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[Page 618]

Toward tomorrow…

In memory of the Shomrim[1] from Tarnow

by Koba Fleischer

Translated by Sara Mages

The patriarchs of “Hashomer Hatzair[2] movement were the circles of “Zeirie Zion”- the Zionist youth movement that was founded with the establishment of the Zionist movement, and [“Hashomer[3]] the Jewish scouting movement that was founded before the outbreak of the First World War. Educated young Jews, who gathered at the beginning of the war in Vienna and in the cities of Western Europe, constituted the core of this youth movement. The movement caused a stir in the cities of Galicia and Poland, and in the course of time, throughout the world. It took the name “Hashomer,” which symbolizes the heroism of the Jews in their new homeland, in addition to the values of the Scout Movement. After it was united with “Zeirie Zion", under the name of “Hashomer Hatzair,” it became the only youth movement in the Jewish street.

At the conclusion of the First World War, the young Jews returned to the cities of Galicia imbued with the spirit of freedom and the liberation of nations. They were full of lofty ideas about human liberation and the emancipation of the Jewish nation, and an arduous organizational and educational work began.

Tarnow, a city populated with Jews and glorious youth, quickly became one of the primary locations in which there was a branch of “Hashomer Hatzair.” The branch in Tarnow became the regional center, and excelled in absorbing broad sectors of youth. More than 300 young people, students and workers, age 10-20, were organized in the branch during the years of the movement's prosperity.

The Jewish street awoke. From the dark alleys of the ghetto and the suburbs of the assimilated, who drew away from the influence of Judaism, groups of boys and girls went out to the bosom of nature, to the public parks, to the mountains and the surroundings forests. They breathed fresh air and dreamed the dream of Israel and the establishment of the State of Israel. The Israeli flag flew high, and the Hebrew song was sounded when the youth of “Hashomer Hatzair” marched proudly through the city's streets. The matter greatly annoyed the anti-Semites and the various enemies of Israel. The brunt of the Jewish youth was felt soon. When the pogroms broke out in the cities of Galicia, youth brigades stood on guard to protect the life of the beleaguered Jews. Its destiny and national role stood the test of those difficult days. The battered Jew was no longer ashamed that his son or daughter joined "those" who dreamed about a promising future.

A second conference of “Hashomer Hatzair,” which symbolized a turning point and a new era for the entire movement, gathered in Tarnow in August 1919. The first conference was held the previous year in Trnava in the Carpathian Mountains. The conference gathered more than 300 delegates from Galicia and representatives from Poland. In the conference, which was held on the first day for students over the age of 18, “the third class," there were opposing views about the future of the movement's graduates.

[Page 619]

Halutzim from “Hashomer Hatzair” in Tarnow

[Page 620]

A conference of instructors, which constituted a major turning point in the movement's direction, was held on the second day. The following was written in “Hashomer Hatzair” newspaper from that period: "If we knew, in the conference in, how to soar to the heavens, now, after the conference in Tarnow, we know how to stand firm on the ground." Among others, it was decided in the Tarnow's conference, that the movement will establish a federation of Shomrim-Halutzim [pioneers], which will require a pioneering fulfillment in Israel. The movement expressed its desire to establish a settlement in Israel, add working youth to its ranks, and a committee was elected for the establishment and the development of a Hebrew School. In the conference, the movement took the road towards a pioneering fulfillment and the negation of the Diaspora.

A period of intensive educational work began. Education in human values, values of Judaism with national recognition, war for social justice, women's liberation, the revival of the Hebrew language, and the return to physical work. Preparations toward immigration started in various Hachshara [pioneer training] farms, in the estates or with farmers and artisans. The aspiration for productivity took the youth, against the wishes of their parents who wanted to educate them for a traditional liberal profession, out of school and taught them a profession vital for Israel. Parents' committees were established to facilitate their work, alleviate their living conditions and protect them from the authorities. Among the committee's activists were: Dr. Shapen, Dr. Feig, Mrs. Friedlander, Mrs. Greenberg, H. Naiger ”, Dr. Homet, Dr. Mertz, Dr. Yakel ”, Schepndel ”, and many others.

The branch's representatives organized activities in the nearby cities, ran summer camps in the region, established branches in Pilzno, D?bica and Mielec and other locations, and also worked in the main leadership in Lvov.

After the war, a large number of Shomrim immigrated [to Israel] with the “Third Aliyah.”[4] A large number of members, men and women, from Tarnow were among the 600 immigrants. Some left school before graduation and some after, some with a profession and some without. At night they crossed the borders clandestinely, and nothing could have stopped them from realizing their dream.

Among the first who emigrated from Tarnow (I ask the forgiveness of those whose names have been omitted by mistake) were: Z. Bloch, P. Schingel, M. Weiss, Dina Beck, A. Friedlander ”, the Weider brothers, Yakov Leibel ”, Yehudah Ya'ari, Ester Hershkowitz, Sima Ormian, Sara Ledner, D. Omansky, Rodner ”, Lev-Tov, H. Herzman ”, Y. Naiger, M. Mann ”, P. Zwairstrum ”, H. Ofner z”l, Kornilo and many others.

In Israel they drained the swamps and paved the roads. Many of them were among the founders of Beit-Alfa, the first kibbutz of “Hashomer Hatzair,” where they live to this day.

In 1922, a joint conference of leaders from Galicia and Poland gathered again in Tarnow. They approved the self-realization through the kibbutzim, and the number of immigrants from the city's branch of “Hashomer Hatzair” has grown.

Meanwhile, other youth movements, who competed with “Hashomer Hatzair,” were established in the city. However, despite everything, it was one of the major movements in the city. It was the first to work for “Keren Kayemet LeYisrael" [Jewish National Fund] and other Zionist activities. Entire groups, individuals and families, immigrated. New kibbutzim were established by “Hashomer Hatzair,” and the Shomrim from our city were among those who settled there.

[Page 621]

Hashomer Hatzair” in Tarnow penetrated all the layers of the Jewish society in the city. It fought, together with other movements, for the acquisition of the Jewish youth and the realization of the Zionist idea. To our sorrow, the entire Jewish public still didn't understand the superior concept of national liberation. Our youth's lofty role was understood only after the loss of millions of Jews during the Nazi inferno, which also destroyed the entire Jewish community of our city. The organized youth of “Hashomer Hatzair,” together with the rest of the Zionist youth movements, led the defensive war in Tarnow Ghetto, in the resistance and with the partisans. Together they strengthened the spirit of those who stumbled and helped those who fell. The many heroic acts and rescue operations will testify to the vitality of this youth - till the last moment.

Thousands of Shomerim were educated within the framework of the branch in Tarnow's branch, but for various reasons, only a few reached the gates of Israel. Here, they continued the magnificent tradition by building the country and defending it. You can find the Tarnow's Shomrim from Kibbutz Dan to faraway Negev. From the movement's first kibbutz in Beit-Alfa, through Merchavia, Ein HaMifratz, Tel Amal, Yad Mordechai, Ein Shemer, and more.

Many fell during the riots in Israel, and many fell to diseases and the conditions of the conquest of the desert. Quite a few saturated the soil of Israel with their pure blood when they helped to bring victory in our War of Independence. Among those we'll remember: Yanek Friedlander one of the first Halutzim, Yehudah Schpanof, Itzik Korndeich, Olek Zichner and others.

Honor and glory to the heroes whose bones rest in the soil of Israel, honor and glory to those who fell on the long road, in the ghettos, extermination camps, in the underground and in public, some with a weapon in their hand, and some with a clenched fist. The cruel fate didn't let them to reach their goal.

And Tarnow, a Jewish metropolis, a magnificent community with a long Jewish tradition, a loyal city to her sons who were raised and educated in her toward a promising future, will remain forever in the memory of generations as a shining page in the new history book of the State of Israel.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Shomer pl, Shomrim - Guard/Guards. Members of “Hashomer Hatzair” movement are called Shomrim. return
  2. Hashomer”- “The Guard” - the first Jewish scouting movement. It was established in 1911 in Lvov in by Henrik [Tzvi] Sterner. The movement's name was inspired by “Hashomer” a Jewish organization in Palestine. return
  3. Hashomer Hatzair "- “The Youth Guard” - the first Zionist youth movement. It was formed in 1913 from the combining of two different youth movements - “Hashomer” and “Zeirie Zion.” return
  4. The Third Aliyah refers to the third wave of Zionist immigration to Israel between 1919 and 1923. The Third Aliya consisted mostly of Eastern European and Russian Jews. return

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