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[Page 159]

Zionist Activity in Our Town

Jakob KLINGBAJL, Holon

Translated from Hebrew by Carole Turkeltaub-Borowitz

My father's house was a Zionist and traditional one, and so, we, four sons and three daughters, were brought up in this atmosphere, although, like most of his generation, father studied at the yeshiva in Kutno. When he was about to reach the age of conscription into the Russian army, father decided that, before his enlistment, it would be a good thing to learn a trade, and he made his mind up to become a tinsmith at the workshop of my uncle, Szmuel Rozenbaum (of blessed memory). But this plan did not please his mother. Grandmother Rachel (of blessed memory) complained about it to judge Lajbisz (a righteous man of blessed memory) who, after hearing the objections from both sides, passed judgement: her son was making a good decision and may there be many Jews like him, since there is nothing finer than a Jewish youngster learning a trade by day and dedicating the night to the Torah. Grandma had no choice but to accept this verdict. After he got married father took care of the Kutno community mikveh (ritual bath) for fifteen years.

When the author Szalom Asz visited our home in Israel, he reminded father of his time at the yeshiva when they were pupils together. He reminisced about the slap on the face that he got from my father for reading “forbidden” books under the desk during lessons. The author was proud of the people in the land of Israel who came from his town, who were all working folk lending a hand to develop the country. And so, over many years, in Kutno, we were prepared psychologically and pragmatically, even before we emigrated to Israel.

While my brother and myself were still schoolboys at the first Hebrew school in Kutno, the Bnei Zion Haktanim [Young Bnei Zion society] was founded. Jakob Zerchin was its leader – he was also principal of the school. The job of the society was to distribute Keren Kayemet stamps, picture postcards of the Land of Israel and so on. However, after a short while the First World War broke out and I went to Germany to learn to be a locksmith and a plumber. At the end of the war I returned to Kutno and joined the Tseirei Zion [Youngsters of Zion] society, whose leaders then were Natan Tiger (of blessed memory), Zosza Szpira, Bronia Jarecka, Jakob Zandberg, the teacher Libart and the son of Rabbi Izrael Jehoszua Trunk (of blessed memory). This association promoted cultural events and was active in matters to do with the land of Israel and Zionism. And so, many Zionist leaders in Poland visited Kutno.

In 1918, after the Germans had departed from Poland, for fear of pogroms from the Polish population, Jewish youth started to arrange Jewish defence groups. Even we, us Kutners, got organized and obtained arms from the Germans who were withdrawing from Poland. The first head of defence in

 


The HeChalutz society in Kutno

 

our town was Wirzbicki, the principal of the high school. Of course, the first search for concealed weapons was made at the high school, but they found nothing because the arms were hidden in the wood store belonging to Mr Holcman and in Turbowicz and Nachman Wajnsztajn's (of blessed memory) beer factory. However, as a result of this search all Zionist business was stopped, except for HeChalutz activity, which apparently the Polish police officer, Miczinski, approved of. The day after the search, while I was walking in the street with my friend Jakob Meler (of blessed memory), the above mentioned officer stopped us and without saying a word, gave Jakob a slap and ordered me to report the next day at the police station. When I got there the following day he questioned me about the activities of HeChalutz and I explained to him that our aim was to train Jewish youth for productive work in Israel and we had no political agenda.

My reply satisfied him and we were given permission to continue with our activities. He even promised us that as long as he was a police officer in Kutno not a hair on our heads would be touched. And he kept his promise. There were no pogroms in Kutno.

After the Germans had left, Kutno HeChalutz requested joining the ranks of the Polish military organization, POW. But they turned us down claiming that the organization was closed. Meanwhile we extended our activities and even arranged a local congress of HeChalutz.

After the Russian-Polish war, in 1920, after I had been released from the Polish army, I applied to emigrate to Israel, but the central office prevented involved members from emigrating so that the movement's activities would not be shut down. However, at the same time, Szlomo Welsztajn (Franc), and his brother Josef (of blessed memory), and Jehuda Bromberg, emigrated to Israel. After them my father (of blessed memory) emigrated to Israel. A year later he brought his family to him and even I emigrated a year after them. My father's house was a meeting place for all Kutno emigrants in Israel. After a short time M. Lustigman, Kolski, Wajngarten, Chaim Elbaum, Gwircman and others came to Israel.

The leaders of HeChalutz were: I. Majranc, A. Shimonowicz, J. Zandberg, J. Meler and myself.

It must be mentioned that Kutners played an active part in various aspects of Zionist functions in Israel, in the Hagana (before the War of Independence) and in social and economic life in Israel.


[Page 160]

The Beginning of “Betar”

A. GOLDSZTAJN, Tel Aviv

Translated from the Yiddish by Carole Turkeltaub Borowitz

The youth movement HaShachar [“The Dawn”] was founded in Kutno on the 24th of April 1923, after it had first received instruction from Stanisławów, from an organization called by the name of “The Union of Scouts called after Josef Trumpeldor”.

The number of members in the movement from the town was small. They used to gather together at our home. Among the activists remembered from that time were members Mosze Goldwasser (of blessed memory), the two Rapke brothers (of blessed memory), the Wajkselfisz brothers, and the writer of these lines. Also, as the main director for the group

 


Leaders of the Union of Soldiers

was based in Stanisławów [now in Ukraine], we were by way of a link with the leader of the Galil Warsaw group, member Goldberg (Har Zahav), standing in contact with the head commander Albert Bibring in Stanisławów. From there I received instructions and commands in the Polish language, in a telegram. In one circular the “Ten Commandments of Betar[1] were printed, based on the principles of scouting in national Jewish education, with the aim of realizing the dream of a Jewish state within the historical borders of the land of Israel.

The first meetings were held in the Am HaSefer school. The idea had constantly grown larger with an input from all quarters. It did not take long before it became one of the strongest organizations in the town.

At the end of 1927 the first national conference of Betar and HaShachar was held in Warsaw, with the participation of Zeew Jabotinski, at which the unification of both organizations and the emergence of Betar was proclaimed. In Kutno this gave an impetus to a new determination and activities.

Then Zwi Szczsig was appointed leader of the Kutno troop, which was divided into small groups with a leader in charge of each one. In the town, a Betar training farm was set up.

When A. Propes was appointed the representative of Betar in Poland, the movement took off. In the year 1929 the movement held a training course in Klesów [now in Ukraine]. The same year the Kutno Betar held a very successful summer camp, not far from Włocławek.

In the organization there were areas where leaders from the Betar troop found themselves in special circumstances. When member M. Zandberg came from the training camp in Vilna, he had to change the course of the troop which had been altered by member Elbaum, who had managed to introduce his military training together with similar Polish organizations. This military training left a deep impression on the youth.

At that time I was learning at the Betar leaders' school in Warsaw. But the blessed work of the Kutno Betar was erased by the tainted German hand which destroyed the entire Jewish life in the town.

 

Translator's footnote
  1. Stands for Brit [covenant] of Josef Trumpeldor; a Revisionist Zionist youth movement founded in 1923 in Latvia Return


[Page 161]

From “Ha'shachar” Branch in Kutno to “Beitar”

by Efraim WAJKSELFISZ, Tel Aviv

These notes on the history of the national movement in the Yizkor Book for our town are not trivial. Every letter and tag were soaked with tears, from every word emanates and rises a silent murmur of pure souls. This Book of Lamentations is about the destruction of our city Kutno and its words – words of wailing and eulogy on Beitar.

I remember all those precious characters, who are no longer alive. In my imagination I am now wandering the streets of our city, wandering the courtyards, peeking into houses and standing in silence near my childhood and youth district — Ken Beitar. Here I see my friends in my mind, abstract faces staring at me with speechless lips, but the “Yizkor” prayer is accompanied by bitter weeping and vibrating tears rising and hovering in this mute atmosphere.

In everything I turn to, I meet in my imagination brothers, comrades and friends. They were all massacred and cruelly burned by the Nazis and this article is a memorial to their souls.

The huge wave of enthusiasm that has swept Hebrew youth in Eastern European countries since the rise of Ze'ev Jabotinsky in Riga in 1923 and the establishment of the first nucleus of a national youth movement did not miss Kutno either. In 1925, Jabotinsky parted ways with official Zionism and since then, Ben-Horin[1] has felt free to roam the great Jewish kibbutzim and bear the word of great Zionism. Sparks were ignited here, somewhere. They became beacons and later a great flame, which surrounded the Jewish youth throughout Eastern Europe and most of the Diaspora.

In the same year, Jabotinsky's speech also reached Kutno and not long after, in the month of Nissan, which was April 1927, the “Shachar” branch in Kutno became a Beitar Ken. Young Kutners began to unite around the marvelous personality of the creator of the Hebrew battalions. The Jewish street, which was influenced by anti-Zionist and left-wing propaganda, mocked the “commandants with wooden rifles”, but all this did not affect young people more. They did not rest or stay quiet, and by their own strength began to organize the actions, and first and foremost read the articles of Ze'ev Jabotinsky, which were published every Saturday evening in the newspaper “Haynt[2] and others in “Moment”.

The Beitar branches in Poland did not have a center in Warsaw in those days, as did the other youth unions in Poland. Far from Kutno, in the city of Stanisławów in Galicia, began an action of the leadership operation led by Mager. From there, Biebering received the first propaganda material for the Beitar in Kutno.

Among the founders of Beitar in Kutno was Avraham Goldstein, who also served in the first headquarters. The members of the headquarters were Moshe Goldwasser, Aharon Klar, Zvi Landau and the brothers Rafka and Zvi Krock.

In January 1928, the first conference of commanders was held in Warsaw with the participation of Aaron Propes of Riga, one of the founders of Beitar Worldwide. Following this conference, the two organizations that existed in Poland at the time united: “HaShahar” and Beitar. This conference brought about changes in Kutno. Zvi Szczig was appointed commander of the local Ken Beitar. It was divided into ranks and companies according to a plan received from the main headquarters. The plan of action was also formulated, which consisted partly of political foundations according to the decisions of the institutions of the World Revisionist Zionist Alliance, and partly of educational foundations, which were later approved by the first World Conference of Beitar in Danzig[3].

After Beitar institutions approved the “Ten Commandments of

 


Beitar in Kutno — 1932

 

[Page 162]

Beitar”, the entire Beitar, and within it the branch in Kutno, began to work intensively. If it were a different youth movement then it would be simple, not so with Beitar. In the period between the two world wars, various “pacifist” doctrines were raised, and the fierce propaganda of the extreme left parties and even of the left-wing of Zionism did everything possible to incite hatred in the public over the issues of the great Zionist dream and the military renewal in Israel. Beitar's mission on the Jewish street was therefore very difficult.

Beitar strived not only to observe the practical, daily observances, which involved observing the teachings of Zionism, such as learning Hebrew, raising funds for the Jewish National Fund, etc., but also creating a new type of young Hebrew, a type that the people need to establish

 


Mordechai WALTER z'l

 

the Jewish state. A Jew in Eretz Israel at the greatest speed and in all ways. However, it placed more emphasis on the rooting of the Hebrew language, and above all, set up in the hearts of the youth the concept of belief in one ideal and not two, which is the principle of oneness, monism.

Like many other young people, the author of these columns went from “HaShahar” to Beitar in Kutno in 1929, the year of the events in Eretz Israel,[4] under the influence of Ze'ev Jabotinsky's speech in Paris at a protest meeting against these events and the behavior of the Mandate government. This echo of this speech reached Kutno at a mourning meeting that convened in the Ken Beitar. After the speeches of Mordechai Walter hy“d and Eliyahu Welcman hy”d, the commander of Beitar Zvi Szczig read the mourning order. Ken Beitar in Kutno was then in the Hebrew school hall and on Shabbat, after Beitar meetings, protest rallies were held against the bloody events in the country in the Great Synagogue as well, and Mr. Yehuda Riftin was then one of the leaders of the speakers.

After Mr. Yosef Klarman's[5] visit, more young people joined the ranks in Beitar. These were the years of prosperity of Beitar in our city. A training company was established at Brewda's place. Many Beitarim went to training, among them Avraham Goldstein, Yaakov Zeidenwar, Pesach Gwircman, Szewszewicz, A. Kulszinski, Arieh Aharonowicz, Israel Walter, Israel Knut, Warszawczik, Menche, and others.

These were the years of Beitar's prosperity in Poland. Aharon Props was appointed commissioner in Beitar, and Beitar in Poland took on a character of its own, which distinguished it from all other youth movements. Beitar has begun organizing companies for physical-military training P.W.F.W. The “biksel[6] doctrine, the one that Jabotinsky gave great expression to in his article “Oyfn Pripetchik,”[7] which the Beitarim memorized literally, ceased to be a dream and became a reality. Beitar youth in Kutno began to study the theory of the Maccabees. Headquarters member Shmuel Album z" took over the military training in Beitar. Dr. Prochter and Ms. Tajchner taught a first-aid course and lectured on the role of first-aid during the war. In 1930, Ken Beitar in Kutno received weapons for military training, and for the first time, the Jewish public could see upright young Jews marching and rifles on their shoulders, and the public's hearts throbbed and swelled with joy[8].

Beitar Kutno began preparing vigorously for the movement's first sporting convention in Poland, and for the participation of tens of thousands of Beitar in the nationwide camp, commanded by Moshe Gold. In the first course that preceded the convention, Avraham Goldstein, on behalf of Beitar Kutno, participated.

In the other areas of operation, too, the work was conducted tirelessly. The cultural work in the nest was in full swing. Hebrew history courses were held, Hebrew language and Hebrew literature classes were held, conversations were held about Zionism, and most importantly, about an idea. A dramatic club was established as well as a library, near the nest, and a sports club began to operate. On Lag b'Omer, trips were made in the area. We received a few books from donors and thanks to the addition of pennies, we built with our own forces the beautiful library, a valuable tool for training and expanding knowledge. It had books by the best authors in Hebrew and Yiddish, as well as in the Polish language. The section on Palestinography and knowledge of Israel played a significant part in it. With great honor, we received the books and press from the Beitar Commission in Warsaw.

A kind of Holy Spirit hovered over this library, which was an unfailing source for awakening hearts and educating generations. And no one believed possible then that a fierce storm would break out that would destroy a third of the best of our people, sow destruction and devastation and ignite a great fire that would burn all the sublime works of our great writers and poets. Man and book — everything would go up in flames. And for the survivors, their double sense of loss would be in men and in books. It is worth noting the mourning meeting held on 11th of Adar[9]. It was the highlight of Beitar's work in Kutno, the fruit of the dedicated and hard work of all its members. The dramatic circle presented the fall of Tel Hai. Many outside guests attended this academy, among them the parents of the Beitarim and all spoke of the great success of this assembly.

 


A Beitar group in 1931

 

As Beitar grew up, the Jews of Kutno began to consider it. In 1931, Avraham Goldstein traveled to the special course for instructors in Beitar Zielonka, near Warsaw, under the direction of Beitar government officer Yermiyahu Halperin. The composition of Ken Beitar's headquarters at the time was: Wigdorowicz, Album, Warszawczik, Goldwasser, Krock, Moshe Kaufman, Yaakov Zajdenwar and Mordechai Zandberg.

1932 was a fruitful year for Beitar. From all walks of life,

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learning and working youths came. According to the decision of the Commission, a training program was organized in our city in the name of Pesach Gwircman z"l, who fell on his shift in Iwacewicze, near Baranowice, during training, together with Israel Walter, Zajdenwar and Domanowicz, Ken Kutno received additional manpower from the training at Brewda's place. The organizer of the training was Commissioner Gershon Aszkenazi. Among the training personnel was also Y. Viniarsky[10], now Yaakov Meridor, former deputy commander of the Etzel and current Knesset member. In the same year, the fifth conference of Brit HaTzahar[11] was held in August. The decisions of this conference outlined lines of action for the national movement and these further strengthened the movement in the world, in Poland and in particular in our city.

In March 1933, after the Katowice Conference, Ze'ev Jabotinsky visited Kutno. The visit of the leader of the movement was an unusual event. Crowds from all over the area came to town. The Beitarim stood out in their brown shirts. Stop talking; everyone wanted to know what the subject of Ze'ev Jabotinsky's speech would be.

The city was excited and happy, eagerly awaiting to welcome Beitar's Ze'ev Jabotinsky. At that time, a real state reception of masses of members of the national movement was organized at the train station. And just Jews. The heads of Beitar were received at the train station by the Beitar organization, with the Beitar song. The impression was immense. The Gentiles who were there stood still and had one word in their mouths: “The King of the Jews is coming; the King of the Jews has come.” The procession arrived at the Frenkel Hotel. After the reception, the head of Beitar surveyed the Beitar organization in the Kutno province. When he reached the ranks of his favorite Beitar youths, he approached one among the ranks and asked if he knew Hebrew, his answer was: Yes. Then Beitar's head told him to stretch his muscles of his right hand and then he spoke and said: “Sons of Beitar, stretch your muscles, they will still be needed!”

After the reception at the Frenkel Hotel, the procession went through the city in the direction of the fire brigade theater on “Stary Rinek[12].

At the head of the procession rode three cavalry members in Beitar: Orner, Tajchner, and Brewda, followed by Beitar instructor Avraham Goldstein in the ceremonial outfit of adult course's instructors, the Beitar group from PW. FW. with their rifles, the “Magen David” group, led by Ms. Tajchner and Dr. Prochter, and at the end of the procession, marched Jewish soldiers and border guards of the future! Every Jew's heart was filled with much joy and the procession reached the theater that way.

It was the big day in our city. The meeting was opened by Mr. Kaplan z"l, chairman of HaTzahar, and gave the floor to the head of Beitar, the creator of the Jewish Legion and first prisoner of Zion.

Jabotinsky opened his big speech with these words: “I, Meir Grossman, Robert Stricker[13] and Suskin will work together again!” It was his first announcement after the split conference. It is impossible to describe the enthusiasm that was in our city after the visit of the great leader, whose name was uttered by the people of right and left alike. The speech still resonates in my ears, his visit will not be erased from my memory.

In the same year Mordechai Zandberg, commander of the Beitar district, went to Vilna to the Agricultural Training School.

After the 18th Congress, Beitar concentrated on one main task, namely: organizing a boycott of goods made in Germany. A large assembly was convened in the “Modern” cinema hall. Crowds flocked to the assembly, the hall was filled to capacity, and many stood outside. The meeting was opened by lawyer Eliyahu Welcman z"l. The speaker, Mr. Menachem Begin, shook the hearts of his listeners and the Jews living in Kutno began organizing the boycott.

At the end of the organization's operation, the Beitar went to a summer session in the small village of Gostynin. The session was noteworthy both because of the experienced commanders and because of the desire of the Beitarim to be ready for everything and to serve as a model in their dedication. In a contest with the Polish Scouts, the Beitar captured their flag.

In 1934, the Brit HaChayal organization founded in Kutno, by Beitarim.

In January 1935, the Sixth World Conference of the Brit HaTzahar convened in Krakow. After this conference, the national movement in Kutno grew and expanded again. Many youths joined the ranks more, the national movement developed an extensive cultural action. The “Brit HaChayal” also prospered, and after a year of existence, an annual party was held headed by the commanders: the officers in the Polish army - Yosef Zelichowski and Yehoshua Zandberg, Avraham Goldstein, Wigdorowicz and Prync.

In July 1935, Yehoshua Zandberg, the deputy commander of the Brit HaChayal, immigrated to Eretz Israel.

On April 6, 1935, an academy in memory of Joseph Trumpeldor was organized with the participation of representatives of the national movement and the Beitar commission. Mordechai Zandberg opened the meeting and handed over the floor to Mr. Yosef Klarman, followed by Moshe Gold, the emissary of Beitar. The dramatic circle and the other young women presented to the audience a play about the occupation of the wilderness and the defense of Tel Hai. According to a report in the newspaper “Unzer Welt[14], the drama department received a congratulatory letter from the Beitar commission.

On June 6, 1935, a general referendum was held in our city in the Brit HaTzahar regarding the establishment of a new and independent Zionist Organization. About 600 people answered yes. Immediately after the referendum, the administration of HaTzahar went to organize the elections for the basic assembly of the Czech Republic. All Jews who turned 18 that month were given the right to vote. After the referendum, Mr. Menachem Begin and other representatives of HaTzahar and Beitar visited us. The person in charge of the election was Mr. Ludor, the chairman of HaTzahar in the city, who worked with dedication together with Mr. Welochbinski. According to a report in the newspaper “Unzer Welt”, 925 voters participated in the elections in our city, 841 of them in favor, 75 invalid, and 9 blank ballots. Apart from the members of HaTzahar and ordinary Jews, organized groups also participated in the elections, and among them, a cohesive group of ultra-Orthodox in Poland stood out, led by Levi Jungster, one of the leaders of the Mizrahi activists.

On September 7, 1935, the founding convention opened in the Concert Hall of Vienna. In December, Dr. Peker visited our city and submitted a report on the plan of the new Zionist Organization.

In 1936, Ze'ev Jabotinsky launched a propaganda campaign for the “Evacuation” program. That is: hundreds of thousands of Jews immigrating from Poland to Israel within ten years. The conservative newspaper “Chas” published an article by the head of Beitar about his ideas and talks with the Polish Foreign Minister, Colonel Beck, and other Polish ministers. Ze'ev Jabotinsky called for the intervention of the Polish government in Geneva in favor of the Zionist movement.

When the head of Beitar published the plan for the evacuation, Jewish party activists launched a scathing attack on the above-mentioned plan, but one of the Jewish intelligence centers in Poland, the Physicians and Engineers Club, invited the leader of Beitar to lecture on his plans. Yosef Klarman came to our city at the time for a lecture on Ze'ev Jabotinsky's plans. Joseph Klarman spoke in the large cinema hall “Polonia” and analyzed the words of Ze'ev Jabotinsky in front of his audience. He began by saying: “Poland will help and assist in the “Evacuation” program. Israel can solve all the problems of Jewish immigration and Poland can help with that.” And it is very unfortunate that the Jews of our city, like the other Jews of Poland, did not heed the “Evacuation” program and did not listen to the warning voice. Nor did the words of Mr. Joseph Klarman bear fruit, and those who survived still remember what he said.

In our survey of the cultural activities of the nest in Kutno, it is impossible not to mention the participation of members of the national movement in the public Zionist institutions. Representative of our movement Moshe Wigdorowicz participated

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actively in all the debates within the Zionist institutions in the city.

In 1937 officers from Beitar and representatives of the national movement visited Kutno again. The ideological debates, and social tensions did not cease. On the contrary, the events among Polish Jewry followed closely one another.

And the situation of Polish Jewry was deteriorating. Israel is closed and sealed, the British denied their promises and on the Jewish street the suffocation grows. Admittedly, the cry of Ze'ev Jabotinsky still resonates in the air: “Jews, destroy the Diaspora and if not — it will destroy you!” But as mentioned, his warning remained as preaching in the wilderness. After all, the storm was approaching, the war was already at the gate, but many did not feel the terrible end that was about to uproot Polish Jewry. They were still living in the hope that the storm would pass over them and many who were moved by their sense of imminent danger, were comforted that the murky wave would soon pass.

 


Training group of Beitar (1934) at BRAWDA's place

 

However, when the war broke out in September 1939 when Nazi Germany's hordes, armed from head-to-toe, invaded Poland, the position of Polish Jewry was embarrassed, bewildered, divided and shattered. Only a few did not lose their temper, understood the new reality and what was required of them and began to prepare for battle. Needless to say, the fate of Kutno was no different from the fate of all Polish Jewry,

Members of Beitar from Kutno in World War II

Beitar also worked in the ghetto. It organized courses for the Alliance and a memorial service was held in the ghetto in memory of Ze'ev Jabotinsky, Ch. N. Bialik and B. Z. Herzl. M. Walter, Album and others talked about their activities (according to Ringelblum documents).

There were very many Beitarim in the Polish army in World War II against Nazi Germany. Three Beitarim: Avraham Bennett, Tuvia Hirszberg and Simcha Mroz, soldiers in the Polish army, fell at the beginning of the war, excelled in heroic deeds in the battle for the city of Lowicz and fell in battle by the river Bzura.

Among the influx of refugees that began to flow into Russia, there were also many Beitarim, including three of the Beitar commanders in Kutno. Jabotinsky's teachings accompanied them in all their wanderings, respect for their people and his kindness was their guiding principles. That is why one of the founders of Beitar in Kutno, Avraham Goldstein, decided to address a letter to Marshal Stalin, suggesting that he organize a legion of Jewish youth to fight against the Germans and after the victory he would liberate Israel from English rule. Goldstein did not receive any response to this letter. But this very reference indicates to what extent my friends were adherent to Z. Jabotinsky's teachings and of the successors of the founder of the First Jewish Legion, for it took a great deal of courage to address such a letter.

Dr. Falek Tajchner, during his stay in Russia, searched for orphans and youth from Kutno, encouraged them and planted in their hearts the hope that their suffering was not in vain and that the state of Israel would be established in their day. After the war, many returned to Poland. Dr. Tajchner, Zandberg, and others in Beitar arrived in Silesia, where they continued their movement. The district commander of Beitar Mordechai Zandberg, a graduate of the Vilnius agricultural school, organized the escape of the Beitarim from Russia back to Poland. Many were the Beitarim who fought against the enemy in the ranks of the Red Army, many were promoted, awarded high marks of excellence and honors for their courage and bravery on the battlefield. Many were killed on the battlefields.

In 1945, after the liberation of Poland, I was given the mission to find the remains of Jews, survivors in the towns of Rivne and Dubno[15], to gather them together and thus save their lives after the liberation. Once again, a small Jewish community was established in the city of Chelm. After the liberation of Lublin, I met in this city with Chaim Lazar, Adam Halperin, Y. Lubocki and Shimon Łęczycki.

On January 17, 1945, after the liberation of Łódź, I was appointed city officer by the Polish army. Immediately after coming to the city I started organizing a Jewish community there, because the remnants of the Holocaust began to return, from different places to Łódź. Beitarim was also among them. Although they were not many, they felt a duty and a need to rehabilitate their movement. First of all, they decided to reprint the photo of the head of Beitar, Ze'ev Jabotinsky, and there was an urgent need to provide various documents to the members in order to allow them to escape. The documents and photos were printed in a government printing press under my supervision, but the work was carried out in constant danger of death. One who risked himself the most was the Beitar instructor Victor Aurbach as well as Shimon Łęczycki, who received the material from him and distributed it among the Jews in Silesia. At that time, I brought to Łódź Commissioner Beitar Perec Lasker z", who was one of the survivors of the Częstochowa camp. That same year, 1945, Beitar's first commission was elected after the liberation of Poland. Perec was elected commissioner in Beitar, and among the members of the commission were the Kutners: Zandberg, Tajchner and the author of these columns.

A new hope began to arise in the hearts of us all. We believed that a new phase in Beitar's action would open. The emissaries of the Jewish Brigade arrived in Łódź: Micha Paz, Yehuda Datner and Surkis[16], who began an operation to rescue survivors. They devoted themselves to this action in heart and soul and more than once risked their lives. Particularly great was the action of Dr. Tajchner, who did much to save the remains of the Holocaust. It seemed that this man didn't know exhaustion and that no difficulties and dangers could deter him in this action. It was a sacred duty to him and every success gave him great satisfaction. He even managed to get Jews out of prison and flee Poland, until he himself was forced to flee to Austria. For his dedicated work, Dr. Tajchner received the “Hagana” award from the Israeli government. Mordechai Zandberg was in charge of operations in Szczecin, from there he moved to Germany and joined the Beitar Commission. Avraham Goldstein came to Austria, where he worked to establish the younger Beitar. Shmuel Wajchselfisz, who was one of the commanders of the Beitar companies, also operated in Austria, from where he boarded an illegal immigrant ship to Israel, but was imprisoned like many others in Cyprus. At the beginning of the War of Independence, he fled the Cyprus camp and arrived in Israel. Upon his arrival in Israel, he was appointed commander of Company 5 of the Palmach and fought on the Jerusalem front. He currently serves in the IDF with the rank of Major.

Shmuel Laron was a pilot-officer in World War II. He was captured by the Germans, but managed to escape and reach London. Here he again enlisted in the RAF. And took part in the bombing of German cities and was again captured by the Germans.

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Upon arriving in Israel, he participated in Operation “On Wings of Eagles”[17], as chief pilot. Today he continues to serve in the IDF as a pilot with the rank of officer.

On the ship “Altalena”[18], Etzel soldiers arrived in Israel: Aharon-Perec and Shmuel Stuczynski. Both participated in the War of Independence.

Shmuel was in charge of military education in Ken Beitar, he participated in the newspaper “b'al peh[19] every Friday in feuilletons and stories. Shmuel was an archetype of which the head of Beitar dreamed. As a child he joined the ranks of Beitar where he saw the way to the liberation of our people.

Shmuel Elbaum, also a man of splendor, born in Kutno in 1910. To fulfill his dreams, of a homeland free from the yoke of foreigners, and of the kingdom of Israel on the two banks of the Jordan. Shmuel was a man of action, active in Kutno Beitar. He had great organizational ability and vision and was one of the organizers of the course W.F.P.W. During the Holocaust he did not leave the city, he remained in the ghetto. Faithful to the principles of Beitar until his last day.

Everyone found in Shmuel a good friend and comrade who was willing to help others at any time. In the ghetto, he encouraged the people of our city not to fall in spirit, and not to succumb to their bitter fate. Samuel went with all the people of our city to Chelmno, his soul was burned in the flame of G-d and in the storm of destruction, he returned his spirit to his Creator.

May his memory be blessed.

Moshe Goldwasser, a pleasant-mannered young man, welcomes everyone with a smile. From the dawn of his youth, he was drawn to the ideas of Zionism. He was one of the first Beitarim, together with Avraham Goldstein. When the national movement was founded in our city, he was one of its activists and over time became a member of the headquarters and power of attorney to the Tel Hai Foundation in our city. Moshe was also accepted by the youth of all streams. He perished in the Holocaust.

May his memory be blessed.

Lawyer Eliyahu Welcman son of Yaakov, grandson of Rabbi Yekatriel and grandson of Rabbi Eliyahu Welcman (called Kaliszer) from a privileged family in our city. His father traded in grain, studied in a cheder and later in the Hebrew Gymnasium and the University of Warsaw. But Eliyahu was not satisfied with this and being close to the age of twenty, he was already among the chiefs of the city and of the whole of the Kutno district. Tall, handsome-looking and educated, he spoke in the company of older people and everyone listens attentively to him and accepted his opinions. He was among the first to fight for the Hebrew language in Ken Beitar and also in the city in the Zionist movement. He graduated from university and received a law degree. He had come recently from Warsaw and when he arrived in Kutno, he immediately entered the Ken Beitar. The Beitarim liked him. The memory of Eliyahu is engraved in the hearts of all his surviving friends.

May his memory be blessed.

Mordechai Walter, was the son of respected parents in our city. His father was one of the founders of the Hebrew Gymnasium and an active member of its parents' committee.

 

 

The blue box of the KKL that was hung at the entry of the Great Synagogue in Kutno

 

Mordechai received a distinct Zionist education, and was one of the activists of the HaShahar organization. After the establishment of the Beitar national movement in our city, he joined it and was among its leaders. He visited the towns of Poland to bring to the attention of the Jewish youth the story of Ze'ev Jabotinsky. After settling in the city of Łódź and even there he continued the movement and there the war also found him. Like all Jews, he spent the war in the ghetto, but did not stop his activity for the national-Zionist idea even in the difficult conditions that prevailed there. Until the last moment he was a devoted and loyal friend of Beitar and did much for its existence even in the terrible conditions. May his memory be blessed!

Mr. Chaim Zajdenwar excelled in his activities for the national movement in our city. He educated his sons in a Zionist spirit, for the love of Eretz Israel and the people of Israel. He was a carpenter by trade, but this craft did not prevent him from being active in the Zionist movement, arguing with opponents and proving them wrong. He immigrated to Israel with his family, where his sons also followed in their father's footsteps. His two sons, Yaakov and Moshe, are members of the national movement. Yaakov was one of the founders of the National Health Fund and serves as secretary of the National Workers' Association of Construction Workers. His son Moshe works in the Ramat Gan municipality. His third son perished during the Holocaust.

May their souls be bound in the bond of eternal life.

I have given only a few details about the wondrous plots, love and devotion of Beitar Kutno in World War II and the War of Independence. In all their ways, deeds and plots, they faced the figure of the head of Beitar, Ze'ev Jabotinsky, whose teachings were sucked

[Page 166]

from the dawn of their youth and who were their guiding principles in all the hardships of life that befell them and the whole House of Israel during these years of horrors. In all that they conceived, acted and performed, only one goal was before their eyes — the honor of Israel, the protection of the life of the people, its redemption and liberation to a life of communion and independence — this was the teachings of Beitar's head, Ze'ev Jabotinsky and this is the way his followers went!

 

Translator's footnotes
  1. Eliyahu Ben-Horin (1902- September 6, 1966), one of the founders of the “Etze'l” ("Irgun Tzvai Leumi" AKA “Irgun”). Return
  2. “Today”, a Yiddish newspaper. Return
  3. Gdańsk. Return
  4. pogroms by Arabs against Jews in Jerusalem, Hebron. Return
  5. Beitar founder and leader, assistant of Jabotinsky (1909 Busko-Zdrój, Poland – December 1985 Israel) Return
  6. Yiddish, "Small Rifle" or "Handgun". Return
  7. "In the Fireplace", named after the title of a song for children to learn the alphabet, published in "Haynt" in October 16, 1931. It tells the Jews to prepare to defend, with guns (hence "biksel"), in the inevitable uprising in Mandate Palestine, both against British and the Arab nationalists. Return
  8. Hebrew expression from Isaiah 60, 5. Return
  9. battle of Tel Hai, 1 Mars 1920 (11th of Adar 5680). Return
  10. 29 September 1913 Lipno, Poland – 30 June 1995 Israel). Return
  11. Revisionist Party Alliance. Return
  12. Polish, “Old Market” place. Return
  13. Dr. Robert Stricker (August 16, 1879, Brno – 1944, Auschwitz), Austrian politician, Meir Grossman (July 3, 1888 Temryuk, Russia – 1964 Tel Aviv), Ukrainian journalist, and Dr. Selig Eugen Soskin (March 25, 1873, Crimea – February 26, February 26, 1959, Tel Aviv), Ukrainian agronomist. These Zionist leaders had disagreed with Jabotinsky over Revisionists leaving the World Zionist Organization. Return
  14. Yiddish, “Our World”. Return
  15. today northwest of Ukraine. Return
  16. Mordechai Surkis, of "Escape" fame, future member of the Israeli Knesset. Return
  17. June 1949 – September 1950, also nicknamed "Magic Carpet", a secret operation to bring Yemeni Jews to Israel. Named after a verse of the Book of Exodus 19:4. Return
  18. the Altalena was bringing weapons from France and Menachem Begin wanted to keep part of the weapons for the Irgun. Ben Gurion issued an ultimatum. The Altalena was sunk on the shore and 20 fighters died, mostly from Irgun. The name “Altalena” was a penname of Jabotinsky. Return
  19. Herut b'al peh”, newspaper of Menachem Begin's Herut, precursor of the Likud. Return

 

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