by Dr. Chaim Wolgryn
Translated by Lance Ackerfeld
In the year 1913, during the Czarist regime, in our city an organization was established called Hashomer, whose origins were in Galicia, and was a scout movement filled with Zionist and Hebrew education. The following were amongst the founders of this organization: Lucek Rechtman, Iszek Broner, Yakob Erlich, Mosze Grosman, Lolek Gali (killed), Maks Zmigrod (survived) and others. The activity, which was illegal, took place in the attic of Duwidl Zmigrod's house in Slawkowska Street (later Kołłątaja).
During the period of the First World War, when Będzin was under German occupation, from 1915, Hashomer became legal, as did most of the Jewish organizations and even the socialistic ones, came out in the open, and developed as an important activity in the world at large, and within the confines of the same house.
Almost all the school youth joined Hashomer. The following activists stood out: Jozek Abramzon, Lolek Glik, Pinchas Berlach, Aron Hampel and Esther Lasker (died), who organized the first youth battalion in Zagłębie close to Hashomer and was under its management (Druzynowa), Icek Birncwajg, Jakob Lasker (both of them in Israel) and others.
In the year 1918 Hashomer was disbanded in our city and received the name Hashomer Hatzair, that was organized in Poland, although the Będzin ken [center] did not join the national movement and remained independent.
The disbandment of Hashomer brought a crisis to the ken: the new Hashomer Hatzair organization was weakened, and its files and activists were taken when it was transferred to a small apartment in the house belonging to Mrs. Broder in Modrzejowska Street. The ken was composed of two troops, boys and girls separately. Each troop was divided into three to four detachments, according to age, and in each detachment there were single groups, each one numbering up to fifteen people. The principal activity took place in the groups that would carry out meetings, two to three times a week. Once a month, the detachments met up and more infrequently the two troops of girls and boys would meet, which were in fact meetings of the whole ken.
Education in Hashomer Hatzair was in a national Land of Israel spirit. However, over time additional foreign elements infiltrated its lines and even assimilation, which began undermining the Zionist foundations. At times a quiet war was carried out between the group leaders not only on movement ideology, in the field of training and education, but also in the language that the activities were carried out. There were groups who carried out their activities in Yiddish and in Polish and also in Hebrew. The friction did not add, naturally, to the consolidation of the ken, and in addition they were forbidden, and to our surprise, a number of leaders amongst them Heniek Horowicz, the ken leader, that were suspected of communism and were expelled from the place hence the disintegration of the ken wasn't long in coming.
During this period, emissaries of the central leadership of the Hashomer Hatzair movement came to us in order to convince the ken to join the national movement, however, they did not succeed in their mission because of ideological reasons. The young people in the ken were for joining, however the seniors were against and they tipped the scale.
The arrest of the older leaders of the ken was exploited by the house owner as an excuse to get rid of us without a problem, as she had wanted for some time, and this brought an end to the existence of the ken, although even after this, meetings of certain groups would take place in various locations and in private apartments.
I will recall names of our leaders, group and detachment leaders, who for the
most did not survive: Anczel Wajcenberg, Adasz Wajnberg (killed), Chaim
Borzykowski (survived), Hendel Rotner (presently in America), Berisz Salomon,
Jankel Frajberger (both in Israel), Heniek Frenkel (presently in Belgium),
Manja Lasker-Rotner, Dorka Hampel-Lasker and Baszka Zmigrod-Rodzyn (killed) and
others that I haven't mentioned.
|A group of Hashomer Hatzair patrons in Będzin in 1925|
|Standing from right to left:
Ferszt, Dr. Chaim Wolgryn (Israel), Zvi Frydler-Shilo (died in Israel),
Frenkel, Zworowski, Lajb Hamer, Cukerman
Avraham Sztrochlic, Ben-Zion Fogelbis (Israel),
Dr. Kuba Rozenberg (a member of the main leadership in Warsaw, died in Israel),
Mordechai Hampel, Zelkowicz (at present, in France).
The first regional meeting that was organized by Artek Friszman from Kielce, took place in the Jewish high school building and the Będzin ken participated. This meeting served as an impetus to the further development of our organization.
This was the state of affairs following the world conference of Hashomer Hatzair in Urutki. We sent two delegates to the movement council in Warsaw, which took place in order to discuss decisions made at the world conference, the principal ones being: a socialist classification, pioneering realization by making aliya [emigrating] to the Land of Israel and living in a kibbutz.
When our delegates returned from the council to our ken and passed on the decisions of the world conference, heated debates began, that brought about a serious crisis in the ken and even to its division. Those against the decisions of the world conference gave the reason for their resistance, that it was impossible to receive kibbutz life as the only way to realization and also the socialist classification was liable to give the movement a communist orientation. These differences of opinion caused a division in the ken, some of the members left and later joined Hashomer Haleumi [National Guard] (1929).
In this way, the ken of Hashomer Hatzair in our city lost members along the way and in the main the important leaders. Only with spirited organizational effort did we manage to extend our ranks once again, and bring in a large number of students, most being from the Yavne gymnasia.
The ken was delivered from the impasse, stood the realization test and a large number of graduates made aliya, after they had undergone training in the Planti kibbutz that was located in Slonim, and joined three groups of older kibbutzim Merhavia, Mishmar Ha'emek and Ramat Yohanan. Some of them continue kibbutz life to this day.
During the Second World War, as well, under difficult conditions, the ken in Będzin continued to develop and bloom and drew in many young people. Only a few survived and went to live in Israel, amongst them Hajka Klinger (now in Kibbutz Haogen), who told us of terrible stories, that we didn't know about up till now (this subject is presented in the Holocaust section of this book the Editors).
Finally, we commune with the dear memories of our sisters Edzja and Lea
Pejsachson, who labored intensively in the camps and in the underground to
purchase weapons and transfer them to the Jewish ghetto in Będzin and fell in
the line of duty. May the memories of the holy Hashomer Hatzair
members be blessed and deeply engraved in our hearts.
by Mordechai Hampel
Translated by Lance Ackerfeld
The Hashachar youth organization was founded in 1918 at the initiative of the Tzeirei Zion [Young Zionists] political party, and its aim was to educate its members towards a nationalist spirit. The elite of the Tzeirei Zion party members were made available to the Hashachar organization for training and guidance: Mosze Kaminer, of blessed memory, a talented youth, who died at an early age; Aron Hampel, of blessed memory, whose social activities were well known in the city during the decades before the Holocaust; Dawid Zajtman, of blessed memory, had literary talents, though he also lost his life at a young age; Majer Goszlani (Golani), (now in Israel), Mosze Lejb Kozlowski who lives in America and Dawid Liwer (Israel) and others.
When the Zionist Labor party Hitachdut was founded at the conference in Prague in 1920, as a result of the merge between Tzeirei Zion with Hapoel Hatzair, the party in Będzin was weakened, since it underwent an organizational and ideological crisis and there were even symptoms of division in the Hashachar organization, but the members of this association did not disperse, rather they regrouped, without relinquishing their former name, and defined themselves as a independent organization.
The General Zionists who did not have their own youth organization, hoped to build up the Hashachar organization and made their residence and other services available to them, in Jeszaja Hendel Erlich's house, in Kołłątaja Street without payment, however for this the Hashachar organization agreed to the patron committee the use of General Zionist emblems, and the leader, Abram Ptaznik (now in Brazil).
Haschachar was only a local organization, without branches or a center, though in Warsaw there was an organization with the same name with Revisionist leanings, that tried making contact with Hashachar in Będzin, however the unification proposal was deferred by it.
At the beginning of 1924, when the residence was transferred to Solomon
Gutman's house, several locals approached the leaders of Hashachar,
who helped out in the Hashomer Hatzair organization, since they
were attracted by this youth movement, before it affiliated with the political
ideology of the Ha'artzi Kibbutz movement in Israel. For this
reason the late Kuba Rozenberg from Hashomer Hatzair in Warsaw (he
worked as a doctor in Kupat Holim [Health fund] in Tel Aviv and
passed way in the prime of life) came to Będzin. A joint committee was elected
whose goal was to start carrying out activities, though this didn't come about
for reasons that will not be outlined in this article. Members of the
Garin [nucleus group] (most of who were killed) were dispersed
between the other youth organizations, apart from my friend, Dr. Chaim Wolgryn
(now in Tel Aviv, active in the Doctors' Association in Israel and the
Kupat Holim Doctors' Organization), who later managed to establish
a Hashomer Hatzair center in our city, who battled extensively for
his existence for the first two years because of leftist inclinations and a
lack of leaders, however in the end, it made headway and a bright era was
recorded during the period of the Nazi occupation and underground in Będzin.
The writer of this article, who still as a student of the gymnasia, was amongst the members of Hashachar, became its leader and ran it for a period of two years. During that period Hashachar prospered and was active in every direction. Cultural activity and general political education took place and an impressive library existed.
Since the organization was non-political, all the parties eagerly sent their members to lecture there in the hope that they would be influenced and people would be enticed into their ranks. Indeed, members of Hashachar leaned towards all the Zionist parties with all their viewpoints and ideologies, and were later active in them, for example: the members Fiszel Zygrajch and Berysz Liwer in the Hitachdut party, Gicel Bryner and Mosze Baum in the Hashomer Haleumi, Aron Frajberg, Mirjam Najman-Frajberg and Tobiasz Baum in the Poalei Zion party and in Freiheit Dror (all seven of these are in Israel) Abram Joskierowicz (killed) and in Brit- Trumpeldor and the writer of this article in Gordonia.
I hereby mention a number of outstanding members of Hashachar: the Moszinski brothers, Fejwel Skornicki, Szlomo Nymerk, Szlomo Fiszel, Gerszon Kerner, Jakob Dawid Lustiger, Szimon Sakura, Aba Grauer, Abram Fuks, Majer Berliner, Eliezer Manela (all of them were killed), Aron Waltfrajd, Mordechai Herszlikowicz and Kopel Grochowina (the three of them in Israel), Israel Szpajzer (passed away in Israel) and others.
When I joined Gordonia, Israel Brafman was head of Hashachar, and after a short time died in the prime of his life. Abram Birman followed as head of Hashachar (now in Israel), however when he left for advanced training and went to live in Israel the organization was utterly weakened.
With the departure of a number of members from Hashachar in 1933,
who were in favor of uniting with Poalei Zion Social Zionists and
with the founding of a new party in Będzin called Social Zionists
Organization, whose residence was in Plesner House (near the bridge
leading to Dąbrowa), almost all of the Hashachar members joined
this party, and this brought an end to Hashachar, that was
liquidated after fifteen years of existence.
|Hashachar organization with Jakob Uri from Nahalal (Israel), 1924|
|First row from right to left:
Mosze Friedrich, Israel Brafman, Majer Berliner, Pinchas Liberman (Brazil),
Lajb Gutman, Josef Rozenblum, Abram Dimand.
Tobiasz Baum, Aron Frajberg, Fiszel, Israel Malach, Elkana Manela,
Jakob Dawid Lustiger.
Dow Liwer, Mordechai Hampel, Abram Ptaznik (the sponsor on behalf of the
Zionist "Histadrut", at present, in Brazil), Jakob Uri (Nahalal),
Abram Sztrochlic, Fiszel Zygrajch, Gerszon Kerner.
Szymon Skora, Eliezer Manela, Yisacchar Huzenes, Fuks, Frydman,
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