Tukums Community Pre-1941

The Association of Latvian and Estonian Jews keeps a set of records at Kibbutz Shefayim describing many aspects of Jewish life in Latvia and Estonia. An inventory of the holdings of the archive shows many documents that are not so much official records but personal reminiscences recorded by individuals who emigrated and thus survived the Holocaust. These records thus play the role of Yizkor books, few of which are available for Latvia in the Jewishgen on-line Yizkor books. The item presented here is a translation by Martha Lev-Zion of such a memoir of Tukums; the original was handwritten in Hebrew.

Jewish Schools

Up to the year 1934, there were in the village two separate grammar schools: one which studied in the Hebrew language and one in Yiddish. After 1934, the two schools joined because in such a small village with so small a student population, two schools could not be supported.After 1934 at the united school, there were two languages of study (Yiddish and Hebrew) according to the desire of the parents.

The principal of the school in Hebrew was Shaje Slaveciski (Yishayhu Slavitzky) from a religious Zionist family (his father was the schochet and mohel in town). This man with his Zionist outlook did much to advance the Hebrew language and Zionist studies of the younger generation in the town. He opened the school without help and financial means in the year 1927. That was at the time that the school next door had already been in existance from 1920. All the years he fought hard with Yiddischers who complained, perhaps justly, that there was no possibility of two Jewish schools existing in town. After the closing of the school in 1934, [name illegible] emigrated to the homeland and is now living in Petach Tikvah. The principal of the Yiddish language school and after 1934 of the united school was Fani Kramer. She was one of the intelligentzia who stood out in the town. She also worked hard to advance the varied life and culture in the town. She stood at the head of the Franionferein organisation. This organisation made sure that all the children with little financial ability would study for free, made sure that they were clothed and had books, looked after poor brides, made sure that youths recruited into the army had kosher food, etc., etc. Her problem was that she did not understand the sacred importance of the Zionist endeavor. For this world outlook she paid, in essence, in 1941 with the outbreak of WW II. She accepted the anti-Soviet explantion that if she didn’t leave the town, nothing would happen to her. She didn’t pay attention to the plea to leave and was murdered along with the rest of the Jews from town.

Institutions, Culture, Society and Sport

At the united school, there was a very large library with a number of books in Yiddish and Hebrew. The youth movement Maccabi Youth was very active. They had 140 participants including members from Young Maccabi. This was essentially a Zionist youth movement.

Maccabi regular activities:

1] Football sector with a team of adults over the age of 18, who participated in league matches, youth teams up to age 18 and a youth team to the age of 14.

2] Table tennis sector with lots of talented players [illegible] often to the championship of Zamgale area. The champions of Maccabi also beat the champions of Estonia “Iagaunije[?]” in international play in 1938. After the war in the 40’s and 50’s, Gadalja Vorsbeichik and Gustav Hertzenberg were frequently champions of Latvia in table tennis.

3] Gymnastics sector with all sorts of items of equipment which were at the service of the club.

4] Sector of Maccabi of track and field in which all the members of Young Maccabi would participate.

5] Volleyball sector - the team was frequently champion of the town. Every year in the summer, the members of Young Maccabi would ride to a summer camp established in Majori next to the River Lielupe. They lived in tents with members of the movement from other towns. In order to bring the people closer to the conditions in the Land of Israel, we would put out guards at night. And from the Betar Movement they would attack the camp.

The Maccabi Club also served as a cultural center in town. They put on plays, had drama, musical and singing groups. We organised literary trials on the heroes of classical prose. They were with the participation of representatives of the intelligentzia from town in the roles of judges and lawyers of the abovementioned heroes.

In the Club, there was active permanently a large mixed choir. The director and arranger for the choir was also the director of the drama club, Ferber.

In the town there was also active an Australian “Trude” who acted on a fairly high professonal level.

Political parties

From the beginning of the 20th century there was in town activity [word is cut off] the Revisionist-Betar. This movement contributed a great deal to Zionist education, and educated the youth to be concerned about the love of Israel. Many of the members of this movement went up to Israel during the years of the 20’s and 30’s. The first pioneer was Dora Zandel. She went up in the year 1929. She was from the Gordonia movement and for many years was a member of Kibbutz Giladi. She died a few years ago. The pioneers who went up following in her footsteps were all from the Betar movement. Here is a list of the people who in the 30’s went up to Israel.

1. David Veinreich   2. Abram Veinreich [brothers]
3. Leo Veinreich   4. Lea Veinreich [brother & sister]
5. Zelma Lenhoff   6. Ida Lenhoff [sisters]
7. Josef Katz
8. Moshe Brand
9.Taube Datel
10. Fanny Zussman
11. Schaya Slaveciski   12. Lieb Slaveciski [brothers]
13. Boris Vainer
14. Moshe Les
15. Tema Vipman

With their arrival in Israel, all of them were in divisions of Betar. D. Veinreich was in the “Menora” group. In 1936 with the beginning of the disturbances in Israel, almost all these fellows joined the police. M. Brand/J. Katz continued to be active in the police from then on until their retirement. M.Brand was a high officer in the Tel Aviv Police. Two couples of this group married here in Israel: D. Veinreich & T. Datel /L. Veinreich & T. Vipman. Of the 16 pioneers who went up to Israel, only L./T. Veinreich went down during the hard years of the 30’s. It is interesting to know their fate. At the end of the 30’s, they returned to Tukum. There, the war caught them. They succeeded in getting away to Russia. He joined the 43rd Latvian Division. He was badly wounded in the fighting around Moscow. They didn’t succeed in returning to Israel. He died in the 60’s. Tema succeeded in returning to Israel only with the aliyah of the 70’s.

The pinnacle of activities of Betar was at the end of the 20’s and the beginning of the 30’s, when the number of members reached more than 100 people. The first leader of the movement in town was Yecheskel Veinreich. This was a big family. They were seven brothers: Izak, Tzemach, Moshe, Benno, Abram, David, Yecheskel. Yecheskel was killed really the last day of the war in Berlin with the rank of officer of communications. Regarding the activities of Tzemach in the Riga Ghetto, I am sending you a photocopy of a newspaper. Regarding David/Abram, I already wrote. Moshe/Benno went up to Israel in the 50’s, via Poland. Izak went up a year afterwards. After that, the leaders of Betar were [in chronological order] Motl Lenhof. He was killed in the Shoah. Leo Veinreich - I already wrote. Josel Veinreich participated in the war in the 43rd division. Severely injured, he lives now in Tukum. Hirsch Fleisher [Flusher?] died of sickness and starvation in Tashkent. Shaul Gerson - survived the shoah in the Riga Ghetto. Now in Riga. In the middle and the end of the 30’s, there began a lessening of the activities of the movement and the number of members was reduced to 40-50. One can point this out in that the numbers prepared for aliyah were many but certificates they succeeded in receiving were few. Hachshera [preparation for aliyah - translator] they did in Baltezers, near Riga. Please note that one of the leaders of the hachshera in the 30’s was a member of the Knesset Keshet. In the year 1935, there went out from town a young woman named Batya Blumenshtok (now Ben-David) to South Africa. In the years 40’s/50’s she was one of the founders of the Betar movement in Johannesburg. She went up to Israel in the 60’s and lives in Tel Aviv.

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