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[Page 608]

Poalei Zion (united with Z.S.)

by Yosef Streim

Translated by David Schonberg

In 1927, a group of comrades from HeHalutz, Gordonia and HaShomer HaTzair joined together in Tarnow to form what was called the Poalei Zion party (united with Z.S.). Later on, they were joined by many other non-affiliated comrades. Poalei Zion (known as “the party”) began to grow after the arrival in Tarnow of comrade Yosef Greenberg from Dembitz.

With the help of comrades Chaim Henig and Shlomo Welner (from the Krakow regional Committee), the party had its own location on the 'Burek'[1]


Members of Poalei Zion (united with Z.S.) on an outing

[Page 609]

which was near the Wontik[2] and began to have a steady cultural and educational involvement in many areas. In 1929, the party created the youth organisation Freiheit. In the same year, twenty members participated in the second international youth-gathering in Vienna.


The Poalei Zion (united with Z.S.) reading room in Tarnow


In 1930, a larger group of Hitachdut joined with the Poalei Zion party. Later, a large reading room was created in the house of comrade Michel on Goldhammer Street. A while later, we moved to an even larger locale in the house of comrade Weksler (which was also located on Goldhammer Street).

During this period, intensive political activism began in all areas that involved Zionist and socialist activity. The party took an active part and was represented in many institutions: Keren Kayemet LeYisrael [Jewish National Fund], Keren HaYesod, Shekel-Aksia, Tarbut, Kupat Poalei Eretz Yisrael, and so on. On the political front, the party took an active role in the election campaign to the Sejm (joining a bloc with the Bund), but was also represented in the city elections by comrade Dr. Emil Merz, the party chairman, who was heading the candidates' list.

The party also served in a professional role in activities and organised the business employees in Tarnow.

Regardless of the fact that the Krakow regional committee and the central [centrum]

[Page 610]

[committee] in Warsaw hadn't given their consent, work was carried out in partnership with Hitachdut Poalei-Zion, such as: public performances [gatherings], lectures and also talks on political and literary topics and on the subject of Eretz Yisrael.

The sports club HaPoel was created by the party, led by comrade Yehezkel Shapira z'l (brother of comrade Dr. Yeshayahu Shapira).

The party created [established] in 1933 the pioneering movement Dror- Freiheit. Comrade Yaakov Elend had prepared comrades, male and female, for Aliyah [immigration] to Eretz-Yisrael, taking care that prior to this they underwent hachshara [a preparation course].

In 1934, the party established the HaOved [workers movement] which was made up of craftsmen and professionals who had prepared themselves for Aliyah. With the formation of the HaOved movement, the party membership significantly increased in number (comprising more than 500 comrades, men and women) and more than 250 copies of our daily newspaper Dos Vort were circulated [distributed].

Almost every week delegates would visit us, either from the Krakow regional-committee or from the central committee in Warsaw, from the Lemberg united [combined/joint] party Hitachdut Poalei-Zion, as well as emissaries from the Workers League [3] of Eretz Yisrael.


HaOved organisation of the Tarnow Poalei Zion (united with Z.S.)

[Page 611]

A group of activists of the Poalei Zion (united with Z.S.) in Tarnow


The committee of the Tarnow Hitachdut Poalei-Zion comprised the following members: Dr. Emil Merz-chairman; Yosef Greenberger-vice chairman; Yosef Streim- secretary; Chayim Weiss- treasurer; David Shnur, Yehiel Unger, Shmuel Zimetbaum, Aharon Weg, Neufeld, Rozen, Langsam.

Honoured be their memory !

Translator's Footnotes

  1. The neighborhood located around the open-air market. Return
  2. Wontik in Yiddish and Wątok in Polish, is a river that cuts through the south-eastern part of Tarnow. Return
  3. League of working people. Return

[Page 612]

From “Bar–Giyora” to “Gordoniya”

by Dr. Yeshayahu Shapira

Translated by Noah Burstein

At the corner of Goldhammer Street, opposite the Brodzinski Shul on one side and the Shops on the other side there stood a large three–story building. Every afternoon, around three o'clock one could see children entering into through the wide entrance of the building and hear their footsteps climbing up the steps to the third story. The place they were hurrying to was the Jewish “Ochranka” [kindergarten]. In 3 spacious rooms dozens of children were seated on benches around tables. Next to the children, were their group leaders, boys and girls from the Gymnasium [high school]. They helped the younger pupils who attended the Polish school with their lessons, and together taught the children reading, writing and arithmetic. Having finished the tutoring, they brought all the children to one area and started teaching a new set of topics –Hebrew language, Jewish history, Palestinography, [geography of Palestine] Zionist songs. The atmosphere in the club turned festive.

Afterwards a middle aged woman smiling and impressive looking came in walking sprightly and looking sharply all around the large rooms. She was the chairwoman of the Ochranka, Mrs. Friedlander. She called all the counselors together to a meeting and they started talking about various problems of the Ochranka: Winter is coming with its deep cold and snow and it is high time to start getting shoes for the children, as well as warm underwear and clothing. The children were poorly fed, so they had to start getting them nutritional supplements, medical help and so forth. They had to call a committee together to take up a collection among organizations and go to friends and collect money.

That was the work and those were the concerns of the Ochranka around which there gathered a group of wonderful social activists like Mrs. Friedlander, Rivkah Feig, Sarah Binenstock, Sara Berkelhamer, Leibel, Ormian and many others. Group leaders in the Ochranka were students of the gymnasium (high school) as well as former yeshiva boys and they were headed by Leon Shpiegel and Sanke Green. By then Shpiegel had already completed his legal studies while, Sanke was still a student. He was tall, slender

[Page 613]

quiet, but full of energy. She was a beauty with blonde hair and big blue eyes, a wonderful example of an educated idealistic young woman. Both were Zionists and they decided to be active among Jewish youth and lead informational and educational work. Leon Shpiegel brought almost his entire family day to this work and especially his sisters Natka and Franka.

Ochrankas were found in almost every Galician city, but it seems to me that the Tarnow Ochranka had its own special character, even though it did not dispose of any great monetary resources and its branch was very modest. But for that reason it distinguished itself by its spiritual [humanistic] atmosphere and cultural environment, which was very far from false philanthropy and snobbism. This particular cultural character of the institution was not an accident, because the people who created the Ochranka and worked in it brought with them a constructive progressive outlook concerning social activism. In the foreground there stood out members of the well–known Tarnow women's association named “Miriam” which was a rare example of a women's organization which combined rather varied and presumably contradictory characteristics: serious idealistic social commitment with a necessary appreciation for exterior beauty and form. The model of a “Miriam” girl involved a synthesis of a serious thinker with a desire for a beautiful even elegant outer appearance. The members of “Miriam” attracted the young intelligentsia of various social classes.

The spirit of the Ochranka was Zionistic with progressive social tendencies. The young group leaders founded a youth organization, named “Bar Giora” The leader of the organization was Leon Shpiegel and his Representative was Sanka Grin. The writer of these lines was the secretary, and afterwards when the Shpiegels left I took over the leadership of the organization. Its first goal was self–education. I brought my friends from the Gymnasium (high school) into the organization. Some of them came from Hashomer Hatzair and a large part from the folks–yugend [ blue collar youth], shop workers, helper (laborers) and Hasidic boys who strove to get secular education. One of the most characteristic qualities of Bar Giora was its populist character, a result of the “human material” of the Ochranka. In fact, Bar Giora later became one of First Branches of “Gordoniya” in Poland. Hashomer Hatzair at that time was a more exclusive organization and consisted mostly of university students, while Bar Giora was more populistic. It did not emphasize its scouting character as Hashomer Hatzair did.

[Page 614]

After Hashomer Hatzair, Bar Giora was the first youth organization in Tarnow which sent the first group of olim (immigrants) to Eretz–Israel. Some of them could not acclimate to the new country and came back to Tarnow, while most of them remained in Eretz Israel.

The third aliya and the strongly developed activity of Zionism and Chalutzism (pioneering spirit) turned Bar Giora into Gordoniya. The self–education organization with chalutzistic (pioneering) tendencies reformed itself into an expressly chalutzistic (pioneering) organization. The ideals of Aaron David Gordon were very close to the spiritual and idealistic world of Bar Giora. The activity of Gordoniya was based upon the three following foundations: Chalutzism – populism – political work

I have previously mentioned the pioneering activity of Bar Giora and its populist character. But Bar Giora also had an understanding of practical political work.

Its older members belonged to the local Zionist organization where differences of opinion began to crystallize around three areas: Halutzim, socio political points of view and more Zionistic activity (the last one was primarily demanded by the youth). These various differences brought about the formation of a group of young people who joined the Hitachadut (unity) party and founded a branch of that party in Tarnow. In the foundation of the branch the following people participated: Dr. Wilhelm Berkelhamer, Dr. Yeshayu Feig, Leib Kvadratshtein, Haim Friedman and this writer. Some of these were previously at the head of Bar Giora and thereby politically activated the older stratum of the organization.

After Bar Giora turned into Gordoniya, the Tarnow branch grew very quickly and developed, playing a significant role in the then more youthful Gordoniya movement in Poland.

[Page 615]

In those days..
(On the history of the Zionist movement in Tarnow)

by Abraham Kahana

Translated by David Schonberg

On the initiative of the known Zionist activist Moshe Wiesenfeld in the years 1907-1908 the HaShahar movement was established, setting for itself the task to wake up the Orthodox youth from their lethargic sleep and to win them over to the Zionistic ideal. This movement held two group trips and brought about a veritable revolution amongst religious youth. Already then there formed certain Aliya groups amongst these youth. Tarnow had a central role in the HaShahar movement. At that time from Tarnow there left to Eretz Yisrael [author's note: came on Aliya to Land of Israel] the Brandstatter brothers, Pinchas Wolf, Nataniel Damast, Aharon Kloiboif, Leib Lichtinger and others.

This movement had noteworthy literary figures and publicists, such as Dov Kimchi, Yizhok Laufban, Moshe Wiesenfeld and many others. There also worked in this movement significant activists and as to two of these, who died early in their lives, I would like here to recall/remember.


Yisroel Perlstein

A Talmudist having worldly [secular] learning, and also a free-thinker. He was wholeheartedly devoted to the movement of Jewish renaissance. Immediately following the establishment of HaShahar, he placed himself in its ranks, disbursing his significant abilities to cultural and progressive-minded work amongst the orthodox youth. In those times this work had to be carried out in a conspiratorial fashion. It was terrible for a young religious person to be involved with Zionistic activities. His whole career stood in danger. It could cause him to be under threat of excommunication. But Perlstein was not to be swayed by anything. In secret there gathered together in small batei midrashim [Author's note: synagogue study-halls] religious young people and Perlstein gave them talks on different subjects- scientific, Jewish-orientated, Zionistic and other. Also when he later moved to

[Page 616]

a small shteitl and lived in a staunch orthodox environment, he didn't alter his mode of activity. He worked upon himself to further his studies and taught others.

In the War [World War I] he travelled to Vienna where he continued teaching and devoted himself to Zionist activity.

When I saw Perlstein in Vienna after a long period of separation [not having seen him] I was quite taken aback by the great spiritual-ethical progress that manifested itself in his soul, notwithstanding the difficult heart condition which preyed upon him and the harsh material conditions under which he suffered.

In Vienna Perlstein was in contact with the notable personalities of the Zionistic circles and he took an active part in all Zionistic activities.

He also possessed no mere average literary ability and his written work is of worth.

His house was a gathering point for literary scholars, writers and altogether for intelligent and educated people. In this house there held sway a clear spiritual-cultural atmosphere. My visits to him in his home always gave me a feeling of spiritual satisfaction. There dominated there a special kind of warmth. With pleasure I recall the minutes/times that I spent with him in his home.

With his participation, there was established in Vienna a Zionistic union/ association, 'Bund' which had as its task to set pure Zionism in the pattern/example of the “Bnei Moshe”.

To this association belonged: Rabbi Chajes, Rabbi Moshe Kramer, the leader of the Vienna Mizrahi [religious Zionists movement], Dr. Salomon Auerbach, Dr. Haim Tartakower, Dr. Nisan Shtein, Prof. Shechter. After a while I also joined the association.

Several months after my going out there I came to learn that Perlstein was ill and virtually completely paralysed. With terrible sufferings this noble man breathed out his last, in 1921.

Esteemed is his memory!


David Geldzeiler

One of the most notable Zionist leaders, already from before the First World war. Tall, strongly-built, he always had a ready quip that lashed against the negative elements of the Zionist organisation and some of its activists/ leaders. Though having a sharp satirical bent he was fully devoted and gave himself over, with great seriousness, to Zionist

[Page 617]


As a member of the Presidium of HaShahar he was joint-editor of some issues/ editions of the Hebrew-language organ, called 'HaShahar'.

As to the art of writing he accommodated himself with frivolous ease. Occasionally he would produce very interesting sharp correspondences in the Tageblatt or in Sanok's Folksfreind [a Yiddish weekly, Sanok, 1909-1914].

He was loved everywhere, people were drawn to him, to his company. Spending time in his company brought true pleasure. His witty remarks and his sharp satirical comments so driven through with life's wisdom, made for him many followers.

At the peak of his powers and filled with energy and the joy of creation the First World War took him away from his environment. Unexpectedly, while writing a humoristic letter to his friend, an Italian bullet hit him, at the front, in 1917.

When one writes of Zionist leaders who, before the First World War, laid the foundation stone of Zionism in Tarnow, amongst them need be honourably mentioned the faithful colleague [co-worker] David Geldzeiler, who sadly, in a tragic way, was plucked out from our ranks.

Esteemed is his memory!

[Page 618]

Toward tomorrow…

In memory of the Shomrim[1]from Tarnow

by Koba Fleischer

Translated by Sara Mages

The patriarchs of “Hashomer Hatzair[2] movement were the circles of “Zeirie Zion”- the Zionist youth movement that was founded with the establishment of the Zionist movement, and [“Hashomer[3]] the Jewish scouting movement that was founded before the outbreak of the First World War. Educated young Jews, who gathered at the beginning of the war in Vienna and in the cities of Western Europe, constituted the core of this youth movement. The movement caused a stir in the cities of Galicia and Poland, and in the course of time, throughout the world. It took the name “Hashomer,” which symbolizes the heroism of the Jews in their new homeland, in addition to the values of the Scout Movement. After it was united with “Zeirie Zion", under the name of “Hashomer Hatzair,” it became the only youth movement in the Jewish street.

At the conclusion of the First World War, the young Jews returned to the cities of Galicia imbued with the spirit of freedom and the liberation of nations. They were full of lofty ideas about human liberation and the emancipation of the Jewish nation, and an arduous organizational and educational work began.

Tarnow, a city populated with Jews and glorious youth, quickly became one of the primary locations in which there was a branch of “Hashomer Hatzair.” The branch in Tarnow became the regional center, and excelled in absorbing broad sectors of youth. More than 300 young people, students and workers, age 10-20, were organized in the branch during the years of the movement's prosperity.

The Jewish street awoke. From the dark alleys of the ghetto and the suburbs of the assimilated, who drew away from the influence of Judaism, groups of boys and girls went out to the bosom of nature, to the public parks, to the mountains and the surroundings forests. They breathed fresh air and dreamed the dream of Israel and the establishment of the State of Israel. The Israeli flag flew high, and the Hebrew song was sounded when the youth of “Hashomer Hatzair” marched proudly through the city's streets. The matter greatly annoyed the anti-Semites and the various enemies of Israel. The brunt of the Jewish youth was felt soon. When the pogroms broke out in the cities of Galicia, youth brigades stood on guard to protect the life of the beleaguered Jews. Its destiny and national role stood the test of those difficult days. The battered Jew was no longer ashamed that his son or daughter joined "those" who dreamed about a promising future.

A second conference of “Hashomer Hatzair,” which symbolized a turning point and a new era for the entire movement, gathered in Tarnow in August 1919. The first conference was held the previous year in Trnava in the Carpathian Mountains. The conference gathered more than 300 delegates from Galicia and representatives from Poland. In the conference, which was held on the first day for students over the age of 18, “the third class," there were opposing views about the future of the movement's graduates.

[Page 619]

Halutzim from “Hashomer Hatzair” in Tarnow

[Page 620]

A conference of instructors, which constituted a major turning point in the movement's direction, was held on the second day. The following was written in “Hashomer Hatzair” newspaper from that period: "If we knew, in the conference in, how to soar to the heavens, now, after the conference in Tarnow, we know how to stand firm on the ground." Among others, it was decided in the Tarnow's conference, that the movement will establish a federation of Shomrim-Halutzim [pioneers], which will require a pioneering fulfillment in Israel. The movement expressed its desire to establish a settlement in Israel, add working youth to its ranks, and a committee was elected for the establishment and the development of a Hebrew School. In the conference, the movement took the road towards a pioneering fulfillment and the negation of the Diaspora.

A period of intensive educational work began. Education in human values, values of Judaism with national recognition, war for social justice, women's liberation, the revival of the Hebrew language, and the return to physical work. Preparations toward immigration started in various Hachshara [pioneer training] farms, in the estates or with farmers and artisans. The aspiration for productivity took the youth, against the wishes of their parents who wanted to educate them for a traditional liberal profession, out of school and taught them a profession vital for Israel. Parents' committees were established to facilitate their work, alleviate their living conditions and protect them from the authorities. Among the committee's activists were: Dr. Shapen, Dr. Feig, Mrs. Friedlander, Mrs. Greenberg, H. Naiger ”, Dr. Homet, Dr. Mertz, Dr. Yakel ”, Schepndel ”, and many others.

The branch's representatives organized activities in the nearby cities, ran summer camps in the region, established branches in Pilzno, D?bica and Mielec and other locations, and also worked in the main leadership in Lvov.

After the war, a large number of Shomrim immigrated [to Israel] with the “Third Aliyah.”[4] A large number of members, men and women, from Tarnow were among the 600 immigrants. Some left school before graduation and some after, some with a profession and some without. At night they crossed the borders clandestinely, and nothing could have stopped them from realizing their dream.

Among the first who emigrated from Tarnow (I ask the forgiveness of those whose names have been omitted by mistake) were: Z. Bloch, P. Schingel, M. Weiss, Dina Beck, A. Friedlander ”, the Weider brothers, Yakov Leibel ”, Yehudah Ya'ari, Ester Hershkowitz, Sima Ormian, Sara Ledner, D. Omansky, Rodner ”, Lev-Tov, H. Herzman ”, Y. Naiger, M. Mann ”, P. Zwairstrum ”, H. Ofner z”l, Kornilo and many others.

In Israel they drained the swamps and paved the roads. Many of them were among the founders of Beit-Alfa, the first kibbutz of “Hashomer Hatzair,” where they live to this day.

In 1922, a joint conference of leaders from Galicia and Poland gathered again in Tarnow. They approved the self-realization through the kibbutzim, and the number of immigrants from the city's branch of “Hashomer Hatzair” has grown.

Meanwhile, other youth movements, who competed with “Hashomer Hatzair,” were established in the city. However, despite everything, it was one of the major movements in the city. It was the first to work for “Keren Kayemet LeYisrael" [Jewish National Fund] and other Zionist activities. Entire groups, individuals and families, immigrated. New kibbutzim were established by “Hashomer Hatzair,” and the Shomrim from our city were among those who settled there.

[Page 621]

Hashomer Hatzair” in Tarnow penetrated all the layers of the Jewish society in the city. It fought, together with other movements, for the acquisition of the Jewish youth and the realization of the Zionist idea. To our sorrow, the entire Jewish public still didn't understand the superior concept of national liberation. Our youth's lofty role was understood only after the loss of millions of Jews during the Nazi inferno, which also destroyed the entire Jewish community of our city. The organized youth of “Hashomer Hatzair,” together with the rest of the Zionist youth movements, led the defensive war in Tarnow Ghetto, in the resistance and with the partisans. Together they strengthened the spirit of those who stumbled and helped those who fell. The many heroic acts and rescue operations will testify to the vitality of this youth - till the last moment.

Thousands of Shomerim were educated within the framework of the branch in Tarnow's branch, but for various reasons, only a few reached the gates of Israel. Here, they continued the magnificent tradition by building the country and defending it. You can find the Tarnow's Shomrim from Kibbutz Dan to faraway Negev. From the movement's first kibbutz in Beit-Alfa, through Merchavia, Ein HaMifratz, Tel Amal, Yad Mordechai, Ein Shemer, and more.

Many fell during the riots in Israel, and many fell to diseases and the conditions of the conquest of the desert. Quite a few saturated the soil of Israel with their pure blood when they helped to bring victory in our War of Independence. Among those we'll remember: Yanek Friedlander one of the first Halutzim, Yehudah Schpanof, Itzik Korndeich, Olek Zichner and others.

Honor and glory to the heroes whose bones rest in the soil of Israel, honor and glory to those who fell on the long road, in the ghettos, extermination camps, in the underground and in public, some with a weapon in their hand, and some with a clenched fist. The cruel fate didn't let them to reach their goal.

And Tarnow, a Jewish metropolis, a magnificent community with a long Jewish tradition, a loyal city to her sons who were raised and educated in her toward a promising future, will remain forever in the memory of generations as a shining page in the new history book of the State of Israel.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Shomer pl, Shomrim - Guard/Guards. Members of “Hashomer Hatzair” movement are called Shomrim. return
  2. Hashomer”- “The Guard” - the first Jewish scouting movement. It was established in 1911 in Lvov in by Henrik [Tzvi] Sterner. The movement's name was inspired by “Hashomer” a Jewish organization in Palestine. return
  3. Hashomer Hatzair "- “The Youth Guard” - the first Zionist youth movement. It was formed in 1913 from the combining of two different youth movements - “Hashomer” and “Zeirie Zion.” return
  4. The Third Aliyah refers to the third wave of Zionist immigration to Israel between 1919 and 1923. The Third Aliya consisted mostly of Eastern European and Russian Jews. return

[Page 622]

With the ship “Tiger-Hill”
to Eretz-Israel

by Chaim Hertzberg

Translated by David Schonberg

Tarnow halutzim [Heb: pioneers] didn't wait for entry-permits [certificates] in order to realise their ideal. If one hadn't received [been distributed] an entry permit as there weren't enough for everyone who waited impatiently for the possibility to come on Aliya (immigrate [to Palestine]), then one set forth by means of 'illegal' immigration.

The same was with me. Against the wishes of my dear parents, who were to die al kiddush haShem (Heb: a martyr's death) I, in the month of May 1939, after completing the hachshara [Heb: preparatory training] joined a group of halutzim [Heb: pioneers] from Gordonia, who via “Aliyah B” [illegal immigration] sought to reach the shores of the Land of Israel. Without taking leave of home, I left Tarnow on the 5th of May and on the 7th May I came to Lemberg, where the central committee of 'Gordonia' had organised the journey. It also took a while till from all parts of the country gathered together a group of pioneers, who were not at all worried/ dismayed and had resolved upon going along on an uncertain and difficult journey…

From Tarnow meanwhile came three new comrade pioneers, Tzvi Tannenbaum, Mordechai Drucker and Berish Zinger- all now in Israel. In several weeks, when our numbers had reached already 250 immigrants, they took us somewhere to a small train platform, where we were put in train-carriages. In the train, with which we were to travel, there were already 600 pioneers, so that together the whole transport numbered 850 young boys and girls.

In 24 hours from departing Lemberg we came to the Rumanian port, Kōnstántza (Constanța) where we were immediately put in military custody and couldn't leave. Four anxious and tense days passed, of languishing and waiting at the station. On the 15.7.1939 we were finally put aboard the ship “Tiger-Hill”, a Greek steamer, for barely 150 people.

It's easy to understand how [difficult] life was for 850 people on such a transport-ship. But we endured everything. Already on the 8th

[Page 623]

Olim (immigrants) on the ship “Tiger-Hill”


day of our journey a girl died. The dead body was cast into the sea. But neither the raging storm that shook the ship nor the shortage of bread and water frightened/ deterred us. Before our eyes there hovered/ glided the end-goal… to reach the shores of the Land of Israel. This gave us courage to overcome the terrible situation on the ship…

And moreover, we were dependent upon ourselves, alone. We couldn't count upon any help from any direction. No one wanted to help us in the hardship/ dire need in which the ship had found itself. When we remained on a particular day without water and without coal, we came near to the island of Rhodes, hoping to buy the necessary items/things. But there immediately came an armed ship of Italian soldiers, threatening to shoot at us, if we didn't immediately leave the island.

So we tried our luck and journeyed to Constantinople and also from there we were driven out with threats. After 5 weeks going around at sea- the situation on the ship became quite tragic. Without coal, without water or food.. from everywhere driven away and persecuted, we decided to draw near to Beirut. There we managed to buy what we needed for the ship and the passengers. And [but] when the Arab workers refused to load the coal and food articles we all took upon ourselves the work and then quickly left the Arab port.

[Page 624]

Olim (immigrants) on the ship “Tiger-Hill”


While already being far out at sea we received a telegraphic communication, that from Beirut a ship had set out with 650 refugees from Czechoslovakia and Austria and that we needed to take them aboard our ship. And indeed the ship from Beirut appeared shortly and in mid-sea the transfer of the 650 refugees, who were in quite a sorry state, was carried out. Out of joy, they kissed each of our pioneers. We were now


The funeral of the victims [killed- deceased] of the ship “Tiger-Hill”

[Page 625]

1500 people on our ship. The confined/ constricted conditions were so great that it was difficult to move around. We had no other choice than to draw near to the shores of Eretz Israel [the Land of Israel].

When our ship came not far from Bat Yam, the English immediately opened fire on us. Two of us fell dead: one pioneer and the ship's doctor[1] who wished to give medical aid to the wounded. For 2 days we were engaged in a struggle at the sea shore. At night 300 olim [immigrants] managed to escape from the ship and reach Tel-Aviv. The 2 victims' [bodies] were secreted away and taken to Tel-Aviv where an imposing funeral was held.

That 1.9.1939 - the day that the Second World War broke out - we drew near to the shores of Tel-Aviv. We tried with force to break through the chain of the English soldiers.. but, as we already mentioned, only 300 from the ship managed to escape. The remainder.. 1200 halutzim and halutzot [men and women pioneers]- and amongst these, myself too- were arrested and imprisoned in the Sarafand prison for 10 days. On 11.9.1939 we were released.


Translator's footnote:
  1. the Land of Israel Return

Author's note

  1. The 2 victims killed on the ship have been named in other sources: Tzvi Binder z'l (of the heHalutz movement, Poland) and Dr. Robert Schneider z'l (from Czechoslovakia). return

[Page 626]

From Tarnow to Tel Aviv
with Aliyah B'

by Y. Shpieler, Haifa

Translated by David Schonberg

The history of the Tarnow HeHalutz [pioneering Zionist youth movement] is longer than the period described in the following reminiscences (1931-1933). These three years are a very small portion of its history, but they played a great role in the lives of the Jewish youth in Tarnow. During these three years, Tarnow Jewish youth began to realize there was something lacking in the existing framework of the Zionist movement, one in which they wanted to have a part in and achieve their Zionist-socialist ideals and convictions.

In those days, in Tarnow -- more than in other towns and smaller places in Western Galicia -- a branch of the HeHalutz movement began to grow rapidly. The movement eventually included a large number of male and female members, exceeding the membership of the other Zionist youth organizations. The simple and objective reason for this was related to the social composition of the Jewish population and the fact that Tarnow's Jewish youth were not uniform. Under the slogan “Training [hachshara] and Immigration [Aliyah]” the Zionist/HeHalutz movement attracted all types of Jewish youths, who, for different reasons, did not feel drawn to any of the other youth movements.

Those who were eligible to belong to the HeHalutz movement were youth ages 18 years and older. The main goal of the movement was to prepare groups of people for Aliya-immigration to Israel. The HeHalutz was non-party affiliated in the broadest sense of the word, in contrast to other youth organizations that emphasised their party affiliation and political leanings. The membership in HeHalutz was varied: children of house-owners, traders, workers, basically anyone who shared the ideals of the movement joined together under one roof. We, the Tarnow survivors who were members of HeHalutz, well remember the club headquarters on Bernardyńska Street. There was a wide courtyard where we used to spend time in the evenings in arguments and discussions, listening to lectures in Hebrew, or singing Hebrew songs.

One of the core goals of the movement was teaching Hebrew language to its members. There were special language courses in the evenings to learn Hebrew. This required experienced teachers to be found. Within the group they were able to find some members who were proficient in Hebrew. The majority were older members

[Page 627]

or students who were capable young men, mostly prior Yeshiva bochurim [men who had attended yeshivas when younger], who had come into our ranks in order to be able to immigrate more quickly. In those days, there was a need among young people to increase their social mobility and productivity. Most of the young people, who thought themselves to be well-organised economically, suddenly discovered the hopelessness of their situation, realizing they had a future without many prospects. Unemployment had increased. Also, young business employees experienced disappointment because of reductions in employees and unemployment. Even active members of anti-Zionist youth organisations (Bund, Communists) started to join the HeHalutz group, viewing it as the only future for the Jewish youth.

A certification system existed which delayed the fulfilment of the pioneering ideal to immigrate to Israel. Rightly or not many Zionist youth organisations argued that some of their members deserved to receive priority in being granted a certificate, since they had been members of the movement for many years and had previously gone through the training program to qualify for aliya. But the Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael) at this time needed skilled workmen, which the HeHalutz had among its members. A struggle began over what was known as an English 'gift' – a worthless number of certificates – that the British Commissioner had provided to the Zionist agency. However, a deep-seated desire to make Aliyah [immigration] had developed among the members of the youth organization and they were determined to overcome all limitations. This gave rise to the so-called Aliyah B [also known as Aliyah Bilti legalit- illegal immigration] an alternative way of getting to Israel.

Hundreds of members of HeHalutz in Poland, and especially in Tarnow, with great enthusiasm, embraced the idea of illegal immigration through Aliyah B'. They desired to embark on a very difficult and complicated way of moving to Israel, which involved great hardships, and was tied to even life-threatening danger. Immigrating [to the Land of Israel] illegally in this way was connected with significant monetary expenses which often amounted to three times as much as a normal journey. The majority of the members of HeHalutz were not well-to-do. In fact, a significant number of youth faced the strong opposition of their parents, who didn't even want to hear of this kind of aliya and who didn't see any purpose in their desire to make the journey. Most parents were not able to provide financial assistance to their children.

Nevertheless, members enthusiastically embraced the news that a transport of illegal immigrants was being organized and that Tarnow had been allocated eight places. Everyone was joyous at this news and it created a passionate debate as to who deserved most the right to travel in this transport. Clearly the eight lucky people, who would be chosen for the transport, would not have the sufficient funds to cover even a small part of the travel costs. Finally, the eight candidates were selected, mostly older members of HeHalutz. They were completely informed of the dangerous journey that awaited them. This Aliya group was known as Aliyat Kfar Saba. The writer of this history had the honour

[Page 628]

had the luck to be part of the first group of Tarnow pioneers, who travelled with the Aliyah B' to Israel.

After several weeks we were ready to leave our homes. All the preparations we were able to accomplish quickly and without undue complications. What was hardest was discussing this impending move with our parents. Clearly, it was going to be hard for them to separate from their children, although they realised how happy we were, able to finally achieve our goal.

The happiest day in our lives was the day in which finally the telegrams finally arrived, they instructed us to make our way to Lemberg- to the assembly point of the whole transport. But our joy was ruined by the fanaticism of some frum [religious- pious] parents and their opposition to the Zionistic ideals of their children. They could not make peace in any way with the thought, that a child of theirs would stray from the path they had envisioned for them. One father from a comfortable Hassidic circle was particularly stubborn and actually renounced his own son, who had prepared himself to immigrate to Israel. Instead of giving him his blessing for the journey, as he escorted him to the gathering point his finally words were a curse.

We left. The journey was very difficult. It required much courage and stringent efforts on the part of each of the immigrants. Nevertheless, we all kept our spirits up, especially the Tarnow group, and in this way influenced all the others. For understandable reasons, the leaders concealed the actual route of the journey from us. For example, we had arrived at the Greek port of Piraeus, but were unaware of our location. After staying there for three days, we were finally told where we were. The waiting in the port seemed to us as if it took ages. Finally, they brought us to the cargo ship 'Velox'. At 10 o'clock in the evening we left Greece and were on our way to the Land of Israel.

The voyage at sea took a full 10 days. I'm not now able to remember many details of the sea-trip. We didn't lick any honey…it was not an easy journey. On the small ship it was terribly crowded. The old cargo ship groaned and struggled on the turbulent sea. Its present "baggage" was 300 immigrants from Poland. The heat was oppressive and the food reserves that were brought on board lasted only for several days until they began to be used up. The enthusiasm of the young immigrants did not wane and the concerns about the journey did not once interrupt the joyous singing of songs about pioneering and the Land of Israel.

Especially noteworthy from the Tarnow group was a pioneer youth named Meir. He was self-effacing, always dreamy and serious. We understood what this idealist youth was experiencing. He had many hopes that he was bringing to the land that he had dreamed about for so long – Israel. But his father's last words were a curse and had caused him discomfort and worry. In his dreams he imagined

[Page 629]

Meir Silberstein z'l with a group of friends-pioneers

[Page 630]

the happy moment when he would be able to bring his family to the Land of Israel and reunite with them, including his angry father at the head. The Land of Israel was holy to him beginning years before as a deeply religious boy with childhood dreams and extending to his present pioneering idealism.

Unfortunately, his goal in life was never achieved. He did not to merit to step over the threshold into the Jewish land. As we approached the waters near the Land of Israel, he began to foresee a different and bitter destiny. Words of comfort didn't help him nor the attempts of calming by his friends. His heart was heavy.

And then the unexpected happened…

As we saw the lights of Tel Aviv from afar, an order was issued that instructed us to transfer from our ship to a smaller boat to take us to the shore. The use of smaller boats was necessary because the larger ship could easily be discovered by the English. We were sitting in a small motor boat which then pulled out forward. Suddenly - there was a big noise. The waves engulfed us. In fact, the sea had become stormy, but we hadn't realized to such an extent. And as to what further transpired, I don't remember. I can only relate what we were told later:

The boat had overturned and its occupants began to drown. Thanks to their advance training, the leaders were able to quickly organize and help save most of us, so it was possible to avoid a major disaster. Once we had already been rescued and realized what had happened, we looked around and realized that Meir was missing. It was night and dark, and we couldn't do anything more. Our Meir had been swallowed up by the waves... That news spread with lightning speed over Tel Aviv and masses of people streamed to the shores of the rebellious and turbulent sea. And as the news eventually reached the ears of the Mandate powers, we remained in our hiding places for fear of being caught. We kept hidden and couldn't find out the full truth. The leaders tried to calm each of us by telling us that no one from the Tarnow group was missing. Afterwards we heard that the searchers spent a whole night trying to find a drowned person, but without success. It was early the next morning when a small boy told us the sad news:

-The waves cast out on the shore a man's dead body.
We recognised that it was Meir…

May these words serve as a memorial stone for Meir, the unknown Tarnow pioneer, who sacrificed his young life for the holy ideal of pursuing his dream of Aliya and achieving national and social liberation.


Translator's footnote:

  1. illegal immigration Return


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