Translated by Sara Mages
While they were busy with their normal activities at the Betar ken several members, from among the veterans, longed for a contact with Brit HaBirionim in Israel whose echo of activity also reached Lutsk. And when Betar emissaries arrived from Israel in 1935 and brought a greeting from the front, the first group of activists, led by Shalom Rapoport (Giladi), was organized here. The group included: Shalom Tabachnik (Shlomo Ben- Yosef hyd), Yitzchak Fabrykant, and later also Izik Fogen and Rosa Bakowiecka. Similar groups were organized in Betar's Hakhshara companies in Wolyn (such as in Horokhiv under the leadership of Avraham Szpicman from Lusk). Their center was in Torczyn.
However, only with the outbreak of the bloody riots in Israel in 1936, and the transformation of the National Defense into Hâ-'Irgun Ha-Tzva'î Ha-Leûmî, cells of Etzel were established first in Wolyn and later throughout Poland. Their job was to prepare cadres of underground members from among the members of Betar and Brit HaHayal.
These cells, four in number, that were established in Lutsk were conspiratorial in nature and structure. Each numbered five people and headed by a person in charge. Their members were engaged in learning the use of small arms (three Parabellum Pistols, Nagan and P&B were purchased for this purpose, and practiced target shooting with an air rifle), conducting street fighting, history of wars of liberation etc. The theoretical lessons (from Hebrew
lessons (from Hebrew instruction booklets that came from Israel) were held at the ken's club in the late evening hours or in private apartments. The training and field exercises were conducted mainly in Polonka. In addition, the members of the cells distributed the propaganda material they received from the center in Warsaw after the establishment of the cells network throughout Poland - in parallel with the Betar branches.
The members of the cells in Lutsk were: B. Ainbinder, Y. Alter, M. Burstein, Y. Benis, Y. Belfiore, B. and A. Gergies, S. Voskoboinik, Y. Turysk, Y. Libhuber, A. Menker, Y. Sima, S. Fogen, B. Feldenkrajz, M. Ranz, M. Szyfer, Z. Schneider, and Y. Szidler, Farstei coordinated them and after his immigration to Israel - Ainbinder.
In the fall of 1937, the first unofficial course of Etzel in Poland was held in Lutsk under the command of A. Amper from Volodymyr (who later became the commander of the cells in Poland. He was murdered by the British in Tel Aviv) and under the guidance of Y. Poznanski (a Jewish officer in the Polish army who came especially from Lodz). The course was attended by members of the cells in the Lutsk area and lasted a week (in the ken's club near the District Court).
In the years 1938-9, the cells consolidated and some of their members managed to immigrate to Israel - with or without certificates of immigration.
As stated, at the outbreak of the World War, in September 1939, B. Ainbinder stood at the head of the cells (he was also the ken's commander after Benis). The entry of the Soviets forced the members of Betar and the cells to literally go underground. In the middle of the night the ken's flag was buried in Ainbinder's yard together with the archive and the weapons (to which were added the pistols that Menaker managed to steal from the pile of weapons accumulated in the city square by order of the authorities).
Although it was officially forbidden to hold any political activity, the members of the ken, and especially the members of the cells, continued to meet to consult on how to survive and get to Israel. Y. Benis was sent to Sniatyn to find a way to Romania. But he was arrested at the border and sat in a Russian prison until he was drafted into the Anders' Army and his immigration to Israel with this army. Ainbinder left after him to the Romanian border. He was also arrested near Kolomyia and when he was released he returned to Lutsk. In the meantime, Y. Sima, and E. Perkal decided to leave for Vilna [Vilnius], which has not yet been occupied, and after the border was closed - Menaker, Turysk, Alter, Ranz and Ainbinder, also left for Vilna. But despite the fact that Betar was almost the only movement in Lutsk that had contact with Vilna, most of its members, and the cells' people, were unable to escape.
After the departure of the aforementioned to Vilna, the contact in Lutsk remained in the hands of Ajzik Gergies until the arrival of the Germans and the establishment of the ghetto.
In Vilna, the aforementioned joined the battalion of Betar's refugees and when it was dispersed by the Soviets they settled in the provincial towns. Meanwhile, only Ainbinder and Sima managed to immigrate to Israel through Turkey.
When the Germans occupied Lita [Lithuania] and began to establish the ghettos, a group of Etzel members from Lutsk were in iauliai (Alter, Turysk, Menker and Feldenkrajz) and they, together with other members of Etzel, went through the horrors of war in the ghetto and the concentration camps. They helped each other while maintaining their affinity for the organization (they even tried and managed to obtain weapons in the ghetto and in the camp). At the end of the war they rejoined the ranks of Etzel in Europe and later in Israel, like their friends who managed to reach Israel before them and were active in the ranks of Etzel and Lehi. They also participated in battles against the British and the Arabs and held responsible positions in their organizations.
* * *
Quite a few members of Ken Betar and Etzel cells in Lutsk fell in the War of Independence:
Shlomo Ben-Yosef, who arrived in Israel with the Etzel immigration, was the first Jew to be executed since the occupation of the country by the British for the murder of Arab rioters near Rosh Pina in 1938.
By the way, Isaac Fogen, who arrived in Israel before the war, survived a similar fate. He was in the recruiting companies of Betar in the Galilee, served in the Jewish Brigade and by the orders of Etzel remained in Europe after the disbandment of the brigade. In 1947, he was arrested by the British in Hannover (Germany) for trying to blow up a German military train. He was prosecuted and sentenced to death. The verdict was commuted to twenty years in prison only thanks to great public pressure in England and the United States. He was pardoned after a three-year term in German prisons and returned to Israel.
Shimon Voskoboinik David Yacobi), who came to Israel with Anders' Army through Teheran, was active in the ranks of Lehi. He was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces with the establishment of the state as a radio operator in the Armored Corps, participated in the battles of the Negev and fell in battle near Auja al-Hafir in 1948.
Yitzchak Fogen, who also arrived in Israel on the eve of the war with the Etzel immigration, was immediately recruited to companies of Betar in the south of the country. He was killed during the bombing of Tel Aviv by the Italians in 1940.
The British prisons and detention camps in Israel and abroad, also knew the freedom fighters from Lutsk who had been detained there for many years.
Translated by Sara Mages
Since there was no youth movement in our town Nieciecza, I, and another member, were sent in the summer of 1932 by the HeHalutz Hatzair branch in Kamin-Kashyrskyi - to Lutsk for Hakhshara.
The company was still at the beginning of its formation. We were a total of about twenty male and female members and lived in one of the houses on Nowo Strojenic Street.
At first the main work was, of course, chopping wood. We occupied plazowka (places) on Yogelonske and Karsne streets and others, near the Jewish bakeries.
However, slowly slowly we also began to penetrate other industries: to flour mills, construction work, and the girls - also to housework.
Of course, it was not easy to prove to the Jews of Lutsk that a balebatishe kinder (children from good families) know how to properly do jobs that were usually done only by the Gentiles.
We had to face this struggle on several fronts at the same time: the Bund called us
lumpenproletariat, while the Polish workers saw us as competitors who came to take a piece of bread out of their mouths. They did not want to understand that we have the right to be workers.
But, in spite of everything, the company grew. We rented another house on the same street, but it was not enough. So we moved to Michel Lumer's big house on Vilke Street. At the time the company already numbered over a hundred members (I do not remember the exact number). Lutsk became the Hakhshara center for the whole area, and there was not a day that the halutzim did not go in different directions. Lutsk took the lead in capturing places - from here they left for Demydivka, Torchyn, Klevan, Berestechko and more. Michel's house was always in turmoil.
|Alizot group (1927)|
Memories of those days are now rising in me: on the one side the lumberjacks return from their work with axes on their shoulders; on the other side the construction workers walking and singing, heavy spiked shoes to their feet. And now they break into spontaneous singing: we came to Israel to build and be built in it.
In the meantime, the Jews of Lutsk realized that if a worker was needed, there was an address - the Lumer's house. No more balebatishe kinder, but real workers. The local HeHalutz branch also helped a lot.
It often happened that Michel Lumer, the homeowner, came to collect the rent and there was no money. Then, we also pulled him to the circle of dancers...
On Rosh Hashanah, a conference of all the Hakhshara kibbutzim in the bloc was held with the participation of members from the center. Members came from Klesiv, Dąbrowice, Olyka and other locations. From Israel came Feibush Bendori zl from Givat HaShlosha and Gershom Ostrovsky from Ein Harod.
A heated debate was held at the conference over whether to approve the immigration of members after six months of training months. Those who demanded six months won. The country demanded immigration because it needed working hands.
The floors in the Halutz and Gordonia branches were lined with straw and in this way accommodation was arranged for members who came to attend the conference.
In the winter the situation worsened for members of the kibbutz, there was no work. There were also a large number of sick members. Chaika Binstock zl (passed away in Givat HaShlosha), the coordinator, was at a loss. Not a day went by that we only ate a few potatoes.
I remember: in the work schedule three were assigned to look for work. I, and two other members, measured Lutsk in all directions, walked everywhere for a long time, rummaged in all the alleys, maybe we would found something - but everything was in vain. We crossed the bridge, arrived in Krasne, and a woman came towards us. She looked at us with tears in her eyes: Ich hab a tokhter in Chenstochov (I have a daughter Częstochowa), and added: kumen arayn kinder zikh anvaremen mit a glezl tey (children
Come into the house to warm up with a cup of tea). Meanwhile, the day got dark. We walked back through the path along the creek, and here we found two meters of wood for sawing and a chopping. We reached an agreement on the price and started to work hard. It was already dark outside, but we worked diligently. We returned home in high spirits. We finally succeeded.
After a while we, a group of members, left for Demydivka to find work.
The whole time we were in Lutsk we met a lot with its Jews, especially with the members of the working class - builders, carpenters, painters, porters, carters and more. These were simple and kind hearted Jews.
And how painful is the heart that they were and are no more
Translated by Sara Mages
On a rainy and gloomy morning of one of the last days of Elul in the year 5690 , the train from Warsaw brought us - my wife and I - to Lutsk station. The whistle of the locomotive and the rattling of the carriages had not yet subsided as they began to stop when the train slowed down, and through the window I saw Uncle Hykle under the umbrella and his eyes, full of anticipation, followed the windows. My heart, which has been longing for my uncle since I parted from him twenty-two years ago, was excited to see him in the longings of youth, and when our arms hugged and wrapped around, his laughing eyes peered at me and a smile of kindness, generosity and forgiveness flickered on his lips.
The city of Lutsk was new to me. It was my first visit there, although the town of Bormel, in which I spent eighteen summers and winters until my immigration to Israel, was not far from it and its inhabitants traveled to and from the district city. And if I came to it on my short visit to Europe, and not to my hometown, it is because that most of my family members moved from that town and settled in Lutsk, and the purpose of my visit was to see them: my uncle's family, the families of Avraham Lender and Yisrael Lender, the families Yehudah Nol and Yekutiel Nol, and others. The members of an extensive family, who sent several sons and daughters to Israel, lived here, and the ties of the homeland - as much as they still survived in me after twenty two years in Israel - were with them.
Gloomy, dull and helpless, the city seemed to me as the carriage drove me from the station to my uncle's house in the city center. Thin, prickly rain, dripped from dark gray clouds, and Jews in the streets, their heads bowed, ran quickly to get out of this gloom into some hidden refuge beyond the intense fog. When I saw them, there was a heavy feeling of sadness and melancholy in my heart. It is possible - I thought to myself - that the night journey, lack of sleep and fatigue, are what caused this impression. But, later, in the following days - twenty-one in number - of my stay in the city and in the company of family and acquaintances, and also when the autumn sun, warm and bright, shone again the its streets, squares and river - I found, that indeed, the Jews live in a sense of having to evade the gloom that surrounds them in this city and in this country.
In those days, many came early to my uncle's house, among them those who had already immigrated to Eretz Israel and returned - to ask me about the political and economic situation in Israel and the possibility of settling there. The pulse of the Zionist movement pulsed powerfully and spiritually: Zionist education, the study of Hebrew culture, training in the Hebrew language, and also physically- collecting donations for the two founds etc. The youth, for the most part, were awake and active in the ideological or religious movements within the Zionist organization. Also in the local affairs the Jews of Lutsk seemed organized as a conscious public, awake and careful to preserve its rights, and many were the activists who gave their time and thought to the needs of the community. Quite a bit was the part of uncle Hykle, who then served as deputy of the Polish mayor, but almost all matters were decided by him. And yet, he did not shy away from the needs of the Zionist movement. As one of its leaders, he served as model for others in his loyalty, and devoted every spare hour to the affairs of Eretz Yisrael. In spite of it, and maybe because of all this, there was distress in their hearts: their future in Poland did not seem pleasant, generous and friendly to them. Deep down, below the threshold of consciousness, resided a feeling of fear and anxiety for days to come. By then, the echoes of the savage screams of the malignant devil - Hitler - had already arrived. And there, in their depths, a voice whispered: save yourselves before it is too late, leave and immigrate! But the shackles of daily life were strong, and in these were bound not only the masses, but also the leaders and the activists who deliberated between the desirable and the existing situation, between the hidden aspiration in the heart and the necessity of the gray life. And from here the same inner layer of sorrow, as the body is shaken all day in the war of existence. The same twinkle of sadness from the looks of the eyes even when they become tired - in an angry argument or in a friendly conversation, at family party or in mass gatherings, of adults and youth. And to my eyes, the eyes of an Israeli Jews, these brothers seemed like prisoners who have no power to release themselves from their imprisonment, and the Messiah who will release them is not here. I was severely depressed all the days of my stay in Lutsk.
And not only in Lutsk. One evening I took the train from Lutsk to the town of Horokhiv, to which I traveled to visit the greave of my father zl who passed away on the month of Second Adar in the year 5669 . The journey lasted many hours, and at nearby
stations many different Jews boarded the train with noise and tumult, as is the custom of Jewish people who have nothing in their world but the commotion of negotiations and running around. A few moments passed, and without me knowing how, they discovered the secret of my being: a Jew from Israel in the train - and immediately surrounded me with a question what is happening in Israel, and they became other other people, not of this world, as if an invisible hand changed their secular clothes and wrapped them in a coat of longing to another world, as a Jew at the arrival of the Sabbath in Heine's well-known poem. And in all of them the same struggle between the two poles: the bitter reality that there is no strength and courage to get out of it and the longing to reach a safe shore.
It was a sleepless night for me, because I had witnessed that difficult deliberation, and my heart was filled with sharp grief. And when I saw them in the agony of their deliberation I asked myself: where is the Messiah who will cut off the shackles from these brothers and redeem them from bondage? Around dawn, I arrived at the last stop before town, and from there I continued in a wagon drawn by two horses, full of sacks and packages. The carter was a Jew from Horokhiv. I sat down on a straw sack next to him, and when I asked him if he knows the house of Simcha Shatzkis, he answered me with a question:
-- Are you from Eretz Yisrael?And without waiting for an answer, he showered me with questions that were repeated by every Jew - about life in Eretz Yisrael and the possibility that a carter like him could settle there, etc. He asked and he answered to himself, when the question was clear in its essence and purpose, and the answer was imbued with skepticism and hesitation as he hastened the horses to walk with his whip. And in the heavens the stars flickered, illuminated and sank, and the dawn twinkled and rose. The horses stopped and the carter also stopped his conversation and pointed with his whip to a house on the street.
--This is the house of Simcha Shatzkis.The house stood in the darkness, and yet I remembered the shutters in its inner rooms. I walked to one of them and knocked and a sleepy voice answered:
-- Who is there?I heard a cry of astonishment and double joy of two voices, and immediately a door creaked and I entered into a warm atmosphere of sweet childhood since then, since then.
-- Open, Rabbi Simcha, open for me. I am Yosef here.
Simcha Shatzkis, a merchant and owner of a hostel mainly for the Gentiles, who came to the market days in the city and housed their cattle in the big yard behind the house, and his wife Golda - a childless couple, humble, quiet and kind - were friends of our family. They admired my father zl and loved his sons as if they were their children. When my father passed away and the family moved to Eretz Yisrael, they were orphaned. My sudden arrival to their home was considered in their eyes as the revelation of Elijah. They hugged me, caressed me, put me in bed and covered me. I knew that in my few hours of sleep they would walk on their toes and keep their eyes on me. When I woke up a few hours later they gave me food and drink and did not open their mouths to talk, just glanced at me, and the glance was penetrating and sad .What a deep sadness! And when they accompanied me to the cemetery and stood with me in front of my father's grave - they shed tears, because I was as still as a stone. I saw my good-good father, carrying within him the longings to the country in which spring will dwell forever, and now his property is a crooked gravestone, sad in the Diaspora, and in my heart the anxiety is piercing: who knows what would be the fate of millions of Shatzkisim, Helenderim, Nolim, and Weicim that their hearts is a nest of pinching and biting longings.
And so it was on my return that day, and the evening after it, from Horokhiv in the wagon of the same carter to the train station, and with the same Jews (though they were others) on the train to Lutsk station. And the same Jews in Lutsk in the few days I have left to be there, until their number would be twenty-one days in a Jewish community in the Diaspora. A community that is troubled, worried, gripped by terror and hallucinations of an inverted dream. Among them is uncle Hykle who is like a typical father to this generation. And as in days gone by I see him walking alone at twilight and thinking to himself about a modest pool dreaming of an inverted world and no one knows what's in its heart.
- - - And it is time to say goodbye... My uncle walks by my side among the dozens of relatives who have come to accompany us. He walks bent, and no wonder. The sky there is always low, lying so in their gloom. This morning is also rainy. My uncle is tortured and depressed. I look into his eyes. The dreamy spark is gone, extinguish. I take his hand in farewell and whisper to him:The spark shone, but a damp veil covered it. We both cried. Has the heart foretold the evil of all the evils to come?
- - My uncle, uncle, I want to see you again, but there, there, in the inverted world, in the world of your dreams...
Jerusalem, Hanukah 5719 
Y. Ben-Arye (Ziniuk)
Translated by Sara Mages
A bundle of letters remained to us as a memory from our extended family in Lutsk. Here, it is laid before me, still, quiet, and in it are folded a life and a struggle of many years in Lutsk in the Polish Diaspora.
These letters are silent documents, they tell a lot about the life of our parents in Lutsk.
Despite the malicious Polish rule in the years 1933-1939, Jewish life continued in Lutsk, a life of Jewish pride, as if the lips whispered: Never mind, we will enjoy them!
Now, I seclude myself with the letters and read them. In my imagination I see our house on 4 Pushkina Street. It was small, but the place was not cramped. There was a small flour store in our house and our livelihood depended on it. Our dear father zl, who had the burden of providing for the family, was forced to work and struggle hard to earn his living. Garbaski the Pole, the bitter enemy of the Jews, imposed heavy taxes on the Jews. His tax collectors - at his command - wreaked havoc in the Jewish street. They had done their cruel work out of joy at the misfortune of others… Quite often our mother zl struggled with the tax collectors who came to take the last sack of flour. Now, I see her standing in front of me spreading her palms in pleas not to take everything from the store, to leave breadcrumbs for the children… I keep reading… And as if out of a fog different images from the life of our unfortunate family come before me.
I don't have the strength to describe everything. Right now my father's Shabbat zemirot are echoing in my ears. I look at his radiant face, the wrinkles on his forehead and his eyes, and marvel at his self-confidence, his great faith… Father asks in his letters how we sanctify the Sabbath in the Holy Land…
Years have passed. The steps of the devil were heard… Nailed boots gave their signals in the world, and different wind is blowing from the letters, a torrential wind, fierce and burning …
The German inhabitants of Lutsk raised their heads and showed their insolence everywhere. The treacherous Polish government oppressed the Jews with great force.
It was very difficult for our parents to live in this country. Gloom descended upon them and mental distress oppressed them…
And the letters tell and tell… about new decrees, about cruel exploitation, about extortion and insults, and about the shouting in the city streets Jews to Palestine! And indeed, their words of insult became a magic word for our parents. A spark of hope, a ray of light in the great darkness that surrounded them, the members of our family saw in immigration to Eretz Israel. From every line of their letters emerge yearnings and longings for Israel, and the struggle for permission to enter…
And the country is tightly closed. They knock on the gates and they are locked. And they write… every word cry out for redemption, and in every line there is an intense anticipation for redemption.
And we saw ourselves miserable here because we could not save them. Our action encountered the opposition of the mandatory government, but, still, we did not give up and continued to act. We encouraged them and in our letters we gave them hope, because faith never ends, The Strength of Israel will not lie. [1 Samuel 15:29]. We breathed life into oppressed people, and with this strength our parents lived and waited. We waited too, we hoped to see them when they came to us and the family would unite together. Our father's dream is coming true… but here came other days, dark days, days of horror…
The letters are placed on the table and I am leafing through them out of tremor of holiness, they are written in their heart's blood, and they are the only witnesses of our beloved parents, may their memory be a blessing…
Elazar A. Hermoni
Translated by Sara Mages
As in a play, the sights of Lutsk, the cradle of my homeland, pass before my eyes. And although many years have passed since I left it at the dawn of my youth, the images of its people, its personalities, the youth in their age groups, the cultural and economic institutions, the places of entertainment, the youth clubs, the political parties, etc., are preserved in my memory.
And even though I have been in Israel for three decades, I have established myself there and almost became a sabra, nevertheless, I can testify, with full recognition, that if it was not for Lutsk, and similar cities and towns in the Jewish Diaspora, the country would not have been established - in any case, not in our time. The country was built on the destruction of the Jewish people in Diaspora. Indeed, this is a historical truth - Jerusalem was built from the destruction of the Diaspora.
And it was said: in the revival here in Israel and the immigration of Jews from all over the world, we will be comforted. Great is our privilege that in our days, and before our eyes, the miracle of Atchalta De'Geulah took place. However, we must not forget the past. It is our duty to remind each other and teach our children the source from which we were carved.
I remember Tarbut school, its teachers and students. The latter mostly came from the circles of Zionist homeowners. The teachers saw in their work a sacred mission and fulfilled it with awe and reverence. It often happened that one of the teachers added his free time to the regular teaching hours and taught Zionism - without quotation marks. The teacher, Zvi Hamra, will be remembered favorably. Like a father he was devoted to his students, and his concern for them knew no bounds. Or the teacher, Schuster, the artist who knew artistic work and was a nature lover. On school holiday he gathered groups of students and spend time with them on trips and interesting hobbies. The atmosphere of Eretz Israel prevailed in all, and the sound of the Hebrew language, in free Sephardic pronunciation, was heard among the students of Tarbut - within the school walls and outside it.
And from school to the ken of Hashomer Hatzair, whose students were the nucleus in the years 1926/27. Cooperation, out of a sincere desire, and pioneering trend, prevailed at that time between the teachers and the instructors of Hashomer Hatzair. Educational and practical work was conducted quietly and seriously. It trained a generation of volunteers for Zionist work and to fulfill the order of the movement to make aliyah.
An aura of glamour and grace hovered over Lutsk's streets, that the life of its Jews and its youth, most of whom were Zionists, left their impression on it.
I remember the holidays and festivals - their impression was evident on the city streets. In the mass flow to the many synagogues, and also to the minyan that was held at the Zionist Club.
I remember the holiday activities for Keren Kayemet in which the youth played a large part. And as it is customary for us to say: Now it is allowed to reveal. In the years 1931/32, the of writer these lines organized, right under the nose of the authorities, an internal mail for sending blessings for Rosh Hashanah by using Keren Kayemet stamps, and the proceeds brought large sums into the fund. The project was carried out by the youth organizations.
I remember a lot, but there is not enough space to express my feelings when childhood memories arise. Out of the sorrow and pain for the vibrant life that was cut off by the enemy's hand, a trace of pride also creeps into the heart, a small part, for being a native of glorious Lutsk.
Many of us were privileged to make aliyah to Israel before it was too late, and many of the survivors found their way to us and renewed their lives in the bosom of the country.
Those who were not privileged to do so - may their memory be a blessing!
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