by Joseph Chrust
Translated by Dr. Leon Chameides
In the 60's of the last century, the plot of land on which the building stands was part of a large field on which a wood warehouse and a sawmill were located. The entire area, now known as Plac Wolnosci (Independence Square) was in those days known as Wilhelmplatz, in honor of the two Kaisers Wilhelm.
The sawmill and wood warehouse belonged to two brothers, Abraham and Josef Goldstein who migrated from the kingdom of Poland. In the 70's they owned sawmills in Czestochowa, Lublinc, and Harbi, and, according to rumor, also owned branches in Lodz and Warsaw as well as sawmills in Piortkow and Saknowicz. It may be assumed that the establishment of the company in Katowice was an indication of their intention to settle here. This is further suggested by the fact that on the eastern side of the land they built a magnificent building, the villa, with a garden and a small farm.
This villa was built in the first half of the 1870's. >From documents it can be determined that it consisted of a ground and upper floor, each with eight or nine master rooms, a kitchen, a pantry, a bathroom, and two rooms for servants. The upper floor also contained a ballroom. The villa was very luxurious as evidenced by the elaborate carvings on its doors and windows. Very expensive materials, such as marble, were used in its building and it contained many gold details. At the top of the stairs, the monogram A.J.G. (Abraham and Josef Goldstein) is engraved several times.
>From documents it is known that in 1893 the Goldstein brothers together with their company moved to Wroclaw (Breslau). The immediate cause for their move appears to have been a destructive fire in 1892. Fires were a constant threat and we know that they had broken out twice before, in 1886 and 1890, in their sawmill. The property continued to be owned by the Godsteins for several years and then passed to Kohlen Produzenten Georg von Gishs Arben und Co. The sawmill buildings on the property were finally demolished in 1904.
At first, Dr. Hans Poltz, the Director-general of the company, occupied the villa. Later, some of the rooms on the upper floor were used as offices for representatives of the Association of Mine Industries. After this association ceased to exist in 1932, the villa was purchased by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry which occupied it, with an interruption of a few years, until 1950. In 1952 the building was used to house the Society of Polish-Soviet Friendship.
(Based on an article by Barbara Kamajczik in the book Katowice Chronicles).
by Joseph Chrust
Translated by Dr. Leon Chameides
Approximately 50 years after the first Katowice Conference (1884), which laid the foundation for the Chibat Zion movement, this city would once again host a Zionist convention, but of a markedly different type. This time the convention would be critical for the Zionist Revisionist movement and Katowice would this time symbolize the end of an era rather than the beginning.
This convention took place at a time when the sentiment within the Revisionist movement was inclined towards seceding from the World Zionist Organization. The pressure for this came especially from the extreme flank of the branch in Eretz Israel and the resulting internal friction became so severe that it interfered with any constructive activity within the party. Zeev Jabotinsky felt himself increasingly isolated because in the organization over which he presided he was a lonely voice, one against four.
From time to time he still harbored a spark of hope that it might be possible to avoid a division within the party, but three weeks before the beginning of the party convention he wrote: During the Party convention in Katowice, it appears that the party will split.
In this confrontational atmosphere between Jabotinsky and his friends, a conflict also started among the other branches of the Revisionist movement. In this regard, the decision made by the Eretz Israel branch at its convention in Kfar Saba on January 15, 1933 is especially noteworthy. It imposed on the Eretz Israel delegation to the World Revisionist Convention a demand that the World Revisionist movement be led by leaders who understand that loyalty to the Revisionist organization's charter must supercede all other loyalties.
The small Italian branch, led by Liona Karpi, proved itself very loyal to Jabotinsky. When it became known to them that Meir Grossman, Jabotinsky's opponent, intended to speak at their national convention, they refused to accept him and only Jabotinsky's intervention made it possible for Grossman to speak.
The leadership decided to air all the disputes that threatened to split the party at the Revisionist Party Council that was to take place in Katowice in March, 1933. The central office, under Grossman's leadership, proposed a very full daily agenda that included reports of activities of the various branches from different geographic areas. Jabotinsky strongly opposed this.
When Jabotinsky was asked on the eve of the convention, whether the Zionist Revisionists should contribute the shekel [and thereby become members of the World Zionist Organization] at this time, his advice was to postpone it until after the Katowice Convention. Some concluded from his answer that he expected the Katowice meeting to decide against participation in the World Zionist Organization. Others thought that he wanted to leave the door open for new negotiations in Katowice that would allow the movement, under certain conditions, to participate in the World Zionist Organization elections. However, in a letter to Dr. Joseph Schechtman, described as private, Jabotinsky clearly describes the essential points in the position that he planned to take at the Katowice Party Council.
The letter concludes: My words are sharp and crude and I ask that if you have to share them with others, don't quote me; use more delicate language because I don't want to provoke anyone. But my opinions are exactly as I wrote them; I am completely ready for a split.
What actually took place in Katowice is described in Jabotinsky's biography written by Dr. Joseph Schechtman:
The two camps came to Katowice in a belligerent mood and were emotionally prepared for a rift. Jabotinsky's state of mind may be judged from the letter cited above, but even Grossman was prepared for the possibility of a division. During one of the intermissions he invited me (we had been friends since 1911) to take a nap in his hotel room. Instead of resting however, we started to discuss the situation in the movement. Grossman was most determined about his intentions: I have had it with Jabotinsky's continuous pressure. This cannot continue. It must be made clear to him that the movement can continue to exist without him. We have built an organizational structure that is almost completely self sustaining. The entire administration, except Jabotinsky.supports my point of view. Grossman spoke in a similar vein with a delegation (Joseph Klarman, Abraham Diamond, David Hoffer) which tried to convince him to accept a compromise and thus avoid a party split. He answered with a very determined no. He confidently indicated that 90% of the party, even Betar, supported his view, and that in case of a split, they would follow him and not Jabotinsky. I am not prepared to negotiate with Mr. Jabotinsky.
Jabotisky opened the debate by stating that the agreements reached in Calais and Vienna were insufficient to maintain primary loyalty to the Revisionist organization above and beyond loyalty to any other organization. He demanded that the agreements be broadened and protected against attack in order to guarantee the possibility of independent political activity. He also demanded that the executive be enlarged to include three supporters of his position. His opponents claimed that he created problems where none existed. They questioned the need for broadening the Calais-Vienna agreements since they did not feel that loyalty to the World Zionist Organiztion in essence prevented the Revisionists from conducting independent political activity. In their opinion there was no need to add new members to the executive because at no time was Jabotinsky confronted with a hostile majority vote in the executive.
A very intensive debate about this and related subjects lasted three days without evidence that a solution was possible. Even more intensive were the many meetings and discussions that took place behind the scenes in search for a way out of the dilemma. But neither the official nor the unofficial meetings bore any fruit. It became clear to Jabotinsky that he would be unable to sway a majority of the 40 participants at the session to his point of view, and he realized that he dare not bring the subject to a decision by putting his proposals to a vote and thereby risk failure. He claimed that a solution to the important problems of the party by a numerical majority would likely hurt the beautiful Revisionist tradition, and he pleaded for an agreement based on mutual concessions. Likewise, Grossman and his friends wisely restrained themselves from placing their draft resolution to a vote. They also, although for different reasons, were not interested in a final decision; primarily because they were obviously pleased with the existing situation and would have been satisfied to see it continue. From this standpoint, Jabotinsky clearly did not have the upper hand; his opponents were not in a dependent position. They did not need to request approval for their position from the leadership of the party since this was was determined six months previously by a committee of the World Council in response to a proposal made by Jabotinsky himself. If he wishes, he will have to affect a change in a situation which he himself has caused. But Jabotinsky was aware that he could not succeed with this type of action. Both sides tried carefully to find some type of solution that would defrost the situation. By the evening of March 23rd it was clear that all attempts to find a solution were in vain. Not a single draft resolution was brought before the convention for a vote and it ended without a decision. The chairman, Dr. S. Lazarowicz announced that accordingly, all former decisions would continue to be in force and that all members of the Zionist Revisionist movement are bound by them.
The meeting ended in complete confusion. Most of the delegates, regardless of their position during the meeting, were depressed and disappointed. They had no desire to resign themselves to this frozen situation which they clearly saw as unhealthy for the future of the movement and to consider it as final. No delegate returned to his hotel room. Prolonged and excited, although indecisive, discussions took place in the coffee houses of Katowice stimulated by this lack of action.
Very late during the night a number of delegates made a final attempt to bridge the difference of opinion. Jabotinsky and and the other members of the executive were invited to sit together and at the meeting there prevailed a strong feeling of regret and a desire to reach a compromise. The attempt failed. Although all those involved in the attempt were polite and, at least outwardly cordial, no one was willing to capitulate. After an hour of fruitless debate, the unofficial meeting broke up. Jabotinsky told his fellow executive members that he is no longer prepared to work with them under current circumstances. They replied that they would continue to work without him. Three months after Katowice, Jabotinsky wrote in a personal letter that after the meeting that night when Machover, Susskin, and Shtariker had left frozen-faced, Grossman told him: You have truly hurt these three gentlemen without reason. Jabotinsky replied: No. I can understand your position - you are fighting for hegemony [within the movement], but they are simply traitors.
It is true that several of his enthusiastic supporters advised Jabotinsky to dismantle the executive and take full authority as president of the organization. According to A. Props and D. Boyko, Jabotinsky told a delegation of Betar which visited him in Katowice, that this advice was indeed given to him. The delegation assured him that Betar would follow him without hesitation if at the same time a clear position was established regarding participation in the upcoming World Zionist Congress. But Jabotinsky answered abruptly that he had not yet made a decision regarding this problem.
Twenty four hours after leaving Katowice, on March 22, Jabotinsky issued a declaration in Lodz:
I, the President of the World Zionist-Revisionist Organization, hereby announce that as of today I personally take on the actual management of the organization and all business related to the world wide movement. Activities of the current central institutions of the world movement are hereby annulled...I will issue an appeal to the wider organizations of the Zionist Revisionists and of Betar to participate in the 18th Zionist Congress. In expressing his belief that in these difficult times this decision is the only way to maintain unity of the Zionist-Revisionist movement and thereby keep his holy obligation to its founder, Jabotinsky called on all members of the Zionist-Revisionists to support their president and urged them in the name of the noble historical mission of our Hebrew state movement to help him to maintain a loving relationship, peace and self control (between people); united we can honorably overcome this crisis.
He then announced the opening of a temporary secretariat in Warsaw which would function as a temporary world executive of the organization, and a temporary commissioner in charge of collecting the shekel. A few days afterward, on the 26th of March, Jabotinsky published an article in Moment in Warsaw in which he explained his motives. The following is a summary of his article:
The Katowice conference of the World Council ended without arriving at any decision and left its participants with feelings of despair and helplessness...When a meeting ends in such silence, it means that it is turning to someone and in a whisper says: We cannot find a solution, but we beg you to find one and to do it in a way that will keep us united, working together, and allowing us to continue to dream about fulfilling our goals.
Each one of us must answer two questions: 1) To whom is this question, spoken in a whisper, addressed? and 2) What exactly is the nature of this combined request? In my opinion the answer to the first question is that it was addressed to the President who is not simply chairman of the executive but was specifically elected as president of the organization. However even more important is my impression that the overwhelming majority of the members of the Zionist Revisionists want me.
The second question concerns the content of the request. Here have no illusions. Whether I agree or not, except for a small minority, all of the membership wants to participate in the 18th Zionist Congress and wants to participate in complete seriousness, and not simply in order to fulfill an obligation or as a futile demonstration of our strength
That is the authorization which is contained in the 'whispering voice'. I decided to accept this authorization with sincerity without regard to my personal feelings. I will attempt to fulfill this silent request in honesty and seriousness but only under conditions without which it would be impossible to carry out my responsibilities from a moral point of view. My conditions are: Until the Congress all Zionist Revisionists are exempt from any obligation that would cause a conflict with the Zionist Organization; during the Congress we will place on the agenda the duties imposed by the shekel.
The party will have an opportunity during the World Council of the Zionist Revisionists or in a poll to tell me to 'go' or to 'stay'.
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