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Movements and Parties

Echoes from 1904–1906

by Avigdor Geller

Translation by Naomi Gal

The waves of the revolutionary movement in Russia in the beginning of the twentieth century found an echo in the Jewish streets of Rovno. The Bund made its appearance with growing vigor. Its ranks were filled with Jewish youth, many commercial assistants, apprentices, and simple Jewish laborers. It was not necessarily its ideological appeal they sought, but what fascinated and attracted them were the organizing, the rain of promises showered generously, and the hopes for a social correction of their workers' status. In the atmosphere of these days many laborers felt that the days are coming when the workers' situation would be fully remedied.

Following the Bund arrived the “S.S” Zionist Socialist party with a core in Rovno. This movement, as well, found a few supporters, and its influence wasn't great, compared to the Bund's conquests. There were few “Zion Laborers” in this city. The masses were not drawn to parties that were close to Zionism for a reason: the eyes of Zionism were turned to Zion while here we carried the yoke of life, depressed and abused; hence we need to mend our lives and improve society locally. That was the mood of the demagogical preaching of the leftist parties in Rovno back then.

And so, in Rovno, the Bund gained a solid position. Meetings, pamphlets, strikes and other activities occupied its members, educated them, mentored and elevated them beyond their misery. Explaining things from the outside worked well until some local activists were detected among the Bund. Remember that under the Czar's reign, it was necessary to operate secretly and discreetly, since the regime persecuted the revolutionary movements. The landlords as well as the employers resisted and snubbed the Bund actions. Time and again in the synagogue this or another person was reprimanded for a son, or oneself, who assisted the Bund and so threatened to bring calamity on Israel. Which goes to show that even Bund members came to pray at the synagogue…

Dudlezac coffee house (next to Sucharczuk pharmacy*) on Shossejna Street (the main street also called Third of May) was used for years as the meeting place for the Bund members in Rovno and it was kept under the supervising eye of the reactionary policeman Stokolov. More than once this policeman got a generous gift to make sure he would not linger at the coffee house. Usually there was conspiracy by all parties, but there were cases of betrayals by members. Every such revelation ended in harsh imprisonments. They tell the story of Moshe Kurkenmacher from Afrikanska Street, a laborer since childhood and the son of a local builder, who was a member of Rovno's Bund in its first days. For an unknown reason, he changed his colors and began serving the Russian Gendarmery. At that time, the Bund was active in purchasing arms from the army barracks in Rovno. This Moshe gave this information to his superior at the Gendarmery and when they were about to receive the arms, a trap was set, and a youngster, a local water–carrier who came for the arms, was caught and shot on the spot. This entailed the cessation of procuring arms from this source, which caused devastation. In time, the culprit was found and hung.

*Note from Ann Goldberg: The Sucharczuk Pharmacy was run by Boris Sucharczuk, pharmacist and accountant. Boris was the father of Jacob Sucharczuk, medical doctor and one of the authors of the Rowno 1956 Yizkor book. Boris Sucharczuk and his wife, Fanya, his 20–year–old daughter Goldie, and his daughter in law Manya Glikman Sucharczuk were murdered during the second Action on July 13, 1942.

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In October 1905, following the October Manifest of Czar Nikolay II (a document promising political reforms,) all the big leftist parties participated in a big parade. The Bund had a place of honor up front, carrying the flag and banners; although the authorities knew about the parade and the police didn't intervene, something completely unexpected happened: when the parade turned toward the railroad station a Cossack horsemen battalion showed up and began dispersing the participants with clubs and swords. In the mayhem, many of the protestors were wounded. Those arrested were marched to the police station, registered and released. This brutal attitude, in Rovno and in other places, proved that you could not rely on the oppressing Russian government or the totalitarian regime. Just then an order was issued to convene the Royal Duma and elect representatives to the parliament.

Another strike to remember was the big strike of the railroad workers that lasted over a week and separated revolutionary Rovno from the rest of the world. Jewish commerce was hurt, but the pulse of political life was resounding and Rovno's fame spread all over Volhynia. Rovno's Jews in general were not involved in political movements. Some were in favor of the Zionists and some just continued their Hassidic–traditional lives, as if nothing changed in Jewish lives.

The Bund

Translation by Naomi Gal

The end of the nineteenth century saw the awakening of masses of laborers among the Jews in the Czar's Russia, who were doubly oppressed as Jews and as workers. The Bund was born and a special Jewish socialism was created. In the huge Russian state, voices were raised demanding freedom and amelioration of life conditions, and the Jewish working class was one of these voices. The appearance of the Bund made a big impression on Israel's multitudes as a freedom seeking movement, the first in the Jewish street aiming to remedy the harsh reality. The Bund's ambition to free Russia saw Zionism as negating the idea, but the hope of redemption by revolution attracted the masses who joined the Bund.

Hence the Bund came to Rovno and grew deep roots. Since 1903, Bund was depicted as the next movement to free the oppressed and improve the lives of the poor and the abused. There was no real working class back then in Rovno. Most of the workers were professionals (masons, carpenters, tailors, cobblers and such) who had apprentices. There were also ovens for mud tiles, bakeries, factories of candy, soap and beer that employed a few laborers, clerks and assistants. The business owners refrained from joining a revolutionary organization that was opposed to them as employers, although they, too, had harsh lives. However, their apprentices and their maids and many of the salespersons and factory workers were attracted to the Bund and had high hopes that their lives would be improved.

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The Bund's propaganda in Rovno was fruitful: a promise to raise salaries, demands to shorten the working–day to 8 hours, improvement of conditions and employers' attitudes, and refraining from abuse of laborers. This was encouraging, so people began to attend meetings, listen to agitators and browse pamphlets. The slogan: Workers of the World – Unite! became imperative, the red flag became a symbol, and the movement's songs were heard in every corner, during work and afterwards. Hearts grew fonder, horizons larger and the ranks bigger.

After a year the Bund in Rovno had 500 members, men and women, a large number in those days, considering the number of workers. Among, them were a quite a few young men and women who absorbed the Bund's ideology and became theorists. Bund's fame was mainly due to the strikes it declared in certain working places (candy and matches factories and other places). The strikes ended mostly with a compromise. Since the workers saw some merit in their strikes, they went on dreaming about more profound improvements. As for the employers, who did not see value in the workers and their movements' power, they still avoided conflicts.

Every victory made the Bund more popular in the Jewish street in Rovno, as in other places, but once the Bund felt stronger it spoke against Zionists, against all bourgeoisie by defamation, saying: the Zionists are landlords or sons of landlords, all descendants of the petit–bourgeoisie, whose psychology contrasts the workers' interest; they are Zionists who aim to fool the masses and use them for their own good. In their dreams, they feed the oppressed masses but their ideas are false and nationalist, which would not solve the problems of the workers carrying the yoke of an oppressive regime and exploiting employers. The only way, according to the Bund, “is a social revolution of multitudes of Jews alongside masses of the workers of the world this is the way, our way…*”


From the Bund's pamphlets, 1903

That was Bund's propaganda and the members' doctrine. With time, some of the movements' leaders visited Rovno, strengthened the contacts and gave in–depth lectures to smaller groups, while being underground and cautious since the authorities persecuted the Bund as a revolutionary movement. The eye of the Czar's regime followed every party and public movement and the authorities' representatives persecuted the Jewish youngsters who were all suspected as revolutionaries. The veteran policemen: Stokolov, Ugorodnikov, and others who knew well every boy and girl in town, harassed each one of them, trying to find political fault. They suspected even innocents and rushed into action. First, they searched the houses where youngsters lived, and then they ambushed meetings and reunions, or places where they were writing, printing, or planning. In some cases, they arrested indiscriminately, with or without legal cause. They used administrative punishments, and those arrested were interrogated and sent to the big city prison and later expelled from the city by an administrative order.

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Rovno and its Bund played an important role in the socialist revolutionary movement. The Bund members and its sympathizers held secret meetings and explained their beliefs. In these meetings contacts were made, and the call to all brothers and sisters became real. The Brotherhood glorified the sharing of fate and status, and the fight with the opposing class, with the regime and the authorities. The area of Shossejna, between the first bridge from the corner of Aptekarska street and the corner of Deeractorska street was seen as the Bund's “market” (the “Birge”). The veteran “brothers and sisters”, considered the higher circle, usually walked on the post office side; on the other side, in front of the big church, walked the less–famous workers and among them were the sympathizers of general revolutionary movements. Dov Pliatre is telling about a typical case:

“It happened mid–summer 1905.” I was with some of my friends, age eleven to thirteen, we were walking among those strolling on the market side of the church when we overheard a secret message whispered to some about the place and time for a meeting. We decided to go there, too. Our curiosity was deep and ignoring our parents we went to the place on Saturday afternoon, an hour ahead of time. We reached the Christian cemetery and stood aside spying. Meanwhile we were whispering, playing and waiting. Among us were Noah Brominger, Shalom Rabinowitz, his young brother Alba, Pinkas Eidelman, Dov Bley and others. None of us was yet part of the revolutionary movement, but we wanted to know what would be done and discussed there. Maybe subconsciously we were attracted to things secret and forbidden. Finally, we decided to approach the place where the grownups were assembling and we stood slightly apart.

It was Rovno's Bund assembly. One and then another stood up (they were Namirovski and Segal) who were known as revolutionary. At first, they spoke quietly but soon they were passionate and spitted words that were unclear to us but penetrated our young hearts. Our interest grew from moment to moment and we didn't realize that all of a sudden, we were surrounded by policemen, gendarmes and soldiers, and we, alongside the adults, fell into the trap. People began running away but not many were able to escape. We, the young ones, thought that they won't hurt us, but when we tried to retreat we felt, as well, the policemen's whips. About one hundred and twenty were led under heavy guard through the streets of the city to the police station on Deeraktorska Street. Parents and relatives were worried about their sons' and daughters' fate, without knowing who was among the arrested. The apprehension in many households was deep. The suspicion was that the responsible were informers, who were in the ranks of the Bund and other movements. Some thought there was lack of caution. Those arrested stood for hours in the police station yard, surrounded by policemen until dark. We, the young ones, were among them. One by one the people were led into the office of the police inspector, Sosovski, the deputy was there and some clerks and policemen. When I was let in Sosovski recognized me. He laughed and said mockingly: ‘you too, boy, are with the revolutionary? You still have time to get arrested’ (He knew well my father and his sons), he pulled my ear and added: ‘go quickly home and tell your dad to hit you himself, and in the future, know better.’

I left and run home with all my might.

The rumor about the failure of the Bund meeting and the police investigation spread all over the city, but in my home, no one guessed that I went to the meeting and was arrested.

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The results of this secret meeting were the registration of all the people arrested who were summoned for further investigation the following day. They were released with a high bail, while others, known as leaders, and considered dangerous, were arrested.

In 1905 Rovno's Bund grew. The influence came from Kiev and especially from Berdichev, which was the home of a strong Bund branch that spread its net on all the region. This was the home of the leaders of the movement, (Liftz, Nurnberg and others) who were active in all Ukraine. Some of the sons of the local Jewish intellectuals joined the Bund and became active (Shlomo Edel, Vitalis, Segal, Wolf Hochberg and others). When the all–Russian railroad strike begun, Rovno's Bund stepped forward as a socialist party and expressed its support of the strike. Rovno's Jews worried about the bitter results that could entail from such an intervention, but they kept silent. That was when, on October 17, 1905, Czar Nikolay II issued a decree, the famous October Manifest granting freedom to all the Russian people. It seemed as if all slavery shackles were untied, but the joy did not last. The evil hand of the reactionary authorities soon suffocated the on –paper–freedom and rivers of blood of freedom lovers and Russian Jews were flowing, The end of freedom.

The Bund's members in this period were persecuted by the gendarmes and the secret police, there were massive arrests and expulsions to faraway Siberia for many years. Others were sent across the border for a few years, but only after exerting influence and intense lobbying. Some lucky ones were able to escape to other countries (Shlomo Edel was among them) and thus were saved.

1905 was marked as the revolution year in Russian history and in Jewish lives, when the citizens were given a manifest of freedom that was soon betrayed and only caused mayhem and strengthened rebelliousness of the masses on one side and the increase of reactionaries on the other, who oppressed all movements; including the Bund.

Bund's activity in Rovno was paralyzed and people hardly spoke about it; members were in hiding or disappeared but it was not annulled. Although it went underground, the few were still faithful and secretly conspired and made future plans. The fire was not completely out. Meanwhile World War I arrived, the young generation was enlisted, accompanied by worries and war profits, which put the idea to rest. But in 1917, with the big revolution, the remaining Bund members came out of hiding and renewed activities as a socialist party in the Jewish Street. New horizons for activities opened in different areas and the old slogans were reborn and carried by Bund members. There were new ideas, which became part of the Bund's program. “Yiddish” and “Culture” became mainstream. The Bund attracted masses of workers, who saw Bund as their place, and the movement became again a considerable force in Rovno.

There were debates between the Bund's leaders and heads of other parties: the Zionists, the S.S and others argued constantly about programmatic and tactical issues. The leader of the Bund from 1903–1905 was Shlain from Zvhil, who was very influential, his closest assistances were Yosele Bywell and Jakob Teitelbaum.

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Not long after, the new Communist regime in Russia rejected the Bund. But in Rovno under the Poles, during the twenties, the Bund was again influential and became an important movement in Jewish life, it had representatives in different institutions, in municipalities and in Jewish public affairs. The Bund played a significant role in diverse areas.

We should mention Rovno's Bund activists: Avraham Dannenberg, Moshe Gilbord, Mattisiaho Shlif, teacher Mirar, Zelman Goring, Yeshaia Shectov, Lawyer Zakoon and others.

The S.S Party

by Elihu Richman

Translation by Naomi Gal

That was the name of the Socialist Zionists that begun in the Jewish street in Russia and attracted members form the Zionists ranks, as well as from the Bund's. It was a revolutionary Jewish movement that was based on socialist territorial acknowledgment of the Israeli Nation dispersed all over the world.

The heads of the party were Zionists that left the party and created a new podium with a clear and factual ideology. These principals appealed to many of the Jewish youth, who were in the beginning of the 20–century prone to revolution and search of new ways to change the difficult reality affecting masses of people. The social amendments the Bund believed in were also part of the S.S party.

Soon the echoes of the party reached Rovno that was simmering with revolutionary ideas. Some of the best local youth as well as Zionists and excellent Hebrew speakers joined the new party. Among them were Shmuel Vinesweieg, one of the founders of the Hebrew library, Baruch Galprin, a Jewish intellectual, Joseph Vigdorovitz, Moshe–Yehuda Peperman, Baruch Nahiss, Myzlish and others.

The commerce workers were part of the S.S, they were the majority and an important part of the meetings. Some of the leaders in Rovno came from this circle.

Shmuel Nyger was one of the S.S leaders (he was 22–years old back then) and often attended secret meetings of the party in Rovno. The meetings were held in the upper floor of “Talmud Torah” and at Moshe Beer's apartment on the Volia. In one of the meetings there was an argument with the Bund's representatives about programmatical issues. The memory of the discussion and other Nyger appearances lingered in the city for many years (later Nyger distanced himself from S.S and became closer to “Folks Party”. He was involved with Yiddish literature till he left for America).

There were quite a few arguments between the leaders of the S.S and the leaders of the Bund and the Zionists. However, the S.S was not prominent in Rovno. There were only a few hundred members and their activities were hardly perceived among the other important parties in Rovno.

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by Elihu Richman

Translation by Naomi Gal

The populist party Folks–Party was created in 1916, after the first Warsaw municipal election. It found adherents and sent deep roots among the Jews of Poland, and Rovno was no exception. Part of the Jewish press was under its influence and conducted a positive propaganda campaign for this party's stand in every public or national issue, especially before elections. The founders of the party were: Noah Priloski, H.D. Numberg, Haim Rassner, S. Hirschhorn, S. Wolfowitz and others. The party's activists visited Rovno to strengthen contacts with workers and small businesses and in order to check every now and then the rights of the Jews.

The party managed to attract people from different circles that were not affiliated with other parties because it supported unity on a non–partisan and populist doctrine. Indeed, this party had a special status, which made it different from the Zionists, as well as from the left.

The Folks–Party was not only presented in Jewish establishments, but also in municipal and national institutions and its voice was heard in the government circles. During the different elections the tradesmen joined in and campaigned for its success. But in Rovno the party had a limited success.

For the memory of Folks–Party history the following facts should be known:

One day – in the summer of 1909 – I was sitting and talking with Baruch Galperin when Nahum Shtif entered and joined our conversation saying: “Friends, I have a new idea, please organize a meeting and invite two of every movement, and I will talk to them.” He did not tell us what his idea was back then. I left and found a meeting place at H. P. Bharal, my sister's apartment on Wokzelna Street, and we had a secret meeting. Itzhak Melamed and Juda Motyook represented the Zionists, Dannenberg attended as a revolutionary–socialist, Baruch Galperin and Baruch Nahis represented the S.S and others attended as well, among them Rabbi Mordechai'le (Tchemirniski). We were about thirty people who listened to Shtif's lecture, in which he tried to condemn the diaspora and establish a popular Jewish identity based on the reality and the possibilities of changing the Jewish life. Tchemirniski, Dannenberg and Melamed took part in the animated discussion that ensued. The idea did have a new twist, but the participants did not find it convincing. Later in the anthology “Folk on Land” Shtif published an article based on his lecture.

Professional Organizations

by Yeshaiho Shectov

Translation by Naomi Gal

A. Rovno's role in the state economy

In the economy of the state, first under Russia and then Poland, between the two World Wars, Rovno occupied an important part in the industry, especially with its advanced commerce. It served as a sort of mediator between parts of Russia and areas in Poland that were once under the Czar. In Poland Rovno was special because of its own products, although it did buy different industrial products from all corners of the state.

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The city was blessed with big rural surrounding, which had a large percentage of Ukrainians, Germans and Czechs. It served as a center to all kinds of agriculture producing businesses. The water and steam–mills in and outside the city processed huge quantities of crops attending to the needs of the local population and for others, near and far. Flour, and bran were even imported to other countries.

In Rovno there were several brick–ovens, a beer and schnapps factories and quite a few industrial plants, big and small. The city had a special standing in her wood–industry and its many big sawmills. Rovno excelled as a commercial center with a large network of different commercial–plants. Some important companies in the state sent to the city their representatives and even opened their own branches. At the head was the textile industry. Suffice to say that through one delivery office (“Tcherkes”) 6–5 train–cars of manufactured goods reached Rovno every week – and this was not the only shipment agency in Rovno.

Rovno was famous for its clothing industry. The “Tendet” clothes were manufactured in large quantities for the locals and others, too, and these many plants employed numerous workers and clerks in different capacities.


B. Professional activity during the first revolution (1905)

The eruption of the revolutionary workers movement in Russia was reflected in Rovno, too, and Rovno left its mark on the history of the workers' movements, the general as well as the Jewish. The famous conventions (“Sahodki”) and the markets (“Beerji”) took place in the city and the Jewish workers' organizations were part of it. This is where arguments between employees and employers were settled. The “Shodka” was the place where workers and others searched for help and understanding.


C. Legal professional organizations

A legal professional organization was established in Rovno only in 1912. It was the organization named “Ubshzcsto Prikaeztichkwo” (The Clerk–Organization). According to its regulation it had no professional organization characteristics (in the Czar's time it was forbidden) and it mentioned only philanthropic work. But although non–official, this organization became a monster for the employers. Legally the organization was unable to run any activity to improve the economic situation of its members. But alongside the official administration there was an illegal committee of several activists in–charge and they settled the rifts between employers and employee. Typical to the conditions in Czarist Russia was that the official head of the organization, whose members were all Jewish, was necessarily Christian; in this case Ambrojbitz, the head of the grocery store. The members of the organization were from the circles of commercial assistants, clerks and Sternberg, the “illegal” head, who was a bookkeeper for the borrowing and saving company in Rovno. For a while Simcha Plat served in this role, he was a famous activist and the head of the popular bank in the city (now in Boston, America). Other activists in this organization

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were: Tabeski (from Galferson Bank), Aaron Polishok, Rafael Swartzmezon, Abraham Don (from Luria Bank) and many–many others whose names are forgotten.


D. The professional movement in–between WWI and WWII

The mass movement of organized Jewish laborers in Rovno was founded only after the 1917 revolution, and it had a dominant role in the city's socio–political life, especially in the years until WWII. The legal professional organizations enabled the settlements of many conflicts between workers, clerks and their employers. Indeed, almost in all areas in the Jewish street the salaries were raised, the working day shortened and conditions improved.

It was not an easy feat for the organized worker or clerk to perform such an act; one must consider the special conditions of the economy of Jewish daily life. Despite everything the movement grew under the Polish regime, beginning in 1920. The number of professional organizations increased and for a while the movement had in its ranks 14 professional associations connected to mainstream organizations. Rovno's associations were united in a council that had Ukrainians, Russians and Polish members; still, they were mainly Jewish associations headed by Jewish activists. This is why the movement faced dangers and persecutions and the activists encountered difficulties and obstacles in every step.

The persecutions increased especially under the Polish reactionary regime. They viewed each movement negatively. The authorities followed each association and its activists and paid more attention to Rovno because of its proximity to the Soviet border, where the rules made it possible to harass the members of the associations and their activists, the government officials being self–declared anti–Semites. In persecuting the associations and their leaders the Polish government intended to clearly eliminate the whole movement. In the last years before WWII the tendency was to divide the movement and create instead “yellow” associations, in the spirit of the “Sanazia”.

The main reason that raised the Polish political police ire was that the movement included Christians, as well, but the attempt to divide and undermine from the inside, failed. This situation lasted until the big arrest in April 1937, when all the leaders of the professional associations were jailed. The arrests echoed throughout the whole country, but the Christians were released at once, without exception, and were warned not to associate again with Jews so that the regime could take care of them. As for the Jews: the less active were released on the condition to not participate any longer in any associations, but most of the main activists were thrown in jail. Two of them, (Dannenberg and Shikatov) got special “treatment”, they were sent to the infamous concentration–camp Kartouz–Bereze (after his release from the camp Dannenberg died as a result of the “treatment” he got there, which destroyed his health).

But despite all the persecutions and arrests, the spirit of the movement's activists was not broken and the activities went on. The movement was again

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in–charge of the working–market, settling different disputes between employees and employers, collectively or individually, as well as organizing mass activities, even strikes. The movement was in full force before the municipal elections. Its voice was heard loud and clear later, in the city's council meetings. The Jewish professional associations were also active in the elections to the communities' councils, with positive outcomes and was also active in the general election of the population to terminate the Polish regime.

The May First strikes became a tradition. The professional associations saw May First's parade as their core event and made an effort to lead these parades in honor of the national Labor Day. They also organized festive celebrations that day in halls, despite the police's persecution. May First celebrations almost always caused blood–shed among the activists and the participants. As it happened, in Rovno no less than 3000 workers and clerks marched, ignoring risks and outcomes.

In 1925 the first HMO was founded. Due to the special policies on the border areas, it arrived four years late. Elections to HMO in these areas were out of the question, the only goal of the professional associations ‘leaders was that HMO would employ a clerk recommended by the professional associations, so that this clerk would be the illegal representative of Rovno's workers and clerks, and of course, that he will be a Jew. The principle here was “the right to work” and after an exhausting bargaining and much lobbying, it was eventually arranged. A Jewish clerk was nominated for HMO, recommended by the professional associations. With time, seven more Jewish clerks were employed there, a huge achievement in those days. Rovno's HMO was an exception in this respect in all of Poland.

Implementing an 8–hour working day and decent sanitary conditions were the daily worries of the professional associations in Rovno. Rich cultural activities were implemented, too, with local forces and with the help of main institutions in Warsaw. Lectures and other cultural–activities with the participation of famous activists were common in the state, and always created an important impact on the local population.

Obviously, all the political parties active in the Jewish street aimed to influence the city's professional movements. The Bund, the communists, Zion's Laborers and others, were all active.


E. The professional associations and their activists.

The crown of the movement was the clerk's association. Under the most difficult conditions the association was able to organize a large part of its members in Rovno. This was an association that had more than 700 members – the third one per capita in the state. The association was a center not only for clerks, but for members of other associations, and it was always very busy.

I will mention only a few members from the Clerk Association:

Abraham Dannenberg, who headed the association for many years. He was a member in the city's council, a veteran socialist, who was tortured in Kartouz–Bereze, and, after his liberation, died as a result of these tortures. The associations' interests were the essence of his life.

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Mordechai Snyder (Mitye), the association's secretary for many years, and the associations' representative in the municipality. He became sick in prison, where he was serving his four–year sentence, for his political–professional activities. He died before the war.

Abraham Boxer, bookkeeper, a member of the associations' council for all the years, was one of the non–partisan representatives.

Alter Beak, bookkeeper, lately one of “Tcherkes” shipping company, the grandson of the Rovno activist Laibush Beak, became a loyal activist and member of the association council for many years.

David Yankoviak, a bookkeeper, an HMO clerk, was a member of the association's council.

Baruch Halperin, a member of the association's council, its organizer and the leader of the communist movement in Rovno. He was imprisoned for six years without a trial and died of hunger in Russia during the war.

Donia Bramnik, bookkeeper, an association council member for many years, was an activist in Zion–Laborers, active in the professional association.

Yodel Sweetcher, a municipality worker, was a council member.

Meir Balfer, grocery clerk, was active in the association.

Abraham Glozband, was a council member and a loyal activist.

Ahr'ke Margolis, bookkeeper, was a council member for years.

Zalman Gorin, a head of a municipality department, joined the Bund and was the processional association's representative.

Matiss Shlife, the Rovno orphanage director, Bund member, was a member of the council for many years.

Mordechai Nechs, clerk of the center supervising orphans in Volhynia, joined the Bund and was the professional associations representative in Rovno's municipality.

Hochlerner, clerk as above, was a member of the association's council.

Moshe Frishberg, main bookkeeper in Voguemater Bank in Rovno, active in the bank–clerks section, perished in Russia after liberation from the camp to which he was exiled.

Lemlech was a member of the association's council.

From the N e e d l e W o r k e r s Association, members who fought for many years to improve conditions of life and work, humble workers, loyal to the working man:

Faibush Billnki, Buzia Forman, Pinkas Rivkin – all members of the associations' council for many years.

The Association of B u i l d e r s (mixed – Jews and Christians, Jewish majority):

Painters, builders, carpenters etc. The association was very active and was able to keep the camaraderie between the different people. This association had many branches and had a place of honor among Rovno's workers.

The Association of the F o o d I n d u s t r y, with many professional branches – bakers, butchers, candy–makers etc. Siome Dvortz, the association's secretary, died in Russia during the war. The bakers' department included all workers, Jews and Christians, who were bakers, and the association had full control of the branch. Employing an outside baker was impossible.

Among the M e a t–W o r k e rs, who formed the most organized section in the Food–Industry,

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Common people, who accepted their political theory in the association and the Bund, to which they belonged, and demonstrated their loyal devotion to the movement are: Faibel Biederman, the head of the section, and Shapa Teplik.

The P r i n t e r's Association, small in numbers, included all those working in printing. This association was frequently persecuted by the Polish authorities because of its activities. Sentencing to several years in prison often took place among these workers.

The Association of the L e a t h e r W o r k e r s included shoemakers, tailors and likewise professions, was very active in the working family and the professional movement. Most of the time it was under communist influence.

The B a r b e r s Association included all the city's professionals and its activists participated in all the movement's areas. Their chairman was Forshpen.

The Association of the T r a n s p o r t Workers included mainly porters. Rovno's workers' ambition was to free the porters from the bad influence of the underworld. This mission was accomplished to a large degree and the association was always under the control of “Rede” – the center of the professional associations in Rovno.

The war in 1939 ended all these activities. It ruined and eliminated everything. Only a few survived this bloodshed and they are dispersed all over the world.

Communists' Influences

by Yosef Corech

Translation by Naomi Gal

The seeds of communism were first planted in Rovno in 1919, when the Soviets ruled the city, and although when they left, most of the young men and women who served and believed in communism left too, some did stay although they were further away from revolutionary movements, but their social status or the role they played for the Bolshevists pushed them to become part of this movement. Thus, a circle of communist sympathizers was created in Rovno, especially among the Jews. Later there were rumors about the establishment of this party that included Jews and non–Jews.

It is quite possible that there were people in Rovno who carried in their hearts the communist ideas and theories but for obvious reasons – political and social – did not express them in public. The Poles who ruled Rovno persecuted every sign of communism, and they were alert to any social activity that could be considered communist. Still, with time communist propaganda reached the city and its surrounding from across the Russian border, some locals joined in, and communism grew and took root.

The communist propaganda appealed to students, especially to high school students. It's hard to determine how this idea took root among

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youngsters and how it attracted students from the Hebrew Gymnasium, but the fact is that there were many students among the communists' adherents. There were many Ukrainians and Poles among the communists, in the city and in the country. According to some sources at the beginning of the thirties there was an underground movement in Rovno, a communist party of hundreds of members' with quite a few intellectuals, In the “Kultura” library in the Third May Street (facing Koleiova street) many of the party members held meetings and clandestine activities, and the library was their meeting place for a while. This library was at first a Bund's Yiddish library and was famous for many years.

The Polish authorities knew about the growing communist party and kept track, arrested many and persecuted everybody suspected in belonging or helping the movement they loathed. They suspected Ukrainians and Jews as the spreaders of communism and each Jewish boy seemed to them as a communist movement sympathizer, if not more. After a long investigation Rovno's Polish Secret Police discovered the party, realizing that communism infiltrated some of the Jewish youth movements in the city, arrested dozens and exiled them later. Among them were youngsters who were wrongly suspected. (The authorities used many informers who were themselves members of the party, their names were later revealed).

The first one to be imprisoned as communist in Rovno was the young David Lazek, other arrests followed. After 1929 persecuting communists increased. On September 22, 1930, 40 Jews and one Pole were arrested and imprisoned in Rovno's big prison. Although they were treated as political prisoners, they suffered quite a few insults and injuries, and were severely punished after attempting to celebrate May First. They were then transferred to the famous Zolochiv (Zolochevski) Castle. They stayed there for over a year and a half till their trial in April 1932, when 36 were sentenced to four to seven years in prison, the others were freed, among them the only Pole (it was believed that he was released in order to avoid contaminating a Polish name with communism).

Around the same time Baruch Galperin was arrested, he was one of the heads of Yiddish activists and professional associations in Rovno. By the way: there were many communist activities under the professional associations banners.

Since then the Poles began to call the Jewish youth “Djiddji–Communistchi” but the more they persecuted the movement the more it expanded, although the arrests and expels ruined some Jewish families, and caused disappointments and bitterness. Some national youth movements were hurt, as well, when they were suspected of ties with the communists, after their members were trialed for being communists.

Among them were Moshe Frankl, who lost his father and was supporting his mother and his young brother, he was gifted and a hard–worker, was prisoned for three years, he was released before serving his full time, getting a political pardon, he returned home, became sick and died toward the end of 1932. Bolik Brezinski, a member of the Hashomer Hatzair till 1930 fell for communism. When he was in danger, he escaped to Russia in 1931, where he was active and became a docent at the university, but due to his Trotskyist views was persecuted there too and was exiled to Siberia. The young Groshko from Omilianovska Street, an amputee and activist

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who absorbed the communist ideas was persecuted by the Poles but was able to escape across the Russian border. Menashe Corech, a son of a Zionist family, who joined the communists, was imprisoned in 1934 and exiled to Warsaw for several years, he was able to return to Rovno due to pardon. Other Rovno youngsters who were exiled are: Pearl, Asher Fishbein (exiled to Pavianitz) A. Katzman, (the Hasmonean's wrestler), Abraham Licht from Hasmonean, Levin from Kultura Library, Mitye Snyder, who was considered as one of the communists' leaders 1932–1938, he was arrested by the Poles in 1937 and after a year in prison caught tuberculosis and died. He was active in the workers' movement and in the professional movements and was popular. Bomik Sherman, Weiss and Yuze, a young woman, who were arrested next to Austava border when they were on a communist mission and were sentenced to twelve years: Shtil, a student at the Rovno's gymnasium (was sentenced in 1934 to three years, together with Menashe Corech), Shmukler, an educated young man, was also a communist and was arrested with Shtil.

The first communists in Rovno should be remembered too: Yolik Shtriman, Lyuba Karfi–Lobski and others who were active and later moved to Russia, where they later occupied important posts at the head of the communist party, although there are not many details about their lives and deaths…

This is the time to stress that Rovno's population, and especially the Jews, were further away from this extreme revolutionary movement. If a school teacher was suspected of having communist inclinations, the students' parents were cautious, wanting to avoid communist influence on their children, and some insisted that the teacher be sent away. Most of the time it was not false suspicion and teachers were fired because of their beliefs. But still the communist movement spread across the city, among the youth and the masses. There was a case in which a Polish police officer disappeared and the rumors were that he became a communist and escaped to Russia. In 1936 the communists in Rovno dared publish pamphlets and banners on the telegraph poles in the city streets, that is how big the party became and how large was the net it spread on its adherents.

In 1939 there was an open expression of belonging to communism when the city was occupied by the Red Army. Beside the adherents in town many of the exiles returned and a big communist party was founded, including most of the youth. A “Komsomol” was organized and clubs and party institutions were founded as in new Russia. The communist party expanded in the city, while the national circles became silent and went underground, persecuted by the communists, especially the Jews among them. No one dared oppose the communists or communism, and if there was an opposition, it was not made public. The local newspapers were closed and only communist newspapers provided news, propaganda and intellectual content according to their beliefs. Jobs were given to members of the party, meaning: communists.

New times, new spirit. Communism celebrated its rule in Rovno.


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