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[Page 359]

The Underground in Bedzin and its Vicinity {Cont.}

Ties with the Polish Underground

We tried to establish contacts with the Polish underground too. In January 1943 Franka Sultanik organized an underground group which kept in contact with the Polish underground revolutionary movement. The plans of this group were cancelled because of the deportation of its members to German concentration camps.

Unfortunately, no activity of the Polish underground movement took place in our district. It is surprising when we examine the district of Zaglembie because it was a large center of laborers most of whom had a communist tendency.

So where had all their activists and organizers disappeared? Indeed, the advanced Polish intelligentsia and a considerable number of the workers' activists were expelled to the concentration camp in Dachau, or to the general-government areas, but it is a fact that no comprehensive terror acts occurred in our district. A Polish underground movement acted only in two neighboring villages: Pilica and Wolbrom. From the German local newspapers we learnt about raids on police-stations, an explosion of ammunition dumps, the murder of Germans and Polish policemen and more. We negotiated with the president of the Judenrat in Pilica, Fogel, who was in touch with the Polish underground, for including our members with the Polish partisans, but this was not practicable because the partisans in this place did not concentrate in camps or forests (the forests around us were very scarce), but came from amongst the local population of the villages and small towns, performed raids according to plans which had been prepared beforehand, committed terror acts and returned back to their homes. With the help of Fogel we contacted a certain Terla from Wolbrom who assisted us in buying weapons in Warsaw and in acquiring forged Polish cards and so on.

The Polish Gestapo agent

Nevertheless, we did not give up the attempts to contact the Polish partisans. At the beginning of June, 1943, Marek Folman returned from Warsaw to Kibbutz Bedzin. For a long while he had been with the Polish partisans around Warsaw-Radom. He too confirmed that those partisans did not want to accept Jews into their ranks, and he was an exception only because of his Aryan appearance. In Bedzin Marek met a certain Christian, named Socha, who lived in Sosnowiec and whom he had known from Warsaw as a general in the army of the partisans. That Christian agreed to take groups of our members to the partisans in the area of Miechˇw-Krakow, provided that all of them carry their personal weapon. After a visit of two of our members in his flat, which impressed them as a home of very poor people, with very poor children (all this was probably acted out, as planned before), it was decided to send the first group, which consisted of ten members. They received leather coats, new shoes and weapon. They were also given a password according to which a certain Pole was supposed to connect between them and the partisans in an intended place. Three days later, the Pole returned with a password.

Only later did we realize that he had led us to false partisans. Then the second group set out, also of ten members. Only because of lack of weapons didn't they send out a larger group. Two days later, one of this group returned Ajzyk Najman (amongst the survivors in Israel) and gave the following account: we went happily across villages in which we were welcomed by the farmers who knew we were going to join the partisans. As night was falling, when we reached the forest, we sat down to rest. Our Polish companion went off, saying he was going to fetch water. After a short while he returned with a jar of water and went away again. Suddenly we were surrounded by a group of horsemen and before we managed to hold our arms and defend ourselves, we were attacked by a shower of bullets of machineguns. Only by sheer miracle was I not hit and survived. When the Germans had left, I started to run as fast as my legs could carry me. We understood then that the Pole was nothing but a Gestapo agent who had handed over our friends to them.

We lost nineteen dear, young and devoted friends: from kibbutz “Dror” Alter Goldblum, Szmul Finkelsztajn, Cypora Morad, Icchak Kriwka, Mordechai Bacharz, and Liwek Goldsztajn. From Hashomer Hatzair Dawid Kozlowski, Hela Katzengold, Moszele Awerbuch. From Gordonia Abram Tenenberg, Israel Szajntal, Eliasz and Sala and another four friends from Hanoar Hazioni and Hashomer Hadati whose names are not known to me.

Bed-359.jpg [45 KB] - Lajbisz Banak
Lajbisz Banak,
a distinguished citizen of Bedzin, sitting in the street
with his furniture after his apartment was confiscated by the Nazis

Armed Bunkers

For the time being we had no other choice but continue with the building of the bunkers, which we had started even before the latest deportations, and equipping them with weapons. This involved great difficulties. After the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt broke out, on April 19, 1943, it was hard to get in touch with friends there.

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We sent Netka of the Gordonia group to Warsaw in order to contact Eliezer Geler, or another member, but she returned after a short while without having found any of the members, whose addresses in the Aryan zone of Warsaw were in her possession. Still, in every bunker of the movements there was some money and some weapon, because despite the closed borders and the strict censorship we managed to obtain, in different ways, money from the connection chamber in Switzerland and also from Warsaw. We divided the money and weapon among the five bunkers. The kibbutz had set up two bunkers for its members, the Hashomer Hatzair – one, and Gordonia – two. They had prepared daring plans like the big plan to surround the Ghetto with a belt of grenades, and as soon as the Germans make their first attack, set them off and explode them. The main point was to defend themselves with the weapons they were holding. Unfortunately, we did not know that so little time was left, and the storm of the total deportation prevented us from carrying out our plans.

We don't know how during the last deportation of two thousand and eight hundred were killed although many of them fought fiercely, with weapons in their hands, against the deportation. Regretfully, no living witnesses among the defenders were left alive. We found out by chance that on the second day, when the Germans approached a house in the Ghetto of Srodula to start the deportation, 30 Jews, armed with sticks, knives and stones attacked them. In this battle between the Jewish group and the enemy, who outnumbered them in people and arms as well, and which lasted a whole hour, all died, to the last person.

We don't know how the members of Gordonia fell on the farm. Their bunker was out of town, and not a single witness was left alive. They were brave boys and also had arms. From the chaos in that place it was clear that people fought and died there. The members from the kibbutz, all seven of them, who were in the bunker with the brave Frumka Plotnicka, fell with their weapons in their hands. Before dying they managed to kill two Gestapo officers who were approaching the bunker.

The Germans put a siege on the bunker and flooded it with machine gun fire. The members fought back until the end, when they took their last breath.

Indeed, the idea of self-defense penetrated deep amongst all walks of the Jewish population, but alas, we did not have the means to carry it out. For that, we will never forgive our Polish neighbors, who on days of trial and tribulation and seeing our desperate and hopeless struggle against the armed gangs of murderers, did not help us get weapons. Our means were meager: knives and stones against machine guns. There is no doubt that if the pioneering youth in Bedzin and Sosnowiec had owned sufficient arms, there would have been respectable defense. Unfortunately, we lack details also about the cases of defense and the few battles that took place. The dead took their heroic stories of their deaths into their graves.

Hashomer Hatsair – The Guard of the People's Dignity

by Chajka Klinger (Rozenberg)[1]

Translated by Nitsa Bar-Sela

The following are excerpts from the long article of the late Chajka Klinger, member of kibbutz Haogen, which was published in the book of “Hashomer Hatsair”, vol. 1, “Sifriyat Hapoalim”, Publication Merhaviya, 1956.

The war had destroyed everything. We decided to start anew: to organize “Bnei Midbar” [Sons of the Desert] scouts, establish a center, learn and teach.

The youth were completely neglected. The children were raised in the street. Poverty increased. Kids in rags sold bread on street corners and stood in entrances of buildings with baskets full of rolls and pretzels blackened by soot. The girls, in Aryan attire, would travel to small towns and the nearby villages and smuggle food products. In no time these children became experts at all kinds of trade, from eggs to dollars and gold. They learned how to organize street gangs. One sharp whistle of one of them one standing guard would warn the others of the appearance of a German. In a minute they would run in all directions and vanish.

We started work with enthusiasm. First of all we organized the children of the poor neighborhoods in town. We did not have a plan, but our hearts were filled with devotion. We sowed the first seed and after us others began to sprout. A competition of public activity began. We could hear children using Hebrew words, singing songs in Hebrew and addressing each other with “Hazak Ve'ematz” (Be strong and brave).

At that time the Jewish “kehila” approached the leaders of the youth “Histadrut” organizations and suggested they undertake the cultivation of 450 dunams of land which the Germans forced the Jews to work. The “kehila” [Jewish community] was headed by Moniek Meryn, an adventurer and gambler who collaborated with the Germans. Although it was his suggestion, we accepted it gladly. We saw an opportunity to provide training for the adults. That land had been untouched for thirty years, and was three kilometers away from the city. They started work without any experience, without training. Every day a group of youth would go out with hoes and shovels. The dead field was coming to life. We had neither horse nor plow. We cultivated the land with shovels. The farmers stood at a distance and laughed at us, but we did not despair. Songs and laughter could be heard from the farm at all times.

We had assembled sixty people there. There was no longer need to walk on foot six kilometers every day from town there and back. Now we could turn the work group into a real “Hachshara” [training camp]. We opened clubs to further the teaching of the history of the Kibbuz movement, the question of the Jews and of agricultural problems.

The farm became the center of pioneering life in Zaglembie. Here were held of the various leaderships, gatherings of small groups and of the larger ones. There was some magnetic power to this farm. In town – there was hunger, sadness, sicknesses and epidemics. On the farm – there was happiness, laughter and joy. We did not even wear the letter “J” [Jude / Jew] there.

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On Saturdays, the youngsters arrived here from town and played games. The elderly came too. Hundreds of people. This was the only place where Jews could breathe fresh air freely.

In the cultural field we, the “Hashomer” members, were very active. We influenced the opinions of the youth dramatically. We presented our vision to them, which until now had been known to the youth of Zaglembie. It started a storm of discussions on nationalism, socialism, and the ideology of “Hashomer Hatsair”. We had a Chanukah party which was very successful. The orphanage hall was brightly lit. At the front of the entrance the small “Sons of the Desert” stood and kept guard so as not to let any German come near. It had been very difficult to get the hall from the “kehila”. Here the children forgot the whole world. No war! No Germans! The children staged a play which had been written by them: to be in Erez Israel, to work on the land, to be like the Maccabeans and fight against the enemy…

Our educational work in town was very demanding. How could we hold discussions while the children were hungry, freezing, wearing rags?! We went to the “kehila” committee and asked for houses and money to set up cheap kitchens and clubs for the children. They liked our suggestion and started to carry it out right away. In a short while clubs for the older children, kindergartens for babies and shelters for children aged 5-6 were founded. They had liked our suggestion but they rejected our councellors for fear of their influence on the children.

At about that time the first “Shaliach” (emissary) arrived from Warsaw. It was Eliezer Geller from “Gordonia”. We were so excited by his visit and so thirsty for every little piece of information. Almost all the youth factions welcomed him.

Later on, Tosia arrived. She came with no name or address to contact. She just walked along the street, looking at people, at faces, at clothes, searching a “Shomer”. She had hoped she would be able to recognize one as soon as she saw him. And indeed she did. She approached Szoszana and asked her if she knew where Lea Pejsachson lived. Szoszana looked at her suspiciously, but the behavior and the voice of the stranger filled her with trust. She offered to take her there. On their way to the Jewish neighborhood, a small “Son of the Desert” came near her and whispered “Hazak” (the password of the “Hashomer”). Tosia heard it.

“Are you in Hashomer Hatsair?” she asked Szoszana.

“Yes”, answered Szoszana. Suddenly it struck her. “Tosia! From Warsaw!”

“Yes, I am Tosia” – she answered calmly. Szoszana could hardly stop herself from dancing in the middle of the street.

The Ken (the “Hashomer” center) was like on fire. The rumor spread fast. Tosia started working right away. Every moment was precious. No time to eat. We ran with her from one meeting to another.

We decided to make good use of her visit and gathered the Scouts in the orphanage. Tosia delivered a speech. Suddenly a whisper spread among the organizers. A message had arrived from the “kehila” committee: we had to stop immediately because the police were at our heels. We were sorry that the meeting was abandoned, but Tosia comforted us, “Don't worry. This meeting will be remembered by the small ones even more, and their hatred for the Germans will increase.”

We held a census of all our groups in the district. We counted a thousand two hundred “Shomrim”. We were proud. Before the war we had been half of what we were today.

We had a meeting on the farm and Tosia was present. As an opening, there was a short lecture on the ideology and an account of the work done in various parts of Poland. One of the main things we decided on was the issue of furthering the studies. We had to intensify national education, bring Erez Israel [Land of Israel] closer to the youth, nourish their love for it and strengthen their faith in the victory of G-d.

The delegates had left long ago, and we, the more senior activists, were still sitting with Tosia. Like us, she was tired, exhausted from the load of work, but filled with optimism. ”We will meet again, we will,” she said, “in the Kibbutz”.

Part of her spirit was installed in us and we felt relieved. Her faith imbued us with hope. She left us and promised to “peep in” again soon. Of all the people whose death we heard about, the news of Tosia's surprised us most. Even today she stands before me, just as she did when she came to the farm those days: smiling, gay, full of stamina and faith in the future.

New decrees were issued, each one worse than its former. The “Arbeitseinsatz” (the mobilization of labor gangs) worsened. All our people were put into the list. We started fighting against the “kehila” committee. We stopped being docile children. We resisted openly. And when they threatened us with the whip of the labor-camp, our members didn't go. They hid and didn't see their homes for weeks.

Our first victim was Lea Pejsachson. Lea went to the camp. She wrote us letters about the watery soup, about the daily starvation ration of 300 grams of bread, about the beating of women. But that did not hurt much, she wrote. The worst was that among the women in the camp were those who were traitors, characterless women who flattered every German. Lea could not sit calm. She relentlessly incited the girls until the revolt was ripe. One day they decided that at 2:00 a.m. they would hold meetings in all the barracks. And so they did. At two o'clock all of them woke up, set up guards at the doors and threatened the traitors. One of them, who were in Lea's barrack, heard the threat and burst out laughing: the “Lagerführer” (camp-commander) is her best friend. Who should she be afraid of? Then one of the girls approached her and slapped her face. Then she was beaten by the girls again and again. After that all of them hurried to their beds and pretended to be sleeping. The day after, all of them waited for the response of the beaten traitor, but she had learnt her lesson and kept her mouth shut. After that the atmosphere in the camp changed. Only a few knew what an impressive part Lea had in that change.

We removed her out of the camp almost forcefully. She did not want to leave. She declared that she could not save herself and leave the others behind. She explained that she was needed there, but we needed her too. Lea returned but others were sent away. We fought over every single person. We knew that each of us filled an important role in the camp, but more important roles awaited them in the movement.

One day the head of the “kehila” came to us and told us excitedly that the Germans were ready to allow us to set up “kibbutzim”. He couldn't stop praising the Germans who were ready to carry out the “produktivizatzye” [productiveness] of the Jewish youth. There were some amongst us who were attracted by the idea, but the majority rejected it. There was a bitter argument in the “Hechalutz” committee. We demanded rebellion, resistance and sabotage under any circumstances. The labor camp was a curse and it should be treated as such. We should not go and should prevent others from going. Still people went, under coercion and also without being coerced.

Meanwhile, horrible news from the camps started to pour in. People did not want to volunteer any more. The community was “in distress” and it was time for the “Jewish militia” to find and extract their prey from the basements and the attics.

When the camps had been filled with the poor, it was time for the wealthier who until now had redeemed themselves with their money. In Rasner's “shop” they did not touch anybody. On the contrary. He would often demand people from the camps and add them to his list of laborers. His workshop manufactured clothes for the “Wehrmacht”[2]. It started with 50-100 workers and increased to three thousand. Rasner was a decent man. He did a lot for the Jews and knew exactly what he was doing.

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When we were desperate, we needed someone from the outside to come and encourage us. And then Mordechai Anielewicz appeared. He was tall, slim and erect. He radiated with energy and youth. He captured our hearts with his fervent faith in the great mission of the movement. We felt that we were facing a friend who would never let us down. He explained the most complex things in a convincing simplicity and we were filled with conviction.

Mordechai's arrival revolutionized the life of the youth in our district. He told us about Vilna and the massacres there, gave an account of Ponar, revealed the truth about the death camps and spoke about preparations for resistance in various places. He re-enkindled hope in our hearts and passed on the message of revolt to us. A new meaning was poured into our lives: defense. We set out to form a Jewish fighting organization in Zaglembie.

We began to issue a newspaper which included political news from Poland and abroad. Lipek Minc from Sosnowiec sat daily at the radio and meticulously took notes. It was our duty not to allow the Jewish public to slumber. We were compelled to spread the naked truth no matter how bitter it was: a mass murder of the Jewish people was in process.

The “kehila” began receiving pieces of information about our work. Moniek Meryn was furious. He found out that the storm was initiated by Mordechai Anielewicz and “Hashomer Hatsair”. They could not of rest. They were afraid. They decided to teach us a lesson by taking action.

The Germans arrested Lipek Minc and Cwi Dunski, two of the directors of the center in Sosnowiec. Meryn dared enter Cwi's cell, as the Germans' secret emissary, in order to extract information from him. He spoke deceitfully:

– “I am also a Zionist. I've come to save you.”

– “If you are a Zionist, I am not a Zionist” answered Cwi and slapped his face.

They sat in prison for two months, and then, under a special order, they were sent to Auschwitz, where they were hanged. According to another source, Cwi Dunski was killed in jail and only Lipek was sent to Auschwitz.

We did not relent. We continued our activities. In our newspaper we waged a relentless war gainst the community and the militia. There had also been a secret order issued to get rid of Meryn. The public gradually became aware of our existence.

Hard days came. One “aktzia” occurred after another. Thousands went like lambs to the slaughter. Such multitudes, if organized wisely, could have overcome, even empty handedly, the few Germans who carried out the “aktzia”. Our youngsters stood in the courtyard clenching their fists, restraining their fury.

The true face of the “kehila” was revealed. It was proven beyond doubt that it was nothing but a compliant tool in the hands of the Germans. It was said about Meryn that he used to go to the Germans with suggestions in order to preempt their wishes. His secretary Fanny Czarna worked with him. She was a woman of many talents but she was also heartless. For a long while these two managed to get many exemptions for the Jews of Zaglembie, but Bedzin's turn arrived too.

We were short of arms so we decided to send Edzia Pejsachson to Warsaw. She was caught on her way back with the “merchandise”, but still managed to do a lot for us. In Warsaw, she described our situation and due to this description they decided to send us “merchandise” on a regular basis.

Then Astrid (Zosia Miller) came to us from Warsaw and brought the first “tools”. We were overjoyed to receive them but we also grieved greatly for Edzia's loss. With her death she brought about the beginning of action. We started training. Baruch Gaptak (“Dror”) was the instructor.

After a while our friend Ina Gelbard went to Warsaw, but what she brought was not much. We built a workshop to manufacture more ammunition. We needed grenades and Molotov cocktails. Our workshop started to make excellent grenades. Our boys also built a radio set.

We started to dig bunkers and not only for us, but for all the Jews. Our boys went from house to house teaching and instructing people how to build them. We tried to send members to the partisans but only a small number of them reached their destination. We were left few in number.

The last deportation arrived. All of our ammunition was collected into Baruch's bunker. The bunker was discovered and the arms – taken away, but at the price of quite a few Germans whom we managed to kill. Most of the farm people were also deported. Only few escaped.

This was the end of the story of “Hashomer Hatsair” and the pioneer movement in Bedzin.


Translated by Nitsa Bar-Sela

bed362a.gif [16 KB] - Poem
bed362b.gif [17 KB] - Poem

  1. Chajka Klinger (Rozenberg) – was born in Bedzin,1917. At the age of 17 she joined the youth movement “Hashomer Hatsair”. She was a guide in the center  (“HaKen”) and later on left for training (“hachshara”). When her turn came to go to Erez Israel, the war broke out and the gates closed. Chajka was obliged to continue as one of the leaders of the movement in the underground, where she took a significant part in the preparations for armed resistance. When the last Jews of the Ghetto were liquidated, she managed to find shelter in a bunker from which her escape to Slovakia was organized. At the beginning of 1944 she was transferred to Hungary by members of the movement, and in February she left, with the first group, through Constantinople to Erez Israel and joined Kibbutz Ha'ogen. She died when she was only 41. return
  2. Wehrmacht – “armed forces”, literally “defense force(s)” was the name of the armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. return

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