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[Page 69]

Będzin’s self-administration

by Dr. R. Rechtman

Translated by Osnat Ramaty and Sharon Sullivan

A Latin proverb states: „Historia magistra vita est“ (history is the teacher of life). Whoever wants to find out more about the town of Będzin should read through the history of Będzin's council. He or she will then gain an understanding of the urban development and its citizens.

Up until 1914 the local citizens didn't shown any interest in the town itself or its services. The reason for this was that the town was administrated by government officials. These officials primarily represented their own interests rather than the ones of the public. With the introduction of self-administration, the consciousness of the local people towards their own interests grew.

The parliamentary democracy with all its functions like voting, legislation and social management is the best school for the individual citizen. It helped people to develop a sense of common interest and even willpower to sacrifice in the name of their town. Apathy was reverted to a voluntary enthusiastic cooperation with a distinctive interest in reviving the town and its facilities.

Before the World War Będzin was a little town, in which cultural facilities were almost unknown. The outbreak of the war had left the town without executives and without people who were interested enough to take over these tasks. However soon after, a voluntary citizen militia arose, which resulted in the establishment of Będzin's self-administration.

On August the 2nd 1914, a citizens committee was set up consisting of 20 people, amongst them 4 Jews: the attorney Rieder, the engineer Goldstaub, H. D. Rozenblum and Szaja Rotner. A few days later the committee formed the town's first council consisting of 25 councilors, amongst them were 4 Jews: Rieder, Rotner, Szajn and Wasercwajg.

The town's council proved its ability of mastering control over the town without inclusion of other forces and it restored a high level of law and order within the critical days of the war.

The town's first council rendered excellent service. The council deserved a lot of credit for their performance, since Będzin suffered relatively less through the German occupation, as compared to other cities.

The town's council was active until June 20th, 1915. After this it was taken over by the occupying power, which then appointed the second council. This council consisted of 23 persons, 6 Jews were amongst them: Weinziher, Berisz Preger, Hendel Nunberg, Sercarz, Rotner und Potok.

Amongst the four representatives of the councils authority was one Jew, the attorney Rieder.

On March 26th, 1917 the town's administration has been taken over by the council, which was voted for during winter of 1916. The council was under the chairmanship of Gustav Weinziher and consisted of 24 people, all of them were Jews.

The council dissolved on the historical day of the fall of the central powers (Germany, Austria). Although this council only existed for a short time, it did a great deal for its town and its inhabitants.

From November 12th, 1918 till June 10th, 1919 a temporary municipal authority, which consisted of 15 persons, was established in Będzin, amongst them were 7 Jews: Dr. Weinziher, L. Rubinlicht, the attorney Rieder, J. Pejsachson, J. Goldfeld, H. Nunberg and G. Weinziher.

The legal base for municipal self-administration was set by an edict of the December 13th, 1918. As a result, elections were carried out to vote for Będzin's fourth council on May 18th, 1919.

This council consisted of: 27 councilors, amongst them were 12 Jews. 2 Jews were elected to the municipal authority. This council did much towards municipal matters. The council dissolved at the beginning of April 1925 of its own accord.

Up until the new elections, which took place on August 30th, 1925, the administrative authority formed a temporary municipal authority, which consisted of 6 persons, amongst them were 3 Jews: Dr. Weinziher, Nunberg and Sercarz.

The 5th town council was constituted on September 23rd, 1925. It consisted of 32 councilors, amongst them were 11 Jews, as well as the cities administration, consisting of 6 persons, and amongst them were 2 Jews. For the first time ever a Jewish vice-president, L. Rubinlicht, was elected in Będzin.

During the period in which this council operated, the town's economy enjoyed an enormous development in every respect, like new schools, social protection, road construction, etc. Although terminated early, this council was very beneficial.

The cities' economy was quite exceptional compared to other towns at the time and was widely appreciated by the rest of the country.

[Page 70]

The council's term ended in the year 1928. At the end of this year new elections took place in Będzin, in order to replace the council. 16 Jews were in the 6th council, which was newly elected and consisted of 32 persons. This time J. Fürstenberg was elected as chairman and Jakob Erlich as vice-president.

For the first time members of the „Sanacja“[1] were elected to the city council, and during the first session of the council a dispute arose between the “Sanacja” and the “Endecja”[2]. This resulted in a split amongst Jewish councilors as well.

The democratic elements opposed the election of an Endecja president for the council.

The political discussion caused such a dispute, that the regular business of the council proceedings was interrupted. The control board finally disbanded the council in 1930.

Until 1935 the government inspector, engineer Raszetkowski, was in power in our town together with an advisory board, to which 5 nominated Jewish members belonged.

New elections took place on May 27th, 1934. The newly elected 7th town council of 40 councilors amongst them 15 Jews, held its first meeting on March 18th, 1935.

Because of the fragmentation of the Jewish councilors Jewish vice-presidents could not be voted for.

The general publics interests in the city council's proceedings diminished rapidly. The implications of the council's work will only be determined in the future.

The Community Council in 1937

Click here to extend the pictures -- Bed-070s.jpg [14 KB]

[Click here to enlarge the pictures]

The photographs of following members are missing:

M. Manela, Sh. B. Banhart, D. Skoczylas, A. B. Werdyger.
The photography of  A. Hampel is on page 59.

Table of Contents

[Page 71]

Będzin's Jewish community in liberated Poland

by J. F.

Translated by Osnat Ramaty and Sharon Sullivan

Beginning in June 1924 the city council was elected on a democratic basis. The first meeting took place in August 1924 and comprised the following people: Hersz Blumenfrucht and Jozef Swajcer (lower middle class party), Jechiel Kurland, Jacob M. Gutman, Jicchak Majer Schönberg and Kalman Liwer (Aguda), Jicchak Aron Landau, Meszulam Liwer, Gerszon Rechnic, Lajbisz Buchwajc, Dawid Turner and Mosze Najberg (united Chasidim and Mizrachi), Hersz Lipman Goldstein, Moisze Hampel, Efraim Klajman, Jozef Bank and Hersz Retman (trader party), Dr. S. Weinziher, Szlomo Frenkel and Abram Liwer (national block). Meszulam Liwer was elected for president and Szlomo Frenkel for vice-president.

The following people were elected for the city council: Dr. S. Weinziher (chairman), M. J. Prawer (vice-chairman), Szymon Fürstenberg, Jechiel Kurland, Abram Liwer, Szymon Plesner, L. Borszikowski, Jacob Najmark, Jicchak Wigodski and Daniel Panski.

The period of office of the council functionaries lasted until August 1933, i.e. 9 years.

This city council didn't exactly surround itself in grandeur. Quite the contrary! Up to this point, the main activity of the city council was directed at extending the fields of responsibility of the individual members, this activity was steadily decreasing. So for example, registration books were removed, which had been kept on record from 1921. This was the reason that the council lost its right to issue identity cards for the post office. Internal party disputes were the main reason for this and as a result the city council was frequently replaced in part: Dr. Weinziher resigned from his position as chairman in 1925. Mr. S. Fürstenberg who was elected after him in 1926 declared his resignation in 1927 for the very same reasons. Mr. Jicchak Pejsachson resigned his post as the council's secretary at the same time as president Füstenberg, because he couldn't cope with the unpleasant atmosphere any further, which existed inside as well as outside the Jewish community. The vice-chairman, Mordechai Jozef Prawer, then took over the leadership; Israel Freilich was nominated as secretary. In 1930 Abram Liwer was elected as chairman. He was put under a lot of pressure by his party, which compelled him (Aguda) to act as chairman until the end of his period of office.

This is the reason something finally started occurring after 9 years of office in regards to the economy: Plots were bought as an extension to the graveyard. Renovation work of the Mikve was resumed and the renovation of the synagogue continued, and in addition paintings were added by the artists Apelboim, Cygler, Hanft, who was famous in Poland and later became well known overseas.

New city council elections were carried out on May 18th, 1931, which granted total victory for the National party over Aguda. The Aguda received 6 mandates from 18 elected representatives altogether: H. D. Erlich, J. Fiszel, I. A. Landau, S. J. Rincki, J. M. Szenenberg and M. L. Zilberfreund. The parliamentary group basically consisted of 7 people, because Efraim Klajman, a representative of the Worker's Party, always voted in favor of the Aguda where important questions were involved. In favor of the National party the following were elected: J. L. Fajner (left wing of Poale Zion; Mr. Fajner resigned later on in favor of Jechiel Kornfeld), L. Goldstein (now council member instead of the late member Nachman Tenenberg, Zionist party), H. Herszelewicz (Zionist party), M. L. Kajzer (worker's party), H. Kisner (Revisionist party), J. M. Kurland (Mizrachi), N. Londner (Zionist party), A. J. Rechnic (trader party), S. Rozenblum (right wing of Poale Zion), M. Rozenker (Hitachdut) and Ch. J. Welner (Mizrachi) (Israel).

Through various protests and discussions directed against the power of the Aguda, the newly elected council functionaries and the city council had (in the above-mentioned list) their first meeting only after 2 years and 3 months, in order to replace the city council. This meeting took place on August 13th, 1939. The council then consisted of the following people: S. B. Bonhart (Aguda), A. Hampel (right wing of Poale Zion), M. Jochimowicz (Aguda), L. Katzengold (Mizrachi; he left Będzin in 1933, his position in the council was taken over by Mosze Manela, Mizrahi Thora V'Avoda), Abram Liwer (Zionist Party), J. M. Najmark (Mizrahi), S. Piekarski (Aguda), L. Rubinlicht (impartial), J. D. Rodzin (trader party; passed away in 1934, his place taken by Nachman Tenenberg (Zionist), who also passed away), B. D. Skoszilas (Aguda), H. Strochlic (Zionist party), A. B. Werdiger (Aguda). Chairman of the city council at the time was J. M. Kurland (he left Będzin in 1935; later on the Agudist S. L. Rinski took over the chairmanship), vice chairman – N. Londner; Chairman of the city council – L. Rubinlicht; vice chairman – Abram Liwer, who was voted out by the city authority in April 1934 “because of his efforts, to make a political arena out of the Jewish community of Będzin, whilst neglecting religious matters “.

It would require some quite some time to present a detailed summary and review of all that occurred and of why the city life in the last period of office was disrupted so badly. The events are well known to all of us and since the progress of those events is not over by far, we find it impossible (without risking becoming too detailed and subjective) to write about this.

Finally, it should be pointed out that the council of Będzin and environs dealt with approximately 24,000 people and utilized a budget of about 250,000 guilder. The main source of income were: The budget of approx. 100,000 guilder, slaughter approx. 65,000 guilder.

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Translator's Footnotes
  1. In May 1926, after a few years spent on the political sidelines, Jozef Pilsudski staged an armed coup d'etat. The political system consequently created in 1926 was called Sanacja ("Cleansing" from a slogan referring to cleansing political life of party factionalism and corruption, with which the previous governments and parties were charged.) Return

  2. Endecja – (so called after the pronunciation of  N. D., abbr. of Polish "Narodowa Demokracja", National Democracy; also Endeks), political right-wing party which became a focus for Polish anti-Semitism in the first half of the 20th century. The party was active in all parts of partitioned Poland. It originated from the "National League," established at the end of the 19th century, to unite Poles of various political allegiance to work for the resurrection of Poland. Return

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