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D. Youth Organizations

[Page 278]

“Hechalutz” [The pioneer]

by Mordechai Hampel

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

The “Hechalutz” organization was founded in our city during the First World War, in 1916, and was amongst the first in Poland. Its goal was to instruct youths that were planning to make “aliya” [emigrate] to the Land of Israel, in agricultural work. For this purpose, Jakob Gutman, of blessed memory, transferred a large plot of land to them and the members carried out work, in particular by the female members, who conscientiously nurtured the vegetable plot, and a wide variety of crops was sold to the Jewish population in the city. There were also fruit trees and even a fishpond in the farm. In the specially made planters made with crates with glass sides (hot houses), seedlings were prepared. The organization sent members for advance study in agricultural to the renown pioneering training institute in Grochow near Warsaw. There was cultural life in the farm. Lectures on literary and professional themes took place. Amongst the founders of the “Hechalutz” movement in our city the following should be recalled: Israel Sztrochlic, Jakob and Merjl Rotenberg, Lea Szapira, Dawid Majtlis, Jakob Lasker, Sander Lubling, Jakob Sandzer, Israel Openhajm, Mosze Szenberg, Mosze Joel Rapaport and others.

One day the farm was disbanded and the organization liquidated, but it was renewed in the nineteen twenties, as a stream of emigration to the Land of Israel intensified. Since the quota of emigration licenses (“certificates”) was very limited there was insufficient to meet the demand of emigration candidates, there was a preference given to pioneers, who had undergone training in the last year or two and adapted themselves to working life. In all the Polish cities “Hechalutz” organizations were founded whose goal was to provide physical and spiritual training to its members. Clearly, many joined “Hechalutz” in the hope that through it they would be able to realize their aim to emigrate to Israel – the dream of the pioneering youth.

Graduates of youth movements and political parties who identified with the ways of the Land of Israel workers concept belonged to the “Hechalutz” organization. That is to say, with the workers movement in Israel, however, with time the other Zionist parties – “General Zionists” and “Mizrahi” – founded pioneering organizations of their own.

Most of the “Hechalutz” movement in our city were members of “Gordonia”, since the organization was intended for practical implementation, it obligated its members to take part in training and if they didn't – they were expelled from our ranks. Since “Gordonia” was the controlling influence in the “Hechalutz” organization in our city, the leader of this group wrote this review before his immigration to Israel. The committee, whose activities were run according central guidelines, was compiled from representatives from all the pioneering Zionist youth organizations.

Since there wasn't a special residence, we would meet up on Saturdays in the “Hitachdut” party hall for discussions and lectures on events going on in Israel and in the movement. At the initiative of the “Hechalutz” organization in our city a number of pioneer training “kibbutzim” were founded in Będzin (“Freiheit” – “Dror”), in Sosnowiec (“Gordonia”), in Krolewska Huta in Silesia (“Vitkinya”), in Dąbrowa (“Kibbutz Borohov”) and others. The kibbutz in Będzin grew steadily, since the well-known philanthropist, Fürstenberg, who took care of everything, headed its list of patrons. Work could be carried out thanks to various workshop machinery with which the kibbutz was equipped.

Bed-278.jpg [36 KB] - The city notables in the agricultural farm, 1916
The city notables in the agricultural farm in the year
of its establishment, 1916

Beneath the seated: Dawid Rozenblum, Yishayahu Rotner, Mendel Krimolowski
Standing: Rajchman, J. H. Erlich

[Page 279]

There was even a mechanized laundry that was a rarity in that period, available to the Jewish population who used it to their great satisfaction. In particular, the sanatorium (convalescence home) should be noted that was established for the kibbutz members in Olkusz.

In the book “The Ghetto Wars” (published by the “Meuchad” Kibbutz movement in the section “The organization of the kibbutzim”, it is described that out of all the “Hechalutz” kibbutzim in Poland, only the one in Będzin remained when the war began, since its roots in its location were strong and was not disbanded and was only liquidated when the whole city was.

From time to time, members of the central committee and envoys visited us from Israel, giving us training and helped us with everything. Our members who had completed training went to live in Israel. Most of them were absorbed in the kibbutzim, in the cities and in the towns, and many of them are active in public life.

In 1930 a regional conference of the “Hechalutz” was held in our city in which the following members participated: L. Lewita from [Kibbutz] Ejn Harod and A. Puluszko from [Kibbutz] Yagur. Several hours before the beginning of the conference, the authorities informed us that we were prohibited from holding the conference, even though we had previously completed all the legal formalities. After some running around and efforts with the regional governor the decision was revoked, but the conference was held in the presence of policemen and detectives. The “Korso” theatre was filed with hundreds of pioneers, who had come to the conference from all the cities of Zagłębie. At the festive opening, I dedicated my speech (in Hebrew) to Joseph Trumpeldor[1] and his comrades, on the tenth anniversary of their deaths defending Tel Hai. The envoys delivered biased speeches, and the practical speeches took place on Saturday evening and the day after in the “Hitachdut” hall.

In all the years of its existence till the outbreak of the war, the “Hechalutz” movement persevered to carry out fruitful work, grew and expanded and numbered several hundred members. Only the advance of the murderers brought an end to its existence.

How I was thrown out of the “Hachshara” (pioneer)
training camp by the police

(From pioneering experiences in Poland)

by M. H.

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

With the large emigration to Israel in the nineteen twenties a need for pioneering youth grew, without which it was impossible to obtain a certificate [Immigration license] – the dream of every Jew at the time. Immigration licenses were given to the Jewish agency by the mandate authorities twice yearly, and their number was negligible in comparison to the many pioneers, who had waited for many years for their turn to make aliyah.

The Hechalutz [pioneering] center in Warsaw didn't have the power to provide for the needs of members who longed to go out for training, because of a lack of workplaces for them, and because of this the youth organizations were obliged to find pioneering workplaces for their members by themselves. If someone was lucky enough to find a work place, immediately it was pounced upon from all sides, in order to obtain it.

In Wieluń (town in the Częstochowa district) the members of Gordonia found an opportunity to find various jobs for around 20 of its members. The Gordonia organization in Będzin received an order from the executive in Łódź headed by member Pinchas Lubijaniker (Lavon), that we immediately had to set out to conquer a workplace in Wieluń. Our members, who were also joined by members from Sosnowiec, Kielce and Łódź, set out to there and were gratefully received by the Zionists of the town, who endeavored to make it easy for us in the pioneering settlement there.

We lived in a cramped apartment; we worked in the fields, in workshops and other physical labor, if we had the opportunity to do so. The female members dealt with housework. The wages were barely enough, and in addition our finances and living conditions weren't any better, but we received everything with love, whilst knowing, that we had to get used to all situations and conditions that were liable to come about in our future lives in Israel.

With all this we did not seclude ourselves, rather participated in the life of the youth and we instilled some spirit into the place. I remember a very large assembly that was held in memory of the anniversary [of the death] of Herzl in which we filled, members of the Hachshara, key positions in the program and entertainment segment.

The catch is, that our presence and involvement amongst the Jewish youth of Wieluń were like thorns in the eyes of the gentiles, who couldn't put up with us in the realms of their town, as they were already inundated, in their opinion, with local “kikes”… Wieluń was an anti-Semitic town, like all the Christian population in the district of Częstochowa, the holy Christian town, saturated with hate for the Jews from time immemorial and several times there were anti-Jewish riots in it.

And here, one day in our residence, two policemen appeared to identify and interrogate us on our political opinions and about our illegal presence, as it were, in the place, without the permission of the authorities. I explained to them what was the goal behind our spending time in the town, how we were sent to work by the Hechalutz organization which legally operates across the country with the full knowledge and approval of the Polish government.

However my clear explanation did not reach the ears of the policemen who had received, apparently, an order to disband our training group and to deport its people from there.

Without complaints or objections I was arrested, and led as the leader of the group to the police station, where the interrogation began again by a high ranking officer. My attorney's words were useless. I was imprisoned and locked up like a criminal in a special cell. My friends took care of me, bringing me food and from them I learnt that the leaders of the kehila [Jewish community] were doing everything to the best of their ability, to make sure I was released and set free.

Hours passed – and I wasn't released. At midnight I was brought to the head of the police who informed me, that we were suspicious in his view, and because of this we had to disband and return to the places from which we had come. And in order to prove that there was no going back on his, he ordered me to leave Wieluń immediately and he forbade me to appear there ever again, with the threat that I would be punished to the full letter of the law if I did.

Without allowing me the opportunity to inform my friends about this, I was taken to the train station at a late hour accompanied by a policeman armed with a rifle and a pistol, lest I try and get away from him… I reached Będzin early in the morning, to the police station in our town. Since the police officers in Będzin recognized me as a resident of the place who didn't break the laws of the state, I was released, however I was obliged to sign, that I would not return to Wieluń. Through lack of choice I signed, knowing beforehand, that the authorities harassed us, would not leave us alone again, would pursue and persecute us for every move we made, and we wouldn't have the power to confront them.

My friends knew about my deportation the next morning, and they were also ordered to leave the place within 24 hours. The group disbanded and its members moved to Zagnańsk, our new training location. The central committee of the Hechalutz approached the Jewish representatives in the Sejm regarding the disbanding of our group, who served a parliamentary question, regarding the basis on which this group was liquidated by the authorities. The Minister of the Interior was indeed asked the reason for the matter, however he didn't promise to investigate…

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Translator's footnote:
  1. Trumpeldor, Joseph (1880-1920) – Soldier and early pioneer-settler in the Land of Israel whose life efforts to organize the military defense of the Jewish settlements in Israel and whose heroic death in a battle at Tel Hai in the north of the country became an inspirational symbol to pioneering youth from all parts of the Diaspora. Return

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