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[Column 269]

Hatzohar[1] and Beitar[2] in Our Town

by Rafael Snyderman

Translated by Meir Bulman

In 1928, a chapter of Beitar was founded in our town. Shortly thereafter, a chapter of Hatzohar was also founded. In other words, our town also witnessed the Zionist–Revisionist[3] movement take shape. The founding of these organizations did not happen suddenly. Social creations do not suddenly appear like a deus ex machina.[4] A stage of development preceded it; the “ideological Shatnez,”[5] as we called it and which defined the Zionist–Socialist movements was a source of unrest among youth and encouraged many Zionists. Not everyone accepted the combination or wanted socialism to lead [down] the road towards a

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solution to the Jewish problem. Thus, Ze'ev Jabotinsky's call to gather around the blue and white flag was heeded.[6] Mordechai Pohorylis, M. Goldhaber and I founded the Beitar branch in our town. I had a lot of free time and ample energy so I was appointed chapter leader.

 

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The Beitar Group

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I served in that role for several years. Later, the role was fulfilled by Avraham Seidmann, Reuven Bloital, Fishel Garfunkel and Mordechai Kubert.

In the beginning, the lines between Beitar and Hatzohar were blurred. The founders of Hatzohar, previously study house scholars, included Avraham Seidmann, Yeshayahu Wagner, and my brother Netta; others filled important roles in developing the chapter, especially in the fields of culture, counseling and Hebrew language instruction. The first steps of the Revisionist movement were also difficult in our town. Many obstacles were placed along the path, mostly by factions who opposed Revisionism. Some attempts were made to dissuade a local Revisionist activist from holding a lecture and he was scared and canceled the speech. As a resident of the town, the would–be speaker did not want to heighten tensions between youth factions and had to forego his privilege [of speaking] for the sake of peace. Actions such as threats did not damage our movement. On the contrary, it grew, spread and included broad sections of the public. Shortly thereafter, those who opposed Revisionism made their peace with the movement and found ways for competing factions to cooperate. The Keren Kayemet [L'Yisrael][7] committee was a joint venture. Advocacy, including shekel sales and fundraisers for the general Zionist movement, etc., was usually done jointly.

Remarkably, the only Jewish teachers in the Polish public school, Ms. Tsiment and Mr. [Marcus Muzr] Rost, were Revisionists. Ms. Tsiment was not an activist but Mr. Rost was active in the movement and very influential. Rost also served as Karen Kayemet L'Yisrael committee Chairman.

The most important aspect of cultural activism was spreading the Hebrew language. Language instruction went beyond the four corners of the Revisionist movement. At first, volunteers, including Yeshayahu Wagner, Reuven Bloital and I, taught Hebrew to small groups. Then the classes attracted many students at which point

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Yekel Seidman's wife founded a Hebrew school. Most students in the Hebrew school were members of Beitar.

An important part of the movement's development was the library. The library provided intellectual nourishment to all, not only members of the movement. With limited resources, Hatzohar members founded a modest library. Thanks to the diligence and devotion of the librarian Alter Fink,[8] it quickly grew into a respectable library and became an important asset for the movement. Unfortunately, by popular demand, most of the books were in Yiddish.

The theatre company founded by Mordechai Pohorylis added color to the educational work which had become extensive. Advocacy branched out into various activities: courses on Zionist history [taught by] by Yeshayahu Wagner and Avraham Seidmann, scouting lessons led by Mordechai Pohorylis and military organization drills taught by Fishel Garfunkel.

Close ties were maintained between the movement in our town and its Borszczów and Chortkiv counterparts. Joint conferences were held. The Chortkiv chapter encouraged and helped. Leibish Wasserman of Chortkiv was wholeheartedly devoted to the Revisionist cause and was very helpful during his frequent visits to our town. Thanks to the diligent, ceaseless work of a few people, a special youth movement developed in our town as the Revisionist movement acquired many members and people who appreciated classes being offered. Various fundraisers were very successful.

The Revisionist movement in our town reached its height close to the division [?]. In addition to the local advocates, envoys from the movement, including gifted speakers, visited our town. Speakers included: I. Netanel (Rothman), now a secondary education institute principal in Israel; Dr. Lipman, Bar Hornstein and others. The appearance of Ze'ev Jabotinsky in Chortkiv was a unique experience. Most members from our town traveled to hear Jabotinsky speak. After events in Katowice, a split occurred within the Revisionist movement; there was a disturbance among members of Hatzohar but Beitar was unharmed and its development continued unhindered.

After the intellectual training for aliyah, came physical training.

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oze273
Beitar in Jezierzany

 

An agricultural training center was established at Lisowice near Tovste where Beitar members trained for life in Israel. However, the training did not result in the desired aliyah. The dispute between the Jewish Agency and Beitar resulted in a scarcity of certificates for Beitar members. The only Beitar member who made aliyah with a certificate, though independent of Beitar, was my brother Tzvi. After the 1929 Palestine riots, the popularity of aliyah certificates declined. My father, an avid Zionist who generously contributed to Karen Kayemet l'Yisrael and was one of three people in the town who subscribed to HaOlam, approached the Palestine office in Lviv and requested a certificate for Tzvi. My father's request was granted and, within a few weeks, Tzvi set foot on the holy ground of Eretz Israel. Four years later, Tzvi was joined by my parents

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and family members younger than 18.

As Beitar members saw the path to aliyah was closed, they began searching for alternative methods for aliyah. When they learned of Aliyah Bet[9], many prepared for aliyah. Preparation was not limited solely to members of Beitar and included all who desired to make aliyah. Among the residents of our town who were fortunate to make aliyah in that manner were Malka Hechtenthal, a member of Beitar, and Mordechai Wallach, a member of a different youth movement. A large group that left a short time after war broke out did not reach its destination. After the movement split, a single certificate was designated for a member of the Revisionist movement in our town and Z'ev Muster received that certificate.

Meanwhile, our town and its youth movements were destroyed. The Nazi demons did not discriminate among youth movement factions. All [who were involved in the youth movements] were pure and holy, and their souls shine like the heavens.


Notes and Footnotes

All notes and footnotes were added by the Yizkor book coordinator unless otherwise noted

  1. Hatzohar – a Revisionist Zionist organization and political party in Mandatory Palestine and newly independent Israel. Return
  2. Beitar – a Revisionist Zionist youth movement founded in 1923 in Riga, Latvia by Vladimir Jabotinsky. Return
  3. Revisionist Zionism – a faction within the Zionist movement. The ideology was initially developed by Ze'ev Jabotinsky who advocated a “revision” of the “practical Zionism” of David Ben–Gurion and Chaim Weizmann which was focused on independent individuals' settling of Eretz Yisrael. Revisionist Zionism was based on a vision of “political Zionism” which Jabotinsky regarded as following the legacy of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern political Zionism. Source: Wikipedia. Return
  4. Deus ex machina – a Greek phrase meaning “a god from a machine” Return
  5. Shatnez – cloth containing both wool and linen which Jewish law, derived from the Torah, prohibits wearing. Return
  6. This is not the place for a battle of ideas and party divides about the methods of Zionist implementation. The gods of history will decide. The past, present and future of Zionism shape the ongoing disagreement in Israel. (note added by the author) Return
  7. Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael – Jewish National Fund Return
  8. A relative of Mordechai Anshel Tenenblatt. (note probably added by the author) Return
  9. Aliyah Bet – code name given to illegal immigration to Mandatory Palestine between 1934 and 1948 by Jews, most of whom were Holocaust survivors and refugees from Nazi Germany. Return


[Column 275]

Peretz Fareyn[1]

by Shlomo Trembolski

Translated by Meir Bulman

After meeting with Avraham Geffner, Yankel the carpenter's apprentice [Melmut?] , several young people had the idea of founding a library. Yankel once said that he employed a young philosopher who spent his nights reading books by the light of a small candle. Yankel did not know which books the young man read. As a group of young people, we searched for an opportunity to meet the young philosopher. We found the opportunity when we saw him in a field behind the Christian cemetery, a popular spot on the road to Łanowce; [he was] relaxing while immersed in a book. We introduced ourselves and began a conversation about various issues. We also asked him to lend us reading material. Avraham was happy to oblige on the condition that we return the books within two weeks because

 

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Members of the I.L. Peretz Library

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every other Saturday, he would walk to Chortkiv to exchange books. If I recall correctly, Avraham borrowed the books from the Poale Zion Library. Meanwhile, we learned that Avraham's candle supply was diminishing and that his low salary was insufficient to buy candles. From then on, we supplied the candles and he supplied the books.

The books passed from one friend to the next. Each one of us did our best to comprehend the material so we could exchange opinions during one of our frequent conversations. During one of those conversations, we decided to establish a library in our town. Most of the people who devoted time and effort to the library's founding were working people whose financial situation was not great.

We approached the library center [?] which sent us the required materials. Shortly thereafter, we received a permit to establish a union in Jezierzany named “Peretz Bibliotec.” The young people began working on establishing the library

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and spared no time or effort. The founders were: Chaim–Wolf Schissler, Yosef Schissler, Avraham Saltzman, Saul Tenenbaum, the Tenenbaum sisters, Mendel Sternberg (now in America), Yidel Shuster, Baruch Leib Weissbrod, Motel Rofeh,[2] me and others.

Members agreed to not politicize the Peretz library. Of course, each of us had our own core beliefs but we understood that, given the existing divisions among the youth in our town, every young person, without regard to political views, should have a place where he could spend his time reading a book or newspaper, playing chess, etc. The goal was to dissuade youth from aimlessly sitting at kiosks and engaging in common time–wasting and senseless conversations. Every member could belong to any organizations matching his views; for instance, some members participated in the work of Ezra which aided pioneers who intended to make aliyah.

We approached the founding [of the library] with humble means. We rented a room from the Kimmel family [and that was] where we gathered some borrowed books. Even the table in the room was borrowed. Not long passed before we purchased books. We designated a fund for purchasing

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books, newspapers and periodicals, including Literarishe Bleter[3], YIVO[4] publications and Forverts[5].

Readers from the region found a respectable selection of books. Many who could not afford a newspaper visited the library. The increase in our membership made it possible to offer evening classes. Dov Weinberg accepted the task of teaching Hebrew. Debate nights also took place.

The Union also founded a theater company. Today it might be easy to dismiss the role and activities of the [theater] company as unimportant. However, the company made an important cultural contribution [to the community] by allowing people to develop an understanding and appreciation for theatre. Among other productions, the company successfully produced Sholem Aleichem's Tevye the Dairyman and The Big Win.

We eventually had a library with 2000 books. However, the financial situation in town worsened and many young people left town. Thus, the Union lost many of its members and founders. Young library members managed [to keep] the library functioning until its bitter end.

 

oze278
The Freiheit Group

 

Notes and Footnotes

Notes were added by the Yizkor book co–coordinator unless otherwise specified.

  1. Peretz Fareyn – Peretz Union Return
  2. In the Jezierzany necrology listing those who were killed in the Holocaust, the name is listed as Rapeh. (note added by Hebrew–to–English translator) Return
  3. Literarishe Bleter – “Literary Pages” published 1924 – 1939; the leading Yiddish literary publication in Poland between World War I and World War II. Return
  4. YIVO – established in 1925 in Vilna in the Second Polish Republic as the Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut; an organization that preserves, studies and teaches the cultural history of Jewish life throughout Eastern Europe, Germany and Russia. The English name of the organization was changed to the Institute for Jewish Research subsequent to its relocation to New York City, although it is still primarily known by its Yiddish acronym. (Source: Wikipedia) Return
  5. Forverts – “The Yiddish Forward” – a clearinghouse for the latest developments in the Yiddish world. Return


[Column 279]

As World War II Erupted

by Tzvi Fenster

Translated by Meir Bulman

 

A. 16 Fateful Days in Poland

The destruction of the Jewish community in Jezierzany began, as it did for all of Polish Jewry, with the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. After that day, every Jew began feeling that terrible events were headed our way. Of course, no imagined fate, even the darkest and most pessimistic, envisioned total destruction. Yet the general sense was that, despite the pleasant clear weather, black clouds were gathering in the skies of the Jewish people and Death was spreading its wings across the dwellings of Israel in Europe.

The Polish–German war was very short. The war lasted only 16 days but those days were rife with tension and horror. Constant enlistment in the Polish military ceased because Polish authorities could not complete it on time. Chaos quickly enveloped the administrative mechanism. At night, lights were blacked out and in the daytime the German “steel birds” flew undisturbed through our area. The first refugees arrived from Warsaw and central Poland and, a few days later, from Lviv and other nearby places. Two weeks after the war began, the staff of the popular Polish–language Jewish newspaper Chwila, along with its Chief Editor Henryk Hescheles, arrived in Jezierzany with the goal of passing through Zalishchyky to Romania.

Jezierzany is close to Zalishchyky which is located on the shore of the Dniester bordering Romania. The Polish leadership, including its government and military commanders, escaped through Zalishchyky to Romania. Many followed,

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including Jewish civilians who reached Zalishchyky in the final days before Poland collapsed. Many refugees passed through Jezierzany on their way to Zalishchyky and Romania.

The wave of refugees and the fear of Hitler motivated many Jezierzany residents to leave for Romania as well. From September 14th – 16th, people packed in preparation for the journey. However, the events of September 17th thwarted the plans of those who had intended to leave. Turmoil in global policy changed the situation across the region, including our town.

 

B. Two and a Half Years Under Soviet Governance

On Saturday night, September 16, 1939, radio listeners said that the Red Army had entered Eastern Galicia pursuant to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact which divided Eastern Europe. Fearing the approaching Nazi forces, the Jews of Jezierzany did not sleep well that night. Some left town at dawn on their way to Zalishchyky. On Sunday morning, September 17, 1939, quickly spreading news surprised everyone as they learned that the Red Army had crossed the Zbruch river at dawn and was approaching Jezierzany. At 7:30 a.m., a Soviet guard, a single horseback rider, arrived from Pilatkowce road. When the Soviet soldier reached the intersecting road to Chrotkiv, he looked to the sides and into the alleyways, rode to the Catholic Church (The “Red Church”) and turned back to the Pilatkowce road. Minutes later, a large cavalry arrived, followed by armored vehicles, tanks and cars.

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The army then began pouring in from all directions, including the Borszczów road, headed west to Chortkiv. Those who planned to leave stopped when the Red Army entered and those who had left to Zalishchyky returned hours later.

The Jewish population accepted the arrival of the Red Army with mixed feelings. Only a few Jews cheered for the arriving army. Most people had mixed feelings of relief following the surprise redemption from the Nazis and fear of radical changes a socialist regime would bring. Earlier news from Soviet rulers indicated that a transition to the new regime meant the economic displacement of the middle class. Young residents, most of whom were Zionists who desired aliyah, feared the opportunities for aliyah would vanish and also feared political repression. The Soviet invasion was accurately reflected in the popular saying that, “The death sentence expected by Hitler's invasion was exchanged for a life sentence.” Ironically, during the Holocaust, as we stood on the verge of death, we longed for the “life sentence” to liberate us from death's grip.

A series of shocking events unfolded in the first hours of the Soviet invasion. Unfortunately, among the many Jewish refugees who were present, there were criminals who probably assumed that Communist rule meant lawless anarchy. Some criminals forced fabric stores open demanded that red fabric be given to them supposedly to make red flags to greet the army but instead stole other fabrics. The criminals also stopped a farmer who brought grapes for sale, forcefully stole the grapes and began distributing them for free.

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The criminals' rough treatment towards the farmer angered the Christian population, mostly Ukrainians, who had filled the town for Sunday prayers. Because the Christians were already disappointed by the Red Army replacement of the Nazis whom the local Christians had eagerly awaited, the locals began to gather and planned to take revenge against the Jews. The lawless acts of the scoundrels from the criminal world would have led to dire consequences if not for a Jewish Soviet officer who was told of the situation. The officer found the bullies and warned them that if they did not immediately cease their criminal behavior, they would be penalized under the full force of emergency law.

After the first day marked by unexpected events, “normal” days arrived. The days were uneventful on their surface yet rife with tension and unease as the process of changing the economy and society continued. Tradesman and merchants were expelled from their positions and became unnecessary. Some had their belongings nationalized, i.e. their belongings were confiscated and the owners were penalized with extra taxes. A scarcity, especially of food, was immediately sensed. Large lines formed in front of the still–functional stores as people scrambled to stock up on essential and even non–essential items. The transition period was marked with intense aggregation, which was sparked by tensions of transition. Few weeks passed before the stores and warehouses were emptied and cooperative stores opened. Although the quality of merchandise increased over time and people learned the stockpiling was excessive, the years of communist rule were marked by long lines in front of cooperative businesses. The black market aptly responded and items of all kinds were sold illegally. The punishment for black market trade began at five years imprisonment (known in Soviet Russia as “a child's jail time”) upwards to fifteen years. Such imprisonment was akin to the destruction of the prisoner's body. On the other hand, the new regime encouraged education and training

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for many young people, with the aim of transferring [them] to more productive professions.

Notably, some young Jewish collaborated with the regime. Jews despised collaborators and Gentiles despised collaborators even more.

In the spring of 1941, a sense emerged that the pact between Russia and Germany was on the verge of explosion and a second world war was fast approaching. Army enlistment began and reached its height in April and May of 1941. Some Red Army troops from Jezierzany returned home after the Red Army retreated, while others served until 1945 when they were released and joined the survivors of Jezierzany. Some remained in Russia and to this day their fates [are] unknown.

The transition from the Soviet regime to the Nazi regime began with the start of the Soviet–German conflict on June 22nd and ended approximately July 8th.

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The Soviets were in the midst of retreat and were busy evacuating their forces and institutions which had been deeply rooted. Enlistment in the Red Army continued during the transition period. As the Soviets retreated, some Jews, especially those who worked for Soviet governmental institutions as well as some families who feared Hitler, accompanied the retreating Russians.

Regretfully, only a few dozen people left Jezierzany with the retreating Russians. Although the fate of those who were enlisted, jailed, or joined the Russians of their own [free] will was unpleasant because they had to wander through a war–impacted Russia, most survived and returned from Russia after the war ended.

 

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