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C. Political Parties

[Page 257]

The Central Zionist Organization

by Dawid Liwer

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

The General Zionists Organization was the first political party to operate in our city, and already in the eighteen eighties, with the renewal of the Zionist idea, its first seed was sown in Będzin. In the “Hibat Zion” [Lovers of Zion] conference held in Katowice (1884), the late Rabbi Berisz Prager, a well-known businessman who had acted extensively for Zionism in our city, participated as the Będzin Zionist representative. The principle task of the Zionists, who were organized in the well-known organization known as “Agudat HaZionim” [Zionist Association], took the form of collecting money for the “Keren Kayemet L'Israel” [Jewish National Fund] and the “Colonial Bank”, whose shares were distributed around our city at the end of the 19th century to the sum of seven thousand rubles, even though Zionist activity was forbidden in Russia.

Amongst the first Zionists worthy of note, apart from Rabbi Berisz Prager, were W. B. Fiszel, Szlomo Frenkel, Berisz Kaufman, J. H. Erlich, Szalom Klajner, Jeszaja Wdowinski and the teacher, Waroncberg. The last two acted extensively in the cultural field and the dissemination of the Hebrew language amongst Jewish youth.

On the eve of the First World War the leaders of the Zionists were: Abram Liwer (now in America), Jicchak Wygodzki, Neta Londner, A. K. Liwer, Elimelech Rotner, Tewel Klajnman, Majer Szwarc, B. Janowski, Abram Ptaznik (now in Brazil), Jecheskiel Lasker, Mosze Prager, Juda Sznajor (former chairman of the “Hadar Carmel” committee), Mordechai Wajnryb and A. B. Kokotek.

During this period the Zionists were prominent in smuggling Zionist books out of Germany and distributing them throughout Poland and Russia. This organization was headed by A. K. Liwer, who surreptitiously brought Zionist literature from Germany to Będzin, and from there – to large Zionist centers in Russia. It so happened that in 1914 the Russian secret police discovered a dispatch of illegal Zionist literature in Czeladz, which borders with Będzin… The Russian policemen followed after the smugglers and tracked A. K. Liwer's movements who managed to escape from them. Who knows how this would have ended, had not the First World War broken out in the meantime, and the Russians abandoned the city in the wake of the German army that conquered it.

During the German administration the “Agudat HaZionim” was legalized, and in its first general assembly in 1917, M. Y. Fryd a member of the central committee participated, and the following were elected to the committee: B. Prawer, Elimelech Rotner, Mosze Kalman Erlich, A. Liwer, N. Londner, J. Wygodzki, Zvi Fefer, N. Olrat, A. Diamant, Sztatler and B. Berlach. The bulk of the work was placed on I. Wygodzki, Londner and Liwer, who for twenty-five years loyally served the Zionist idea and courageously fought the Zionist battle with all its opponents and enemies from left and right.

Abram Liwer (known as “Der Wisser” [the wise one]) was fortunate and survived the Nazi inferno and settled with all his family in America, where he continued his Zionist activities. He was prominent amongst the Będzin activists in his speaking ability and power of persuasion. Many people would flock to assemblies in which he appeared, and listened intently to his fascinating lectures. He represented the Zionists in Będzin in the central Zionist institutions and in several congresses. Apart from Zionist activities, worked for various local institutes: “Dobroczynnosz” [beneficence; philanthropy], “ORT”, “Linat Holim” and others.

When an independent Polish state was established in 1918, an important activity was carried out in our city by the Zionist organization for our national rights in a free Poland, and in 1919 a representative of the Jews in Zagłębie, Dr. Weinziher representing the Zionists in our town, was elected as a delegate to the Polish “Sejm” [parliament] and together with the other Zionists in our town – Necha Rotner and Cesia Szajn, they accomplished substantial achievements for the Jewish population.

A unique chapter was the difficult struggle of the Zionists in the Jewish community, as the “Agudat Israel” organization sought to bring the people into their fold, and were sometimes successful as they had the support of the authorities. The Zionists also carried out a campaign during the first years of the nineteen twenties regarding the serving rabbinate, in an effort to place a personality with a Zionist viewpoint in the rabbinate – without success.

When in 1934, A. Liwer served as deputy chairman of the “Kehila” [Jewish community] council, he was arbitrarily removed from office by the government, on the excuse that he was striving to convert the “Kehila” into a political forum, and had put off religious matters to second place…

The Zionist community leaders of the “Kehila” council in 1937 were: Neta Londner, Lajbl Goldsztajn, Herman Sztrochlic of blessed memory and Abram Liwer.

The rift that began in the General Zionists movement in Poland in the nineteen twenties, appeared amongst the Zionists in our city, where their leaders and most of their members tended towards the “Al Hamishmar” [“On guard”] faction that was founded by Jicchak Grynbaum. This division into two opposing camps within the same movement (“Al Hamishmar” and “Et Livnot” [“Time to build”]), caused trouble in the Zionist organization that was substantially weakened by the internal squabbles that aided those opposing Zionism. The consequence was not late in coming in the city council elections in Będzin, in which the General Zionists received a small number of mandates, and the main Zionist press warned of this. The situation only improved in 1939, several months before the war broke out, when the General Zionists presented themselves in the city council elections in a unified bloc with the other Zionist parties, that received 7 out of the 15 Jewish delegates.

In the Zionist congressional elections, as well, the General Zionists did worse than the other parties.

The General Zionists did not take care of educating their own youth soon enough, without which the development of a political movement could not take place. The lack of organized youth worried the activists, and only at the beginning of the nineteen thirties did they assist in forming and cultivating the “Hanoar Hazioni” [Young Zionists] movement.

On the other hand, the Zionist organization in Będzin was prominent in its outstanding work for national funds, and was an exemplary model for other communities.

Amongst the local activists that weren't mentioned in this article, of which most are no longer alive, we will recall: Majer Cymberknopf, Jicchak Rus, Pelc, Hendel Altman, Dawid Rembiszewski, Abram Hampel, Baruch Brama, Frenkel, Potasz, Chaper, Szmudecki, J. M. Korland, Nachman Tenenberg, A. Z. Bornsztajn, Mordechai Erlich, Marek Szajn, Tobiasz Meryn (both in Israel) and others.

[Page 258]

The Religious Zionist movement

(“Mizrachi” – Young “Mizrachi”)

by Zew Landau

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

Some time after Rabbi Rajnes, of blessed memory, established the “Mizrachi” movement, a branch of this movement was founded in Będzin, that brought within it the elite of the religious Jewish youth of the city.

Amongst the founders of the movement were the distinguished personalities: Rabbi Berisz Prager, Rabbi Jeszaja Chanoch Erlich, Rabbi Isser Herszon, Rabbi Szalom Klajner, Rabbi Cwi-Natan Wologa, Rabbi Lajbisz Diamand, Rabbi Jeszaja Jona Pszenica, all of blessed memory and Rabbi Josef Sinai Rajch (in Israel), all of whom were learned in the Torah, and all highly virtuous.

They disseminated their love of Zion through the ultra-orthodox circles at all levels: merchants, tradesmen, and liberal professions, who joined the membership of the religious Zionist movement.

During its last years the following were leaders of the “Mizrachi” movement: Rabbi Lajbisz Buchwajc, Rabbi Meszylem Liwer, Rabbi Icchak Majer Kurland, Rabbi Jakob Najmark (all of them town leaders) and also Rabbi Dawid Erlich, Rabbi Jehoszua Rozenker, Rabbi Menachem Malc, Rabbi Szmul Diamand, Rabbi Lajbisz Banach, Rabbi Zyskind Feldberg and others, May the Lord revenge their blood.

Bed-258.jpg [20 KB] - The "Young Mizrachi" committee
The “Young Mizrachi” committee
in 1919
Mosze Lewin, Szabza Lior, Mosze Openhajm
Hanoch Landau, Chaim Welner,
Joel Frydberg (both in Israel)

In 1917 a branch of Young “Mizrachi” was founded (later to be the “Torah and Work” movement) that drew into it youths and many yeshiva students from the intellectual, religious circles of the city. Amongst the founders and the main activists of this movement were Hilel Zabner, Mosze Openhajm, Mosze Manela, Chanoch Landau, Mosze Lewin, Jehoszua Goldberg, Mosze Cwi Szpajzer, Abram Perl, Cwi Telner, May the Lord revenge their blood and Juda Katzengold of blessed memory and those that should be blessed with a long life – Chaim Welner, (a community leader till he went to live in Israel), Szlomo Joel Frydberg, Juda Tenenbaum, Mordechai Josef Tenenbaum, Chaim Michael Zylberberg (a Będzin city council member), Zelig Motel, Szabza Liwer, Josef Apelbaum (all of them in Israel) and others.

As the emigration to the Land of Israel grew, a farm was created in which religious pioneers learnt about practical agriculture.

In addition, one of the first branches of the religious girls' movement “Bruria” was founded in the city, which brought in many girls from ultra-orthodox circles, who excelled in the field of organizing religious Zionism and cultural activities. A significant number of “Bruria” members from Będzin went to live in Israel before the Holocaust.

In 1929, on the initiative of Zew Landau (who was branch secretary of the Young “Mizrachi”) a national religious movement called “Sinai” was organized, which was the first of its kind in Poland. The core of this movement came from students of the “Mizrachi” school in the city.

Amongst the first members of this organization were Cwi Kurc, Mosze Mordechai Lenczner (killed in the Holocaust), Jecheskiel Orbach (fell in the War of Independence in Gush Etzion), and Jecheskiel Monczyk (fell defending Hanita whilst it was being established) and those that should be blessed with long lives – Abram Blat, Israel Welner, Fryberg, Juda Kimelman (all of them in Israel).

In 1934 a branch of “Hashomer Hadati” [religious guard] was begun and its members took part in activities in the “Mizrachi” spirit.

The organization that was led by Aron Feldberg (living in Israel) developed well and the number of members from national-religious circles grew and the Jewish public in Będzin received all its activities with enthusiasm.

The “Mizrachi” organization with all its sub-branches became renown in Poland. Extensive cultural activity amongst its members was developed, a large library (Hebrew and Yiddish) was founded from which those that weren't “Mizrachi” members also enjoyed (the librarian – Szymon Himelfarb, living in Israel). Evening classes in Hebrew and Talmud also took place. Its members took part in all types of Zionist and public activity.

The peak of its activities was the founding of the “Mizrachi” Hebrew school, to which flocked students from all levels of the city and its surroundings. Over time, hundreds of school students took up respectable positions in the cultural and educational fields and also in the leadership of the “Mizrachi” movement and other Zionist parties.

The importance of the “Mizrachi” movement in our city is shown by the fact that it was visited by movement men such as Rabbi Icchak Nisenbaum, Rabbi M. Bar-Ilan, Jehoszua Heszel Farbsztajn, Szmuel Chaim Landau, Rabbi A. Najfeld, Dr. A. Gotesdiner (Ovadia) of blessed memory – and those that should be blessed with long lives – Z. Warhaftig (Deputy Minister of Religion), Jakob Grinberg (Deputy Knesset chairman), Jeszaja Bersztajn and others.

One can learn about the valuable activities of the movement from the large number of members who went to live in Israel, after it was established in our city and up until the destruction of this magnificent community. In sorrow we recall its last leaders and dedicated members, who did not realize their dream. May their memories be blessed together with the other martyrs of the Będzin community.

[Page 259]

How the young women’s organization
“Bruria” was founded

by Sara Sztajnberg

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

One wishing to review the history of the “Bruria” movement in our city would need to be aware of the political situation that existed at the time in the Jewish streets.

During the same period, in the nineteen thirties, there were a number of political parties contesting for the young people and trying to draw them into their ranks. On one side there were the extreme right parties who negated Zionism and religion, and on the other side there was the “Aguda” and its “Beit Ya'akov” girls, who fought against Zionism, and in the center stood the general Zionist movements, “Mizrachi”, “Tzeire Mizrachi” [Young Mizrachi], “Hashomer Hatzair” [Young guard], “Poale Zion” [Zionist Labor], “Gordonia” and so on.

At that time the “Tarbut” movement organized Hebrew classes, and the elite of the girls in our city signed up for these courses, many of the girl students were not involved in a movement. The Zionist youth organizations that made up “Tarbut” wanted to win over these girls through education. The religious girls amongst them were reluctant. They sought a national religious movement, and the lack of such a movement was felt.

In 5689 [1928-29] bloody riots 1928-29 broke out in Israel. At the time, this shocked Polish Jewry, especially the youth that strove for the settlement in Israel. There were several members of “Tzeire Mizrachi” that came to the conclusion that the religious girls should be organized into a movement. In spite of the opposition of several of the “Mizrachi” leadership to include girls in the movement framework, an organization was founded in 5690 [1929-1930] by the name of: Young girls of “Mizrachi”“Bruria” which was named after the wife of Rabbi Majer. Rabbi Elimelech Najfeld, of blessed memory participated in the founding meeting.

Amongst those behind the founding of the organization were Herszl Lasker, May the Lord revenge his blood, Szymon Himelfarb and Szabza Liwer, May they blessed with a long life, and others, who also trained the first girl leadership in ways of organization and activities.

The founders were: Sara Wajnryb, Rjwka Jungster and the writer of this article.

The first members to join this organization were: Hana Londner, the Lichtig sisters, Haja Orensztajn, Chawa Kugelman and Haja Skornicki of blessed memory and Rywka Londner who is in Israel. These girls made up the core of the movement.

We began with broad education amongst the girls of the city. After a period other girls joined up. There were general activities relating to the Keren Kayemet L'Israel [Jewish National Fund], “Hechalutz Hamizrachi” [Pioneering Mizrachi] and so on. In the field of cultural activities the following members should receive special credit: Mojze Openhajm, Mosze Lewin and Manela, May the Lord revenge his blood, and H. M. Zylberberg and Zelig Matel, May they blessed with a long life, who regularly dedicated their time and lectured us on movement problems, the history of Zionism, Israel studies, Judaism and so forth that provided a great deal of substance to our movement.

The most active of the girls devoted most of their time and effort to fashioning the movement, to its development and success. Our first appearance in the Lag B'Omer parade on behalf of the Keren Kayemet L'Israel [Jewish National Fund] made a great impression. The secular youth made fun of us and we marched proudly with our flags in hand. Our appearance brought respectful and supportive relationship on the part of the parents. With this, the non-movement girls became jealous and most of them joined us later on, and our number reached almost one hundred members.

The whole Zionist institution recognized us as an independent organization. We also founded “Bruria” branches in Dąbrowa Gór, Jaworzno and in Western Galicia. In 5692 [1931-32] the first members set out for pioneering training. In 5694 [1934-35] we sent two girl members, Lea Stopnicki and Cyla Lindner, May the Lord revenge their blood, to a counselor training seminar, that took place near Warsaw under the guidance of Leah Sapir-Tyrosz, who at the time was an envoy in Poland on behalf of “Hapoel Hamizrachi”, and in the same year the first girls went to live in Israel and I was amongst them.

The “Aliya” [emigration to Israel] of members of our organization continued up till the outbreak of the World War. We founded homes in Israel in the Torah and labor spirit. After the Holocaust a few survivors came to live in Israel. Many other girlfriends did not have the chance to realize their dream. We regret those that were lost but they will not be forgotten!

The rift and the Young Zionists party (Z. S.)

by D. L.

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

At the beginning of the twentieth century a Zionist-Hebrew-National youth movement called “Tzeiri Zion” [Young Zionists] emerged from middle class circles in Będzin. In time members from its ranks went to live in Israel, and they laid the foundations of the “Hapoel Hatzair” [Young Laborer] party during the Second “Aliya” [emigration] period.

Organized members of the “Tzeiri Zion” could be found in Będzin in the year 1916, and their activists and leaders came from the elite educated youth and included the following: Mosze Kaminer (died at a young age), Aron Hampel, Tewel Klajman, Herszel Liwer, the teachers Chorgel and Rozenkwit, Lichtman, Sonczew, Esther Zylberszac (all were killed), Juda Prager, Fela Najberg, Mirel Rotenberg, Mirjam Frydberg, Chana Szental-Raviv, Israel Zygrajch, Mosze Rozenker, Dawid Liwer, Mirjam Kaminer-Liwer, Icchak Tencer, Majer Golani-Gozlani, Szmuel Domb (now in Israel), M. L. Kozlowski (America), Mosze Potszinski (Australia) and others.

The driving spirit in the party was Mosze Kaminer, an educated youth, a talented orator, and a spokesperson in the provincial towns on behalf of the Warsaw center. <ß> Members of “Tzeiri Zion” were involved in all types of Zionist activities, in the national funds, in “Hechalutz” and in the “Ivriya” Hebrew speaking organization, which was founded and cultivated by Hebrew language admirers, and “Tzeiri Zion” members, in general. They dedicated themselves to literary and cultural activities in the city, they founded a library, distributed the party magazine “Bafrayung” [liberation], held lectures and reading evenings. Their influence was felt in the city. They also founded a university for educating the people, in which classes were held in Jewish literature, Zionist problems, political economics, the history of the movement and so on. In their concern for youth, the “Tzeiri Zion” party founded the “Hashachar” organization.

During the rioting in the Polish cities, the party organized protest rallies and a “defense” whose task was to watch out for the Polish bullies, if they tried to create disturbances in our city.

[Page 260]

When the Third “Aliya” [emigration to Israel] began in 1919, many pioneers from Russia and Poland came to Będzin, being that it was near the border, on their way to the land of Israel, in legal and illegal ways. The “Tzeiri Zion” members looked after them in every way, and equipped them with all that was needed on their way to the land of Israel.

The “Tzeiri Zion” did not have a special clubhouse, and they bought a section for themselves in the General Zionists hall. Since the hall was shared there was always arguments between them, and eventually “Tzeiri Zion” was evicted from there and for several years they were left without a clubhouse.

In the number 6 edition of “Bafrayung” [liberation] from March 1919, we read:

“Our division held its annual general meeting. The chairman, Icchak Tencer (Israel), lectured on the principal foundations of our movement. After delivering the report there were arguments. Complaints were heard because of the committee's lack of action. The members of the committee replied to the dissenters outlining the difficult conditions they were up against. A new committee was elected: Mosze Kaminer, Rozenkwit, Lichtman, A. Hampel, Puterman, Dancygier, Liwer, Szajnberg, Heller and the women members, Hela Najberg and Esther Zylberszac.

…240 members are in our party, several of them former “Poalei Zion” and “Bund” members. The active committees are that of affairs in Israel, “Tarbut” [culture], “Keren Kayemet L'Israel“ [Jewish National Fund], journalism and others. Every week there were lectures and members' meetings on various subjects. In recent times there were lectures by Eli Menachem from Krakow, Alter Erlich from Sosnowiec (Israel) and Grocki from Warsaw. Mosze Kaminer was active in the cultural field. In the near future we will be visited by Zew Ajzenberg (Brazilian, drowned in the Yarkon River) from Warsaw, who will present some public lectures”.

In the number 20/21 edition of “Bafrayung” from October 1919, Aron Hampel writes:
“From the recorded list of 240 members, only 150 remain, not because they have left, but because they have been conscripted into the army. In fact, some tens of members were expelled because of their apathy and since they didn't carry out committee decisions. We have been weakened, but we will soon recover and restrengthen. We will soon be opening a children's clubhouse. We are active in “Keren Kayemet“. Kaminer, Rozenkwit and Hampel run cultural activities. Our member, Jakob Erlich, runs wide-ranging activities in the Będzin city council in spirit of our faction. He was elected vice-secretary in the council. Most of our members are associated with professional organizations.

We have a large library at our disposal, which includes select books in general and Hebrew-Jewish literature and our followers frequent there. During the week of the Succoth holiday there are “flower days” (“Blimel-Tog”), two thirds of the revenue from which go to the “Keren Kayemet” and a third to our library. We founded the “Hashachar” youth organization which numbers 120 members.”

The controversy relating to the definition of the movement as a Socialist party, penetrated the “Tzeiri Zion” branch in Będzin and came about from differences of opinions, because of which there were two blocs: The “Leftists”, that is to say those that recognized Socialist principles (and they were the majority in the branch), that from that time joined the “Tzeiri Zion Hasocialistim” (“Z. S.”) [Young Socialist Zionists] and the “Rightists” joined the Zionist Labor Party “Hitachdut”, that was founded in 1920. A few returned their origins – to the framework of the General Zionists, who were not in favor of the “revolution” that took place in “Tzeiri Zion”, they denounced it and negated the use of the clubhouse in order to apply pressure so that they wouldn't join the Socialists.

New members of “Z. S.”, saw themselves as enlightened, published printed announcements in the city streets in the name of “Zum Shand-Slop” [Against the Pillory] in which they denounced the General Zionist committee for their persecution and the eviction of them from the hall. Matters became scandalous.

Bed-260.jpg [25 KB] - A group of members of "Young Zion"
A group of members of “Young Zion” in the farm belonging to
“Chalutz” [movement] in 1919
Standing from right to left:
Icchak Zylberszac, David Honigman (died in Israel), Michael Rotenberg-Szliwka (Israel),
Lea Szapiro-Grosman (died in Israel), Zajonc, Mordechai Tenenebaum (both in Israel), Parnes;
Bela Zarumf-Helnglas (Israel), Sara Tauman, Tenenbaum (Paris)

In the party paper of March 1921 and February 1922, there were two articles:

“We held two founding meetings of the “Tzeiri Zion Z. S.”) party and committee was elected composed of the following members: Kaminer as chairman, Rozenblum as vice chairman, Prawer (secretary), Frydberg (treasurer), M. Tenenbaum, Lichtman, Kozlowski, Ben-Zion Klajman and Londner. Our first activity was – the distribution of the workers “shekel” [annual membership fee to the Zionist Organization] to the congress (“Dem Ershten Arbeit Shekel zum Congress”) and the collection of money for the center. “Agudat Hazionim” [the Zionist Union] affronted us with denunciations and threatening letters that we should leave the hall, and if not – severe measures would be taken against us. In truth, we did not receive the apartment from “Agudat Hazionim”, but from the “Hazamir” society, from “Hechalutz” and from the kindergarten, which had previously been located there, and we always paid our own way.”

…in the “Haint” [Today] newspaper an article was published saying that the “Agudat Hazionim” hall had been closed by the local authorities. The “Haint” newspaper misled its readers, since it wasn't the Zionist hall that was closed, rather that of the “Tzeiri Zion Z. S.”. The General Zionists had provoked us for sometime using all “kosher” means – and because of them we were evicted from our clubhouse. We denounced the deeds of these “Zionists” and its leaders. The public will bear judgment.”

Due to the internal rift and lack of a residence, activities declined. Members infrequently met in private residences, or in hired halls.

Some time later the Z. S. party recovered and purchased a new hall and brought in new members, and once again it received a prominent place in the city's public life, and even contested in the council and “Kehila” [Jewish community] elections.

Aron Hampel wrote about this in “Bafrayung” (June 1925):

“…We have already managed to find our own hall and have become legitimate. Our party has come out in the open. New members have been joining us, since the public mood is in favor of Z. S., in each institution that we are involved in, our guiding hand is felt. Ourselves and the youth “Z. S. Jugent” [Young Zionist Socialists] are cooperating in all the funds and campaigns. We are represented in the Israel office and the “League for a Working Israel”, and for those of us individuals that are active, our faction is responsible for every activity.

…The last project for the “Hapoalim” [Workers] Bank in Israel, in which Bauman from Warsaw participated – was crowned with success. We distributed up to 300 shares, and collected 1,300 gulden up till now. We will soon transfer another 400 gulden. We would like to distribute 400 “Hapoalim” Bank shares in our city, and this will be carried out.

…Cultural activity is going well. Each week meetings are held in which it is essential to discuss party questions. There are 60 copies of the “Bafrayung” distributed, but we will soon enlarge the number of subscribers. Regularly, each month, the central tax imposed on us by the main party is sent to Warsaw. The “shekel” [annual membership fee to the Zionist Organization] for the 14th congress is going well. Up till now we have distributed 1,000 “shkalim”. If we take into account the General Zionists “war”, the “Mizrahi” and “Hitachdut” movements being against us, doing everything possible to embarrass us in public (these gossipers spread blatant scandal, that we are distributing false “shkalim” and that we are misappropriating the “shkalim” funds, - then our achievement, undoubtedly, is substantial.

“Z. S. Jugent” greatly assist us in our activity. The members assisting them are Kozlowski, Motel Tenenbaum and the writer of this article. Through our efforts “Z. S. Jugent” was founded in Dąbrowa and Sosnowiec. Under the auspices of Bauman, the first foundation of our party was established in Katowice. Further branches of Z. S. and our youth group were founded in other cities of Zagłębie and Silesia.

In the coming months a group of Z. S. members from Będzin will be emigrating to Israel.”

In the meantime, the whole movement encountered a new division on the question of the unification with “Poale Zion Yamin” [Rightist Zionist workers], which had almost not existed in our city up till then. Most of the party members were in favor of the unification, that took place in 1925, the new party was founded – “Poale Zion (Z. S.)” occupied a respected position in our city.

[Page 261]

The Poale Zion – Z. S. Party

by Jakob Majerowicz

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

Before the unification of the Tzirei Zion [Zionist Youth] party there was a small group of members in our town who were associated with the Poale Zion Yamin [Right Zionist Labor] party, however they had no influence in the community.

After the unification of Poale Zion with Z. S. [Zionist Socialists], in 1925, the party went public and captured a respectable position in public life and was a prominent entity. A clubhouse was rented at 12 Kołłątaja Street, and the party widened its activities.

It initially it took care of the youth, since without reserves the party didn't have a prospect of a long term existence. The following were dedicated to the activities in Freiheit: Szlomo Grosman, Mosze Gutman, Juda Prager (the three of them are in Israel), Aron Hampel, Szmul Sonczew, Szlomo Rozenblum, Ben Zion Klajnman, Israel Arje Prawer (all of them were killed) and Mosze Lajb Kozlowski (now in America).

The atmosphere in the clubhouse was comradely and congenial. There was a general concern for members, and no one was allowed to breakdown in times of stress. There was a deal of elation when our first member Mordechai Tenenbaum (Haifa) made aliyah, in 1925, and we took leave of him like we would have to one of our closest family. Some time later member Abram Tenenbaum (known as “Szlonzak”, died in Israel) also made aliyah and also Mosze Gutman (Haifa).

At the end of 1926 the first conference of Freiheit took place in which Gedalia Sobkowski, Mordechai Bryner (both killed) and the writer of these lines took part as representatives of our party. The party and the youth organization widened their membership to a point which the clubhouse became too small to accommodate its many members, and we had to rent a larger hall at 69 Modrzejowska Street.

A new era then began in which there were achievements in all fields. The Hapoel sports organization was founded and trade unions were organized for the tailors, barbers, slaughterhouse workers, porters, builders and others. The party was active in national funds and in the League for a Working Eretz Yisrael [Land of Israel].

Important personages from the party and the workers organization in Eretz Yisrael visited us: Yitzhak Ben-Zvi and Szlomo Kaplanski (see about their visit in the “Peoples' visits to Będzin” section – the editorial staff), Hercfeld, Tabenkin, Berl Loker, Baruch Zukerman, Juda Koplowicz and others. Also members of the main office in Warsaw: Israel Rytow, Icchak Font, Lajzer Lewin and others who were our regular visitors.

[Page 262]

Bed-262.jpg [22 KB] - Members of the "Poale Zion" party
Members of the “Poale Zion”
“Socialist Zionists” party

Standing from right to left: Tenenbaum, Szpigel, Waksberg
Seated: Tenenbaum 2, Sobkowski, Aron Frajberg, Eliezer Manela

We didn't only limit our educational activities to Zionist-Socialism and also organized cultural activity, and at our invitation the following authors visited and lectured in our town: Peretz Markish, Melech Rawicz, Nachman Majzel and others.

In the Będzin city council we were represented by Jakob Erlich and after him by Aron Hampel, who was also our representative in the kehila [Jewish community]. When member Hampel settled in Sosnowiec his place was taken by Szlomo Rozenblum and in the city council by Herman Cukierkandel.

When the training kibbutz was founded which was known by the name of Borochov, our friends did their best for it and took care of finding work places in the factories and heavy industry, in which Jews hadn't previously set foot in. The kibbutz also became famous in its display of heroism in the Underground and in the rebellion against the Nazi enemy in the Będzin Ghetto.

Our members who finished the training made aliyah to Israel, and indeed a few of them are: Lajbl Kokotek, Aron Frajberg, Mirjam Najberg, Majer Cymberknop, Trajster, Moszele Sandiszew (who was killed whilst fulfilling his duty as a special policeman during the riots of 1936-39) and others, since it is difficult to remember everyone of them dispersed all over the country.

When immigration permits were limited we emigrated to Israel during the aliyah Bet period. Our aliyah continued for the whole period.

Our new clubhouse also became too small, and we moved to a larger apartment in Kościuszki Street. With the improvement in our accommodation we expanded our fields of activity. We established a new tradesmen organization called Haoved [The Worker]. Many members joined us and we became a prodigious party.

After a time it became apparent to us that we couldn't continue our work in the existing apartment and once again we needed to move our clubhouse to an expansive building, with a number of rooms in Kołłątaja Street, in the Zmigrod building. We transferred the former clubhouse to Freiheit and the Scouts organization, that we established in 1928, and to which Cwi Poliwoda in particular dedicated himself, a talented youth that we foresaw a bright future for, though he also amongst the martyrs.

During the anti-Jewish riots in Przytyk, in 1936, in which a number of Jews were killed, our party put out a special newsletter in Polish which was edited by our member Aron Hampel (see the article in “Pinkas Będzin” – the editorial staff), and Maksimilian Brochowicz from Kraków, known as M. Browicz, a Polish-Jewish writer (the commander of the Polish Socialist party partisans in the Miechów district. Amongst the survivors living in France), by the name of “For our and your liberty” that was distributed in hundreds of copies amongst the Socialist Laborers Party congress representatives – the PPS[1], that met at the time in the town of Radom.

Following the pogrom in Przytyk and in other Polish towns during those years, a Hagana [Defence] group was organized by the party, comprised of members from our trade unions.

During the first congress for a Working Eretz Yisrael in Berlin, in 1930, Aron Hampel participated on behalf of our party.

Participating in the International Congress of Socialist Youth in Vienna, were Aron Hampel, Sobkowski, D. Bruner, Szymon Gutman, Miriam Najman, A. Frajberg, Israel Tenenbaum, M. Bryner.

In the Zionist Congress in Zurich, in 1939, a short time before war erupted, Hampel and Sobkowski participated as representatives.

In the Warsaw main office, in recent years we were represented by our member M. L. Kozlowski, and in the newspaper staff – Herman Cukierkandel (killed).

The Poale Zion – Z. S. Party in Będzin had a name in the whole movement thanks to our dedicated members, and I will note at least some of them, apart from those already mentioned in this article: Jadzia Sobkowska, Eliezer Manela, J. M. Rapaport, Icchak Szajnerman, Berl Meszerman, Israel Rozenberg, Aron Berlinski, Aron Grinbaum, Jiszajahu Ginzburg, Esther and Cypora Holender, Dawid Lajzerowicz, Rachel Zaks, Henja Tenenbaum, Jakob Dawid Lustiger, Arje Lamberger, Szymon Meryn, Hersz Szpigel, W. Erlich, Jakob Fuks, H. Tenenbaum, J. Tenenbaum and many others.

The “hangmen” murdered them and their aspirations to build their homes in the land of Israel didn't come about. May their memory be blessed!

[Page 263]

The Poale Zion (Z. S.) party as depicted in the party newspapers

by M. H.

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

The following is a collection of articles from the Befrayung Arbayter Shtime, the newsletter of the Poale Zion (Z. S.) party, in which the development of the Będzin branch is mentioned.

I looked through the newspapers that I had in my possession, and from them I present a collection of several articles in chronological order, that were written by various members of the party. Naturally, I omitted a lot because of the limited space in our book and recurring events, like: the 1st of May festivities, memorial rallies for Borochov and so on.

In the Befrayung Arbayter Shtime (Warsaw, November 1925, the first year that the newspaper came out, no. 3 the late Aron Hampel wrote: “In the presence of member Icchak Font a meeting was held for the unification of the Z. S. party with members of the Poale Zion Yamin in Będzin. 80 members were recorded. In the near future we will increase the number of our members. In this regard we have declared a conscription of new members.

The state of the Jewish workers in Będzin is the extremely bad in all aspects. In these towns – Będzin, Sosnowiec and Dąbrowa there isn't a single trade union (yes, only on paper) that has the power to defend the rights of the workers. The Jewish workers don't have a single representative in the kehila committees and not in city council. The only representative is our friend Jakob Erlich, who was elected to the city council with 250 votes. All the other labor parties suffered defeat.

Likewise a feeling of stagnancy is sensed in the cultural field. There isn't one school in the whole region that teaches in Yiddish, there are no courses and no reading room. It is fortunate that a couple of libraries were established that supply the only spiritual food.

Our party is established and has spread to all the Zaglembian towns. Even in Katowice we setup a branch getting ready for kehila elections. In recent months 25 of our members have made aliyah to Eretz Yisrael.” In issue no. 37, from September 1926, we read:

“In relation to our conscription drive for our Freiheit youth movement, we held a meeting of youths in the tradesmen hall, in which many young people participated. The speakers were: Moshe Gutman (Haifa), Gedalia Sobkowski, Israel Gertler, Aron Hampel (all of them were killed). The “Reds” tried to obstruct with heckling, however we managed to silence them, and later they behaved quietly. M. L. Kozlowski closed the meeting.

Our request to the youth that they participate in the P.A.P. (the fund for workers in the land of Israel), was met with a good response. They collected 300 gulden amongst themselves. In relation to the 50th anniversary of the Professional International our youths organized festivities. On the day of the celebrations members of S.Y.P. (Polish Socialistic Youth) came to us especially from Upper Silesia. It was their first opportunity to meet with socialist Jewish youth. We became friendly with them and they promised their help in our political struggle. And indeed, thanks to S.Y.P. a Freiheit organization was founded in Königshütte, which was the only socialist Jewish youth movement in all of Silesia”.

In newpaper no. 6, from February 1927, it was written:
“The make-up of the city council is extremely strange and hampers its work. In total there were 32 representatives elected, from the citizens – 10 Jews and 6 – Endekes[2], (the N. D. “Democratic Nationalists” – anti-Semites), from the workers – 9 representatives, from the PPS 6 communists and one of ours. In this manner the city council is divided between half citizens and half workers. It was difficult to assemble a leadership but finally an agreement was reached: the elected chairman was from the PPS party, and his deputy – a Catholic, “National Democratic” and the secretary was our member Erlich”.

In newspaper no. 2, from January 1928, it relates:
“In the large theater a commemoration in memory of Borochov was held and which was a great success. The stage was decorated pleasingly. The orchestra played Chopin's “Funeral March”. The choir under the direction of Welwele Rechnic (killed) sang dirges. Member Kozlowski opened [the evening] and following him member Hoenig from Kraków lectured on Borochov. The orchestra and the choir participated in the cultural section. Female members Szlezinger and Hela recited worker's poems. The “live depiction“ was most successful describing the solidarity of the Jewish worker in the Diaspora with the pioneer in Eretz Yisrael. An academy was also held in our clubhouse. The speakers were: A. Hampel, Cypler, Kozlowski, Fajberg and Sobkowski”.

In newspaper no. 40/41, from December 1928, we read:
“On the 9th of December elections for the city council were held. The general participation was 70%, 90% of the Jews voting. 4 citizens and 8 laborers were elected: 5 members of PPS, one of ours, two members of Poale Zion Smol, the Bund was unsuccessful. The communist party – was disqualified. In the previous council there were 16 citizens and 16 laborers. This time we received 566 votes. The Bund didn't even manage to get even… half a mandate. In all of Zagłębie Bund doesn't have a single representative in the city council.”

In newspaper no. 2, from January 1929:
“The commemoration in memory of the 11th anniversary off the death of our teacher was organized well. The hall was full. The orchestra began with a dirge. The choir sang: “Nishto shoyn Berl Borochov mer” [Berl Borochov is no longer there]. In the opening speech member Gutman spoke about the character of Borochov, and following him member Lewin from Łódź spoke about “Borochov, his life and work”. Female members Sobkowska and Koplowicz recited, and this was very successful. Young Szczeszek (now in Israel), aged 11, from Skoyt recited the poem “Di yiddishe Freiheit” [The Jewish liberty] by Moryc Rozenfeld. Member Hoenig from Kraków closed [the evening].

Following the “great” victory of Poale Zion Smol in the city council elections a number of weeks ago, it wasn't seen as appropriate to hold a commemoration in memory of Borochov”.

In newspaper no. 14, from January 1929:
“Our member in the city council Erlich proposed, that all the council announcements should be published in Yiddish as well so that the Jewish citizens would understand: this proposal had also been presented by him in the previous council, however fell because of the anti-Semitic votes and the PPS, and had now been renewed in the finance committee. He stood up in a difficult struggle, however succeeded, since the PPS representatives voted in favor, whilst the Sanacja[3] and the Endekes, who were unhappy with the receipt of this decision and shouted “Boo to the PPS!”, “You have betrayed Polish interests!”, “The Jews are liable to demand, that the signposts will also be written in Yiddish!” They announced that they would approach the general assembly of the city council in this matter. Did this help them? – Most unlikely, since the PPS and the Jews comprised a majority in the city council.”

In newspaper no. 17, from May 1929:
“Yitzhak Ben-Zvi visited us in relation to Working Eretz Yisrael matters. A reception was held in one of the large halls in the town, in which a fund for Kapai [Kupat Poale Eretz Yisrael – Palestine Workers' Fund] was announced.

[Page 264]

In addition, Stancyk, the chairman of the mine workers union and the Sejm delegate from the PPS, also appeared in the academy. His forthright speech, that was full of compliments for the Eretz Yisrael workers – was received with an unremitting applause. A reception was held for the guest Ben-Zvi, in which those present donated 700 dollars (the participation of our members in this sum was 250 dollars). Comrade Ben-Zvi visited in the coal mine, 500 meters below ground, in which four thousand miners worked. Our party took advantage of his time in the town and organized a number of assemblies and meetings with him. He also visited in Freiheit and in Royter Skoyt and was impressed by it”.

In issue no. 36, from December 1929, amongst others, member Karsznicki (now in Israel) wrote:
“We set out to organize a trade union of business and clerical workers. We were successful in our activities. The organization presently numbers 100 people. The first task of the union – was a struggle for an eight hour working day. The needleworkers' trade union also renewed its activities, however the factionalism of the “Reds” disrupting everything, should be condemned, since they are jealous of us. The Bund people did not join this union, since apparently this party doesn't have workers in the needlework profession…”

In newspaper no. 14, from April 1930 it was written:
“The regional meeting of Hechalutz, that took place on the 8th and 9th of March in Będzin, was crowned with success, and the large number of hundreds of participants, who arrived a short time before the opening of the conference – is proof. 33 delegates and hundreds of visitors from the eight towns of Zagłębie participated. On behalf the main office participated: Ploszko and Lewita from Ein Harod.

The festive opening took place on the Saturday afternoon in the “Korso” hall. The stage was decorated with our flags and pioneering slogans. In the presence of 600 people, member Mordechai Hampel, the chairman of the Hechalutz in Będzin, opened [the conference] in Hebrew. Later greetings were heard on behalf of the League for a Working Eretz Yisrael, the Poale Zion party, K.K.L. [Jewish National Fund], Hashachar, Freiheit, Gordonia and others. Lewita spoke about the bloody riots in Eretz Yisrael. In the second meeting, in the Hitachdut hall, Lewita spoke on the subject of “The foundations of the Jewish Labor movement in Eretz Yisrael”. Many participated in a discussion about his lecture. Reports from the branches were heard, from which could be seen, that the Hechalutz in Zagłębie continues to grow and from time to time new members join up to it. A regional committee was elected that would be located in Będzin”.

In issue no. 19, from May 1930:
“This year, the first of May celebrations were very successful. In the early hours of the morning our members assembled in the clubhouse courtyard. Member Abramek took part in the meeting. After the meeting a parade was arranged, in which participated members of the Freiheit party, Fraye Skoyts in their festive uniforms, The Kraft sports' organization, members of our trade unions and supporters, together their were about 800 people beneath five flags. We marched to the assembly point, to the PPS clubhouse and from there the parade moved in the direction of Dąbrowa. As we passed through the streets of Będzin – we were met with applause. People asked: “Where is Poale Zion Smol and Bund?…”

Altogether five thousand people demonstrated in Dąbrowa. In the large community center a mass public rally was held. Dr. Pawelek, the chairman of the Sosnowiec city council, spoke on behalf of the PPS, and on behalf of our party member Juda Prager (now in Israel) spoke in Polish and Abramek in Yiddish. The “Reds” tried to break into our ranks, however were pushed back by our “militia”. The Bund, as usual, sat at home, and didn't even hold a meeting. Poale Zion Smol didn't not appear in public this year, since there was no-one from their ranks to demonstrate.”

In the newspaper, from January 1932:
“The party set out to renew its work and conscript new members. In the coming days we will be assembling the regional committee of our party, in order to expedite our members wherever they are to intensify their work.

A. Bialopolski, a member of the main office, who visited us lectured in the “Światowy” hall on the subject of “Zionism and Socialism in the year 1931”. After the lecture a formulated decision by International Socialism disarmament received 400 votes. A high spirited housewarming in our new clubhouse (incidentally, the previous spacious PPS hall) took place. The hall quickly filled with hundreds of members from the whole region. There were also representatives present of the PPS, T.O.R., the Borochov kibbutz, trade unions and others.

Member Sobkowski welcomed everyone with a warm greeting. Following him, Bialopolski spoke on behalf of the center and wished our party, that it be the pioneer of our movement in Zagłębie. Member Laskowski, the town secretary, presented his greeting, member Baron presented a greeting on behalf of the T.O.R., on behalf of the League [of a Working Eretz Yisrael] – Szymon Rotenberg, on behalf of the kibbutz – Szalita, on behalf of the furriers trade union – Lajbl Kokotek (now in Israel), on behalf of the party in the kehila – A. Hampel. Member Kozlowski thanked all the speakers and promised that the Poale Zion in Będzin would serve as an example to all the branches in the district. After the recitations the impressive meeting was closed with the singing of “The Internationale” and “Hashvua”.

After the meeting a committee discussion was held with the participation of member Bialopolski, in which a monetary project was declared on behalf of the main office. 500 gulden were donated there to initiate the project”.

In newspaper no. 14, from March 1932, we read:
“On Saturday, the 29th of February, a general meeting was held of the furrier workers organized in our trade union. 55 members participated: L. Kokotek and Wygodzki (deceased) spoke about the task of the union. After the discussions a new committee was elected: Elimelech Szeps, Pozmantir, Dafner, Sztrobel, Lewkowicz, Wygodzki and Kokotek. Deputies: P. R. Zaks and A. L. Sztorchan. To the control board: Klajner, Jidl Meryn, Opoczynski. The new committee has already set out in productive activity.”

In newspaper no. 23, from May 1932, it is written:
“We had a great celebration on the last 1st of May, as once again a combined parade took place of the Jewish and Polish proletariat together. The Bund did not participate, not because they didn't want to demonstrate together with us, rather for another reason: they weren't even able to assemble ten people for the parade… in the morning a public rally was held in the party courtyard. Opening [the meeting] – A. Hampel. The speakers: Sobkowski, Kozlowski, Wajzalc from Freiheit. At the head of the parade: 6 red flags, 2 party flags, 2 Freiheit flags, a Skoyt flag and other flags, with a total number of 19 and 13 banners. 500 members took part in the parade. We marched to Ksawer, a place where two workers had been killed during the miners' strike. PPS people waited for us and from there we progressed to Dąbrowa. PPS leaders, Sejm representatives – Bijen and Cepliak welcomed us with warm greetings. Seven thousand people participated in this parade. After the parade a mass rally was held. Kozlowski spoke on behalf of us. With cries of: “Long live the Poale Zion party!”, “Long live the PPS party!” the festivities ended, that won't be quickly forgotten”.

[Page 265]

In newspaper no. 56, from December 1932:
It's been some time since we commemorated the memory of our teacher, Borochov, in such a fitting style, on the anniversary of his death. The first deed was carried out by the Freiheit members who warmly greeted our elderly members. The members listened with interest to the lecture of member Rozenblum from Warsaw about Borochov and his theories. The following day the party held a outstanding meeting in the theater. Lajzer Lewin from Łódź appeared. In the cultural section: “Live depictions” and the choir directed by Klajner”.

In newspaper no. 1, from October 1934:
“In the previous month a regional party conference was held. 46 delegates from 12 branches participated. Member Z. Kroj participated on behalf of the main office. It was opened by A. Hampel, who reviewed the development of the party from the first regional conference, and noted that it was people's party. The agenda was approved and a chairmanship was elected. From the report it became clear that the party in Będzin strode in its activities at the head of the parties in the district. After the report was delivered, for two hours Z. Kroj reviewed movement problems in his very interesting lecture. The following day discussions were held. Kozlowski opened them. 20 people participated and the discussions were on a high level. After the discussions decisions were received, and preparations for the 10th Zionist Congress were discussed. Member Krawczyk spoke about organization issues. It was decided, that the new regional committee would include the towns in Zagłębie, Silesia and the Częstochowa district”.

In newspaper no. 10, from March 1935, the following article was published:
“The transport workers trade union includes all the workers in this field in the town. It has undergone various transformations: from the Bund, Poale Zion Smol, till they came to us, and this matter occurred three years ago. Over time the union developed greatly. The members were organized into divisions. Each division had its own fund. The wage was divided equally between everyone. In the event of a member's illness or his conscription to the army, the family would receive the share. Everyone belonged to the Kupat Cholim [Health fund].

There were occasions that the employers wanted to reduce the wages of the members, however they were unsuccessful. Last year the union received from the Jewish community, through the efforts of member Hampel, a sum of 800 gulden. The union is now organizing the wagon owners and “expedition” workers. Already 200 members have enlisted. Aba Chushy from Haifa, the Histadrut envoy, who visited us, confirmed the aliyah of two of our members – Aron Frajberger (died in Israel) and Hersz Mendel Czemski (Haifa), who made aliyah to Israel together with a group of Jewish porters from Poland for work in the Port of Haifa. The union took care of the expenses through its members: several weeks ago the secretary of the trade union of transport workers in Poland, Comrade Rangel, visited us and was impressed by the way we operated.

The confectionary factory workers union that had existed for some time near the Bund and the communists didn't do anything. They approached us, to organize them. This we did, and today all the workers in this profession belong to it. The furriers' trade union had existed near our movement for three years. Today there is a binding collective agreement with the employers in this profession. Workers can only be fired or new workers hired through the union. The wage level was determined according to positions. They only work 8 hours a day, and above these hours they are entitled to an extra 100% of their normal wages.

Of the 1,500 needleworkers in Będzin, only 200 are unionized, and these are also in two separate unions of the Bund and the communists. Both of them aren't doing anything. We are now carrying out propaganda amongst the non-unionized workers affiliated with us, that they join these unions, so that they will constitute a Poale Zion faction within them. The marketing workers union and the offices have disintegrated because of subversion by the communists, to the satisfaction of the homeowners. We would like to reorganize them. Our member Sobkowski is very active here. Our popularity amongst the workers here is to his credit – we will certainly succeed in this field, as well”.

Collated by M. H.

  1. The Polish Socialist Party (Polska Partia Socjalistyczna, PPS) was one of the most important Polish left-wing political parties from its inception in 1892 until 1948. Józef Piłsudski, founder of the resurrected Polish state, was a member and later leader of the PPS during early 20th century. return
  2. Narodowa Demokracja (National Democracy), also known from its initials ND as “Endecja,” was a Polish right-wing nationalist political movement most active from the latter 19th century to the end of the Second Polish Republic in 1939. A founder and ideologue was Roman Dmowski. The movement effectively ceased to exist with the end of World War II. During the interbellum Second Republic, it was a strong advocate of Polonization policies. return
  3. Sanacja (Sanation) was a coalition political movement in the interbellum Second Polish Republic. It was created in 1926 by Józef Piłsudski as a broad movement to support the „moral sanation“ (“restoration to health”) of the Polish body politic before and after the May 1926 Coup d'État that brought Piłsudski to virtually dictatorial power. From then until 1939, Sanation was the dominant political force in Poland, largely controlling the government. return

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