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{Page 358}

The Story of the Leftist Workers' Party

[Labor Party]

by Zainwel Przedborski

Translated from the Yiddish by Jerome Silverbush

Edited by Roni Seibel Liebowitz

with the assistance of Gloria Berkenstat Freund

[with comments in brackets]

The workers' movement in Belchatow dates back to 1895. The organization of Polish and Jewish workers started then. In his book, “History of the Worker Movement in Poland,” the well known worker activist and writer Lucjan Rudnitsky tells the story of the heroic fighter and political arrestee, M. Goldfish from Belchatow. Belchatow is also one of the shtetls which distinguish themselves with their activity in the revolutionary uprising in 1905. Then great arrests took place and many workers were sent to Siberia, like Spiegelman, Kanatski, and others. The work, which was then interrupted for a little time, came back to life because of comrade Gottlieb (who lives today in Argentina), who came to Belchatow to organize more fighting groups, which can be confirmed by a photograph taken of a meeting held at that time.

Because of the outbreak of the First World War, the factories closed and the political work was effectively stopped. There remained the cultural societies, which led cultural work, and the help committees were organized.

In 1919, in the entire country, discussion of the “21 points” started, and the Bund split in two groups. Also in Belchatow, a “21 Points” group was created, which enrolled a great number of Jewish workers. Because of legal requirements, the group had to leave the cultural society, which remained in the hands of the Bund. The leader of the leftist movement was Yehezkel Birencwajg, a dynamic man who was much loved by the Belchatow workers. Under his influence and with the help of other activists who came at that time to Belchatow, like Herszl Bekerkuntz, who carried through a large recruiting campaign, the majority of Belchatow workers joined “Combund.”[1]

When the war broke out between Poland and Russia in 1920, the leftist movement directed intensive agitation not to go in the military. Then there were massive attacks by the Polish gendarmerie, and the best activists were arrested. Others were forced to enter the military.

After a short time more, Bekerkuntz came again and called a meeting, which was raided. Bekerkuntz succeeded in escaping through a window, and the meeting hall was closed. No arrests were made, but the leftist movement was forced to go over to illegal work.

At the same time, in Lodz, the leftist Nodl [“needle” ] Organization was attacked. An important group came to hide in Belchatow. They helped organize the work on the basis of party cells, and a party committee was organized, led by Yehezkel Birencwajg, and a youth committee led by Shamai Birencwajg and Chaim Yosef Yaab.

Ten cells were organized with approximately 60 members. The political and cultural work was directed by Ruchel Lichtenfeld, Birencwajg, H. Finkel and Lozer Abramczyk. There was a lively activity and the movement called itself P.P.K. (Polish Communist Party). The main work consisted of intensifying the fight against the miserable conditions that the workers were subject to. We started with the Jewish workers and then immediately included the Polish workers. The first textile strike was organized, in which we won all our demands. But we were far from enjoying victory, because a fall in the value of Polish currency caused new conflicts with the factory owners.

When a general professional union for textile workers was created in Belchatow, P.P.K. organized within it a craftsman section, which mainly had Jewish workers. The section was directed by Yidel Meir Kochmanski, Szlama Lejb Moskowicz, Yosef Gliksman, and others. Both Polish and Jewish workers were in the administration of the textile union.

P.P.K. started to work with the Polish workers, and a group joined the party, through which the Communists won a large influence in the union. But that didn't last long because the Party sent functionaries to Belchatow to do everything to change the union into a section of the P.P.S. (Polish Socialist Party).

In 1925, there was a textile convention in which the delegation of Birencwajg and Koczmarek represented Belchatow. In the same year, two activists came to Belchatow as employees of the health insurance, Huzar and Schmidt, who the Central definitely wanted to become functionaries of the textile union. Big fights started between the leftists and the P.P.S. Huzar used an unsuccessful resignation of the leftist chairman Yidel Meir Kochmanski, concerning the taking down of a holy picture that hung in union hall, so that the Communists could stir up the unaware Polish workers. The situation was cooled off thanks to Yehezkel Birencwajg, who came as a guest to a meeting and helped create a successful protocol. He suggested that they should send a delegation to Lodz in order to get information and to see if they had holy pictures in the union hall. The picture was finally taken down, and the Communists got rid of the functionary used for their anti-Semitic agitation. The leftists succeed in starting to work with the Polish workers again.

That period of work was the most glorious for the party in Belchatow. A Nodl Union was created, led by Yosef Luft, Peretz Sztatlender and Chaim Yosef Yaab. Well known speakers were brought to lectures that were organized by the Nodl Union. Aharon Wali Gutman (Mikhlin) came. The Nodl Union, however, shared the same fate as the textile union – the Bundist Central disbanded it and organized a new union run by the Bundists.

In earlier times, the party was strengthened by a new group, a group which had split off from the Leftist Poalei Zion, whose best activists had joined the Communist party. Their leaders, Moshe Szmulowicz and Kalman Mendel Przedborski, came with the larger part of the Leftist Poalei Zion Party. Moshe Szmulowicz immediately took over the leadership of the Textile Union. In the same year he was arrested during the great textile strike.

During the discussions in the party after the May upheaval (1927), Belchatow took an active part. Then Eiger, Zak and Mrs. Grosser came to Belchatow. The party in Belchatow went with the majority group (Warski-Kostshev), while the youth joined the minority.

In 1928, City Council elections took place in Belchatow, for which the Communist Party put up lists that were called “Worker Unity.” The first candidate was Yehezkel Birencwajg. The authorities had no grounds to invalidate the Left. They did, however, think of a device and disqualified the first candidate, Birencwajg. This caused the Party embarrassment, because the remaining candidates were satisfied merely with a weak political arrangement. It was decided therefore to send a party member to every session of the City Council, who was to orient the four elected Communist council members. The reactionary parties used that to discredit the Communist councilmen in the eyes of the population.

The work with the peasants represented a special chapter in the activity of the Communists. Cells were established in a large number of villages and a division of the leftist peasants called “Samopomoc Chlopska” [peasant self-aid cooperatives] was created with branches in many villages. The Communists put two peasant activists on their slate for the elections. Those were Makovka from Drubice and Soltis from the neighboring Village Wadlew. The slate was called “Workers and Peasants Unity.” The Peasants' representative often visited the surrounding villages. The representatives Sipula and Bitner often came to Belchatow on market days to talk to the peasants. The Communist list attracted a large number of peasant voices.

After the election, a new series of repressions started against the Party. A large number of activists were arrested, which seriously hurt the party. Also, the Jewish workers, who were almost all craftsmen, suffered because of an economic crisis. There came a need for longer hours in the mechanical factories, and then it was necessary to withstand attacks from all sides. The Polish workers were being told by agitators that the Jewish workers were competing with them; and when there was success in getting a certain number of Jewish workers in the factory, there came a problem from the Jewish factory owner, who didn't let the Jewish workers work on Saturday. That meant they could represent the Polish workers and work 12 hours, which is against the law concerning the length of the working day.

In the years 1929-1930, the leftist P.P.S. was created in Belchatow, which gave the Lefists a certain strength to organize the Polish workers. Dolinski (from Piotrikow) came to hold conferences. But more mass arrests were made. At a regional conference where Belchatow was represented by Stefan Bush, he was arrested, and the Leftist P.P.S. party was dissolved in the entire land. In the same year, a meeting of the party committee in Belchatow was called off. Moshe Geldbart, Gotsche Hofman, Zalman Salomonowicz, Wojczek Rozga (now living in Lublin), and the Party functionaries were arrested. They all received long sentences, from two to eight years. Also arrested was the functionary of the Peasant Youth, Aleksander Szelinski.

After all these events, it was difficult for the Party to carry on its work. Terror reigned in the land. The best men, like Shamai Birencwajg, were sent away to Bereza Kartuska[2]. Many of the older members quit. The work fell totally on the youth. That was used by the other parties, like P.P. S. and the Bund, and they dominated the whole professional movement.

Yehezkel Birencwajg was in Lodz in that year, where he, together with Hele Weintrot from Warsaw, directed the Party work. He directed the election in Lodz in the name of the TS. K. After the election, he came back to Belchatow, where he ran a series of conferences in the sports club to which he invited the other parties for discussions. Great numbers of Belchatow Jewish workers attended the conferences. It should also be noted that there was a large participation by the middle class. Even the middle class youth took part in the discussions. The following comrades were also involved in these lectures and cultural activities: Shamai Birencwajg, Moshe Grushka, Kalman Mendel Przedborski, Itche Lejb Goldberszt, Henrek Pigula.

Moshe Grushka

Then came 1930. The entire capitalistic world was engulfed by a dreadful economic crisis. As usual, the workers were the victims.

The businesses which normally competed with each other got together to cut the hours, although, in reality, the workers under the best conditions could hardly make a living. In 1932, the Belchatow textile factory owners agreed to cut the wages 40%. The weavers, who couldn't tolerate such a large reduction, declared a strike. It wasn't a favorable time to call a strike. The bitter fight was waged courageously. The strike lasted six months, and it had strong reverberations in the entire land. Even abroad, comments were made about the events in the Lodz region.

The progressive movement committed its best activists to lead the fight to organize help for the starving workers and their families. Great demonstrations took place in the shtetls. The result was that the police carried out mass arrests, and the leftist movement lost its best activists, who were sent to jail.

It should be remarked that during the great strike a crisis occurred in the life of the active party member Yehezkel Birencwajg . His actions in his factory as a party delegate had forced the party to eject him from the movement.

Because of this and a number of other factors, and not being able to continue the fight, the great strike, perhaps the greatest in the history of Belchatow, was lost.

Committees were organized and meetings were held, at which Mendel Szimkewicz from the Leftists and Perec Frajtag from the Bund appeared. Work was conducted in cooperation with other movements in the Jewish school.

The leading bodies of the progressive movements came often to Belchatow, which was one of the most advanced shtetls in Poland. There was almost never a week when our shtetl wasn't visited by a chairman from the Central. When the unrest broke out in Krakow, the Leftists were the first to prod the P.P.S. workers to shut down the factories as a sign of protest. During the sit-down strike in that year, many progressive peasants from the surrounding villages, under the influence of the Communist party, brought help for the striking workers. In the last years before the outbreak of the Second World War, the Leftists achieved great influence, even in middle class circles. The Party did all that was possible in order to use the help of the intelligentsia in a substantial way in the Movement. Many of them directed the culture work. For example, “Agro-Yid” was directed in Belchatow by Simcha Gelbard, Naftali Huberman, Chaim Ber Markowicz and Dr. Tenenbaum.

Belchatow wasn't totally dependent on the Central for propaganda material. A secret printing press operated in the shtetl, which from time to time published illegal literature and also material adapted to the actual conditions in the land.

There also existed a many-branched organization to help the political arrestees which was patronized by the Party. The Movement had embraced hundreds and hundreds of workers and ordinary people. The work stoppage was led by: Bronek Eichner, Herszel Richter and Alek Levensztejn (from Czestochowa).

At that time the P.P.S. split, and, with help from the government, the party “Frakes” was created. The Piotrokower Warubeilski, who was known to all as “Frak” [“dresscoat” or “tails” ], came to Belchatow and called a meeting of all textile workers, at which he sought at any price to tear down the prestige of comrade Zalman Pudlowski, a Bundist and devoted fighter for workers, and demanded that he leave the meeting. Warubeilski “rode on an anti-Semitic horse.” At the same time, he tried to win the Jewish workers with a demagogic speech about the Jewish Polish patriot Berek Yoselowicz. Here, Yehezkel Birencwajg, a political opponent, turned to the P.P.S. activists and said that they should condemn the activities of the anti-Semitic inspector. The P.P.S. members, however, did not have enough courage to do that, because they themselves had an anti-Semitic attitude. Then, at the urging of Birencwajg, the Jewish workers and a small number of leftist-leaning Polish workers left the meeting. Some time later, Wolczek and Milman came to Belchatow from Lodz and built a truce between the Bund and the P.P.S.

Considering all the facts, we give a partial historical illumination of the important role that it had played in pre-war Poland. The Proletarian avant-garde, in the battle against reactionary fascist Poland, determined the honorable part which Belchatow had in the above mentioned fight. We only want to add here that, in Belchatow, the party produced good social activists and capable people in all areas. We just want to mention several of them: Shimon Szmulewicz from the Bund often stepped forward as an opponent at hostile meetings and worked well with the masses. Itche Lejb Goldberszt was a simple worker who lacked one foot and he always had to work hard. He was well versed in classical literature and his lectures drew a large audience. Shamai Birencwajg was the young genius of the shtetl. He was a good teacher, skilled in politics and culture, always involved in political, economic, and scientific socialism circles. He died in the Lodz ghetto, where even the sadly-famous Rumkowski had to acknowledge him. Last should be mentioned Kalman Mendel Przedborski, who was one of those who gave up all his free time for society until the day of his death. He was not only the leader of the leftist faction in the professional association during the absence of Yehezkel Birencwajg, but he was also the leader of the entire cultural program. With others, he organized the library in a room at comrade Goldberszt's, where he spent a lot of his free time.

A group of left wing women activists

The liveliest moments of the work were the inter-party discussions that were held in the sports club and were watched by large crowds who had come to hear the interesting lectures by Shamai and Yehezkel Birencwajg about the international situation. The lectures mentioned, and the discussions, were the expression of political activists with a wide outlook in contrast to the members of the other parties.

The political activities of the Communist party had a great effect on the masses and, chiefly, among the youth, of whom today there are several who occupy responsible posts in the new Polish nation, like Gotsche Hofman and Kaufman, among others.

{Page 369}

The Leftist Workers' Movement
Between the two World Wars

by Jakob Tsingler

Translated from the Yiddish by Jerome Silverbush

Edited by Jerry Liebowitz

[with comments in brackets]

In contrast to the neighboring Jewish Shtetls, where the great part of the Jewish population lived from “air businesses” [luft-gesheftn], at the end of the First World War Belchatow already had a large Jewish work force, and that had a great effect on the social and political life of our shtetl. At that time, already, two Jewish workers parties existed in our shtetl: the “Poale Zion” [“Workers of Zion” – a Zionist labor movement] and the “Bund” [a Jewish socialist party]. The second of these two parties was the stronger and was more recognized among the Jewish population.

The political events after the First World War, in particular the reverberations from the Russian Revolution, had a clear influence on the subsequent development of political life in Belchatow.

Already in 1922, there occurred in the shtetl – just like in the rest of Poland – a split in the earlier arrangement of two workers' parties, and the Leftist Workers' Movement was organized.

In the period when in all of Poland the Leftist Movement grew up in the bosom of the Social Democratic Party of Russia, Poland, and Lithuania, which had taken over the best revolutionary traditions from the old time “Proletariat” [the name given to socialist groupings in the Congress Kingdom of Poland] and from the left wing of the P.P.S. [Polish Socialist Party], in Belchatow, however, the Leftist Movement from the beginning was absolutely Jewish.

The first task of the new party was to change itself into a mass-movement of Belchatow labor [arbetershaft]. Therefore we started immediately to organize the class trade-unions [klasn-faraynen “class” denoting their distinctly Marxist-socialist orientation ] of the weavers. There was a possibility for the workers of both nationalities to find a common language to defend their common interests. In 1924, the first combined strike broke out. The battle was a long and very bitter one. After four months, we succeeded in breaking the obstinacy of the owners and in winning the strike. In the course of the battle, our comrades were found in the very front lines.
Our activity among the Polish workers was particularly difficult. In Belchatow, then, the Black Reactionary Catholic Worker Parties, “Cha-De” [chadecja – Christian Democrats] and “N.P.R.” [Narodowa Partia Robotnicza – National Workers' Party], still had influence among the Polish workers, and their chief task, moreover, was to sharpen the antagonism between the Polish and Jewish workers. Even the leaders of the Polish Socialist Party, Huzar and Schmidt, educated their party members in the spirit of ultra-patriotism and nationalism.

Therefore, it was difficult for Jewish party men to go to Polish workers poisoned with anti-Semitic ideas and to say to them that they had common interests with Jewish workers.

The organizers of the Communist party understood that if they wanted to have a substantial influence on Polish society, they would have to proceed building their party among the Polish workers. That succeeded completely with the continuous strikes, when the party inculcated a marked influence among the Polish workers.

Leading the workers on the Polish street, the party did not neglect its activity among the Jewish workers. In class trade-unions, meetings were often held in the Yiddish language, where one handled, besides economic matters, also ongoing political issues. In the framework of the legal possibilities, public meetings were organized and numerous publications were given out by the party. The legal party paper, “The Week,” was the most widely distributed among the Belchatow Jewish workers.

Every political activity found its echo in our party activity in the shtetl. A Jewish library was organized, and great importance was put on the development of its members, both political and cultural. Because of the continually growing reprisals and arrests of leftist activists, in Belchatow, just like in the entire land, the Red Relief Campaign [hilfs-aktsiye] was organized.

Our party came to the workers and showed them the way to fight for better living conditions. At our call and under our leadership, a whole series of strikes then broke out. Thanks to the good leadership most of the strikes were won. That elevated the prestige and popularity of our party among the Belchatow workers.

When in 1926 the leftist faction of the P.P.S. (Levitse P.P.S.) originated, we got the opportunity to be published in public semi-legally. At the next City Council election, we received the largest number of worker votes, and our faction was the strongest in the City Council. We also got the greatest influence in the professional movement, and the Belchatow class trade-union found itself for a certain period under the leadership of the Communist party, particularly during the great textile strike in 1928. Regardless of the success from our strike actions, the Communist party was unable to put down deep roots among the masses of Polish workers. There were, in my opinion, three main reasons for that: 1) The Belchatow Polish workers did not have any proletarian revolutionary tradition; 2) The initiative to organize in the Communist party came from the Jewish worker circles, and, for Polish workers with little awareness, any initiative that came from the Jews was a motive for resistance; 3) The fact that the Communist party was illegal.

Parallel with the enlightenment work on the Polish street, a widespread task among the Jewish workers was developed. The “Sport Society,” which played a powerful important role in developing our organization, was founded. Besides the physical training, great stress was also placed on the intellectual development of the Jewish worker youth. Lectures were given on literature and politics. Groups were organized for theoretical education. By this means, the “Sports Society” prepared cadres of activists for the party organization.

In the same year, 1927, the first arrests of party activists took place. Yehezkel Birencwajg and Esther Szmulewicz were arrested then.

In the years of heavy fighting for the right to work for the masses of Jewish workers, the Leftist Movement consistently led the action and defended the rights of Jewish workers. At the same time, we did not neglect our enlightenment work among the Polish workers, warning them that the anti-Semitism and the antagonism between the Polish and Jewish workers exclusively served the goals and interests of the Reactionaries. We also made great efforts to organize the village workers in a class trade-union. We did not have any great success in this attempt, and that was because of two primary reasons: first, the leaders of the trade-union held a negative position toward the problem, holding that with farmers one cannot do anything; and, second, because we had to send Jewish workers as organizers, since we did not have any Polish workers for the purpose.

We also suffered from the constant arrests among our leaders, which moreover caused a sharp reduction in our activities. It should be mentioned that among the arrested were: Shmuel Gershon Morgenstern, who later perished in a battle in Spain, Jacob Dovozshinski, who later was killed on the Ukraine front in battle with the “Hitlerites,” and Moshe Gelbard, who later was killed in a German prison camp.

Left wing activists as
soldiers in the Polish Military

[right to left] Z. Przedborski,
Shmuel Pudlovsky, and T. Przybilsky

Of tremendous importance was our action in the conflict of 1932. Feeling responsible for the fighting workers, we stormed the Central Committee of our party, demanding substantial and effective help for the striking workers. In response to our demand, a party conference was held in Lodz, which was attended by a representative from the Secretariat. At the conference, we demanded the proclamation of a general strike by all textile workers in Poland. The Lodz comrades assured us that within a few days they would proclaim the strike. Our comrades indeed fulfilled their promise, but the strike did not have any effect, because the P.P.S. did not support it. Struggling Belchatow did not get support and remained alone in its fight.

Our organization also carried through a mass campaign among the village workers about material and moral support for the striking workers. We also tried to spread the strike to the village workers, which even succeeded partially. But it did not have any decisive influence on the outcome of the fight.

Left wing activists
[right to left] Yishayah Kreizman,
Pzedborsky, and Moshe Chayt

During the period of time of the strike our party received the strongest blow because of the arrest of our party activists. The [party's] influence on the strike therefore greatly fell apart. The strike went into a phase of demoralization, and after upwards of five months, the strike was lost. That was a great defeat for the Belchatow worker-class and, together with that, also for our party. One had to start rebuilding the party from the very beginning.

In fall of the same year we opened the Peretz Club [named for the famous Yiddish author, I.L. Peretz] which led to a divided culture effort. Our library was also located there. Groups for political and literary discussions were again established. Especially active were the comrades Simcha Gelbard (perished in Belchatow in 1942) and Naftali Huberman. The Peretz Club helped considerably in doing the party work. We also organized the defense of comrades who had been arrested in the course of the strike. But a short time later, at the end of winter, the police closed the Peretz Club.

Hitler's coming to power in Germany in 1933 brought essential changes in the strategy and tactics of the proletarian movement. The change to a unified front, and later to a “people's front” [folks-front], found a positive reverberation also among the Belchatow workers [arbiter-reyen]. At every opportunity we displayed our good will to realize the united front, and in 1934 we finally came to an understanding to arrange a joint May Day demonstration. This demonstration attracted the majority of the Belchatow workers and made a tremendously strong impression. Unfortunately, however, it did not succeed in creating a continuous unified front of the Belchatow workers, and all the discussions on the topic did not have any positive results at all.

The anti-Semites in the land – and consequently, also those in our shtetl – consistently grew in number, and we experienced the organization of anti-Semitic “excursions” [“oysflugn”] in our shtetl. Together with other groups of Jews and with some Polish workers, we completely destroyed all the anti-Semitic plans.

During the Spanish Civil War, when the Polish worker-class organized the relief campaign [hilfs-aktsiye], our organization in Belchatow also did not lag behind the other centers, and. although we led the action independently, it produced good results. As already mentioned earlier, our comrade, Shmuel Gershon Morgenstern was an active fighter in the “Dombrowski” Battalion and died on the battlefield.

In the difficult fight against the Polish reactionaries and anti-Semitism, we were successful, not only in working with the leftist inclined Polish workers, but we were also successful in coming to an understanding with the Bund and partially with the P.P.S.

Our party also played an important role in the sad times of the pogrom in Przytyk [in March 1936]. We organized a protest strike with participation of all the workers [arbetershaft] in Belchatow. Even the Polish workers, who were poisoned by anti-Semitism, were afraid to go against the strike and took part in it. At the same time we carried out a widespread educational activity among the Belchatow population against anti-Semitism. Also at the same time, we successfully carried out a money collection for the victims of the pogrom.

However, our work was made very difficult by the constant arrests of our best activists, and we consequently had to concern ourselves also with the arrested comrades, organize their defense, and be worried about sending them packages of food and clothing. Within the limited range of our possibilities, we also cared for the parents and the relatives of the arrested ones.

In the period that we worked together with the Bund, we combined both our sports organizations, which, thanks to the merger, earned high esteem in the Lodz region. Unfortunately, the union did not last long.

Also, in that period, both Jewish worker libraries were combined. When the Nazis marched into Belchatow, together with Comrade Hertske Frajtag (a futurist), we succeeded in saving the combined library from the Nazi hand and departed for the Soviet Union, where I walled then into an oven for baking matzo. Later, the library shared the same fate as those who had read the books.

We also organized and legalized with the authorities the organization, “Agro-Yid”, which formally had the task to spread agricultural knowledge among the Jewish masses. Actually, the society inherited the closed-up “Gezerd[3] and popularized the idea of the Jewish Autonomous Region in Birobidzhan[4] [the far eastern province of the Soviet Union]. Because of the frequent police searches, one had to work strictly within the limited framework of the legal statutes. But, the activity of “Agro-Yid” was also used for party work, and, at the same time, an extensive cultural work was carried out. “Agro-Yid” existed for about two years until the police closed the society.

When the Polish Fascists had started to destroy the Polish professional movement and organize their own syndicate, the pestilence didn't omit Belchatow, where it immediately found careerists who tried to make a career in the new workers movement. The old professional organizations were persecuted by the authorities and often were forced to operate illegally. When the new leaders wanted to personally spread their wings over the factories, we were the first to categorically oppose this – especially in electing factory delegates and other important actions. In spite of observing the P.P.S. activist's guilt in the rise of Fascism, and the breaking of the Professional Organization, we supported the P.P.S. representative in the factories in order to maintain the opposition against the Fascist regime and protect our common position in the class trade-unions.

In 1938, regardless of the fact that the “Comintern” [acronym for Communist International – name given to Third International, founded in 1919] had dissolved our party, we continued our work and expressed our protest against the Polish conquest of Czechoslovakian territory which happened as a result of the Munich agreement.

When at the end of 1938 Hitler carried through the expulsion of Polish Jews and the relief campaign was organized, Belchatow was one of the first to react, and, together with the Bund, we organized the relief campaign, sent money, clothing, and books for the Jews who were driven out, who found themselves in no man's land – in Zbonshin [Zbaszyn, a Polish border town to which Hitler deported many German Jews].

In 1939, after the outbreak of the war, it turned out that we were to lead the last election-battle [val-kamf] in Poland. The reactionary government used the war mood in the land to increase the terror against the workers, prohibit the May Day celebration, arrest worker leaders, and the like. In the same atmosphere, the elections for City Council were held in Belchatow, and, although we proposed that the remaining worker parties create a combined worker front, our proposal was not accepted, and the elections were held with an internally splintered worker front, which merely strengthened the victory of the Polish Fascists.

But, the new City Council was not destined to hold its office for long. A short time later, the first of September, when Hitler invaded Poland, a new chapter started in our fight for liberation….

Editor's Footnotes:

  1. Combund – Communist Bund and the so-called Combundists, who agreed with all the twenty-one points and who also demanded to get rid of all right-wing leaders. After weeks and months of heated discussions, the Bund split up and a Combund was established. return

  2. Bereza Kartusk – a concentration camp in the marshes of eastern Poland (present-day Belarus). This was, along with Dachau, one of the first camps for the politically “undesirable” established in Europe outside the Soviet Union. return

  3. “GEZERD” is a Yiddish acronym equivalent of the Russian OZET (Association for Rural Placement of Jewish Toilers), a Jewish Communist group founded in the mid-1920's, whose purpose was to raise money for and carry out a Jewish socialist agricultural settlement in the USSR. Unlike the Zionists, they wanted a Jewish socialist settlement project in the Soviet Union in which Jews would have cultural autonomy. return

  4. In 1934 the Soviet government established the “Jewish Autonomous Region” (JAR) in Birobidzhan, a remote and sparsely populated region of the Soviet Far East. This was part of the Communist Party's effort to set up a territorial enclave with a secular Jewish culture, rooted in both Yiddish and socialist principles, which could serve as an alternative to Palestine. return

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