

 

was looking at them. As the short, feverous news in the Spanish newspapers aroused a storm of enthusiasm among the people, that their actions, their heroism, their deaths would feed the cause of the Spanish people and it would protect against defeat…
The enemy moved to the “White House,” a stronghold of the Loyalists, which could not be taken. The Moroccans threw grenades into the house and it was ignited. A group of French-Polish volunteers was inside, among them Leon Inzelsztajn. It was fated to be his tragedy to be in this very fire…

When the top floors were barricaded and the house was in flames, several people tried to jump out of the windows – into the arms of the Moroccans, who were already sure of victory over the hated Rocos – as they called the Republicans. However, Leon did not lose himself. He proposed that he

[Page 164]

go onto a gutter of the roof: four jumped down easily to the ground, as they slid down on the gutter. Leon's plan succeeded. He also came down. Two groups went to search for their battalion in two directions. The Moroccans shot after them! Two of the four fell: Leon Inzelsztajn was the second one!

A daring heart was released from suffering. The blood-soaked ground of Madrid swallowed the young man from Czenstochow…

*

He was a captain on the battlefield of Spain. His name? Adam Dawidowicz. His profession? A painter [artist]. He spoke very little about himself. We only knew that he came to Spain, interrupting his studies in painting, which he went through in Paris, later in Brussels.

At the beginning, Adam Dawidowicz was in the “General [Walery Antoni] Wroblewski” company, named in honor of the hero of the Paris Commune in 1871. Then the company became the Jaroslaw Dabrowski Battalion, named in memory of the Polish fighter against Tsarism and against the Prussians at the barricades of the “Paris Commune.” He was a rigorous disciplinarian and systematic soldier, who immediately began to move forward during the first battles at the Madrid front, in the Jarama mountains, where he rose in the ranks from a soldier to be a teniente (lieutenant) and, later, a captain. At the headquarters of the division, the commandant was Walter (Karol Swierczewski, a Polish general, the leader of the Kosciuszko Brigade near Warsaw in 1942, with the Soviet Army), who took an interest in the young fighter-artist. He [Dawidowicz] moved ahead on the front of Huesca, where he led a machine-gun battalion. This was one of the most difficult and bloodiest battles for the road to Zaragosa and several assaults were repelled by the fascists, who had a tremendous preponderance of material and men. The battalion lost a great number of experienced veterans, trained fighters from the winter victory at Guadalajara The battle near Huesca was sung about by the Jewish worker poet and soldier from the Warsaw front, Olek Nuss [Hershl Orzech], who developed a talent for poetry at the front. He became the author of the best fighting songs of the 13th Polish Brigade.

Captain Adam Dawidowicz met an enemy bullet and fell on the 20th of June 1937, covering the retreat of the battalion with his machine gun, going last in the ranks of the rearguard.

At his grave, the battalion swore to take revenge for its most beloved commander and later distinguished itself gloriously at the battles of Quijorna, Belchite and Brunete – another heart stopped beating, the modest, proud and courageous heart of a Jew, a patriot of the tradition of freedom, of an artist, of a child of Czenstochow.

A few months later, a second Czenstochow fighter, also an artist, Alfred Nadet, fell at the battle for Tajuńa.

He also was in the machine-gun division and annihilated fascist nests sitting in the rocky lairs of Morata de Tajuńa. At the last ribbon-cartridge, when he was crawling near a machine gun of a dead comrade, a sniper-bullet hit him. A few days later, a “łącznikowi” [liaison], a liaison-soldier, brought a simple soldier's rucksack to the editorial room of the Polish newspaper: a few letters from those closest to him, a toothbrush, several photographs and a booklet with front-essays – a sign that the position was held by us and that the body had been brought to us to bury [behind] our lines.

*

Among the few documents that were successfully saved from the archives of the aid committee for Spanish fighters in the French concentration camps in 1940, when Paris already was occupied, I found a list of Jewish and Polish names from Camp Vernet in southern France. The following fighters from Czenstochow there were:

 


A group of Czenstochowers in the Republican Army during the Civil War in Spain

 

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Rozental Moric Born the 21st of May 1910. Mechanic.
Bronitowski Mieczysław Born the 9th of April 1912. Student.
Lubczik Aloizi. Born the 9th of September 1909. Metalist.
Rozen Wiktor. Born the 15th of June 1903. Artisan.
Kuper Shmuel. Born the 17th of October 1917. Tailor.
Wajman Yakov. Born the 24th of January 1910. Tailor.
This is only from one concentration camp, in 1940, when I was still in France and while we still had contact with the camps and could support them with the help of the French people and of the Botwin Committee in New York and Paris (before Hitler captured Paris, it should be understood).

When the Nazis drew closer to the southwest of France, where the camps of the Spanish fighters were located (about a quarter of a million Spaniards from Catalonia left [Spain] in March 1939, among them army units that had protected the evacuation of the sick, the wounded and the archives and who had carried out the “withdrawal” combat against Franco's fascist armies), the fighters broke the gates and wire obstructions of their camps and left [to join] the underground, to the French partisans who carried on a stubborn fight against the Nazis up to the day when they united with the first American troop landings in the fortresses of the Atlantic.

Many of the Jewish fighters perished in the battles against the Nazis. Many were guillotined by the Petain regime for fighting against the Nazis. Among them we have the names of Y. Jungerman, Majerowicz, Bursztajn, Kutner and Zachariasz (the last two had been imprisoned in the Polish concentration camp in Kartuz-Bereza and were very sick when they came to France, not long before the outbreak of the war). Mendl Langer was guillotined in Toulouse on the 23rd of July 1943 – in the same city, eight fighters fell in the battle against fascism. Fell by death sentence…

One wants to hope that there will be success in finding the above-mentioned Czenstochow landsleit [people from the same town] who were still in Camp Vernet at the beginning of 1940 among the hundreds of surviving men and women, some in Algiers, Africa. Searching for them will be the task of the activists and friends of the large Czenstochow family, which is spread across America and takes such a generous and heartfelt part in creating aid for the already liberated community institutions in the home city. The tradition of the earlier work for the victims of Polish fascism that was expressed in Patronat: the aid through the former “People's Relief” and of the landsmanschaftn [organizations of people from the same town] has been revived again, in the largest Jewish tragedy of all times. With the united strength of world Jewry, it is coming back to life – we give our word!

The work of laying a foundation for the rebuilding of our lives must be done with unity. The remainder of Polish Jewry is waiting for this.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Bernardo Giner de los Rios was not the foreign minister. He served the Republican government as the Minister of Communications, Transport and Public Works in the cabinet. Return
  2. He actually was shot in 1925. Return
  3. The “defensive” consisted of a government-initiated boycott of Jewish businesses as a “defense” against Jewish “exploitation” of the Polish population. Return

 

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