« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

Youth Organizations {Cont.}

[Page 289]

“Freiheit” – “Dror”


by Eliezer Karni (Krzeznicki)

Translated by Nitsa Bar-Sela

The “Freiheit” movement stemmed from the dreams of energetic youth who searched for ways of self expression and for an outlet to their perplexity regarding political and social problems that afflicted the whole Jewish public.

The absorption of concepts from the fountains of the popular Jewish Bedzin culture was a major factor in uniting the youth and in their contribution to the public life, which strengthened the endurance of Bedzin's Jews in their various struggles. This movement was preceded by other youth movements, which attracted boys and girls of various social classes. However, none of them had penetrated the hearts of the youth as significantly as this one. Youth movements which alienated themselves from national and Zionistic aspirations and ignored the social problems of the youth and the origins of their classes could not appeal to the great masses of the youth. Therefore, no other youth movement could succeed as much as “Freiheit”. It imbued the youth with social-Zionist ideals of self fulfillment and pioneering.

“Freiheit” was founded in 1926 in Warsaw, and soon after became a mass youth movement. When the breach in the Poalei Zion [Socialist Zionists] movement occurred, a vacuum in the Jewish street resulted and it was necessary to re-build everything anew.

In fact, many heated discussions among the different parts of the divided movement preceded the mending of this breach. They took place in the pine forests of the village of Zabkowice (14 kilometers from Bedzin) on Sundays during the summer months. Those forests absorbed the stormy controversies during most hours of the day. Leaving the city, even for one day, to the open air had its beneficial effect towards uniting the urban Jewish youth and filling them with a fresh new spirit.

These meetings and the groups of the youth of Zion were the foundations of the “Freiheit” movement, which during the years won the hearts of many groups of the Bedzin youth, under the guidance of those members of the party of Poalei Zion [Socialist Zionists] who remained loyal to the principles of the movement. The first branches were created. One by one boys and girls from the remotest corners convened in order to spend time together, sing, discuss ideological issues, go on hikes and so on. All these became indelible experiences which left deep imprints in their hearts and strengthened their devotion to the movement which they considered the epitome of their life.

[Page 290]

It was only natural that this movement would generate its own guides, leaders and directors. And indeed, very quickly, some young people who were ideologically mature tried and also succeeded in distinguishing themselves from the others.

The attempts of the Communist party to penetrate the socialist youth movement and undermine it from within did not skip “Freiheit” in Bedzin. Things reached the stage where the underground organization of the Communist movement managed to get a hold on some youth in our Histadrut[1], but fortunately, it was found out before the communists managed to consolidate their influence and their attempts were warded off.

In order to offer our members a more thorough ideological recognition and education, clubs were formed on Borochov[2], Syrkin[3] and more, in which the participants learned the principles of the labor Zionism and the development of the labor movement in Erez Israel. They read together from the writings of Otto Bauer[4], Kautsky[5] and others. There were also general discussions and balls of “Questions and Answers”.

The activity was held in the “Freiheit” hall, in the cellars of the Piekarski house on Modrzejowska Street, which swarmed with people and stormed with loud voices every evening, until very late, and during holidays – all day long as well. So many young men and women gathered there that there was no choice but conduct the club activities in private houses, and in the summer months – on the hill (“górka”), which was covered with trees and padded with grass and surrounded the ancient castle.

The most significant change in the movement occurred when the riots of 1929 broke out in Erez Israel. The attitude of the Communists and the “Bund”, their publications and their performances acted contrary to their intentions. Now their true nature was revealed. The resentment was particularly strong among the “Freiheit” members, whose pioneering roots were profound and who saw their future in Erez Israel.

Many youngsters, who until now felt some closeness to the movements of Zion haters, moved away from them and joined us throughout the days of the riots and also after them. Many of them also prepared to go to training farms (kibbutz hachshara) and eventually immigrate to Erez Israel.

Our movement was the only one in town that met non-Jewish socialist youth movements. We maintained contacts with the socialist Polish youth although Zion haters kept trying to sabotage them. We had always felt that we must explain to the gentiles our pioneering Zionist entity, which the Jewish communists and “Bund” people resented.

Our movement found itself growing up, conquering and undertaking the burden of responsibility towards its trainees. As a movement of grown-up members, we could not neglect hundreds of youngsters who had difficulties integrating in our framework. Therefore, we founded the “Freier Scouts” – a free Scouts movement, and so, we enlarged the educational framework of the Zionist-socialistic movement by adding the group of the juniors.

Members of “Freiheit”, under the leadership of Miriam Najman, devoted themselves to educating this group of youngsters, whose members had originated from the “Heder” and come from homes of laborers, who had not been able to care for their children's education. Somehow, we did not attract school graduates. Only very few of them joined us.

In order to strengthen the informative and educational activities, we had to do much more than hold meetings in the evening after a work day. Hence, we organized seminars that lasted one or two weeks in villages, and which hosted delegates of the labor party from Erez Israel such as Tabenkin[6], Sherf and others.

Years went by, the boys and the girls became young men and women and it was decided to move them up into the party. But this decision created an open rebellion: tens of members refused and insisted on their right to remain in “Freiheit”, which they felt attached to and in which they found themselves fulfilled. It took a lot of coaxing and compromising, to find a solution to this problem, which almost created a real crisis.

Members of the Freiheit committee - Bed-290.jpg [29 KB]
Members of the “Freiheit” committee
Standing from right:
Lajbl Kokotek, Mordechai Brajner, Ben Zion Klajnman, Benjamin Adlerflygel
Icchak Szajnman, Fersztenfeld, Mordechai Tenenbaum, Hinde Tenenbaum,
Heniek Tenenbaum, Israel Cwajgenbaum

[Page 291]

We had a special experience when we set a training group of Ha-Kibbutz Ha-Me'uhad[7] [United Kibbutz movement] in our town. We helped the kibbutz members in finding work, but they also helped us considerably with guiding and teaching. In time, this kibbutz developed a very firm hold in our town and became well-known. During the Nazi regime its members headed the underground movement.

A few years before the war, our movement united with “Hechalutz Hatzair”. In the magazine “Zaglembier Leben” (number 17, 1939) we read about another district convention of “Freiheit – Hechalutz Hatzair” in Bedzin: “In this convention two hundred members of the two senior groups who were about to graduate participated. It was stated that the bloody riots in Erez Israel would not deter us. On the contrary – we were up and ready to immigrate. We would join the fighters and workers in Erez Israel. The convention dealt with issues of the movement, around which heated discussions started. The main question was – going out on pioneer training. And indeed, right there and then tens of members enlisted for immediate training. In the evening, there was a solemn ceremony to conclude the convention, which raised our spirits towards our future mission.”

This is how the “Freiheit” youth movement was born and developed in Bedzin. Ex- members of the movement who live in Israel now, are still grateful to their movement which is no more.

A Regional Meeting of “Freiheit” in Bedzin

Translated by Nitsa Bar-Sela

This report was published in “Zaglembier Zeitung”, number 34, 1938, signed by Zvi, probably Zvi Szpringer or Zvi Poliwoda, of the “Freiheit” and the Kibbutz leaders in Bedzin. Both were excellent young men who risked their lives for their sacred cause. (The editor)

More than two hundred young active members of the various branches of “Freiheit” in Zaglembie, gathered for two days in the decorated hall of “Hapoel” in Bedzin for their annual regional meeting, which concluded the successful summer camp of the movement in the area.

The subject of the meeting was the bloody riots in Erez Israel which had lasted two years already, since 1936. The Head of the Histadrut in Bedzin, M. Poliwoda, greeted the members. All the participants marched in front of the national flags and the meeting opened with the songs of “Hashvuah” and “Tehezaknah”.

Herszl Szpringer (one of the leaders of Kibbutz “Dror” in Bedzin, a fighter and organizer of the underground, who died as a hero – the copier), eulogized the victims who fell during the bloody riots in Erez Israel. His eulogy was made while the audience was standing in mourning.

The delegate of the center, Chrzanowski, gave a lecture on “The pioneer movement in view of the present situation”. In his comprehensive lecture the speaker included all the problems which occupied the Jewish world in the Diaspora and in Erez Israel at the time, and called the young to gather around the flag of the active pioneer movement. Many participated in the vivid discussion that followed the lecture.

In the evening, a graduation ceremony was held under the slogan: “To training!” Szpringer, Poliwoda, Rzezak and Szwarckop made speeches.

The interesting meeting, which marked another step in the development of “Freiheit” in Bedzin, ended in singing and dancing the “Hora”[8] until the very late hours of the night.

Poale Zion - Socialist Zionists - Bed-291.jpg [35 KB]
“Poale Zion” – Socialist Zionists with Berl Loker, 1926

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

Translator's Footnotes
  1. Histadrut (Hebrew) – General Federation of Labor, Israeli workers' union return
  2. Ber (Dov) Borochov (1881-1917) – Russian Jewish Socialist Zionist thinker and leader return
  3. Nachman Syrkin, (1868-1924) born in Mogilev, Belorussia; first ideologist and leader of Socialist Zionism return
  4. Otto Bauer (1881-1938), son of a Jewish industrialist; Austrian socialist leader; first foreign minister of the Austrian Republic (1918-1919) return
  5. Karl Kautsky (1850-1938) German-Austrian socialist, born in Prague return
  6. Yizhak Tabenkin (18871971), labor leader in Erez Israel return
  7. Ha-Kibbutz Ha-Me'uhad, a union of kibbutzim in Israel founded at a conference in Petah Tikvah in 1927, established primarily by pioneers of the Third Aliyah return
  8. Hora – folk dance of Israel, performed in a linked circle return

This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.

JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Bedzin, Poland     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page

Yizkor Book Director, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Osnat Ramaty

Copyright © 1999-2024 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 25 Feb 2005 by OR