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[Pages 63-93]

CHAPTER 5.

POLITICAL ASPIRATIONS OF JEWS
DURING THE PERIOD 1918–1939

A. ZIONIST PARTIES

The political aspirations of Jews during this period in regard to their attitude toward the future and the issue of creating their own state were very diverse. I have divided them into two trends. The first represents the parties striving toward the resolution of the Jewish problem by creating an independent Jewish state. They were made up of the Zionist parties. The movement that was later called Zionism was founded by Theodor Herzl (1860–1904). He united some loose small groups that had previously been acting out of religious impulses and created a movement of a political nature. In his youth, Herzl was not occupied with Jewish problems. It was only under the influence of the Alfred Dreyfus affair, when an officer in the French army was falsely accused of treason, was convicted in 1894, and was rehabilitated in 1906, that he lost faith in European liberalism. After a personal observation of the development of events in France, he became convinced that assimilation did not protect against anti-Semitism and that the only resolution of the Jewish problem was the establishment of a state. He contained his musing on this subject in the book A Jewish State (Der Judenstaat), published in 1896. Herzl felt that the creation of a Jewish state would benefit not only Jews but the entire world. In fulfillment of his idea, he convened the I Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897. The political program of the new movement was formulated at this congress and took the position that Zionism strove toward the establishment of a publicly and lawfully guaranteed homeland for the Jewish nation in Palestine. At first the creation of such a state on the territory of Africa or South America was contemplated. However, under the influence of eastern European religious Zionists, they concentrated on Palestine as the land of their fathers.1

Zionism had adherents in Siedlce as early as the nineteenth century. At first they were gathered in the movement Lovers of Zion [Hovevei Zion—ed.]. At its first conference, which took place in Katowice in 1884, the delegates from Siedlce were Mosze Goldberg and Jehoszua Goldfarb. The city had a branch of the Society for the Support of Jewish Farmers and Artisans in Syria and Palestine, known as the Odessa Committee. In reality, this was a branch of the Lovers of Zion, an organization that was officially banned in Russia and was backed in Siedlce by a rather numerous group of young Chassidim. Larger gatherings of members took place during engagements or weddings. This was a typical camouflage from the tsarist police. In later years, after heated polemics inside the Lovers of Zion, its offshoots appeared: Sons of Moses, Political Zionism, and Spiritual Center. Zionism underwent many transformations and internal divisions. Several parties emerged from it.

The following parties having this orientation functioned in Siedlce: the Zionist Organization in Poland, the Zionist Labor Party, Right Poalei Zion, Left Poalei Zion, and the Organization of Orthodox Zionists “Mizrachi.” The Siedlce Zionists had a worthy pioneer in Abraham Abrahams. He was born in Siedlce in 1801. After coming of age, he took up ritual slaughter and became a butcher. At the age of 36 he left Siedlce for London. There he developed his skills connected with slaughter and wrote several theses dedicated to this subject. His best known book was titled Abraham's Covenant. This was a commentary on the Shulkhan Arukh, the traditional law connected with slaughter. Abrahams also published an autobiography titled Memory for Abraham. In 1878 he left for Jerusalem and built a house there. After a time, he donated it to the society Abode of Israel. Abraham Abrahams died in Jerusalem in 1880.

The next well-known Zionist activist that left for Palestine was Jehoszua Goldfarb. He was born in 1867 to a Zionist family; his father, Mosze, was an activist in the Lovers of Zion movement and owned an oil processing plant in Siedlce. As a young man, Jehoszua was also active in this organization and then in the organization Sons of Moses. He left Siedlce several times to visit Palestine as a tourist and then settled there permanently in 1909. Together with Zejwele Kluski from Warsaw, he founded the Carmel Society and initiated the founding of the settlement Rehovot (Streets), in which he lived for a certain time. Next he moved to Tel Aviv (Mount of Spring) and initiated the founding of the Kadmat Haaretz Association, whose goal was to purchase land around Tel Aviv. During World War I, he lost the money he had invested in Siedlce. But he did well in developing his financial interests in Palestine, helped organize the National Treasury in Tel Aviv, and set up an almond garden in Rehovot.

In the 1930s, a group of Zionist youths left for Palestine; among them was also the later leader of Left Poalei Zion in Siedlce, Josef Słuszny. Some of the new arrivals had to return to their native city. Some had health problems in tolerating the change in climate, while others returned for economic reasons because they could not find means for supporting themselves. Josef Słuszny also returned and became engaged in political activity.

The Polish government expressed its favorable position toward the idea of Zionism officially, among others, in a letter of Prime Minister A. Skrzyński of 31 March 1926, “To the President of the Zionist Executive Board, Nachum Sokołow.” The following words were used in it: “The government is following with interest the development of the efforts of Zionist organizations directed toward the rebirth of Jewish national and cultural individuality on the soil of Palestine. . . .”2

 

1. THE ZIONIST ORGANIZATION IN POLAND—HISTADRUT HAZIYONIT BE POLONIA

It had about 600 members in Siedlce in 1922 and about 500 sympathizers. On 27 July 1922, it organized a rally at which Dr. Jehoszua Gotlib from Warsaw spoke.3 About 2,000 people were present. Jehoszua Gotlib's lecture touched upon the matter of Palestine's mandate and the need for general agreement among all Jews for the building of a Jewish state. He said at that time, “Friends! We have finally lived to the happy moment when we are the citizens of our own country; the Palestinian Mandate has been confirmed. From this moment on, we shall be looked upon completely differently; they will have to treat us as they do every other nation. But we must put forth every effort to rebuild our own country as quickly as possible and start dwelling in it. Our wandering has now ended. We have to stop dividing ourselves into different parties, such as the Orthodox, the Poalei Zion, Tzeirei Zion, and others. We have to arrive at there being only one Jewish people and one Jewish front. Our Orthodox brothers desperately want everything to be set up religiously, in accordance with their program. Very well, I agree, that if our country, Palestine, is to be rebuilt by donning yarmulkes, I will gladly put one on myself. But in the meantime, nothing will come of this. We have to get on with the work of rebuilding.”4 The overall income from the rally, that is, 400,000 marks, was earmarked for the support of economic and cultural work in Palestine. That same day, in the evening, Wajman held a banquet in Dr. Gotlib's honor. One and a half million marks were brought in during the event, which were sent directly to Palestine. After the Palestinian Mandate was confirmed, the Secretariat of the Provisional Jewish National Council was convened, with offices at 24 Ogrodowa Street. Members of the council included Maksymilian Schleicher as chairman and Uszer Liwerand, Srul Cukier, and Nachum Weintraub. The secretariat conducted a very energetic campaign in favor of leaving for Palestine. In the period from 26 July to 26 August 1922 alone, it sent nine families there. Officially, the Siedlce branch came into being only in 1924 and had about 200 members. At its head were Uszer Orzeł, chairman (merchant); Maksymilian Schleicher, vice-chairman (doctor); and Lew Gutgeld.5 The Zionist Organization had as its goal the direction of the efforts of all Jews “toward the rebuilding and development of Palestine as the public-legal guarantee of a Jewish homeland in national, cultural, and economic respects.”6 The main offices of this party was in Warsaw. “Its methods of action: propaganda in word, letter, and print.”7 With the goal of raising money for their activity, they organized concerts, dances, and courses in, among others, Hebrew, agriculture, trade, and tourism. A membership subscription, called a shekel in Hebrew, was 6 zlotys annually. The highest authority in the Zionist Organization was the Representative Congress, then the Central Committee, and then the Auditing Committee. The Congress met once a year. One representative was selected during the General Assembly from every division of the party that had 200 members, and an additional representative was selected in divisions containing over 250 people. Every delegate had the right to one vote for a candidate to the governing body of the party as well as the right of a passive and active vote. The Central Committee consisted of 15–25 people elected by a majority of the votes of the delegates. The Central Committee took care of the totality of the party's activity and oversaw the correct development of the following departments:

  1. The department of fundraising for the purchase of land for immigrants in Palestine, the so-called Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael.
  2. The department of donations and contributions for the support of all economic and cultural work in Palestine.
  3. The department for the support and recruitment of immigrants to Palestine, the so-called Palestinian Department.
  4. The department for cooperation among landowners in Palestine, the so-called Hachsharat Hayishuv.
  5. The department for the vocational and moral preparation of candidates for settlement in Palestine, the so-called Hechalutz Hamerkaz.
  6. The department for the support of Hebrew culture.8

Before the Tenth Congress of the Zionist Organization, the Histadrut, in 1929, a division into three factions occurred within its ranks: Al Hamishmar, Et Livnot, and Revisionist Zionists.

Al Hamishmar (On Guard) paid a great deal of attention to the immediate activity in Poland, the goal of which was to prepare emigration recruits for the future Israel. The members of this faction demanded national autonomy through the creation of secular Jewish communities. They considered Hebrew to be their national language, although they allowed for the use of Yiddish. They cooperated with other national minorities in Poland with the aim of protecting common interests. This faction was similar to the Folkists. It placed great emphasis on diplomacy, although it demanded a rapid resolution of the Jewish question. Izaak Grünbaum stood at the head of this faction in Poland. The Siedlce Al Hamishmar had 50 members, headed by Lewi Gutgeld and Fiszel Popowski.9

Et Livnot (Time to Build) concentrated its activity on preparing skilled workers for Palestine, to which it organized immigration. It placed great emphasis on diplomacy, connecting their hopes for obtaining a state through this means. It treated Jews differently than other minorities in Poland. It was close to the Orthodox group and the Mizrachi. This faction was headed in Poland by Leon Reich and Abraham Ozajasz Thon. The Siedlce Et Livnot had 30 members, at the head of which were Makymilian Schleicher and Abram Szloma Englader.10

Revisionist Zionists believed that the Zionist movement should avoid becoming involved in Polish matters. In their view, the Polish authorities should be supported when they took a positive attitude to the concept of Zionism. The Revisionist Zionists had as their only goal the building of the Jewish state in Palestine within its historical borders and on religious principles. They saw the coming into being of their state in armed battle with the British, since they were the ones who held the mandate over Palestine and made the immigration of Jews to it difficult. They demanded the following: handing over gratis any uncultivated state land in Palestine to Jews, the conduct of agrarian reform, an appropriate customs policy, protectionism for Jewish industry, the creation of Jewish armed forces in Palestine, and the appropriate manning of national offices in Palestine by Jews. This faction was characterized by nationalism and militarism. Their leader was Vladimir Jabotinsky. In 1931 the Revisionist Zionists broke off from the Zionist Organization and created a separate Union of Zionists, and in 1935 they broke off from the Worldwide Zionist Organization and formed their own central one—the New Zionist Organization. The Revisionist Zionists, under the influence of increasing anti-Semitism, gained ever greater support among Jews, particularly in the 1930s. They treated anti-Semitism as a positive phenomenon for them because it contributed to the growth of the number of their followers. The Polish authorities supported the New Zionist Organization and aided Jewish armed organizations because they believed that emigration was advantageous for Poland in resolving the Jewish problem. On Polish territory, the Revisionist Zionists wanted to play the same role in Jewish society as Piłsudski's followers had in Polish society. Reemigrants, who had had to leave Palestine because of an unfavorable attitude toward them by the British authorizes, had a particularly radical attitude. They intended to return with rifles in hand. After Hitler came to power in Germany, Jabotinsky promoted the slogan “evacuation of Jews to Palestine,” which would have encompasses 1.5 million Jews over the course of ten years, with half the emigrants coming from Poland. With this goal, as early as 1933 “nests” of Beitar—a youth organization of revisionists, among whom were members of the oldest groups—participated actively in Military Preparedness training. The exercises, under the direction of officers of the Polish Army, lasted for four weeks over two years. Upon completion, members of the MP underwent an intense course in one of the military camps. On the basis of an understanding between the leadership of the MP and the leadership of Beitar, members of this organization were allowed to participate in exercises in their uniforms and could march fully armed under the command of their commanding officers during ceremonies. From November 1937 to September 1939, the Poles provided arms and explosive materials to the National Military Organization (Irgun Zvai Leumi), which was transported illegally by sea to Palestine.11

The offices of the Revisionist Zionist in Siedlce were located at 11 Błonie Street. The executive board consisted of Jakub Obersztejn, Zelman Frejlich, and Srul Rozenberg. They had rather extensive support, particularly among the youth. On 25 August 1935, the Revisionists held elections to the First International Congress of the New Zionist Organization. Eight hundred seventy-two people participated in the election, which amounted to an attendance of 85 percent. The revisionists organized lectures, such as, Dawid Morgenstern from Siedlce and Dr. Szachtmen from Paris presented a paper on 11 December 1935 in the presence of 220 people titled “What Caused the Revisionist Zionist to Leave the Old Zionist Organization.” Because of their efforts to act conspiratorially, no broader information about them has survived.12

All the factions were united by a common goal—the building of Palestine. Every grouping, however, saw a different road leading to its realization. The faction Et Livnot, which affected Jewish society through the Shedletser Wochenblat (The Siedlce Weekly), had the greatest influence, with a circulation of 800. The Zionist Organization as a whole had influence in the City Council (in 1932, M. Schleicher and U. Orzeł were councilors on its behalf), the Home for Orphans and Seniors, the Society for Health Care, the Joint-Stock Bank, the “Tarbut” Society and School, the Alliance of Small Merchants, the Union of Workers in the Trades, the Committee for Aid to Jewish Students (so-called Auxilium Academicum Judaicum), the Jewish Scouting Organization (Hashomer Hatzair), the Jewish Athletics and Sports Union, and the Jewish Art Literary-Musical Society.13 The Zionist Organization had a 3 percent share of influence in the society of Siedlce County (counting society as a whole). In terms of numbers, they were second only to the Orthodox Jews, who had a 6.5 percent share in the totality of the county population.14 Yet it was active on a larger scale than the Orthodox Jews.

The Zionist Organization organized lectures on subjects of a national content and meetings with interesting activists. Rallies in which thousands of Jews participated were a very important manifestation of its activity. They were usually called as a reaction to events in Palestine, for example, during periods when the British authorities limited immigration by Jews or during anti-Jewish riot by Arabs.15 Such rallies took place in Siedlce in May and August 1929. In August of that year, there was a funeral service in the synagogue for Jews who died in Palestine. About 2,000 people took part in it. After the service, the young people formed a procession that moved from the synagogue into the street. The police scattered the demonstrators. That same day, in the evening, a rally was held in a closed establishment. About 1,000 people took part in it. Speeches were delivered by, among others, Landau, Mordechaj Gotesdiner, Mozes Jon-Tow, Lejb (Lewi) Gutgeld, and Fiszel Popowski. After going out into the street, another attempt was made to hold a march. The police intervened this time as well and scattered the demonstrators. As an act of protest and solidarity with the Palestinian Jews, a strike lasting from half an hour to an hour was held that day in Jewish stores and companies.16

So-called Saturday cultural evenings gained popularity. On Saturdays, after the end of Shabbat, gatherings were organized dedicated to culture, the press, and music. Lejzorowicz gave a lecture titled “The Jewish-Polish Salon at the End of the Eighteenth Century in Germany” at the turn of January and February 1924. On 9 February that same year, Dr. Szyper gave a talk on “Jewish Culture,” and 1 March Lejb (Lewi) Gutgeld read a paper, “The Jewish Press.” On 13 April 1925, Dr. Szyper came to the city again, with Apolinary Hartglas, the parliament member well known here. Szyper gave a talk on the life and literary work of Perec, while Hartglas talked about the current political situation and reported on the work of the Sejm [parliament—trans.]. The next important meeting with Sejm member Apolinary Hartglas was organized on 17 October 1926. It took place in the hall of the Municipal Club with an audience of 100 people. Hartglas reported on the activity of the Jewish Circle of Sejm members and explained the causes of the unrest that arose after the confirmation by the Circle of the agreement reached with the government by Dr. Reich and Thon. He also explained the reasons why Dr. Reich had resigned from his post as chairman of the Jewish Circle. He presented the postulates put before the government and emphasized that “the Jewish nation places high hopes in Marshal Piłsudski and trusts that it will not be disappointed, in exchange for which the Jewish nation is prepared to support the current government.” He described the course of the May events [reference to the so-called May Coup—trans.], expressing high regard for the troops of Marshal Piłsudski, from whom the Jewish population did not experience any unpleasantness, even though Jews were often wrongly accused in Warsaw of shooting at the marshal's troops. In connection with the fact that the former prime minister Bartel promised to meet the Jewish population's demands, “the Jews promise to give the present government their aid and cooperation in rebuilding the economy of the state.”17

Apolinary Hartglas, as a Sejm member, became engaged in the matters of other minorities in his district. In 1919, the Polish authorities took over all the shrines and buildings belonging to the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Eastern Orthodox priest Jan Charłampowicz turned to Sejm member Apolinary Hartglas with a request to plead with the state authorities in Warsaw for the return of at least one of the shrines located in the city. Hartglas interceded in this matter several times in the Ministry of Religious Denominations and Public Education. Despite receiving a favorable response from the central authorities in Warsaw, the city authorities did not return a single building to the Eastern Orthodox population, which at that time numbered about 1,000.18

The Zionist Organization supported the Polish authorities, trying to help the state by, among other things, supporting the subscription of a national loan in 1933. In order for this action to have a social character, a General Jewish Committee was convened that issued a proclamation asking for support for the government. As we read in this proclamation, “We Jews, who suffer most during times of unrest, should respond most fervently and stand in the first ranks of the appeal of the Government, which always safeguards law and order in the country. […] With this deed we should document our attachment to this country and prove that during any time of state necessity we will stand in the ranks of our own free will to demonstrate our help.”19 There was also no lack of Jews in strengthening the defense of the country.

On 26 February 1933, a convention of Podlasie Zionist Organization delegates was held. Six hundred delegates arrived at the hall of the Komet [Comet—trans.] Cinema in Siedlce. The proceedings were opened with the singing of the Polish anthem. The participants spoke in Polish, Yiddish, and Hebrew. When member of the Sejm Izaak Grünbaum20 started to deliver his paper titled “The Current Situation of Zionists in Poland and Palestine,” a group of Communists shouted, “Away with the fascist government, away with Grünbaum, the lackey of the fascist government!” Several chairs were thrown onto the stage. Lejb Gutgeld sustained a head wound. Order was restored by the arrival of the police. The organizers of the meeting did not, however, reveal to the police who was responsible for the incident. The outraged Grünbaum changed the subject of his paper. He spoke about the battle with communism from the national point of view of Jews. The next part of the convention took place in the Jewish Home for Orphans and Seniors. There, in a smaller gathering, papers were read by Master of Arts H. Polakiewicz, “The Activity of the Central Committee of the Zionist Organization in Poland”; Master of Arts Muszkatblit, “Cultural and Tarbut [see chapter 7—trans.] Activity”; Natan Asz, “Emigration to Palestine”; and Lejb Gutgeld, “Work on Rebuilding Palestine.” Wizenfeld from Biała Podlaska, Dr. Menasze Zylberman from Łosice, Josek Frydlub from Sokołów Podklaski, and Dr. Hersz Golfarb from Radzyń took part in the discussion that ensued after the papers were read.21

On 16 June 1934, the Zionist Organization organized a memorial service in Siedlce in honor of Chaim Nachman Bialik, who had died in Palestine.22 Approximately 400 people attended. Siedlce residents Kiwa Goldfarb, Eugeniusz Brandt, an attorney, and Lewi Gutgeld spoke at this gathering. The speakers emphasized the achievements of the deceased for the Zionist movement and described his poetic and social activity.23

On 28 June 1935, the members of various Zionist groups, with the exception of the Revisionist Zionists, held an election for delegates to the Nineteenth Zionist Congress. Five lists were voted on; 1,184 voters participated in the elections, which was an 86 percent voter turnout.

On 18 May 1936, the Zionist Organization organized a memorial gathering to honor the memory of the deceased president of the Worldwide Zionist Organization, Nachum Sokołow. It was attended by 350 people. It was probably members of the Zionist Organization that in the beginning of October 1936 plastered the walls of the city with posters bearing the following content: “Jews! How many years have passed since we were forced to leave our Homeland. From that moment dates our national downfall. We wandered over countries and seas, we were oppressed and exploited, but our spirits did not fall. We defended ourselves bravely against the terror of foreign countries: against the Spanish Inquisition and against German persecution. We have long waited for the moment when our dreams of returning to Eretz would be fulfilled. And finally the day that is to be our liberation has finally arrived. We must use our joint forces to pave our way to our Homeland and fix the work that we put in place thousands of years ago. Jews! We call upon you with your obligation to work with clasped hands for the good of the Jewish Nation. Away with Arab terror! Let us bring help to our brothers in Eretz and in the whole world.”24

In October 1938, the Zionist Organization, having 300 members, was headed by Nachum Weintraub, chairman; Dr. Henryk Bergman, vice-chairman; Moszko Judenglauben, treasurer; and Kiwa Goldfarb, secretary.

 

2. THE WORLD ZIONIST LABOR PARTY— MIFLEGET AVODAH ZIONIT HITACHDUT

This party strove to create a future Jewish state that would be based on the idea of democratic socialism. It emerged in 1920 at the initiative of moderate socialists. It accepted the formation of the Polish Republic, although it did not concern itself much with Polish politics, placing its main emphasis on its activity in Palestine. It strove for the creation of solidarity within the Jewish community. It was anti-Marxist in its outlook.

The Zionist Labor Party, Hitachdut, started its activity in Siedlce in 1925. It had 25 members and about 30 sympathizers. The leadership of the party consisted of Icko Freilich, chairman, a member of the editorial staff of Shedletser Wochenblat; and Abram Altenberg, secretary, co-founder of the Jewish Bank in Siedlce. Members paid dues in the amount of 50 grosz [Polish currency; 1 grosz = 1/100 of a zloty—trans.] per month. Hitachdut cooperated with the Zionist Organization, particularly with the “Tarbut” Educational Society as well as within the framework of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (Land Purchases) and Keren Hayesod (Economic Work [Foundation Fund—trans.]). It had little influence in society and had a negative attitude toward the activity of Left Poalei Zion, Right Poalei Zion, and the Bund. Hitachdut functioned in the extra-party Zionist accord, League of Working Palestine.25

 

3. JEWISH SOCIAL-DEMOCRATIC LABOR PARTY—RIGHT POALEI ZION

The Jewish Social-Democratic Workers Party Poalei Zion (Workers of Zion) arose in the Russian partition during the 1905 Revolution. During the early 1920s, the Poalei Zion party split into a left wing and a right wing. Right Poalei Zion espoused the idea of Zionist democratic socialism and supported the Polish authorities, although it did not take part in Polish politics. Its main goal was the building of a Jewish Palestine. It was a member of the League of Working Palestine.

It was not officially registered in Siedlce. It functioned through the Labor Union of Unskilled Workers, which existed since 1918. This union had 20 members at the time; its executive board consisted of Mozes Grynfarb, chairman, and Chaim Dawid Kamienny, secretary. Union members paid dues in the amount of one zloty per month. The police estimated the influence of Poalei Zion (left and right combined) at about 300 members and an equal number of sympathizers.26 In 1927, Right Poalei Zion, along with Zionist Socialists, took part in the election to the City Council, creating a Jewish Workers Election Committee “Poalei Zion.” Its election platform emphasized the building of cheap housing, defense of renters' rights, the extension of the sewerage system and electrification of the city, regulation of emigration by facilitating departure and help for all those heading for Palestine, increasing productivity by subsidizing Hechalutz, and the right to use Yiddish in communal institutions. The party was opposed to capitalism, reactionary politics, anti-Semitism, and assimilation.27 Right Poalei Zion influenced Hechalutz (Pioneer), Hashomer Hatzair (Scouts), and the “Freiheit” Cultural-Educational Society. This party cooperated with the Zionist Organization.28

 

4. JEWISH SOCIAL-DEMOCRATIC LABOR PARTY—LEFT POALEI ZION

The revitalization of the leftist Zionist movement in Siedlce took place in 1916 when the German occupants permitted political and social activity. At that time the adherents of this movement created the Worker's Home, which was located on Ogrodowa Street (currently Sienkiewicz Street). Its executive board consisted of Mosze Międzyrzecki, Icie Altszuler, and Henech Zalcman. The Worker's Home was under the influence of Borochov Jugend—Borochov's Youths. This was a left-wing organization referring to the idea of Dov Ber Borokhov. Its goal was the preparation of future party members and settlers in the Palestinian state. The Worker's Home had a large and well-equip88]ped reading room. It ran a soup kitchen for the poor. Party and social activity was carried out even on holidays, which was a cause of friction with the “religious” members of the Jewish community and the rabbi. In its initial phase, the Worker's Home was supposed to function as a “nonparty club” and to serve all workers. A sharp dispute arose between the Bundists and the Zionists, however, as a result of which Bund followers were expelled. They therefore created their own home called the “Tsukunft” (The Future) Workers' Society, and then they gathered around the Jewish Art Society. During this time two independent committees arose spontaneously constituting Poalei Zion. They joined into one party and commenced intensified activity. Among its activists were Melech Heinzdorf, Zawl Górnicki, Awremele Zilbersztajn, Mejer Zalcman, Śliwka, and Rozenzumen.

During the interwar period, Left Poalei Zion voiced the need to stage a Marxist revolution, acknowledged international struggle, supported Soviet Russia, and strove toward the creation of a Communist Palestine. It did not belong to the Polish Communist Party since the Polish Communists did not acknowledge the idea of Zionism, which Left Poalei Zion espoused. Toward the end of the 1930s, this party distanced itself from communism and moved closer to other socialist-Zionist parties, and in 1937 it entered the League of Working Palestine. In Poland, Left Poalei Zion strove toward equality of rights of Jews and Poles in the sphere of access to public offices, the judiciary, and education.

In 1922, Left Poalei Zion, together with the Bund, created a local Jewish Workers Election Committee within the framework of preparations for the national election. The committee consisted of Abram Kleinrerer, Josef Słuszny, Szlama Kamiński, Szlama Hochberg, and Izrael Tabakman.29

In the beginning of the 1920s, the leading activist of this party was Zamwel Rozenzumen. Left Poalei Zion manifested its presence in February 1926 during the strike held by the Leather Industry Union. There were two separate unions in Siedlce: the Polish and the Jewish. Both unions acted jointly making two demands: higher wages, and payment for work in cash and not promissory notes. A large number of workers agreed to take promissory notes for their work instead of cash. Businessmen claimed that they could not pay in cash since cash was needed to pay for goods that were indispensable for production. They started to pay for work with promissory notes. Those who did not agree were not given any more orders. So-called “percentagers” immediately appeared, usually from the families of businessmen, who bought out the promissory notes at 80 percent of their value. The strike lasted two long months. The businessmen tried to place orders on the existing terms with workers in the trades living in the vicinity of the city, but the determined stance of members of the PPS thwarted these intentions. The strike ended in success.

This party was not officially registered in Siedlce. It functioned through the Society of Evening Classes, which was registered from 1927 and was subordinate to the central branch in Warsaw. It had 86 members. Its executive board consisted of the chairman, Szlomo Kamieński, the owner of a box manufacturing company; the secretary, Zamwel Rozenzumen, a collector for the Siedlce Healthcare Fund; and members Chil Gutowski, a tailor, Chana Handlarz, and Dawid Orzech. Everyone who belonged to the party paid dues in the amount of one zloty a month; aside from this, resources for its activities were raised by organizing various events. Left Poalei Zion ran the “Star” Sports Club, whose soccer team performed at a particularly high level. There was also a choir under the direction of Josef Zonszajn, and a drama circle, whose director was Heinsdorf. Josef Słuszny, Hochberg, Izrael Tabakman, Zamwel Rozenzumen, Froman, Awremełe Zilbersztajn, Melech Heinzdorf, Meier Zalcman, Dawid Orzech, Bronia Mozes, Dawid Grinfarb, Chana Handlarz, Śliwka, Szlomo Kamieński, and Abraham Josel Kornicki were energetic activists.

In the 1927 elections to the City Council, Left Poalei Zion received 614 votes, earning two seats won by Zamwel Rozenzumen and Abram Zylberberg. Their election platform supported transferring city taxes solely onto the wealthy, battling against high prices, electrification of the poorest streets, building a water-supply system and a sewerage system, protecting renters from eviction, hiring both Jewish and non-Jewish workers in public-works projects, financing Jewish secular schools out of the city budget, and publication of all city announcements also in Yiddish.30 In 1930, during elections to the Sejm and Senate, Left Poalei Zion submitted their list and won 952 votes in Siedlce and the county. I had influence in the Icchak Lejba Perec Jewish School and in the Garment Industry Workers Union, Textile Industry Workers Union, the Wood Industry Workers Union, and the Retail and Office Workers Union.

Left Poalei Zion affected Siedlce Jewish society by organizing lectures. Speakers were drawn mostly from Warsaw. One such meeting took place on 2 June 1933 in the hall of the cinema Lux and had an audience of 200. Comrade Zubrowel from Warsaw gave a talk titled “What Does Palestine Look Like in Reality?” In his presentation he attacked all the Jewish parties and claimed that only Left Poalei Zion with its workers could rebuild Palestine.31

 

5. ORGANIZATION OF ORTHODOX ZIONISTS “MIZRACHI”

The Mizrachi Party arose in 1902. Mizrachi in Hebrew means “eastern,” that is, the direction a person faces during prayer. They believed in the principle “The country of Israel for the people of Israel in accord with the law of Israel.” Its guiding slogan was “Religion, Study, Work.” They strove toward the founding of a Jewish state in Palestine based on religious principles.32

The motivator of the movement of religious revival among Jewish youth in Siedlce was Szalom Jeleń, the son of Mosze Księgarz. In 1915, along with Aron Nelkienbojm, Lejb Rotwaj, and Pesach Rozen, he assembled religious youths. At first they gathered on the premises of the Mishna Brotherhood.33 The brighter ones among them taught Bible study courses for religious workers in the Talmud-Torah school. The Agudah (Union of Israel), fearing for their influence in the school, intervened and caused the authorities to ban these meetings. The movement, however, found many new followers. The following activists joined them: Abraham Frydman, Jeszajahu Zelikowicz, and Jehanatan Ajbeszyc. They opened a House of Study in the apartment of B. Altenberg at 28 Kiliński Street. About 60 boys gathered there in order to acquaint themselves with and deepen their religious and literary knowledge. They did not limit themselves only to religious matters but were open to all kinds of literary trends. On this basis, the religious-cultural union called “Tvuna” (Wisdom) was created and was legalized in 1916. Its founders were F. Jeleń, Abraham Frydman, and Dawid Zusman. The goal of Tvuna was to deepen knowledge and piety. The union's offices were on Ogrodowa Street in the house of Mrs. Słuszna. Tvuna united about 200 members. It organized lectures, various kinds of courses, for example, Polish language and calculation, and ran a biweekly wall newspaper called Our Little Cultural Corner. Tvuna was a local idea; Siedlce housed its central offices, which maintained contact with 15 branches, including a branch in Warsaw.

In 1918, under the influence of pogroms in Ukraine, Jewish young people started wondering about the idea of a nation whose goal would be to create a state of Israel. After such discussions and a vote, Tvuna officially united with Mizrachi, which already existed in Siedlce but did not have much support.34

Mizrachi's significance rose after that. A new executive board was chosen that included Dawid Zusman, A. Frydman, Jehanatan Ajbeszyc, G. M. Karpin, Jeszajahu Zelikowicz, I. Folszpan, and I. Kamienica. In this new grouping, a recruitment campaign was started among young people. To this end, well-known speakers were brought in, proponents of the idea of the formation of Israel. Among those who spoke in Siedlce were Rabbi Awigdor Emiel from Grajew, who was later the chief rabbi in Tel Aviv; Rabbi Brot from Lipna; and Rabbi Nojfelt from Nowy Dwór. Mizrachi was in favor of the reform of Judaism, and with this goal organized religious meetings between young people and progressive, that is, German, rabbis, among them Kochem and Karlbach.

This party ran a soup kitchen for the poor, located in the house of Majzlisz at 22 Ogrodowa Street. Toward the end of 1919, with the help of Elimeleh Nojfelt, the son of the rabbi from Nowy Dwór, a committee called the Daughters of Mizrachi was organized. The Daughters of Mizrachi had 60 members, the most active of whom were Frajda Nusbojm, Aina Arżel, Sara Rodzińska, Sara Słowiatycka, and Małka Srebrnik.35 In 1919, Mizrachi founded an orphanage for Jewish children with the name Home for Orphans on Ogrodowa Street (in what is currently the location of Podlaska Academy at 24 Sienkiewicz Street). About 40 children resided there. These orphans were taken care of by Fajga Lewartowska.36 Mizrachi attempted to create Mizrachi Worker, an organization whose goal was to train skilled workers and send them to Palestine. They managed to train and send off a group of eight carpenters.37 In 1920, at the initiative of Mizrachi, a cheder was founded, a religious school for 6- to 7-year-old children called Torah and Knowledge located on Ogrodowa Street. It was run by Efraim Celnik and Alter Ajzenberg. In ensuing years, Mizrachi was enlivened only during elections to the community council (kahal). In its later activity, it concentrated on running the Home for Orphans and the cheder.38

In the 1920s, the members of this party met rather frequently in the establishment at 24 Ogrodowa Street. Religious matters and the future Palestine were discussed. Active speakers were at that time Kamienica, Fela Berg, Abram Żyto from Łuków, J. Szylman, and Gotesdiner.39 In the 1930s, Mendel Ajzenberg and Iser Rozenberg headed the party. They had three representatives in the Community Council Board: Szyja Beniamin Zelikowicz, Medel Ajzenberg, and Jankiel Mandelbaum.40 The general meeting of this party that took place on 22 January 1933 in the restaurant at 8 Szpitalna Street brought together 37 people. A new executive board was elected: Mordko Czarny, chairman, a merchant by trade; Iser Rozenberg, secretary, a merchant; Mendel Ajzenberg, a tailor; Szloma Pryzent, a tailor; Boruch Berkowicz, a cobbler; and Lejb Srebrnik, a merchant.41 At the next meeting, 2 March 1935, in which 30 people participated, Rabbi Chaim Zysman from Knyszyn and Dr. Szlema Szapiro from Warsaw debated the rebuilding of Palestine. In July 1935, the Mizrachi group organized a talk titled “The Zionist Congress in Lucerne and Religious Live in Palestine.” The issue was presented jointly by Szyja Zelikowicz from Siedlce and Zarach Warhaftyk from Warsaw in the presence of 250 people. Among the activists of the party who survived the war thanks to having emigrated to Palestine were, among others, the brothers Abraham, Menachem and Zachor Frydman, Iser Rozenberg, Gotesdine, and Ridel.

 

6. THE PIONEER MOVEMENT—HECHALUTZ

The Pioneer movement appeared in 1916. Its goal was to prepare pioneers who would go to Palestine and work there. A kibbutz (commune) was created for the needs of agriculture in the village Patrykozy, where young people learned the hard work of a farm. In Siedlce at the home of the Wajman brothers, who lived in the Rozkosz quarter, a worker commune was created, where trades were taught that would be useful in Palestine. The Jews who live in Diaspora (dispersion) were mostly workers in the trades and merchants, so they were not properly prepared for the difficult living conditions in Palestine. The kibbutzim were to give them a practical preparation for their new path in life and to toughen them physically (hachshara).

The activists of Pioneer (Hechalutz) were Mosze Jon-Tow, the main founder of Hechalutz in Siedlce; Dawid Ben Joself-Pasowski; Benjamin Czarny; and Dawid Furajter.42 Through the Podlasie Regional Committee, the Chalutz movement assembled in Siedlce all the Zionist youth organizations: Hashomer Hatzair (Scouts), Freiheit-Dror (Freedom), and Hechalutz Hatzair (Young Pioneer). Each organization had its own separate premises and executive boards, and each engaged in its separate activity; the goal of the Committee was mutual coordination. In the years 1930–1933, the Committee was headed by Dawid Pasowski (he adopted the surname Ben Josef after leaving for Palestine). The Committee managed the Hechalutz funds, which were earmarked for financing emigrants heading for Palestine. A great deal of importance was given to developing brotherly ties among the members of Hechalutz. Rallies were organized to this end that took place in the village of Krynica, in the manor house of the owner of the estate, Cynamon. By the light of a campfire, with linked hands to form a circle, they danced the hora, sang Hebrew songs, and made friends. First loves would then blossom. In 1930 a regional assembly was held in Krynica in which local activists of the Chalutz movement took part along with guests from Palestine. Hechalutz led the choir and drama circle and organized lectures with the participation of the guests invited from Palestine. The members of Hashomer Hatzair (Scouts) wore uniforms and had merit badges and ranks, in a word, they adhered to the principles of scouting. In Siedlce, Hashomer Hatzair was organized by Herszel Słuszny, who directed it for many years. His assistants were Małka Lewin, Jehuda Liwerant, Dawid Jon-Tow, Bunin Czarnobroda, and Josef Kacpan. From 13 June 1936, the executive board consisted of Chaim Begagon, chairman; Ber Lederman, vice-chairman; Uszer Trzmielina, treasurer; and Chana Gropman, secretary. This organization brought together school children from various communities. They inculcated in their members the principles of mutual aid. Collections of money were organized for the purchase of books and school supplies for members from poor families. In July 1936, Hashomer Hatzair organized two street drives, from which the income was allocated for summer camps for children. The woods in the Rozkosz quarter provided a place for playing, holding meeting, and having parades. During vacation, camps were organized in surrounding villages.43

The Zionist Socialist Chalutz Youth Organization “Freiheit-Dror” ran the Hapoel (Worker) sports club; several of its members in the bicycling division took part in a trip to Palestine in 1932 and stayed there. This organization later united with Hechalutz Hatzair.

On 11–12 May 1935, Hechalutz organized a two-day gathering of its members in Siedlce County. There was a trip to the woods in Wólka Wołyńska on the first day, and sporting competitions were held on the second day. In August 1935, the organization was run by an executive committee that consisted of Maksymilian Witarysz, chairman; Berko Redenburg, first vice-chairman; Szmul Apelbaum, second vice-chairman; Dawid Frydman, treasurer; and Szmul Rak, secretary. Beniamin Czrny, Dawid Furjter, and Szymon Jabłoń were also activists and organizers. Hechalutz had 70 members. The general meeting of members that took place 10 January 1936 provided a new executive board consisting of Izaak Jabłkowicki, chairman; Beniamin Czarny, vice-chairman; Benjamin Szapiro, secretary; and Chaim Kisielewski, treatsurer.

The Siedlce Hechalutz cooperated closely with the pioneers in Łosice, Mordy, and Mokobody. Work was coordinated and instructions were given by Jechil Halpern from Warsaw.

 

B. PARTIES REJECTING EMIGRATION AS A SOLUTION TO THE JEWISH QUESTION AND STRIVING FOR EQUAL RIGHTS WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK OF THE SECOND REPUBLIC

This trend was represented by the following parties: Union of Israel—Agudath Israel, the Jewish Folk Party, General Union of Jewish Workers in Poland—Bund, as well as an assimilationist movement. In this subchapter, the KPP [Communist Party of Poland—trans.] is also discussed; its goal was to overthrow the political system of the Second Republic.

 

1. UNION OF ISRAEL—AGUDATH ISRAEL, KNOWN AS AGUDAH

On Polish territory, the orthodox (i.e., right-believing adherent of Judaism) movement was organized in 1916 as the Orthodox Union. In 1918, it changed its name to Peace to Loyal Israelites, and in 1919 it adopted the permanent name Union of Israel. The goal of Agudah was the “resolution of all matters relevant to the general Jewish public in the spirit of faith and tradition.”44 This was the party's most important task.

Agudah was the largest party in Siedlce and had the greatest influence. It began its activity in 1918. In 1922 is had about 400 real members and about 200 sympathizers. The dynamic activists included Josek Czytelny, Motys Rubinsztajn, and Dawid Jabłoń. On 23 March 1922, they organized a meeting in the butchers' house of prayer on Jatkowa Street. It was attended by 2,500 people, including women. The speakers were Rabbi Zelig Morgenstern from Sokołów Podlaski and Jojna Naj from Łuków. In their talks, they opposed the Zionist idea of building a secularJewish state in Palestine. They also protested against the Zionists taking over all positions in the Jewish government in Palestine. They asked the faithful to resist Zionist agitation and to stand by people who observe religious precepts. On that same day and at almost the same hour, the Zionists arranged a lecture in the hall of the Lux Cinema titled “Orthodoxy and the Rebuilding of Palestine.” About 200 people came. A. Zyte and J. Sylman spoke, arguing that the Orthodox were a “backward nation, whose goal is to set up a government in Palestine on the Biblical model, which they, as a faction of enlightened Jews, could not allow.”45 After the meeting, about a dozen “hot-blooded” Zionists went to the Orthodox house of prayer to break up their meeting. They did not achieve their goal because the Orthodox group was protected by the police. In turn, it was the Bundists who tried to disrupt the next gathering of the Orthodox group, which took place in the hall of the Lux Cinema on 23 July 1922, by starting fights and making noise. After they were removed from the hall, Mordko Zysman finished delivering his paper in peace. Mordko Zysman's next talk, titled “Palestine and Religion,” which was organized on 29 July 1922, also did not take place peacefully. Zysman turned to the assembly with these words: “We Jews have to devote ourselves less to commerce and rather more to work in order to prepare ourselves for physical labor in Palestine. We in particular, the Orthodox, will show that we can work. We are not a party that has existed for a few years; we existed at the beginning and we will exist to the end. We knew and felt that the Jewish worker was not doing well, but we could not help him then for a variety of reasons. But the Most High did not forget about the Jews; the worker is doing well today, he is prospering, but surely in his own country, in Palestine, he will prosper even more.”46 About 800 people, who were gathered in the city synagogue, listened to his remarks, among them a sizable group of Bundists and Zionists. They were the ones who interrupted his lecture, yelling, “Away with him! We know how the Orthodox wanted to help the workers! We know you well!” After this incident, everyone started to leave the synagogue. Zysman completed the delivery of his lecture to only a small handful of his followers.47

On 1 February 1925, in the hall of the Lux Cinema, a gathering of the Orthodox took place at which Sejm deputy Rabbi Meir Szapiro spoke.48 The meeting was presided over by the chairman of the executive board of the Siedlce Jewish Religious Council, Srul Gudgeld. Rabbi Szapiro and editor Frydman talked about the necessity of a religious upbringing among Jews “so as to protect in this way the young generation against the harmful influences of postwar corruption.”49 They were listened to by about 200 people.

The intensive development of Agudah started in 1925 when a youth division, Tzeirei Agudath Israel, and a workers' division, Poalei Agudath Israel (1926), were created. Altogether, Agudah had about 300 members. Its executive board consisted of Srul Gutgeld, chairman (merchant); Jakub Szczerański, vice-chairman (bank director); and Mozes Zakon, treasurer (merchant).

On 4 March 1934, Agudah organized a lecture in the building of the Home for Orphans titled “The Task of Orthodoxy in Relation to the Rebuilding of Palestine.” The speakers at this meeting were Myszkowski, who lived in Krynki in Białystok County, Morgensztern from Sokołów Podlaski, and Całka from Mokobody. They had an audience of 150 people.

The Union of Israel had the following divisions:

1. Beit Agudath Israel (an organization for young women) had 30 members and about 150 sympathizers between the ages of 18 and 25. Its executive board consisted of Dwojra Perla Rubinowicz, chair; Brucha Lewin, vice-chair (teacher); Doba Kramarz, secretary; Estera Solnica, member; and Ryfka Gitla Goldfeder, member. The offices of the women's organization were at 24 Sienkiewicz Street.

2. Tzeirei Agudath Israel (an organization for young men) had 70 members and about 100 sympathizers between the ages of 18 and 26. Members of the executive board were Srul-Meir Kleinlerer, chair; Mojżesz Cukier, vice-chair (bookkeeper); Abram Lejbko Jeleń, secretary (editor of Unser Weg); Szmerl Nusbaum, member (merchant); Moszko-Leib Blumengranz, member (merchant); and Lejb-Srul Golszoch, member. The offices of the organization were located at 7 Szpitalna Street (currently Kochanowski Street).

3. Poalei Agudath Israel (Workers of the Union of Israel) was an organization that had 80 members and about 150 sympathizers between the ages of 18 and 30. The executive board consisted of Mojsze-Aron Nelkinbaum, chair; Juda-Lejb Iberman, vice-chair (office clerk); Szmul Rot, secretary (shipping clerk); Szyja Rybka, treasurer (watchmaker); Towia-Josef Jakubowicz, member (office clerk); Srul-Szloma Cukierman, member (shipping clerk), and Szymon Stok, member. The organization's offices were located at 7 Szpitalna Street. It was officially registered from the beginning of 1935 and was incorporated.50

The Orthodox Jews believed that the foundation of the existence of Jews is religion and that the state in which they lived was merely a place to stay until they return to the Promised Land. They had significant influence among the religious population.51 In Siedlce during the interwar period, rather large groups of Chassidim were active and were under the influence of tzadikim from Góra Kalwaria, Kock, Parczew, and Kozienice. The most numerous were the Chassidim who were followers of the tzadik from Góra Kalwaria; they had three prayer houses, on Piękna Street, Długa Street, and Szkolna Street.

The Orthodox Jews observed their religious precepts by being active in a variety of organizations. These included the following:

1. Central Association for the Care of Children and Orphans came into being in Siedlce in 1926. Alter Kamiński, Binem Rotenberg, Aron Jabłoń, Dawid Konopny, and Izrael Cukier formed the executive board.

2. “Shomrai Shabbos V'hados” Society, whose main goal was to observe the sanctity of the Sabbath (Shabbas) as well as the main precepts of Judaism. It came into being at the end of 1926, with an executive board consisting of Mordyks, rabbi; Sławatycki, rabbi; Srul Gutgeld, chairman of the Jewish community council; as well the more renowned Orthodox known for their piety: Elkenbaum, Spektor, Żelazny, and Ratyniewicz. In the 1930s, the association took up the battle against illegal ritual slaughter. At a meeting that took place on 26 October 1935 in the presence of 70 people, a resolution was adopted calling for a battle with this business. I. Zakon, J. Ekielbaum, and H. Borek spoke in this spirit.

3. Charitable Society for Aid to the Sick “Bikur Cholim.” This society had a rich history. It is not clear exactly in what year it was formed. In 1843, its activity was reactivated and took on the name “New Society for Visiting the Sick.” Its members were mostly tailors. The responsibility of each of them was doing good deeds by visiting the sick, which was “one of the largest columns holding up the world.” Their task was also to lend money for treatment and also, in the event of the death of a member of the Society, to pray for him for 30 days in the evening and the morning and in the absence of children to say kaddish (prayer for the dead) for a period of one year. In the event, however, that one of the members of the Society is taken ill, the remaining members were to gather in the Beit Hamidrash and recite psalms for the Creator to grant the patient mercy and return him to health. They were also to collect dues for the activity of the Society. During the interwar period, the executive board consisted of Pinkus Bursztejn, Hersz Halbersztat, Icko Miodownik, Szyja Rozengarten, Mendel Mandelbaum, Berko Srebrnik, and Icko Rozengarten (all of them merchants). The term of honorary chairman lasted three years. He did not receive any remuneration for fulfilling this function, but he was obliged to fulfill all the obligations of the Society in an exemplary fashion, including the systematic payment of dues. The chairman was elected in the following manner. A meeting of all the members of the Society took place on the 18 of Adar.52 An urn was produced into which slips of paper were thrown with the names of the members of the Society present at the meeting. Next, the so-called monthly chairman would pull six slips out of it. Those whom he drew were called “the trusted.” They then selected the members of the executive board, including the chairman, the treasurer, the chronicler, and three accountants and three auditors. They had three days to fulfill this function; if after the passage of this time they had not fulfilled their obligation, the procedure was started from the beginning. The admission of new members took place with the support of the chairman and the rest of the members of the Society; the decision was made by democratic vote. In the event of the illness of a member of the executive board, all the other members of this board must gather at the Beit Hamidrash and pray for the recovery of the sick person. In its many years of activity, the Society was “renewed” several times and functioned until the extermination of the Jewish population in 1942.

4. Society for Looking after the Sick “Linas Hatzedek.” The society implemented its goals by providing free medical care, constant care for the sick, and provision of medicine and spiritual comfort. The executive board in the 1920s consisted of M. Miodownik, H. Lewin, M. Grynfarb, L. Gutgeld, A. Libman, Sz. Fiszer, D. Nelkenbaum, A. Górnfinkiel, J. Jagodziński, Konopny, and others (they were all merchants or workers in the trades). In November 1935, a new executive board was elected: Józef Alberg, chairman; Symcha Sztajberg, vice-chairman; Mojżesz Eksztejn, secretary; Abram Rotfarb, treasurer; as well as Nuchim Lubliner, Berko Liwak, Józef Jagodziński, and Szmul Winer as members.

5. Society for Aid to the Poor of Siedlce “Beit Lechem” (House of Bread). The goal of the society was to provide aid to Jews who lived in poverty. The activity was carried out rather efficiently. The society ran a soup kitchen in which unemployed and impoverished Jews could eat. A meal consisted of soup, which was obtained free of charge or for a small contribution. The executive board during the 1920s consisted of Abram Milberg, Srul Rozenblum, Szmul Waksztejn, and Szmul Rajsman. The auditing committee was composed of Berko Gorzałka and Szlomo Kiszenbaum (all those named were either merchants or workers in the trades).53 In August 1935, a new executive board was elected at a meeting attended by 45 people: Benjamin Bomblat, chairman; Józef Konopny, vice-chairman; Wolf Milgram, treasurer; Józef Żelazny, secretary; Matys Nurman, member; Lejb Stański, member; and Szymon Kawa, member.54 During the twenty-year interwar period, at the initiative of the society, the executive board of the Jewish community council in Siedlce determined that, with the aim of helping the poor during the holiday of Passover, bakers, salesclerks, and customers would donate to the society two matzos for each pud (16.38 kg) of flour.

6. SZAS Society (six books of the Mishnah). The society was engaged in studying the Mishnah. It came into being in Siedlce in 1838. Members had to study a page of the Gemara early in the morning at the Beit Hamidrash, because, as was written in the chronicle, “The Talmud is great and not comparable to anything.” One of the commandments stated that a page of the Talmud should be studied only in a group, at one table placed to the east and the north of the Aron Kodesh (the place where the Torah was stored); one could not study it alone. Each member paid dues to the society noted down in detail in the statute, and penalties were even paid for missing a single day of studying the Mishnah. New members were admitted only after completing the study of all the books of the Mishnah, that is, every seven years, or during elections of new members to the executive board. The executive board could consist of three people who were unrelated to each other. A new member of the society paid in a so-called induction fee. After completing the study of one book of the Mishnah, a feast could be held only with the consent of a majority of members, but after completing the study of all the books, a feast should be held during which this moment was ceremoniously celebrated. From sources we know of a ceremony that took place on the twenty-second of the month of Adar in 1879. It opened with the singing of cantor Abraham Chaim Efron along with the choir and playing by the folk group of Lajbisz and his son Jancie. Thirty chapters of the Psalms were read. The ceremony lasted all night and had about 300 participants. Among those present were the governor and his whole retinue. The community council was at that time administered by Szymon Grinberg, Cwi Cebula, and Izrael Dow Liwerant, and the executive board of SZAS Society was composed of Fajwel Bojm, Cwi Josef Czarnobroda, and Dawid Szymon Kapłan.55

7. “Lodging House” Jewish Charity Society. This society engaged in activity consistent with its name and the goal contained in it. On 30 July 1936 it organized a public collection for the benefit of the society.

8. “Beit Ya'akov” (Jacob's House) School of Religious Courses. It was located in the premises at 38 Piękna Street. This was an evening school for girls in primary school.a Rabbi Chaim Jehuda Ginzberg felt that studying in such schools was harmful to girls and they should supplement their education with a traditional Jewish upbringing.

During the entire period of the functioning of these societies, chronicles were scrupulously kept. Unfortunately, they were all destroyed during World War II.

Agudah was engaged in running the religious Talmud-Torah school. It had great influence in the Jewish community, the Merchants Union, and the Union of Workers in the Trades. The Union of Israel fought against all other Jewish parties, especially the Zionists. However, toward the end of the 1930s, on a wave of intense anti-Semitism, it started to cooperate with others to make sure that the future Palestinian state has a religious character.

This is how Apolinary Hartglas characterized the chairman of this party: “Among other Siedlce Jews, I can recall Srul Gutgeld. A rich merchant in a long coat, the leader of the local Agudah who spoke Polish, he would appear at my place once a year and place into my hands a rather large sum for Keren Hayesod and Keren Kayemeth, much larger than that given by the Zionists, who were no poorer than he, asking only that this remain a secret between us.”56

 

2. THE JEWISH FOLK PARTY IN POLAND—YIDDISHE FOLKS PARTEI IN POYLEN, KNOWN AS FOLKISTS

This party arose in 1917. Its platform supported the permanent existence of Jews in a democratic Polish state, connecting it with the acquisition of national-cultural autonomy. The Folkists represented secular aspirations, limitation of the role of religion in life, and transformation of the religious community into a secular representation of Jews. They spoke mainly against the Orthodox, but they were equally against the Zionists and the socialists. They acknowledged Yiddish as the national language of Jews. During the twenty-year period, this language became a literary language thanks to the Folkists.

The party started its activity in Siedlce in 1918. It did not, however, have much of a following. The Folkists based themselves mostly on the intelligentsia. The party had its greatest support in nearby Międzyrzec. Altogether in Siedlce County it had from 50 to 300 members and about 200 sympathizers. This party was led by Menasze Czarnobroda, chairman (merchant); Hersz-Mendel Szapiro, vice-chairman; and Chaim Kawa. In addition to them, Icek Altszuler, Josek Jabłonka, jakub Zając, and Abram Słuszny were vigorous activists. The Folkists concentrated mostly on running the Icchak Lejb Perec School and on the activity of the Jewish League of Popular Education cultural-educational society. They had certain influences in the Jewish Art Literary-Musical Society, a member of the board of which was their representative, Pejsach Kapcan, and in the Retail and Office Workers Union.57

On 26 August 1922, in the hall of the cinema Moderne, a paper was given by Dr. Cyper titled “Folkists and Democracy.” About 100 people attended. Dr. Cyper from the outset spoke against the departure of Jews to Palestine. He supported this by saying the Jews in Poland had fought for it and spilled their blood enough, so now they had the right to live peacefully on its territory. All the more so since they had property here that they should not dispose of, and in Palestine they had nothing. Dr. Cyper also argued that among those leaving for Palestine were many Bundists, who during the battle for the “rudder of power” in that country will want to start a revolution, “and what it has brought about we can see in Russia.” As Dr. Cyper argued, the Zionists are shortsighted, because they do not see the behavior of the Arabs. They will not allow a sizable influx of Jews into Palestine, and England will take a passive position, asserting that Arabs have long inhabited this land. The Orthodox, on the other hand, as he argued, imagine that with the aid of religion they will achieve everything in Palestine, but they do not want to go themselves. At the end of his exposition, Dr. Cyper stated that Jews should not be active in various parties but should form “one Jewish people that could demand rights for itself, and in these times Jews should stay where they are and not listen to those who talk about Palestine.”58 Dr. Cyper received rousing applause from the gathering for his conclusions.

On 16 February 1923, Szulim Jankiel Stupnicki from Warsaw gave a talk titled “Attack of the Sejm Jewish Circle on Yiddish Schools and the Yiddish Language.” Present were about 50 Folkists, who were chaired by Mosze Mandelman. Szulim Stupnicki referred in his lecture to the initiative of Representative Noach Pryłucki, who made a motion in the Sejm of the Republic of Poland to institute schools in Poland with Yiddish as the teaching language. This motion was not supported in the Sejm by the Jewish Circle, which claimed that this is a “jargon,” and the language of Jews is Hebrew. Szulim Stupnicki declared this position of the Circle to be a betrayal, and in the following part of his talk he demonstrated that Hebrew was a dead language and difficult to learn. Yiddish, on the other hand, was a language that was currently being used by Jews. His conclusions were supported by Moszko Mandelman and Menasze Czarnobroda. The meeting concluded with the signing of a protest resolution against the harmful activity of the Sejm Jewish Circle.59 On 8–10 March 1924, the Folkists organized a “School Week” during which they collected funds for the school and school supplies for poor Jewish children. The authorities hindered this effort and stopped the fundraising on the pretext of “formalities.” This did not discourage the Folkists, who organized a concert in the Municipal Club for this purpose. The Bund and Poalei Zion, as well as most of the labor unions, supported this effort, but the Zionist Organization did not, justifying their position with the fact that the Folkists did not include the study of Hebrew in their schools. The Zionists organized competing gatherings and parties during these days, during which they collected money for the Palestine Fund. It was undoubtedly this rivalry that brought about, on the initiative of the Folkists, a meeting in Siedlce in April 1924 between the Zionist representative Izaak Grünbaum and the Folkist representative Noach Pryłuski.60 Grünbaum gave a lecture on “Socialism and Zionism” and Pryłucki on “What Is Jewish Culture.” The meeting took place in a peaceful atmosphere.61

The Folkists continued to organize a series of talks. Thus, on 10 May 1924, Perec Markisz gave a lecture with the humorous title “Italy, Egypt to Palestine!” He argued that “there is poverty and hunger in Palestine, and Jews have no reason to go there.”62 He criticized the Zionists and claimed that departures for Palestine are a misfortune for Jews. Then on 15 April 1925, they organized a rally in the hall of the Municipal Club with the participation of the representative to the Polish Sejm Noach Pryłucki. He talked about the cultural-educational efforts that were being made in Jewish society and how they were opposed to the Zionists, “who earmark the funds they have collected not for Jewish schools but for various objectives in Palestine, where living conditions for Jewish émigrés could not be worse.”63 His remarks were listened to by about 100 people.

Most likely at the initiative of the Folkists, and with the support of the Bund and Poalei Zion, the City Council changed the name of Żydowska [Jewish—trans.] Street to Berek Joselewicz Street. This is one of the oldest streets in the city. It arose on the eastern frontage of Old Market Square, probably during a period of residential regulation. Next to it, on the plot that was called Old Market Square, was the synagogue. The name Żydowska Street appears as early as 1811 in what was called the survey registry of the city. The change in the name took place at the beginning of the 1920s. This is confirmed by the preserved registration books in which the first entries come from 1925.64

For a time in 1926, that is, during the time that elections to the City Council and the Township Council took place, the Folkists published a weekly, Dos Vort (The Word). Its editorial board consisted of Jakow Tenenbojm, Menasze Czarnobroda, and Mosze Mandelman, whom the authorities considered to be the chief organizer of this movement in Siedlce.65

During the 1930s, the activity of this party declined. The Jewish League of Popular Education was disbanded by the Polish authorities, and the Perec School failed due to a lack of financial means. The increase in anti-Semitic sentiments also did not offer prospects for the attainment of autonomy by Jews.

 

3. GENERAL UNION OF JEWISH WORKERS IN POLAND—ALGEMENER YIDDISHER ARBETER BUND IN POYLEN, KNOWN AS BUND

In 1897 the General Union of Jewish Workers in Russia and Poland—Bund was founded at the initiative of Jewish socialists in Vilnius, and in 1905 the Jewish Social-Democratic Party Bund was founded in Galicia. In 1916 the Bund on the territory of the former Russian partition detached itself from the all-Russian head office, and in 1920 in was joined by the Jewish Social-Democratic Party [ŻPSD—trans.]. The Bund rejected the vision of a mass emigration of Jews to Palestine. It was building socialism, which was to bring a solution of social and national problems through the creation of national-cultural autonomy. The Bundists acknowledged the need for an organizational separation from Jewish socialists, and so mostly Jewish assimilationists were active in the Polish Socialist Party. The Bund foresaw that the socialists would gain power with force, using battle formations in their campaign, basing themselves on workers, and attracting various others who were disillusioned with capitalism. The transition period after they gained power wound function under the dictatorship of the proletariat controlled by workers.

The Bund did not specify the form in which power would be exercised but rather limited itself to stating that the Soviet system was not universal. In the sphere of the economy, it anticipated the expropriation of big industry and trade, high finance, and owners of the means of communication, transferring them to the state, to local communes, or to cooperatives. Large agricultural property was to be partly parceled out to peasants and partly transferred over to cooperatives. The Bund assumed that the economy would be managed by authorities composed of representatives of the state, producers, and consumers. This was a search for a middle road between communism and parliamentary democracy.66

After Poland gained its independence in 1918, the Siedlce Bund began work to organize Jewish socialist institutions. The following were organized: labor unions, which until 1920 had their offices at 14 Warszawska Street; “Tsukunft” (The Future) Youth Organization, with offices at 20 Długa Street (currently Bishop I. Świrski Street); Home for Children; “Konsum” Consumer Cooperative; and a library, which functioned within the framework of the Jewish Art Society. Until 1920, the Bund's activity was vigorous. Its leaders at that time were Mosze Altszuler, Jakow Fishman, Dawid Nojmark, Abraham (Abram) Słuszny, and Szulka Zubrowicz. Tsukunft, which had about 500 members and sympathizers, was especially active. At its head were Jeheskiel Lublinerman, Dawid Kuperant, Sane Waszelbojm, and Alter Nauczyciel.67

This expanding activity was interrupted by the Polish–Bolshevik War. In July 1920, the Polish authorities detained the following Siedlce Bund activists and placed them in an internment camp in Dębie near Kock: Abraham Słuszny, Froima Kuszer, Abram Jociuk, Abram Gerszt, Leni Aldfedor, Pinkus Longer, and Chaim Śliwka.68

Some of the Bund activists supported the Revolutionary Committee in August 1920, which came into being when the Red Army occupied Siedlce. After the Red Army withdrew, the majority of the activists who was becoming Communists left the city with it. The Polish authorities looked with suspicion upon this party for many years afterward. Those who had been interred were released in December 1920 after signing a “Declaration” that stated, “I hereby solemnly pledge not to participate actively or passively in any action directed against the Polish State.”69

The support of the Bolsheviks by a part of Jewish society during the military actions of 1920 caused a divergence in the erstwhile cooperation of the two societies, the Polish and the Jewish. The Jews in Siedlce and its surroundings had taken a very active part both in the 1863 uprising and in the patriotic manifestations in 1916. The 1920 war was a mortal threat to the renascent Polish state. At such a historic moment, the support given to the Red Army by local revolutionary activists had a powerful impact on the whole of later Polish–Jewish relations.

After the Bolshevik war, there was an attempt to rebuild previous structures. “Konsum” Consumer Cooperative and the Leather Workers Union once again arose, and the library continued to function. New institutions were formed, such as the “Morgenstern” (Morning Star) Sports Club, “Tsukunft” Youth Organization, and SKIF (Socialist Children's Union).

SKIF was a branch of Tsukunft. Schoolchildren from the age of 12 belonged to it. In 1922, Jugendbund Tsukunft had about 100 members from the ages of 8 to 18. They were led by Alter Nauczyciel and Chaja Wolman. But the Bund was no longer very active. It was more active only during elections to the City Council, to which it added two representatives, Beniamin Kramarz and Rachela Berg. The Bund received 629 votes. At that time, an agreement was reached between the PPS, the Bund, and Poalei Zion, and what was called a socialist majority was formed. Thanks to this, Jewish schools, the Home for Children, and the Jewish poor received aid from municipal funds. During this same time, the Bund had representatives in the Healthcare Fund: Josef Rozenzumen and Jakow Icchak Lajbman.70

Before the Sejm elections in 1922, this party organized a rally for women in the cinema “Moderne.” Five hundred ladies came to hear the lecture by Comrade Diena from Warsaw. Diena and her assistant Altszuler from Siedlce called upon the women to vote for ticket no. 4.71

The Bund carried on broad campaign activity through meetings and lectures. Thus on 8 December 1923 in the cinema “Lux,” a lecture was organized titled “A Year of Work by the Jewish Circle in the Sejm.” The lecturer was Szlema Zygelbaum, pseudonym “Artur,” from Warsaw. He believed that the activity of the Jewish Circle in the Sejm was harmful to Jewish workers and “oppresses the proletariat as much as the defense [department] and the gendarmerie” and in conclusion called for “gathering under the banners of the Bund organization, which strives truly and sincerely to improve the existence of the working class.”72

Toward the end of 1923, strikes of Jewish workers took place and were supported by the Bund. The gaiter workers went on strike from 4 to 7 December, demanding a 100 percent wage increase, and they got it. On 18 December, tailors went on strike, demanding a 125 percent increase. They got a 100 percent increase. The strikes took place peacefully, and only wage demands were made.

On 9 April 1925, in the hall of the cinema “Ognisko,” Comrade Zybert from Warsaw gave a talk, “The Jewish Question in Poland.” There were about 100 people present, and the income received was earmarked for the Sanatorium for the Children of Workers in Otwock.

The Bund tried to affect the community council (kahal). They boycotted the first elections to the Jewish community council in 1926 because it had denied voting rights to nonreligious Jews.

In the 1920s, the Bund was active mostly in trade unions. Under its influence were the Garment Industry Workers Union, Retail and Office Workers Union, Leather Industry Workers Union, and Primary School Teachers Union. At that time, Szmul Szymański (director of the Worker's Cooperative), Mose Grynberg (gaiter maker), and Dawid Kuperant (tailor) headed the Bund.73

In the 1930s, the Bund's executive board consisted of Beniamin Kramarz, chairman (bookkeeper), and Josef Berg, secretary (construction technician). Tsukunft, which had 75 members, was directed by an Executive Committee, the officers of which were Gecel Lustgarten, chairman (gaiter maker); Sura Sztejnburg, treasurer (seamstress); and Rafał Ruchla, secretary. The head of SKIF, which had 43 members, was Nuha Fajnholc.74 On 16 January 1932 in the hall of the cinema “Era,” Henryk Erlich's lecture “Where We Are Headed” took place.75 About 300 people took part in the meeting. Several of the listeners stood up and demanded that the chairman of the gathering say a few words about Lenin, [Karl] Liebknecht, and [Rosa] Luxemburg. The organizers refused. Accordingly, the Communists present in the hall (15 people) stood up and shouted “Long live Lenin, Liebknecht, and Luxemburg” and then sang “The Internationale.” Then they quieted down, and Henryk Erlich discussed the world economic crisis and an assessment of workers in Poland. He also condemned Piłsudski's policy toward minorities, particularly in regard to Ukrainians.76

The Bund also ran the “Liga” Association for Cultural Education. It cooperated closely with the PPS, in which there was a Jewish group of activists headed by Abraham Kadysz in the 1930s. He left for the United States before World War II and stayed there until 1947. He then immigrated to Israel and gave part of his assets to the building of the Siedlce Cultural Center in Acre. This was his homage to his murdered compatriots.

 

4. PARTICIPATION OF JEWS IN THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF POLAND

Many Jews participated in the Communist movement. As a group that was discriminated against and that at the same time strove toward emancipation, it was receptive to this ideology. The Communists were fierce opponents of the newly arisen Polish state, and they strove to liquidate it and build a republic allied to the USSR. Jewish Communists were recruited mostly from the young intelligentsia, which did not have very good prospects in the Poland of that time. It must also be remembered that in 1918–1920 it was still believed that there would be a Bolshevik revolution that would eliminate national discrimination and bring about the universal brotherhood of peoples. Gradually this belief diminished, but it did not lack in followers. The considerable participation of Jews in the Bolshevik revolution, then the role of commissars in strengthening the new regime, and finally their participation in the Communist Party of Poland were exploited by the radical nationalistic circles during the twenty-year [interwar] period to generate and popularize views of the “Judocommune.” These views have proponents today as well.

The activity of Communists in Podlasie started in 1919. 77 They did not find many supporters here. The county administrator in his “Report on the Political and Social Situation” from 1 April 1919 to 1 April 1920 remarked that “The Communists are weak and not capable of any significant actions, but this does not in the least preclude the strength of this position in the not-too-distance future, since in certain PPS circles one can note a diversity of concepts, and the more extreme elements are coming closer to communism at a rapid rate.”78

The situation was similar in the Jewish milieu. During 1919–1920, communizing groups were starting to form in existing Jewish parties. And so, “Kombud” arose in the ranks of the Bund; “Komtsukunft” in the “Tsukunft” Young Workers Organization; and the Jewish Communist Party in Poalei Zion. These groups split from the source parties and first united and then became a part of the Communist Workers Party of Poland.79 The Siedlce Communists had influence both in the Jewish and in the Polish trade unions of the leather industry (there were two separate unions). There was a several-year lull in Communist activity after the Polish–Bolshevik war.

The KPP [Communist Party of Poland—trans.] renewed its activity in 1923. At that time, two districts, the Siedlce and the Łomża, were united into one, forming the Siedlce–Łomża District Committee. The joining of two districts testified to the small influence the Communists had here. In June 1923, of the total of 363 KPP members in the district, there were 306 Jews and 57 Poles. In later years the proportions evened out, and in 1928 the district organization had 297 members, of which 128 were Poles and 169 were Jews; in 1929 of the total of 370 members, there were 201 Poles and 167 Jews.80

Due to the insignificant influence of the Communists in Siedlce, in 1927 the district offices were moved to Międzyrzec Podlaski, retaining the preexisting name. The isolation of the Communists continued in later years, even internally. After the arrests during 1930–1932, Jewish and Polish Communist activists accused each other of betrayal and not abiding by the conspiracy. A split took place between the “Jewish street” and the “Polish street,” without interaction between the two. Only in September 1935 was this situation overcome by creating a new District Committee. It consisted of Mejer Lublinerman, secretary; Gerszon Kowieski, technician; Piotr Hok, representative of the “Polish street”; Boruch Zonszajn, representative of the KZMP [Communist Union of Polish Youth—trans.]; Mendel Mokobodzki, representative of the Jewish organization “Pioneer.”81

The KPP in Siedlce came alive before 1 May. That was the time that fliers were strewn about the city, red flags and banners were hung on electrical and telegraph cables, and Communist slogans were painted on city walls. The anniversary of Lenin's death was also celebrated, with soirees and receptions, as was the anniversary of the Paris Commune, which was on 18 March. This was also the Day of the Political Prisoner and an opportunity to raise funds for this cause. The Communists were not strong enough to have their own May First parade. They mostly tried to join the parades organized by the PPS and the Bund as a group. The socialist activists did not allow such situations to take place. “They [the Communists—author's note] should be moved aside without a fuss and left on the sidelines,” proclaimed the District Committee [OK—trans.] of the PPS in Siedlce on 12 April 1926.82 Other parties took similar positions in regard to the Communists. The Communists gave them cause for this. When in January 1926 Poalei Zion, with the participation of the Bund and the KPP, organized a meeting of the union active membership whose goal was to create a Committee for the Unemployed that would help all unemployed people, Jews as well as Poles, Communist representatives Wolf Ratajewicz and Szyja Słuszny made the implementation of this plan impossible. They accused the Poalei Zion activists of favoring Christian trade unions in allocating unemployment benefits.83

A year before the disbanding of the KPP, which took place in 1938, its activity in Siedlce ceased. The contributing factors were the arrests of the leading activists, internal conflicts, and the lack of interest in this ideology among the local population.

There was also a Communist Union of Polish Youth [KZMP—trans.] in Siedlce, in which Jewish youths were also active. The KZMP began its activity in Siedlce in 1922 and focused on trade unions. The Siedlce KZMP had 30 members in December 1928. Its activity intensified before 1 May, on October Revolution Day, or during strikes.

In 1922, within the framework of Sejm elections, the Communist Union of the Proletariat of Cities and Villages registered ticket no. 5 in the Siedlce voting district with two candidates from Siedlce: Karol Wysokiński, age 28, a shoemaker residing at 33 Starowiejska Street; and Abram Wajnapel, age 34, a porter residing at 5 Prospektowa Street. They did not get much support.84

There was also a Jewish Communist “Pioneer.” It was led by Hersz-Lejb Tenenbaum and Jakub Luzera Słuszny.85

 

5. ASSIMILATIONIST MOVEMENT

Processes of assimilation, understood as the “process of the adoption by a given group or its individual members of the culture of the other group,”86 began from the beginning of contact between the two societies, the Jewish and the Polish. Only a small proportion of Jewish society became Polonized by adopting the whole spiritual and religious heritage of Poles. Usually these Jews converted to Catholicism or Protestantism, and sometimes they took on Polish-sounding names or fought for Poland's freedom.

The Jewish social-cultural movement on Polish territory appeared in organizational form as early as the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1907, “Zjednoczenie” [Unity] Academic Society was organized and engaged in rather broad political and cultural activity. In 1913, a camp of so-called Neo-assimilationists arose in Warsaw, and the Party of Independent Jews of Dr. Adolf Gross arose in Kraków. A consolidation of the assimilationist community took place toward the end of World War I. The Union of Poles of the Jewish Faith arose on 23 November 1918 in Lwów. Soon after, Tobiasz Aszkenazy created the Union of Civic Equality of Jewish Poles. This union published the daily Dzień [Day] and then Goniec Wieczorny [Evening Messenger] in Lwów. There was a convention of all assimilationist oranizations on the territory of Poland In 1920 in Warsaw, and the Federation of Poles of the Jewish Faith was jointly created.

An interesting figure in Siedlce was Adolf Hubert Gancwol-Ganiewski, the son of Maria and Herman. He was born 27 December 1870. Around 1895 he opened a photography studio in Siedlce, which he ran up until August 1942, that is, until his martyr's death in Treblinka. He was a social activist and a righteous man; he partly funded one of the orphanages and constantly took care of it. During a certain time, when he was the manager of the cinema, he would admit orphans for free. Around the year 1928, he converted from the Jewish faith to Lutheranism. It was probably at this time that he separated from his first wife. His second wife was Emilia Lucyna née Gebel, who was a Lutheran. Also during this time he added to his surname the Polish-sounding name Ganiewski. He was the secretary of the Circle of Friends of the Polish Academic Community. He photographed the city, the environs; he would set off in a chaise loaded with equipment on longer trips, wandering through the territory of the of Siedlce and Lublin province. He did not limit himself to taking pictures in his studio. He also took them in the jail, on the street, in the park, in various institutions and schools, observing the everyday life of the residents. During World War II, he was resettled into the ghetto, where he lived with the well-known dentist Gelbfisz. He did not want to take advantage of the opportunity of escaping and hiding. He died consciously along with other Siedlce Jews. After he was taken to Treblinka, his wife Emilia, who, as an Aryan and a Lutheran, was not subject to extermination, followed right after him. She deluded herself into thinking she could free her husband from the camp. She did not know that her husband had been sent to the Extermination Camp, not the Work Camp. She did not return from this trip. She was probably shot next to the Treblinka railway station by a gendarme to whom she had turned with a plea for help. Part of Ganiewski's rich heritage has survived to our times. The Regional Museum in Siedlce hold 935 of his glass negatives, and Mariusz Malec made a file, Photographer Gancwol. One of the streets in the city is named after him.

Jewish youths were also subject to assimilation, but they did not cut off their ties with Judaism. In the school year 1934–1935, of the 419 students in the B. Prus Public Secondary School for Boys, there were 31 Jews and 2 Poles of the Jewish faith.87

In August 1936, the Union of Jewish Participants in Battles for the Independence of Poland (ZŻUWNP) was formed. It had 96 members. On 16 and 22 August 1936, it held two organizational meetings. This was an organization of veterans. Not all its members supported assimilation. There were many Zionists in the Siedlce division. The last board, elected in 1938, consisted of Henryk Loebel, chairman; Maksymilian Schleicher, first vice-chairman; Anatol Goldberg, second vice-chairman; A. Brestet, secretary; J. Melber, treasurer; S. Słuszny, member; M. Szampanier, member; A. Zylberg, member; and N. Plichter, member. Pechranc, Jabłoń, Bresler, Frydman, Alberg, and Finkiel were also active in this union.88 In December 1935, in response to the anti-Jewish excesses at Lwów University, the Siedlce ZŻUWNP submitted an official protest in this matter to the district administrator. The district administrator sent it to the Lublin provincial administrator. In April 1936, the union organized two lectures in Polish. The first, “If People Knew the Talmud,” was given by Tomasz Zaderecki from Lwów. He had an audience of about 600 people. The subject of the lecture should explain this large number of participants. The majority of Siedlce Jews was tied to religion or to the tradition that derived from it, and Poles could listen to a lecture on the Talmud in a language they could understand.89 The other lecture, titled “Cultural and Military Significance of Polish Jewry,” was delivered to an audience of 300 people by Dr. Meir Bałaban from Warsaw.

On 25 September 1936, a bulletin appeared in Polish in Siedlce with the title Friend of Siedlce. It was published by ZŻUWNP. In the article “To People of Good Will,” the author complained about the practices of the National Democrats in their anti-Jewish campaign. The next article presented the part played by Jews in battles for Poland's independence.90

Assimilation and good contacts between the Jewish and the Polish communities were hampered by competition in commerce and crafts. The difficult conditions of existence, the shortage of jobs, and the shortage of sales of goods led to “fighting for customers” and friction. In 1928, there was an incident in Siedlce that had an economic foundation. A farmer from a nearby village was driving along Piłsudski Street with lilacs to sell. At one point, a Jewish teenager ran up to him and took a bunch of lilacs from him. The farmer grabbed him and tried to take the bunch of flowers from him. During the scuffle, about 200 Jews ran up, mostly young people, who tried to snatch the detained thief and beat the farmer. Several Christian passers-by and three policemen came to the aid of the farmer. Since the crowd of Jews was not backing off and was throwing stones at the intervening policemen, a fire hose intended for watering the lawns in that area was used to disperse them. The police arrested four “instigators” without using their weapons. These four were Szymon Goldwaser, Abram Rybak, Abe Czerniewicz, and Nuta Lejban. They were all shoemakers by trade, and the latter two were suspected of belonging to the Union of Young Communists. Marian Gałczyński, the owner of the fruit stand that was located in the area of the incident; Weronika Gerard, a maid by trade; and Józef Gochnio, a farmer from the village of Białki all sustained light beatings. In his report, the district administrator stated that “the whole incident was purely accidental and took this form only because the crowd was composed almost exclusively of teenagers. Moreover, it should be supposed that the aggressiveness of the Jewish crowd was influenced to a certain degree by the fact that the location of the incident, at the intersection of Piłsudski Street and Stary Rynek, was one at which for several years village women had been selling dairy products and eggs, vegetables, fruit, etc., right next to Jewish stores that sell these same products. There is competition then, causing a certain inflammation of relations among the tradespeople.”91


Editor's Note, Chapter 5

  1. As the rabbis understood “house” to connote the females who are associated with the home, “Beit Ya'akov” was characteristically the name of religious girls' schools. Return


Author's Notes, Chapter 5

  1. W. Tyloch, Judaizm (Warsaw, 1987), pp. 372–375. Return
  2. Archiwum Akt Nowych w Warszawie (AAN), Ministerstwo Spraw Wewnętrznych. Wydział Narodowościowy (MSW WN), “Żydowskie ugrupowania politiczne w Polsce w dniu 1-go maja 1927,” sig. 246, fol. 5. Return
  3. Got(t)lib Jehoszua Heszel (1882–1940 or 1941)—journalist, Zionist activist, representative to the Sejm of the Polish Republic in 1935–1938. He was born in Pińsk, where he received a traditional religious upbringing. He attended university in Berlin, where he received his doctoral degree. He edited Zionist periodicals. He was a member of the Central Committee of the Zionist Organization in Poland from 1916 and was one of the leaders of the Et Livnot faction. Return
  4. APS, KPPPS, sig. 60, p. 383. Return
  5. Organizacja Syjonistyczna w Polsce—informacja o oddziłach 1923–30, Wydz. II Społ-Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig. 487, p. 135 (§2 of the Statute of the Zionist Organization in Poland). Return
  6. Ibid., p. 135 ((§2 of the Statute). Return
  7. Ibid., p. 134 (§2 of the Statute). Return
  8. Ibid., pp. 130–135. Return
  9. J. Holzer, “Żydowskie dążenia polityczne w II Rzeczpospolitej,” in Znak, no. 339–340 (1983): 372; Monografia stronnictwa Politycznego „Org. Syjonistyczna w Polsce,” Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig. 461, p. 85; Organizacja Syjonistyczna—Al Hamiszmar, Wydz. II Społ.-Pol., UWL, APL, sig. 462. Return
  10. Holzer, „Żydowskie dążenia polityczne w II Rzeczpospolitej,” p. 73; Monografia stronnictwa Politycznego „Org. Syjonistyczna w Polsce,” Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig. 461, p. 85. Return
  11. A. Klugman, Izrael ziemia świecka (Warsaw, 2001), pp. 230–240. Return
  12. Holzer, “Żydowskie dążenia polityczne w II Rzeczpospolitej,” pp. 379–380; Organizacja Syjonistów-Rewizjonistoów „Brit Hazohar”—inf. o oddziałach. Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig. 492, pp. 15, 20; Monografia Stronnictwa Politycznego „Org. Syjonistyczna w Polsce,” Wycz. II Spol.-Pol. UWL, APL, sig. 461, pp. 82–85. Return
  13. Monografia stronnictwa Politycznego „Organizacja Syjonistyczna w Polsce,” Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig. 461, pp. 88–91; Syjoniści—informacja o oddziałach, Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig. 483, pp. 9, 17, 21, 23. Return
  14. Mapa wpływów politycznych poszczególnych stronnictw politycznych na terenie województwa lubelskiego, Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig. 196, p. 98. Return
  15. Życie Podlasia, no. 5 (1934). Return
  16. Syjoniści—informacja o oddziałach 1929, Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig. 483, pp. 35, 52. Return
  17. APS, SPwS 1918–1939, sig. 9, p. 35. Return
  18. A. Bobryk and I. Kochan, Prawosławie w Siedlcach (Siedlce, 2007), pp. 137–139. Among the 1,000 followers of Eastern Orthodoxy in Siedlce, aside from the permanent residents of the city, there were Polish soldiers in the military unit stationed there. The originals of letters by and to Hartglas are in the Archiwum Akt Nowych w Warszawie, zespół: Ministerstwo Wyznań Religijnych i Oświecenia Publicznego, sig. 1219. Return
  19. Nowa Gazeta Podlaska, no. 40/94/ (1933): 9. Return
  20. Izaak Grünbaum (1879–1970)—Zionist leader, history journalist, lawyer. Representative to the Sejm of the Polish Republic 1919–1933. Co-creator of the National Minorities Bloc. Left for Palestine in 1933. Signatory of the Declaration of Independence of Israel and its first minister of internal affairs. Return
  21. APS, SPwS 1918–1939, sig. 16, fol. 20–21. Return
  22. Chaim Bialik (1873–1934)—reviver of Hebrew poetry, prose writer, translator, publisher. Lived in Palestine from 1924, where he chaired the Hebrew Language Committee and the Hebrew Writers Association. Return
  23. APS, SPwS 1918–1939, sig. 20, fol. 66. Return
  24. APS, SPwS 1918–1939, sig. 25, fol. 152. Return
  25. Holzer, “Żydowskie dążenia polityczne w II Rzeczpospolitej,” pp. 369–374; Monografia stronnictwa Politycznego Syjonistyczna Partia Pracy Hitachdut, Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig. 465, pp. 20–29. Return
  26. APS, KPPPS, sig. 59, p. 26. Return
  27. B. Łętocha, A. Messer, and A. Cała, Żydowskie druki ulotne w II Rzeczpospolitej w zbiorach Biblioteki Narodowej (Warsaw, 2004), p. 39. Return
  28. Holzer, “Żydowskie dążenia polityczne w II Reczpospolitej,” pp. 374–375; Monografia Stronnictwa Politycznego pn. Jidysze Socjalistisz Demokratisze Partej—Poalej Cjon in Pojlen—Żydowska Socjalno-Demokratyczna Partia Robotnicza Poalej Syjon w Polsce—Prawica, Wydz. Społ.-Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig. 459, pp. 50–55; J. Tomaszewski, Rzeczpospolita wielu narodów (Warsaw, 1985), p. 180. Return
  29. APS, KPPPS, sig. 59, p. 35. Return
  30. Łętocha, Messer, and Cała, Żydowskie druki ulotne w II Rzeczpospolitej w zbiorach Biblioteki Narodowej, p. 40. Return
  31. Żydowska Socjalno-Demokratyczna Partia Robotnicza “Poalej Syjon w Polsce”—informacje o działalności 1923–1931, Wydz. Społ.-Pol. UWL, APL, sig. 479, p. 8; Monografia Stronnictwa Politycznego pn. “Jidysze Socjalistisz Demokratisze Arbeter Partaj—Poalej Cjon in Pojlen—Żydowska Socjalno-Demokratyczna Partia Robotnicza Poalej—Sjon w Polsce. Lewica. Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig. 458, pp. 42, 45, 76; Sprawozdanie starosty siedleckiego o ruchu społecznym za r. 1926, Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig. 161, pp. 7, 16, 21–22; Holzer, “Żydowskie dążenia polityczne w II Reczpospolitej,” pp, 374–375; Tomaszewski, Rzeczpospolita wielu narodów, p. 194. Return
  32. Currently the main intellectual center of the Mizrachim in Israel is the religious University Bar Ilan Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv founded in 1855. See Tyloch, Judaizm, pp. 270–271; Holzer, “Żydowskie dążenia polityczne w II Reczpospolitej,” p. 368; M. Fuks, „Żydzi w Polsce w latach 1918–1945,” in Naród, Kościół, Kultura, Szkice z dziejów Polski, part 2 (Lublin, 1986), p. 225. Return
  33. Mishnah Brotherhood—engaged in the study of the Mishnah, that is, the collection of books of traditional Jewish law composed of six books, the so-called Orders. The Mishnah was written down around 200 CE. Return
  34. A. Frydman, “Organizacja młodzieży chasydzkiej i 'Młodzieży Mizrachi',” in Book of Remembrance of the Siedlce Community, pp. 360–362. Return
  35. Ibid., p. 364; Monografia Stronnictwa Politycznego „Organizacja Syjonistów Ortodoksów ,Mizrachi',” Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig. 466, p. 79. Return
  36. Frydman, “Organizacja młodzieży chasydzkiej i 'Młodzieży Mizrachi',” p. 364. Return
  37. Ibid., p. 365. Return
  38. Ibid., p. 365. Return
  39. APS, KPPPS, sig. 60, pp. 353–380. Return
  40. “Mizrachi”—informacja o oddziałach Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. UWL, APL, sig. 484, pp.3–4; Monografia Stronnictwa Politycznego „Organizacja Syjonistów Ortodoksów Mizrachi,” Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. UWL, APL, sig. 466, pp. 72–80. Return
  41. APS, SPwS, sig. 16, fol. 20. Return
  42. D. B. Josef-Pasowski, “Chalucowy ruch młodzieżowy,” in Book of Remembrance of the Siedlce Community, p. 346. Return
  43. Ibid., p. 346; Sprawozdanie starosty sidleckiego o ruchu społecznym za rok 1926, Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig. 161, p. 23. Return
  44. Centralna Organizacja Żydów Ortodoksów w Polsce pn. „Szlomej Emunej Israel” (Agudath Israel—Pokój Wiernych Izraelitów—informacja o oddziałach Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig. 489, p. 40 (citation drawn from an overprint in Polish of the official Agudah document). Return
  45. APS, KPPPS, sig. 59, fol. 3. Return
  46. APS, KPPPS, sig. 60, fol. 362, 386. Return
  47. APS, KPPPS, sig. 60, fol. 385. Return
  48. Meir Szapiro (1887–1934)—rabbi, head of the Polish Agudah from 1922, in 1923–1927 representative to the Sejm of the Polish Republic. His life's work was the creation in 1924 of the Sages of Lublin Yeshiva, renovated in February 2007. Return
  49. APS, SPwS, sig. 8, pp. 2–3. Return
  50. Monografia Stronnictwa Politycznego „Centralna Organizacja Żydów Ortodoksów–'Agudath Israel'”—Związek Izraela, Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig. 485, p. 67; Sprawozdanie starosty siedleckiego o ruchu społecznym za rok 1926, Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. 1919–1939, UW, APL, sig. 16, p. 6; APS, SPwS, sig. 23, fol. 34–35. Return
  51. Tomaszewski, Rzeczpospolita wielu narodów, p. 168; Fuks, „Żydzi w Polsce w latach 1918–1945,” p. 225. Return
  52. Adar—the twelfth lunar month of the Hebrew calendar counting from Passover, or the sixth from the New Year's holidays of Rosh Hashanah. Adar begins in either February or March. It is a joyous month in which Purim, the most cheerful holiday of Judaism, falls. The seventh day of the month of Adar is the anniversary of both the birth and the death of Moses, and the thirteenth is the fast of Esther, right before Purim. Return
  53. Sprawozdanie starosty siedleckiego o ruchu społecznym za rok 1926, Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig.161, pp. 6, 14–17. Return
  54. APS, SPwS, sig. 23, fol. 95. Return
  55. I. Kaspi, „Early History of the Jews in Siedlce,” in Book of Remembrance of the Siedlce Community, ed. A. W. Jasny (Buenos Aires, 1956), p. 43. Return
  56. Hartglas, Na pograniczu dwóch światów, p, 109. Return
  57. Sprawozdanie starosty siedleckiego o ruchu społecznym za rok 1926, Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig. 161, pp. 7, 14, 21; Monografia Stronnictwa Politycznego „Jidysze Folkisze Partei” – „Folkiści,” Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig. 470, pp. 23–30. Return
  58. APS, KPPPS, sig. 60, p. 395. Return
  59. APS, KPPPS, sig. 62, fol. 37. Return
  60. Noach Pryłucki (1882–1941 or 1942)—organizer of the Folkist party, researcher of the history of Jewish folklore, writer, journalist, poet. From 1922, a representative to the Sejm of the Polish Republic as the only representative of the Folkists. After the start of World War II, he left for Vilnius. In 1941, after these territories were occupied by the German forces, he disappeared without a trace. Return
  61. APS, SPwS 1918–1939, sig. 6, p. 17. Return
  62. APS, SPwS 1918–1939, sig. 7, p. 24. Return
  63. APS, SPwS 1918–1939, sig. 8, p. 7. Return
  64. Berek Joselewicz (1765–1809)—born in Kretinga (Lithuania). From 1788 he lived in Warsaw. In 1794 he organized a Jewish light cavalry regiment and commanded it as a colonel. After the fall of the Kościuszko Uprising, he left for Galicia and in 1798 to Italy, where he joined Dąbrowski's Legions and took part as an officer in the Italian and the Danubian legions. In 1803, assigned to the Hanover Legion in the pay of the French, he fought in the campaign of 1805, at Austerlitz, among others. From 1807, he earned the rank of squadron head of the Fifth Regiment of Rifle Cavalry. He died on 5 May 1809 in a skirmish with the Austrians at Kock. A historic brick building from the last quarter of the nineteenth century has survived on this street in Siedlce (4 B. Joselewicz Street), next to which stands a monument dedicated to the murdered Jewish community. At the corner of this street and Bishop I. Świrski Street is the building that housed Barencwajg's Cheder. Return
  65. M. Madelman, “Żydowska oświata w Siedlcach,” in Book of Remembrance of the Siedlce Community, p. 476; AAN, MSW WN, Żydowskie ugrupowania polityczne w Polsce w dniu 1 maja 1927, sig. 246, fol. 9. Return
  66. Holzer, “Żydowskie dążenia polityczne w II Reczpospolitej,” pp. 366–382; Tomaszewski, Rzeczpospolita wielu narodów, pp. 177–179; Fuks, „Żydzi w Polsce w latach 1918–1945,” p. 226. Return
  67. G. Lusgarten, „Działalność Bundu w okresie międzywojennym,” in Book of Remembrance of the Siedlce Community, p. 404. Return
  68. Rewizje i aresztowania członków Ogólnożydowskiego Związku Robotniczego „Bund” w Polsce 1920–21, Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig. 481, p. 14. Return
  69. Ibid., pp. 16, 22. Return
  70. Lusgarten, „Działalność Bundu w okresie międzywojennym,” pp. 405–407; Monografia Stronnictwa Politycznego „Bund”—Algemeiner Jidysze Arbeter Bund in Pojlen—Ogólnożydowski Związek Robotniczy „Bund” w Polsce, Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig. 460, p. 35. Return
  71. APS, KPPPS, sig. 59, p. 39. Return
  72. APS, SPwS 1918–1939, sig. 6, p. 1. Return
  73. Sprawozdanie starosty siedleckiego o ruchu społecznym za rok 1925, Wydz. II Społ. Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig.161, pp.17, 21–22. Return
  74. Monografia Stronnictwa Politycznego „Bund” – Algemeiner Jidysze Arbeter Bund in Pojlen – Ogólnożydowski Związek Robotniczy „Bund” w Polsce, Wydz. II Społ.-Pol. 1919–1939, UWL, APL, sig. 460, pp. 28–35. Return
  75. Henryk Erlich (Hersz Wolf)—born in 1882 in Lublin, died in 1942 in an NKVD prison in the Soviet Union; lawyer, Bund leader, editor of several Bund periodicals. In 1939 he was arrested by the Soviet authorities and sentenced to death. He was released as part of the amnesty after the Sikorski–Maisky agreement. He cooperated with the Polish embassy in the USSR. In December 1941 he was arrested again. He committed suicide on 14 May 1942. Return
  76. APS, SPwS 1918–1939, sig. 15, fol. 9. Return
  77. Z. Kaleniecki, „Działalność KPP w Okręgu Siedleckim w latach 1918–1938,” in Społeczeństwo siedleckie w walce o wyzwolenie narodowe i społeczne (Warsaw, 1981), p. 122. Return
  78. APS, SPwS, sig. 2, p. 3. Return
  79. M. Judenglojbm [sic.], “Lewicowy ruch robotniczy w Siedlcach,” in Book of Remembrance of the Siedlce Community, pp. 400–401. Return
  80. Kaleniecki, „Działalność KPP w Okręgu Siedleckim w latach 1918–1938,” pp. 125–127. Return
  81. Kaleniecki, „Działalność KPP w Okręgu Siedleckim w latach 1918–1938,” typescript in possession of National Archive in Siedlce (hereafter typescript), p. 501. (There are two works by Z. Kaleniecki bearing the same title: one is published in the book Społeczeństwo siedleckie w walce o wyzwolenie narodowe i społeczne [Warsaw, 1981]; the other, a very extensive typescript, is held in the National Archive in Siedlce.) Return
  82. Kaleniecki, „Działalność KPP w Okręgu Siedleckim w latach 1918–1938,” p. 153, typescript. Return
  83. Ibid., p. 152. Return
  84. APS, KPPPS, sig. 60, p. 340. Return
  85. Ibid., p. 501. Return
  86. A. Hertz, Żydzi w kulturze polskiej (Paris, 1961), p. 133; J. Lichten, „Uwagi o asymilacji i akulturacji Żydów w Polsce 1863–1943,” in Znak, no. 396–398 (1988): 49. Return
  87. J. Mikulski, „Szkolnictwo średnie w Siedlcach,” in Powiat siedlecki (Siedlce, 1935), p. 328. Return
  88. Ziemia Siedlecka, no. 2 (1938): 3; Życie Podlasia, no. 51/86, 52/87 (1935): 4. Return
  89. P. Śmieciuch, „Społeczność żydowska w Siedlcach w latach 1919–1938 w świetle sprawozdań sytuacyjnych starostwa siedleckiego,” in Biuletyn ŻIH, no. 1 (1992): 83. Return
  90. T. Szczechura, „Materiały bibliograficzne do dziejów zachodniego Podlasia i południowo-wschodniego Mazowsza,” in Prace Archiwalno-Konserwatorskie na Terenie Województwa Siedleckiego (Siedlce, 1977), p. 143; APS, SPwS 1918–1939, sig. 25, fol. 135. Return
  91. APS, SPwS 1918–1939, sig. 12, p. 61. Return

 

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