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[Page 125]

Zionist Activity in Turka in the Years 1930-1935

by Zev Steininger

In memory of my dear parents, my brothers and sisters, relatives and friends who did not merit witnessing the birth of Israel.

Even though our city was located far from the large Jewish centers, Zionist life bustled there with full strength. The many Zionist youth groups as well as the pioneering aliya that streamed to the Land of Israel starting from the beginning of the 1920s testify to this. The aliya continued throughout the entire time -- whether through certificate or through illegal aliya.

The majority of the youth were organized into the Labor Zionist camp. This was natural, since the majority of the Jewish population of Turka and its environs were of the working class, tradesmen or middle class.


The merit of being first belongs to the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement. It was the only one in our town for several years. Only with the increase of Zionist activity in Poland did its echoes begin to reach us too. Representatives of all the movements began to influence and organize the youth.

The Hebrew Akiva youth movement, which had the goal of organizing the studying youth, began its activities at that time among the others. The activity was successful, and the majority of the youth who studied in the gymnasium gathered around that movement. The movement drew the youth toward Zionist actualization by studying the Hebrew language in its many clubs, by sending its pioneering members to hachshara, and by activities on behalf of the Jewish National Fund.

The Akiva movement was the only one in our town to organize a mass gathering when the Nazis, may their names be blotted out, ascended to government. It sounded an alarm regarding the great danger that was hovering and approaching us. The gathering took place in the large Proszbyta Hall, and the young, talented lawyer Yosef Szprung delivered a fiery speech.

[Page 126]

Aside from the youth movements, there were also organization of the older people. It is appropriate to note here the Achva movement of the general Zionists. There was also Hapoel Hamizrachi, which served the religious wing of Zionism in our city.

The crowning achievement of Zionist activity was the Sabbath afternoon meetings. All of the youth gathered in their headquarters and arranged roll calls, and then set out in their groups and brigades toward the open fields outside the city, where they conducted discussions on issues of the day. It is interesting that the place at which all the groups met was called “Das Shomer Veldl” (The Shomer Grove) by the people.


The Achva Zionist youth in Turka

All of the youth movements of our city joined together in another important field of endeavor. A local convention took place with representation of delegates from all the factions and youth movements. This was a successful activity because, in addition to the meetings of the delegates, large scale educational activities took place amongst all the various Jewish strata.

[Page 127]

One of the foundations of the Zionist education delivered by the youth movements was education toward a Jewish personality who had pride in his Judaism and who would also know how to defend himself in the event of tribulations.


Then, the evil decrees began for Polish Judaism: The decrees of Mrs. Prystor[1] and the ban of Jewish shechita (ritual slaughter), the pogroms of Przytyk, and the anti-Semitic incitement in every city and town. Of course, the tribulations did not skip over our city. The gentile stores, barber shops and bakeries began to add the notation “Christian” to their signs…


The Achva Zionist youth in Turka

The anti-Semitic incitement increased especially among the Ukrainian population who lived on the edges of the city. They often attacked Jewish passers by, especially the Jews of Upper Turka, who had to pass through their neighborhood. The Jews would often defend themselves and return the beating. Such an incident took place on one Sabbath eve when the Jews returned home after the service to Welcome the Sabbath. In the fracas that broke out, the Ukrainians received severe blows from the brave Jews, like the descendents of “Noach Pandre”[2]

[Page 128]

The organized youth reacted to what was taking place to them in those days by clarifying the situation at internal meetings and preparing for self defense. Rumors spread that the surrounding population was planning to perpetrate an attack to plunder the Jewish stores on the market day that took place every Wednesday. The situation would have come to actual violence were it not for the strong reaction of the Jews toward the local authorities. As a result, the authorities took restraining action, and the plans of the hooligans were thwarted.


The economic situation worsened day by day. The youth began to leave the city and search for other places to live. Many made aliya to the Land through various means.

The parents remained, and many hoped for the opportunity to reunite with their children, many of whom had arrived in the Land. Alas, all contact was lost at the outbreak of the war, and all hope was lost.


Members of the editorial committee
of “Iton-Chai” (Living Newspaper)
Standing: Yitzckak Karafiol (living in Haifa)
Sitting from the right: Naftali Zauerbron of blessed memory, Abish Artel of blessed memory, Moshe Press (living in Haifa), Yaakov Weiss of blessed memory

Translator's Footnotes:
  1. Mrs. Janina Prystor, a deputy of the Polish Sejm and wife of former Polish Prime Minister Aleksander Prystor. In 1936, she introduced a government bill that would ban shechita. Return
  2. A character from one of the books by the author Zalman Shneur. Return

[Page 129]

Zionist Activists

by Chaim Pelech


Yosef Koppel


The Hechalutz Organization of Turka, September 15, 1934

In the Zionist organization of Turka, the oldest organization in the city, there were many people that excelled with their activity as general activists. Yosef Koppel was one of them. Koppel excelled as an honest and honorable activist and as a nationalist Jew. He was the director of the Gemilat Chassadim Bank. That institution developed greatly under his directorship. The bank functioned very well and efficiently, and administered assistance to hundreds of small-scale merchants and craftsmen. He led the bank for more than twenty years – always with responsibility and without subterfuge.

I recall the following fact: Once I went to him to purchase something. I chanced upon his wife (she was involved in the business) weeping strongly. I asked her, “Mrs. Koppel, why are you weeping?” She answered me, “Why should I not weep – I have a husband who is a bank director, and my husband, the director protested about my five promissory notes that were not paid… He protests about his own promissory notes!…”

I had long known Koppel as an honorable Jew, a son of the judge Elia Koppel. However that fact left a strong impression upon me as something unbelievable.

He was also a very educated man. Under his leadership, the Zionist organization in Turka displayed a great deal of activity in many realms of political and societal life. Still later, when the organization was already led by Dr. Winter or later by Dr. Glick, his influence was still strong. He was numbered among the oldest and first Zionists in the city.

He also took part in the electoral activities for the Austrian parliament on behalf of the Zionists. He campaigned in the city for the candidates – for Dr. Zipper against the assimilationist Dr. Levenstein.


The Brothers Baruch and Nissan Maj

Baruch Maj was also numbered among the first Zionists in Turka. He was an intelligent and honorable man. He worked for the party for his entire life, and stood in its first ranks in the darkest of times. Already in the years 1907 and 1911, he was involved in the great struggle for the nationalist candidate Dr. Zipper. At that time, it was still difficult to be a Zionist in Turka. However, Baruch Maj was not from among the cowards. His idealism and dedication to nationalistic matters overcame all difficulties.

His brother Nissan Maj was also a dedicated activist in Turka. In 1919, Nissan Maj was the secretary and council member of the Jewish national council. He demonstrated that he was very capable in political affairs. The opposition did not know what to do about him. Still, everyone had the greatest of respect for him because of his capabilities.

In 1920, Nissan left for Pressburg, and from there for Israel. He died in Israel in 1963. His older aforementioned brother Baruch died in Turka when he was very young.


Uncaptioned. A group photo


Matis Operman

He was a representative in the cultural organization. He excelled in his willingness to work for the Zionist organization. As a great liberal, he acted for the entire Jewish population of Turka. He was probably murdered by the German murderers.


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