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[Page 189]

The Right Poalei Zion[1] in Nowy Dwor

by Sholem Kartsovitsh, Holon

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

In 1925, the Zionist–Socialists united with the Right Poalei Zion (“Workers of Zion” Party). This act of unification had great significance for all segments of the Jewish workers' movement in Poland, who had set themselves a dual task: social and national emancipation of the Jewish masses.

The economic situation in Poland at the time was very difficult. Jews were concentrated in the weakest and most insecure sectors of manufacturing and small business, acting as middlemen, and only in part in the skilled trades. Gradually Jews were pushed out of the latest economic and social positions and it became more and more necessary to seek out new ways to earn a living by emigration. Everyone's eyes turned to the land of Jewish pioneers, and a sound foundation for the creation of a national Jewish workers' society, and so grew the interest in Eretz–Yisroel.

Nowy Dwor, too felt the economic pressure and impoverishment as jobs continued to be lost, and there awakened a Zionist Socialist movement that attracted both young and older workers.

The beginning wasn't easy. We didn't have our own location, a place to meet, so we carried out our work in the street, in the woods and fields. There we would gather old and young and teach them the basics of Poalei Zionism. We would enlighten them as to the situation of Jews all over the world and especially in Poland and tell them, as an example of a new way of life for Jews, of the sacrifices of the workers in Israel and their partners, the pioneer movement in the diaspora.

Our first location was in Yosl

 

now189.jpg
A group of members of Poalei Zion

From right: Leybl Pinker, Shloyme Tsuker, Menashe Kokhalsi, Zalmen Shmukler, Khaim Tik, Yankev Pinker
In front: Shimen Litman

 

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Beker's bakery. This was a spare room without a floor or a full window. But what love and devotion we put into repairing and decorating our club! Our carpenters repaired the doors and windows. The glaziers installed window panes, our woman members hung colorful paper chains from the ceiling, walls and windows, and we hung pictures. It was so festive, the room was unrecognizable. Someone even wrote a song about “Yosl Beker's Palace.”

Those were difficult and wonderful days, full of hope for a new tomorrow and courage for a new way. In our newly remade quarters our organizational life grew stronger. We established groups for self–education –– “Brenner,” “Borochov,” “Marx” –– under the direction of comrades Sholem Karstovitsh, Menashe Kokhalski, Hershl Magid, Henekh Tik, et.al. Book by book we built a library and our educational work spread throughout town. We gradually broadened our community work, and our members participated in various general institutions – the Sholem Aleichem Library, the Jewish School Organization –– and in Zionist organizations—in the work of the Jewish National Fund, the Foundation Fund and the League for a Working Israel. The Poalei Zion was also renowned in town for its literary evenings, which we presented in the form of living newspapers, with the participation of local talent, and which drew big audiences.

I remember our first demonstration for May First in 1928. Given its anti–Zionist position, the Bund, which was then a force in town, reacted with disdain to the small Right Poalei Zion's group. But we marched with pride through the streets, shouting our slogans.

In later years, although the Bund always rejected our efforts to hold a joint May First demonstration, we acted on our own, until, thanks to our stubbornness and consciousness, we Poalei Zionists had many important achievements.

In 1929, after the disturbances in Eretz Yisroel, when it looked like the future of the Jewish settlement there was uncertain and all the enemies of Eretz Yisroel began to incite hatred against us, we increased our educational efforts, organized protest meetings, fended off attacks by our opponents and aroused the courage of our members. Our members demonstrated boundless dedication to maintain the ranks and deepen the ideological loyalty of our party.

In those difficult and brutal days, Herr Lipe Mundlak came from Eretz Yisroel to visit us. He told us how the workers and halutzim [agricultural pioneers] of Eretz Yisroel had mounted a strong self defense and fought off the Arab attackers. This encouraged us to continue our work for our beliefs and we expanded our efforts.

In July, 1930, we received the sad news that our dear Herr Lipe Mundlak was suddenly taken ill in the midst of his grueling communal work in Eretz Yisroel and died. We heard this with pain and sadness and with great respect for this man who had helped and encouraged us in the dark days of our movement.

In the years 1930–34, with the expansion of our work and with the constant growth of our party we needed larger quarters and we obtained a spacious apartment in the house owned by Itsik Meyer Mundlak, father of the deceased Lipe – three rooms with all the furnishings. There we eternalized

[Page 191]

the memory of our dear comrade Lipe Mudlak by establishing a large library in his name. The whole Zionist Socialist movement met there: the Right Poalei Zion party, the youth organization Frayhayt [Freedom], the Hechalutz [Pioneer], Haoved [The Worker] and the sports club, Hapoel [the Worker].

Our work branched out in all areas. The party grew from a small group to over 200 members, especially in the ranks of Hechalutz, Haoved and other groups. In those years, we also participated in the elections to the city council and to the kehile [organized Jewish community], where Herrs Sholem Kartovitsh and Khaim Kohn were our representatives.

Our relationship with the P.P.S. [Polish Socialist Party] and its youth were friendly. We joined with them in youth conventions in honor of Red Vienna [name for Vienna during period it was governed by Social Democrats]. In 1934, when the Vienna uprising was suppressed, we organized protest meetings in different parts of the town and many of our members were arrested.

In 1933–34 we had to deal with a struggle with the Revisionist [Zionist] Party. It was during the tense period after the murder of [Khaim] Arlozorov [Zionist leader assassinated in Tel Aviv in 1933] and during the preparation for the 18th Zionist Congress. We often came to blows. We sold 1200 shekels [tokens given for contributions to Zionist cause] and at the elections to the Congress we obtained 2/3 of the votes. Our party was then the only force representing the workers of Eretz Yisroel that succeeded in the elections.

The aliyah [emigration] to Eretz Yisroel in 1933 led to the establishment of hakhshores [ck] [training programs to prepare those seeking to settle in Eretz Yisroel]. And because of that, we had to deal with a very difficult struggle with the Bund, which was one of the

 

now191.jpg
At the departure from Hashalom to Eretz–Yisroel, Nowy Dwor, September 11, 1934

From right, first row: Sashinski, Bender, Pintshe Kartsovitsh, Khaye Mirl Litman, Arye Riba
Second row: Leybl Skshidlo, Hendl Malarski, Sore Zilbershteyn, Loketsh, Brokhe Evenson, Ester Zilbershteyn, Hene Blumental, Tobe Gutman, Leye Kupershteyn, Loketsh
Third row: Khaim Kohn, Menashe Kokhalski, Dovid Shmukler, Sholem Kartsovitsh, Hershl Magid, Yisroel Guzshik, Khave Gutman, Yisroel Loketsh
Fourth row: Khaim Tsirkelevitsh, Shloyme Kartsovitsh, Yenkl Vronski, Yisroel Goldshtyen, Ahron Yehiel Mendelson, Mendl Skshidlo, Yitshak Riba, Broyn, Yisroel Kokhalski, Tobe Bender, Malke Likhtenshteyn, Yehoesh Blumental

 

[Page 192]

strongest workers' parties. The Bund was determined to drive the hakhshorniks from our town. It came to blows and arrests. There was a danger that the Poles would get involved in the fight and that would have bad consequences. This was a painful chapter in the struggle between Jewish workers' parties.

The struggle was reflected in a report in the [Bundist newspaper] “Bafrayung Arbeter Shtime” [Liberation Workers Voice] of June 9, 1933. There, in the correspondence column were revealed the Bund's aggressive acts and its false accusation that “the hakhsornikes are taking the food from the mouths of the workers of our town, that they are strike breakers and that, most important, Poalei Zion helps and protects them.”

The Bund asserted that in the article that “the eastern hakhshore commune had eight members, four of whom, when they arrived to work at the plywood factory, were informed by our members who worked in the factory that if they accepted reduced wages they would encounter great opposition. The eastern hakhshornikes agreed with [the Bund's] demands and they received the same wages as all the workers. But they had to leave, because they wouldn't work on the Sabbath.”

The notice in the Liberation Workers Voice also relates the attraction of hakhsore and the growing influence of the khalutzim [agricultural pioneers]: ”Recently many transport workers have asked to be sent to hakhshore to be prepared to go to Eretz Yisroel. And many Bundist and Communist workers have now signed on with the khalutzim.”

The article also explains that the constantly growing influence of the khalutzim had added to the Bund's struggle. It is worth noting that many of the Bundists who fought with Poalei Zion and the khalutzim today are in Israel.

The Poalei Zionists in Nowy Dwor at the time conducted a wide range of activities. They had a lot of influence in the trade union movement, especially in the bakers' union where we had a lot of members and where our member Shloyme Tsuker was very active. Our members Sender Blank and Yisroel Goldshteyn were active in the clothing workers' union.

At the literary readings that we organized, the audience loved Herr Dov Ber Malik, who was practically one of the family in Nowy Dwor. Our lectures about national and social problems featured as speakers the prominent movement activists Anshel Rays, Elimelekh Nayshtern, Avraham Bialopolski, Tiger, Morgnshtern, Berditshevski, Romanovski, Ritov, Leybl Shpizman and others.

We always saw to it that our activists studied in the party seminaries and in so doing created a generation of devoted leaders, proud fighters and achievers. There was also a strong feeling of brotherhood and mutual responsibility among our comrades. We would send our weaker comrades for a rest and in so doing fulfilled the commandment, “Love they neighbor as yourself.”

When Herr Sholem Kartovitsh left for Eretz Yisroel in 1934 many of the comrades went to see him off and you could feel in their parting both the enthusiasm for aliyah and the brotherly attachment of the members to their leaders. Others who made aliyah at that time were:
Avraham Shmukler, Kahim Kohn, Sali Zilbershteyn, Dvoyre and Ester Zilbershteyn, Yisroel Guzshik, Nosn Zilberman and Beyle Rokhl, Motl Lipovitsh, Shmuel Kokhalski and Tsipore, and Avraham Zilbershteyn.

It should be noted here that one of the first people from our town to make aliyah was Avigdor Korn, who came to Eretz Yisroel in 1925.

When I came on a family visit from Eretz Yisroel in 1936, I found a much larger party with many institutions, a large youth organization and an active

[Page 193]

“Hechalutz”. I was surprised to learn of the Haoved in which were grouped older people –skilled craftsmen, laborers, with large households, who were preparing for emigration with the intention of moving there with their workshops and entire households.

The last time I saw my town Nowy Dwor was when I said farewell at a meeting in Junker's Hall and spoke about the serious disturbances in Eretz Yisroel and our heroic defense. I was approached by the simple transport worker Khil, with his two arms outstretched: “So how do I get there?” The situation was then very tense. An entire town, Minshk–Mazavietsh, one Friday ran off to Warsaw, leaving everything behind, out of fear of a pogrom. In Junker's hall, when I was saying farewell, I heard many encouraging words: “We won't be like Minsk–Mazavietsh! We will fight for our lives.” These cries, which testified to despair and readiness to fight, still resound in my ears.

Three years later, there remained no trace of the vibrant Jewish life of Nowy Dwor. Our dreams and our fighters were killed along with all of Polish Jewry –the loyal khalutzim, the devoted party activists, the cheerful Frayhayt youth, the proud sportsmen of Hapoel and the modest hardworking artisans of Haoved. They fell in the ghetto uprisings, in the death camps and on the taigas of Siberia.

May their memory shine and may

 

now193.jpg
Farewell gathering before the aliyah of Khaim Kohn

From right to left, first row: Shmuel Shimkovitsh, Shimen Mostovitsh
Second row: Khaim Tik, Simkhe Pinker, Sholem Kartovitsh, Avraham Shmukler, Khaim Kohn, Shloyme Kohn, Yosef Pinker, Nokhem Neufeld, Zishe Turkltaub, Yankev Zaydenberg
Third row: Avraham Litman, Hershl Vaynshtok, Yankev Pinker, Shloyme Kartovitsh, Kohn, Fishl Levinshteyn, Dovid Shmukler, Yeheskl Borukhovitsh, Henekh Tik, Kahim Tsuker
Fourth row: Ruven Blumshtyen, Yente Zaltzman, Shimen Litman, Yisroel Grosman, Noyekh Shmukler, Zalmen Shmukler, Berish Shrut, Avraham Goldbrokh, Moyshe Karsovitsh, El Guretski, Yenkl Frayman, Moyshe Glezer

 

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their names be hallowed, these proud fighters for a worthy and renewed Jewish life, who up until the last minutes of their lives did not forget the vow of Poalei Zion. The dear comrades: Menashe Kokhalski – the worn out bakery worker and always passionate party chairman who fell in the Warsaw ghetto; Yankev Pinker, a quiet man, our last secretary; Shloyme Kartovitsh, a baker and one of the most senior party members, permanent member of the party committee, who was killed with his entire family; Mendl Skshidlo, the careworn devoted party treasurer; Shloyme Gotlib, the permanent liaison with party officials; Shloyme Tsuker, a member of the bakers' committee; members Khaim Tsuker and Avraham Roznberg, who was always ready to help anyone in need and who was chairman of Hekhalutz; Sholem and Henekh Pitulski, among the most active members of Frayhayt and the sportsclub Hapoel, always ready to help, killed in Russia; the dear Yehoyshele Riba, the shy shrinking violet who quietly fulfilled all his part tasks; Ester Kabalski, the earnest secretary of Frayhayt; the always cheerful and friendly Gitl Bender, Leye Kupershteyn and Malke Likhtenshteyn; the powerful Leybl Vermus, one of the best sportsmen in Hapoel, who was always ready to resist attackers with his athlete's body, who died of hunger in Russia.

All of these came from the heart of the folk, who suffered their pains and dreamed their dreams. Seized by the ideals of Poalei Zion and the hekhalutz movement they exhibited self sacrifice in all areas of community life. But all of these exemplary comrades did not get to achieve what they strove for the entire lives, to see their dream made real in the land of Israel. Let us always remember them, here in the land of their hopes.

 

now194.jpg
The Brenner Circle of Frayhayt; in the center, Sholem Kartsovitsh

 


Translator's Footnote

  1. The Poalei Zion (Workers of Zion) party split into left and right factions in 1919–20. The right wing, known as Rightist or Right Poalei Zion, Poalei Zion Right, or simply Poalei Zion, was affiliated with the Second International and was essentially a social–democratic party. Return

 

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