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[Page 187]

Hashomer Hatzair[1] in Lutsk

by A. Efrat (Fiks), Kibbutz Ein HaShofet

Translated by Sara Mages


A. Efrat


As if through a fog pass before my eyes, the eyes of a 10-11 year old boy, the first processions of Jewish girls and boys in light-gray uniforms and long sticks in their hands, in the early1920s. Uri Gliklich, the son of the local “Rabiner[2],” was the commander of the ken[3], and I remember names like Kercman, Chukotka, Recepter, Lander and Konica, as leaders of groups in which my older sisters also participated.

To this day I cannot understand why the existence of the ken of Hashomer Hatzair was so short in those days, while in other cities in Wolyn, such as Rovno [Rivne], Kovel and Dubno, there was no break in its existence and its blessed activity among the youth, and it even controlled most of the strata of studying youth there. It is possible, that the reason for this was the absence of a Hebrew gymnasium, founded by Tarbut[4], which usually formed the solid basis for the activity of Hashomer Hatzair. It must also be assumed, that the first groups of instructors were not imbued with Zionist recognition and could not withstand the spirit of the times. In any case, this first phase in the existence of the ken of Hashomer Hatzair in our city ended with a general dispersal, without leaving any trace or sign of a connection with the national movement.


A group of scouts in Lutsk


On first meadows…

A few years later, two young men, with different temperaments and different outlooks on life, appeared from different parts of the city and miraculously managed, at a lightning speed, to motivate the widest youth circles to establish a ken of Hashomer Hatzair which, within a few months, reached about five hundred girls and boys.

It was in the spring of 1926, when around Wolleka, and on the meadows behind Friedman's flour mill, dozens of studying and working youth gathered and began to practice walking in rows to the rhythm of Hebrew songs. In those very days, such groups were organized in the suburbs of Krasne and around the Great Synagogue on “Fortress Street.” The two young men were Yakov Atlas (currently in Israel) and Zindel Aks (murdered in the Gestapo cellars). The first was a student at a gymnasium in Rovno, an educated young man with extensive knowledge of Hebrew culture and the theory of Zionism. The second, Zindel Aks from Krasne was a young man who studied and worked, from a family of laborers. He was involved with the youth of the suburbs, had an exemplary organizational talent and was known for his great fondness for polished uniforms, parades and outdoor performances.

Both did not stay long in Hashomer Hatzair, but their dedication was a valuable contribution to the organization of the ken and its assault on the youth. The influence of Atlas was great and important on the circles of studying youth, because, with his help, they knew how to stand up to a debate on the value of culture, manual labor, and defense against the slogans of the


A group of Hashomer Hatzair

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“saber-rattling” and “blood and fire” from the ranks of Betar[5] which was founded at that time. After all, Zindel Aks excelled in his strict adherence to scout customs, in organizing trips to Kivertsi and Torchyn forests, in an extensive organization of youth from the city suburbs, in impressing processions that attracted the youth to our ranks.


Listen man to the son's song…

In the absence of Tarbut gymnasium in our city, the joining of a small group of young people from the Jewish-Polish gymnasium, from the fifth and sixth classes, was a blessing for the ken of Hashomer Hatzair. They immediately constituted the team of battalion leaders and the organized groups in the movement. The younger strata, from the younger classes in the gymnasium, were organized by us. We also did not skip the Polish government gymnasium, we infiltrated the municipal elementary schools and had a broad base at the Tarbut elementary school.

It should be noted that since the first months we absorbed working youth and apprentices in shops. Over time, this fact gave us a blessed contact with HeHalutz[6] organization in the city, and we also stood the test in the struggle for the soul of these youth with the anti-Zionists in the youth of the Bund[7] and the Jewish communists.

A strong influence on the renewal of Hashomer Hatzair in Lutsk was probably due to the fact that, in those days, the national movement once again stormed every city and town in Poland, after the founding conference of the world movement in Danzig (1924), and after the news of the establishment of the first kibbutzim of the Shomer Hatzair in Eretz Israel.

Hashomer Hatzair was like a potion for the soul of the youth thirsty for a word of redemption. A sense of holiness shook the hearts, when the mighty lines of David Shimonovitz[8] were read at dusk on the river bank, at the foot of hills covered with greenery: “Don't listen son to your father's morals/ and don't listen to your mother's teachings/ because a father's morals are “line to line”…/and mother's teaching “little by little…”/ and a spring storm said yes/ listen man to the son's song.”


“Binyamin” group - Hashomer Hatzair


Summer camp of ken Hashomer Hatzair in Lutsk (1931)


And indeed, who among the people of Lutsk, living with us in our country or somewhere, will not remember the tremendous singing that surrounded the city and all its suburbs. From Novo-Stroynia to Krasne, from Dolyna to Hnidava - in every public park, on the bridges, on the banks of the Styr River, in Benny's sailing boats, and even on the main streets accompanied by trumpets and drums. This was the singing of Hashomer Hatzair.


Under the patronage of the schools

The affinity of the first team of instructors to the Jewish-Polish gymnasium, gave us the possibility to appear semi-legally as a scout movement affiliated with the gymnasium, and to carry out our activities under its patronage, even though most of the shomerim[9] attended other schools. In this group of instructors were: Nachman Steinman, Chana Katz and the writer of these lines (all three are in Kibbutz Ein HaShofet). Yisrael Katz (son of the veteran teacher Menis Katz - currently in Kibbutz Negba), Nachum Strahman, Genia Chalaf (daughter of the gymnasium's Hebrew teacher), Mindel Fuchs (currently in Kibbutz Degania), Bella Steinberg (currently in Kibbutz Dafna) and two of the older students, Rosenbaum and Roskis z”l.

In the first two years we even participated, with great splendor, in polished scout uniform, caps with a wide visor, and with decorative buttons and stars of all kinds - in demonstrations and processions of Poland and saluted the districts' governors. The shomerim in the surrounding kens envied us for our brilliant performances, and also mocked us a little for our devotion to the display and the external decorations because, even then, it was not so respectable in the scale of values of Hashomer Hatzair. But, in retrospect, every Jewish heart was full of emotion, and the applause shook the city squares when we marched, accompanied by the sounds of the military band, with blue and white flags and a Hebrew song in our mouth.

We did most of our work in the gymnasium yard and in the rooms of Tarbut school. But, with the passage of time, the negative attitude of the assimilated principal of the gymnasium increased, and even “Rabiner” Gliklich, that the gymnasium was under his supervision and in his name - took his patronage from us.

Our gymnasium, in which the language of instruction was Polish, had an assimilation tendency. The three Hebrew and Bible teachers, Chalaf, Pachenik, and Kagan (the latter

[Page 189]

already taught in a Sephardic pronunciation), will be remembered favorably. In the limited framework of a few hours per week, they made an effort to instill in us the first concepts of the Hebrew language and its literature.

I will not exaggerate if I mention that the affinity to national thought came to me, and to my few friends who, over time, strove for Zionism and found their way to one of the pioneering movements - precisely from the Polish patriotic literature (Mickiewicz, Słowacki, Wyspiański…), that we also knew to quote passages from it in our conversations. The rhyme, “Measureyour strength according to your ambitions, and not your ambition according to your strength” to Mickiewicz, was brought as a rousing slogan in our conversations about character, education and national heroism. I remember that I was once asked by the district's Polish inspector of high schools, before I went to the matriculation exam, about my future goal and, as an answer, I quoted Kochanowsky's rhyme about the love to the homeland, and interpreted it in my desire to immigrate to Eretz Yisrael. I was the only one in the department who dared to say that, and later I was denounced by the assimilated principal - as an arrogant and communist.


Education for values and the lifestyle of Hashomer Hatzair

As stated, the gymnasium management did not pamper us, and we were even forbidden to hold the scouting exercises at the gymnasium. Our activities were moved to the community yard on Sienkiewicza Street, next to the old cemetery, to Tarbut school and the suburbs. We came to the conclusion that we should rent clubs with the meager sum of the ken's membership, especially for the winter days. During the summer days, the activities were conducted on the banks of the Styr River, by swimming and sailing on its waters, in trips that became famous among the youth for their beautiful organization and their joyful experiences. These trips are engraved in the memory of our members as historical dates in the formation of the ken of Hashomer Hatzair, and by the power of their attraction to the youth who flocked to us from all areas of the city. Of course, the season opened with Lag BaOmer trips. They returned in the evening and passed through the streets of the city in impressive processions.

In the meantime, there were also changes in our educational activity. The instructors, at the beginning of their activity, lacked theoretical training and did not delve deeply into education questions, but they were swept away with passion to “Come on brother keep your head up, for justice and honesty it will rise above.” The young people sang publicly and with all the warmth of their youth: “Be ready shomer for honest action, there is a lot of pain and suffering in the world, for all that is sublime, noble and beautiful, be ready.” There was a mighty power in this singing. With Hasidic devotion we sang and were convinced by the beauty of the melody and the righteousness of the rhyme.

A social base of Hashomer Hatzair was formed in each of the city's suburbs. It gathered at the home of the older members of the ken, and in most cases the parents were also attracted to saying Amen, and became tolerant “unofficial” partners, or fans. In this manner the home of Nachman and Tama Shteinman in Krasne, the homes of Tanhum and Siyomka Shcherbaty (currently Tanhum Eitan in Kibbutz Negba) in the old city, the home of Nachum Strahman in Wolleka, the home of Yisrael Katz in Dolyna, the homes of Aharon and Yashke Fiks in the city center and in Wolleka, the home of the Chukotka sisters (today Guka Kurzmann) and their brother Shimon in Wolleka, the Altas home (Yakov, Tzvi and Ester are in Israel), and also the home of David, Chana and Yeshayahu Mendel (all of them in Israel) - have became places of concentration for the way of life of Hashomer Hatzair in all parts of the city.


The regional conference in1929 with the emissaries B. Lynand and M. Purmanski

[Page 190]

“El-Al” Company of Hashomer Hatzair


In these concentrations the ideological foundations of Hashomer Hatzair have already begun to take shape. They started somewhat late, compared to other kens in Wolyn, but out of identification, as if things hurt our feeling, and our desire, to know. We accepted the words of Meir Ya'ari[10]: “First and foremost, hands.” “Our ancestors dreamed enough, we want to educate a generation that is hard and strong, and not soft and delusional. Saws, axes, hoes - and first and foremost, hands…”

Those who came to the ken of Hashomer Hatzair to the light of the shiny uniforms, and the processions, slowly began to drop out. The ken has moved to the tracks of deepening ideas and the creation of the way of life of Hashomer Hatzair. We knew that without a fundamental change in character education, without a change in the depths of the soul, we will not know how to instill in the youth the foundations of social morality and Jewish mental stability that they will set them as an example at the schools, on the Jewish street and at home.

In addition to the stories about the shomer in Israel, his affinity for defence and work, in addition to the ten commandments [of Hashomer Hatzair] that were analyzed in comprehensive, and in-depth, lectures on the love of nature and work. About the shomer loyalty to his nation and his fight for a life of justice and brotherhood, Achiezer and Ahisamach[11], disciplined, courageous and honest - new topics appeared about personal fulfillment in a kibbutz, about the kibbutz in Israel, the labor movement and the work ethic of A. D. Gordon (that we studied with no less enthusiasm than that of the young members of Gordonia[12] who related to his teachings). These subjects gave rise to youthful agitation that was looking for a direction, and served as an outlet for the natural rebellion of boys in the tiny-bourgeois lifestyle of their parents and the society in the city.

How sad it is today to remember dozens of our members, from the Jewish and government gymnasium, who stayed with us for a short time in the movement and, over time, were carried away with the illusions of the Diaspora and accompanied us on our way with a smile of mockery for abandoning our studies and surrendered, so to speak, to hallucinations.


On the way to fulfillment…

And then came two issues that gave a real push for the aliyah[13] of Hashomer Hatzair graduates in Lutsk, and they are:

A. The participation in the district summer colonies. Here we met shomerim with more seniority in the movement from Rovno, Kovel and Dubne, and in a joint colony with members from Galicia who were considered, in those days, to be the most knowledgeable in Hashomer Hatzair doctrine.

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B. A visit on behalf of the main leadership (Yaakov Horowitz), who helped us to take the main road in the organization of the graduate stratum and, in addition to that, a very important and well-attended conference of the graduates of the Wolyn district with the participation of emissaries from the Israel: Buria Lenkowski (Baruch Lyn, today member of the Central Committee of the General Organization of Workers in Israel) and Moshe Purmanski (fell in Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek). The purpose of the conference was to establish two aliyah kibbutzim in Wolyn. The first was Wolhynia B - today Kibbutz Negba, that among its first settlers and founders from Lutsk were Yisrael and Shoshana Katz, Tanchum Eitan, David Mendel, Moshe Lyn (today all of them in Kibbutz Negba), Viyonia Marantz (Tel Aviv). The second is Kibbutz “Benir” in Częstochowa, that the first to leave for Hakhshara was Nachman Shteinman. After him: Aharon Fiks (Efrat), Chana Katz, Eliezer Schneider (currently all of them in Kibbutz Ein HaShofet), Nachum Strahman, Shmuel Gatz and Bruchin (Tel Aviv), Beila Hering and Tama Steinman came to the agricultural farm in Częstochowa.

The first connection formed between the ken in Lutsk, and its graduates in the Hakhshara[14] and in the kibbutzim, became a great ideological factor that had a welcome reciprocal influence. The ken became a respected factor in the Zionist public which was organized in HeHalutz and the Zionist institutions.

The departure of the graduates of Hashomer Hatzair from Lutsk, for fulfillment and Hakhshara kibbutzim, took place the day after the riots of 5689[15] and the cessation of aliyah. A wave of despair attacked the Zionist public and the pioneering youth. Those were the days when the wave of fascism swept over Poland. The graduates of the ken were among those who stormed every Hakhshara concentration, and on every possibility of getting a place for pioneers carrying a hammer, ax and saw. The onslaught on Kibbush haAvoda[16] spread in all directions. Not only in quarries, forests, and sawmills, but also in domestic services, chopping wood for heating, builders' assistants, apprentices in shops, tanneries and flour mills, and even light and heavy industry (in Częstochowa, Kielce and Radom). The kibbutzim became familiar and permanent places, islands of light, common life and an Israeli way of life in the dark days of Pilsudski's[17] Poland.


In the struggle with the Jewish public

With the departure of the ken's graduates for fulfillment, a younger group came forward for educational and public action (at the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael[18], HeHalutz, and


Graduates of Hashomer Hatzair in 1930
(fifteen of those in the picture immigrated to Israel)


the Working League for Eretz Israel). The second group, the “El-Al” Company, managed the ken almost to the days of the Holocaust. Today, some of them are in Kibbutz Ruhama: Yashke Fiks (Efrat), Zev (Wowchick) Strahman, Chana Mendel, Chana Hayat, Ester and Tzvi Atlas (Haifa and Tel Aviv), Eliezer Likver (Kibbutz Gal On), and some perished in the Holocaust (Yosef Appelbaum and Shemaya Goldberg z”l). Most were also among the founder of Hakhshara kibbutzim in Rovno, Berestechko, Bialystok and Novogrudok).


Yosef Appelbaum


It was a young leadership, full of youthful grace, that stood the test of time. The “intensification” activity passed like an electric current through all the kens of Hashomer Hatzair - over 300 kens Poland (without Galicia), and about thirty thousand shomerim. Its significance was the educational and social absorption efforts of thousands of youths, who, under the pressure of the economic-political crisis that passed over Poland, flocked in droves to pioneering youth movements.

Our movement, which has tradition and educational-conceptual experience, absorbed many and its public weight increased. The movement's graduates demanded an expansion of the fields of action and integration into the public life of the Jews of Lutsk, and even joined this action. The Hakhshara program gave an outlet to the pioneer energy that accumulated in the graduate stratum, but the fact that they stood before closed aliyah gates, meant that they had to return to activities in the ken even after several years of Hakhshara in a kibbutz.

HeHalutz, the Working League for Eretz Israel ,and also Keren Kayemet LeYisrael that most of its volunteers were members of Hashomer Hatzair, could not imagine to themselves any public activity in the place, without the vigilant and dynamic activity of the graduates of Hashomer Hatzair. Hashomer Hatzair choir, and the ken's balls, gathered a huge crowd of fans.

Each time I returned to visit Lutsk in the years 1931-36, whether on leave from my job in the Hakhshara , or in a visit on behalf of the movement's main leadership in which I was active, I met with a wide and heartwarming group of young people with a pioneering and Zionist drive, who placed the ken at the center of the Zionist and Jewish life in the place.

I was privileged to be elected as a delegate to the 19th Zionist Congress in Lucerne. On the way there I met Nachum Strahman at the Fourth World Convention of Hashomer Hatzair in Czechoslovakia. As then, so today, I see my privilege as the privilege of the graduates of the ken in Lutsk, for their loyal work in that fateful campaign that was fought for the place of pioneer Zionism in the Zionist organization. How great was the satisfaction. It became clear to me later, when I returned to Lutsk, and heard many words of praise from the public for the activities of our graduates, who brought victory to the list of the Working League for Eretz Israel.



As if inside a spectacular multi-colored kaleidoscope, pass before my eyes a long, and diverse, line of intellectuals, teachers,

[Page 192]


“Al HaMishmar” in Lutsk

From the right: Z. Albirt, B. Farstei, Y. Gliklich, Pechenik, Gleizer, Lieberman


male and female laborers, commercial and public officials that we saw at the Zionist parties, at the activities of Keren Kayemet LeYisrael , kestl-ovnten[19] of HeHalutz, at the magnificent library of the Bund and the Yiddishistim[20], in heated debates about Yiddish and Hebrew, about kibbutz and moshav[21], about organized labor in Israel, and in the defense of socialist Zionism against the tyranny of Jewish communists and the members of the Bund movement.

I don't remember all of them by name, but many of them are scattered today in kibbutzim of all the ideological or religious movement in Israel. Many are active in the national institutions, and many perished in the great Holocaust as they carried the name of Zion in their hearts.

I remember the spiritual uplifting in the ken in Lutsk, when in the fall of 1935 the Wolyn Region Conference was called to Lutsk. The graduate stratum in Lutsk was the host. The ken won and for this occasion all its graduates, who were scattered somewhere in the Hakhshara kibbutzim, gathered: from Kostopil, Rovno, Novogrudok, Bialystok and Częstochowa. I came to this conference together with an Israeli emissary: Ben Ami Gordon from Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek.

Both, the conference and the rise of the ken in Lutsk to a distinguished position in the region, were a profound experience for all his graduates.

The work of the Hashomer Hatzair was not easy in those days, the rise of its power, and its numerical scope, aroused jealousy and opposition among the right-wing parties, and the left anti-Zionist. The despair and disappointment in view of the locked gates of Israel gnawed at the heart and caused restlessness. The Bund and the communists in the Jewish street, whose power has increased in view of the crisis passing over the Polish state, aimed their arrows mainly at the sturdy and beautiful ranks of the youth of Hashomer Hatzair.

The Polish secret police, who called us by the name “communists for export,” also did not sit idle, and did not refrain from hurting us out of hatred of the Jews and a resentment towards anything progressive. And indeed, our members studied also Herzl[22] and Gordon, Borochov[23] and Marx, and the doctrine of Hashomer Hatzair, to stand tall and withstand the test that befell the exciting and stormy Jewish street.

Even those, who a few years ago refused to hear our desperate call, no longer saw us as “eccentrics” who smash their heads against the wall.

* * *

A glorious chapter of dedicated pioneering-educational activity, of establishing a living center of a national-Israeli identity, of a struggle for the fate and future of Jewish girls and boys in Lutsk, was written by the graduates of Hashomer Hatzair in the history of the Lutsk community. Those, who were privileged to integrate into the revival movement in our country, will raise with trembling the memory of their friends who carried in their hearts the name of Hashomer Hatzair and its undertaking, when they entered the ghetto whose fate was determine for annihilation.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Hashomer Hatzair (lit. “The Young Guard”) is a Labor Zionist, secular Jewish youth movement founded in 1913. Return
  2. Crown rabbi (lit. “Official rabbi”) was a position in the Russian Empire given to a member of a Jewish community appointed to act as an intermediary between his community and the Imperial government. Return
  3. Ken - pl. kens (lit. “Nest”) the term for a local branch of a movement that suggested the intimacy of a family. Return
  4. Tarbut - “Culture” in Hebrew, was a network of secular Zionist educational institutions that functioned in Poland in the interwar period. Return
  5. Betar - a Revisionist Zionist youth movement founded in 1923 in Riga, Latvia, by Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky. Return
  6. HeHalutz (lit. “The Pioneer”) was a Jewish youth movement that trained young people for agricultural settlement in Eretz Yisrael. Return
  7. The Bund was a Jewish socialist party founded in Russia in 1897. Return
  8. David Shimonovitz poem “Mered Haben” (Rebellion of the Son) was published in Hashomer Hatzair magazine in Warsaw. 1922. Return
  9. shomer (pl. shomerim) - member of Hashomer Hatzair movement. Return
  10. Meir Ya'ari was an Israeli politician, educator, social activist and the leader of Hashomer Hatzair, Return
  11. The meaning of the Biblical names: Achiezer - my brother is a helper. Ahisamach - my brother supports. The shomer is Achiever and Ahisamach - is the fifth commandment of Hashomer Hatzair movement. Return
  12. Gordonia was a Zionist youth movement whose doctrines were based on the beliefs of Aaron David Gordon, a labor Zionist thinker and the spiritual force behind practical Zionism and Labor Zionism. Return
  13. Aliyah (lit. “Ascent”) is the immigration of Jews from the Diaspora to Eretz Israel. Return
  14. Hakhshara (lit. “Preparation”) the term is used for training programs in agricultural centers in which Zionist youth learned vocational skills necessary for their emigration to Israel. Return
  15. The 1929 Palestine riots was a series of demonstrations and riots in late August 1929 in which a longstanding dispute between Muslims and Jews over access to the Western Wall in Jerusalem escalated into violence. Return
  16. Kibbush haAvoda (lit. “Conquest of labor”) is the slogan for the Jews to embrace productive (industrial and agricultural) labor rather than being engaged only in trades and professions. Return
  17. Józef Klemens Piłsudski was a Polish statesman who served as the Chief of State (1918–1922) and First Marshal of Poland (from 1920). Return
  18. Jewish National Fund Return
  19. Kestl-ovnten (lit. “Box evenings”) evenings in which answers are given to questions collected in the question box. Return
  20. Yiddishism is a cultural and linguistic movement which began among Jews in Eastern Europe during the latter part of the 19th century. Its members are called Yiddishistim. Return
  21. Moshav (lit. “Settlement”) is a type of cooperative agricultural settlement in Israel. Return
  22. Theodor Herzl was an Austro-Hungarian Jewish lawyer, journalist, playwright, political activist and writer, who was the father of modern political Zionism. Return
  23. Dov Ber Borochov was a Marxist Zionist and one of the founders of the Labor Zionist movement. Return


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