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[Page 246]

Chapter 10[1]

The Zionist Movement in Przemysl
(1918–1939)

Y.A.

When World War I ended in 1918, the circumstances and conditions of the Zionist movement's activity in the town completely changed. The Balfour Declaration and the national awakening among the Jewish people created a new atmosphere among Przemysl Jews as well. Zionism had become the daily content of their life. The “Lieberman” tradition was sustained for a long time, but only during election periods, as a relic of personal admiration, however there was no political or ideological basis. Until 1923, the local Zionist organization operated as a branch of a national organization, in which all parties were represented. In the first year following the war, Przemysl was affiliated with the national Zionist center in Lvov and later with the Western Galicia and Silesia center in Krakow. From 1924 the branch was again joined to the Lvov center. In 1923 “Hitachdut Poalei Zion” [the Association of Zionist Workers] separated from the national organization and operated as an independent party. In 1935 the Revisionist party also left the Zionist organization and the core of the organization continued to act as the General Zionist Organization (“general Zionists”).

 

The General Zionist Organization

The local General Zionist Organization was one of the largest branches in Eastern Galicia, and it had noticeable influence on the party headquarters in Lvov. Three members from the local committee were representatives on the national party council in Lvov.

Its members included town citizens, hundreds of youths, popular circles and artisans.

In addition to tax-paying members, the party had a wide circle of supporters, who answered every call, both for the elections to the Sejm, the city and the community, and with regards to Zionist activities, such as Keren Kayemet[2] and Keren Hayesod collections. In 1937 the number of tax-paying adult members over the age of 18 in the local branch reached 450.

The General Zionist Organization in Przemysl was the largest of all Zionist factors in town, and it was proportionally represented in the municipal and community institutions. The chairman of the local branch of general Zionists served for a while as the assistant mayor, and another general Zionist was a member of the city management until the Shoah.

In the community too, the general Zionists were the largest party. The last community leader was a member of the general Zionist party.

Despite the ideological differences between the Zionist parties, there was always the appearance of cooperation, in the arena of national and local policy. Only in the last municipal elections, the “Hitachdut Poalei Zion” cooperated with the Polish socialists.

The branch successfully carried out all the various Zionist activities. They distributed shekalim [3], and organized elections for Zionist congresses. The day of the elections for the congress was noticeable in the town. The activity among the Jewish population was no smaller than on the day of elections for the Polish Sejm. The Polish authorities in town monitored the election events closely, and were interested in the election results and the contests between the Zionist parties and demanded that reports be presented when the votes were counted.

In 1937 the number of shoklim [4] in town was 2,294. Among them were 1,068 “General Zionists”, 1,062 “Hitachdut Poalei Zion” and 164 “Mizrachi.”

[Page 247]

That same year, Dr. Zvi Reichman, Dr. A. Schutzman (General Zionists) and Z Hering (Hitachdut) were elected in Przemysl for the Zionist Congress.

The representative of the Przemysl branch was a member in the chief council of the organization of General Zionists in Warsaw. The branch also kept up its activities to benefit the national funds, Keren Kayemet and “Keren Hayesod”.

 

prz247.jpg
The Keren Kayemet (JNF) Committee, 1925

Sitting from left, second row: --, --, --, Dr. Joseph Knoller, Marienstraus, Silfen
Standing from left: Wirt, --, --, Gromet, Horn, --, Nick, --

 

The general Zionist Dr. Joseph Knoller served for many years as the Keren Kayemet board chairman, and was its living spirit. Haim Klagsbald was the energetic chairman of “Keren Hayesod.” In 1925, the party initiated the establishment of “Ezra”, a society to benefit the Pioneers [halutzim], chaired by party member S. Spielman, who was dedicated to this job for many years. From 1935, the organization was also active for the benefit of “The General Zionist Pioneer”, led by Dr. Zvi Reichman. This was one of the most beneficial organizational activities of the branch. Under the auspices of the branch, there were organizations of the Noar Halomed: the Zionist youth, “Akiva,” the national youth “Achvah,” led by A. Gromet and Leon Landau. “Agudath Herzl” and “Herzliya” of the academic youth. A Zionist women's group led by Ms. B. Molet and Ms. A. Knoller, the “WIZO” organization, led by Ms. D. Citron and N. Ostern. The branch also provided pioneer hachsharah [training] in farms around the town.

The General Zionist activists founded the Hebrew gimnazjum and nurtured its students' national, Jewish education. Various cultural activities were managed, especially by the general Zionist youth organizations. During the last years before the destruction, “Oneg Shabbat” parties were organized on Shabbat evenings, in which hundreds of members participated.

[Page 248]

prz248a.jpg
The “Ezra” committee, 1924. Center: S. Spielman

 

prz248b.jpg
The farewell party for the first Olim from “Achva”, 1932

[Page 249]

prz249a.jpg
A group of General Zionist artisans

 

prz249b.jpg
A group of Zionist women (Kolo Kobiet). June 11, 1936

[Page 250]

The local newsletter of the General Zionists, “Folksfreind”, edited by Emanuel Gromet, published the following survey on Jewish Przemysl in the year 5688 on September 21, 1928:

“The passing year was characterized by the elections for the Sejm and the Senate. Eighty percent of all Jewish votes went to the Zionist list, despite the terror. The mandate was not achieved due to the special elections law, however the people expressed their loyalty to the Zionist leadership. Complete victory was achieved in the municipal elections. The Jews obtained 18 mandates, proportionate to the size of the Jewish population. The assimilationists and the “Agudah” did not obtain even one mandate.

In the community elections, the Zionists achieved a great accomplishment, although a Zionist majority was not obtained because of the separation and personal ambitions. An increase was noted in the work of the Zionist youth loyal to the General Zionism and its leaders. Especially worthy of note is “Agudath Herzl”, under whose auspices an organization of elderly members, former Society members, was established. The revenue for the “Keren Hayesod” did not decrease, despite the election year. Among all the rural towns in Eastern Galicia, the “Keren Kayemet” was the foremost in terms of revenue.

In the area of Jewish education, two important events occurred. The construction of the vocational school for girls was begun, to enable productive vocational education for youth from wide strata of the public, an essential act in light of the harsh economical state. The construction of the Hebrew gimnazjum was completed, to impart national education to the youth. Finally, the establishment of the “Folksfreind”, which defended the Jewish population from wrong-doings and fought anti-Semitism and the P.P.S left, which belittled all the sacred Zionist ideals in its weekly publication, despite the fact that most of its readers are Jewish.”

 

prz250.jpg
The local committee of General Zionists

Standing from left: H. Dannenhirsch (Danieli), L. Salzman, M. Schwadron, Z. Ascher, D. Neumann, I. Licht, Hammer, Schatz
Sitting from left: H. Segal, Dr. M. Schweber, Dr. Z. Rubenfeld, Dr. H. Reichman, P. Mermelstein, Dr. S. Tenenbaum

[Page 251]

It is not possible to mention all the energetic and loyal activists, the anonymous soldiers of the Zionist camp. We hope to be forgiven for mentioning only a few of many: Dr. Moshe Richter, Dr. Zvi Reichman, Dr. Efraim Schutzman, engineers Henryk Bazar and Mendel Jawetz, Haim Klagsbald, Meir Honigwachs, Lipa Galler, Dr. Matityahu Schweber, Dr. Shamai Tenenbaum, Wilhelm Haspel, Ms. Peppi Mermelstein and Shmuel Rosenfeld.

prz251a.jpg
WIZO group in Przemysl. 1931-1934

 

prz251b.jpg
Leib Joffe at a Keren Hayesod meeting in Przemysl, 1930

Translator's and Editor's Footnotes:

  1. Translated from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen (ed.) Back
  2. Keren Kayemet is otherwise known as Jewish National Fund (JNF) (tr.) Back
  3. Lit., a unit of currency used since the First Temple period. In this context, it refers to the name of the certificate of membership in the Zionist Organization, assigned to every Jew who paid an annual membership fee. (tr.) Back
  4. The bearers of “shekalim” (see footnote 3), in other words those who were entitled to vote in the Zionist Congress (tr.). Back

 

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