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Parties and Organizations

 

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Blessed by activity

by Shimon Kantz

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

– Who knows and who would be able to describe the treasures of idealism, limitless energy and deep love of homeland, which the pioneers of the Jewish renaissance in Wolomin invested in their work, and was not mentioned in any of the official reports! All of the pioneers were fiery enthusiasts, blessed by activity, dedicating to the Zionist Organization the best of their lives and devoted to serve it fulfilling ideas and projects and organizing practical work. Whatever they did was accompanied by the sound of pure gold, which touched every heart and was kept there, and was sung on the lips as a holy choir.

Happy is the generation that heard these sounds! Woe to the generation that in sadness was forced to mourn the loss of these sounds, quieted forever.

The Zionists of Wolomin, young and old, felt that they were an integral part of the great Jewish people, who was welcoming its renaissance and redemption and was not ready to give up its particular revival. Their lives were active, full of struggles between new opinions and beliefs, which began to push aside the old ones; between new parties that suddenly grew upon the ruins of the old ones, in the process of revival and redemption. The articles that described these processes were written by the party organizers, who had full freedom to relate the histories of their respective parties from their own points of view, leaving for the reader the task of discovering the common qualities between the parties as well as their differences concerning their political struggle in general and in Eretz Israel in particular, and the ways they chose to win the hearts of the Jewish population of Wolomin, which soon would go up in flames.

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The Zionist Movement

 

Zionist Activity and Pioneer [halutz] Training

by Elka Shamir–Grizhek

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

My shtetl, Wolomin.

A small town, and yet it was able to give expression to all ways–of–life, all kinds of ideology, all kinds of organizations and youth movements: Hashomer Hatza'ir, Gordonia, Hehalutz, Hehalutz Hatza'ir, BEITAR – and all were devoted to the idea of pioneer training and Aliya.

As was the custom everywhere, in our shtetl too we had sailings and outings, assemblies and parades. I remember the festivities on Lag Ba'omer, when the pioneer youth would go to the forest carrying flags, trumpets and drums. At the head of the parade walked Eliezer Bergzin; the discussions were about the State of Israel, active in their minds as an accomplished fact.

Toward evening we returned. As we neared our town we formed straight rows and entered the town at the festive sound of the drums and trumpets.

Each of us hoped to see the State of Israel in a positive way, without shadows.

Oh, holy and pure sacrifices, I wish you could see that your hopes were fulfilled and the State of Israel was established, sovereign and independent, with its wonderful Army to protect it. You, together with all the Jews of the world, would be proud of the Israel Defense Army!

With the rise of Anti–Semitism so rose the will to make Aliya and the young people began to join the Zionist Movement, asking to go immediately to the training camps, in spite of their young ages.

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The Young Pioneer [halutz]

In those days I was he secretary of the Hehalutz branch. The young people devoted their whole energy to the pioneer work, hoping to receive an agricultural education, in order to be able, when they go to Eretz Israel, to work the land and make a living by the labor of their hands.

The youth of the town, in particular the Hehalutz Hatza'ir, introduced in our town an atmosphere of Aliya.

 

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Hehalutz Hatza'ir

 

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A group of Hehalutz Hatza'ir in Wolomin

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We had lotteries, lectures and theatre performances, the income being devoted to the Aliya Fund for pioneers who were in training for Aliya but were not able to cover the expenses.

We managed our cultural activity with great enthusiasm. Often we had a Literary Evening, with the active participation of the young people; but of course, the main purpose of all activity was to give the youth a “pioneer” education.

Many of the members of Hehalutz Hatza'ir indeed went to the training camps, but unfortunately not all of them succeeded to make Aliya, due to the War. Few of them are with us in the Country.

 

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A group of Hehalutz Hatza'ir

 

Keren Kayemet LeIsrael [JNF, the Jewish National Fund]

It was a great and important project: our purpose was to put in every house a “JNF Box” to collect money, but it was not easy, because there were many who opposed the project.

But we did succeed, and once a month we went to the families who agreed to collaborate and keep on their shelf at home the box. We would empty the boxes and our hearts filled with pride and happiness. All hesitation disappeared, and we felt that our movement was turning into a serious power among the young people in town. Hebrew songs were heard at our meetings which we held almost every evening, and the dances never tired us.

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The assemblies and the lectures enlarged our knowledge in all areas. Our ideas penetrated the hearts of the parents, and they understood that our purpose was not to incite the children against the parents but against the empty life in the exile [Diaspora] and to educate the youth to building the homeland and creating a new Jew–Pioneer. Our actions were not in vain. Until the great enemy came and destroyed it all.

 

Leibele Herman

Tens of young people would gather every evening in the room of Leibele Herman. He was one of the first members of our movement and he was a real personality.

First and foremost in his thoughts was the worry for the fate of his nation and the national matters were the main purpose of his actions. He was a working man, who lived by the labor of his hands and devoted all his efforts to the Zionist idea. He worked tirelessly and quietly, with much devotion, never stopping.

Leibele was not privileged to see the establishment of the State of Israel. He perished, with all the Wolomin Jews, in the death camp of Treblinka.

 

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The Committee for “The Working Israel”
 
 
A group of young people from Hehalutz
Sitting: Miriam Mandelberg, Goriner, Elazar Berg

 

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On the Roads of Aliya

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

My hand is trembling. How can one write about the Jews of our town, the town where I was born and grew up, and now it is destroyed, with all the dear and beloved who perished in the ghetto and in the death camps?!

I left Wolomin in March 1939. I left my home with a heavy heart and a pressing feeling that I will not see my home any more, that terrible times were approaching, but I could not think that such a horrible tragedy was near – the destruction of my family, my town, my nation.

My parents died many years before the destruction and had a Jewish burial. I was left an orphan, without father and mother. Together with my two sisters, Feige and Gitl, we went to live with my sister Frida who was married and had three children.

Soon she was widowed. Her economic situation was bad, she worked hard and with the sweat of her brow she earned the bread for her young children. The life conditions worsened from day to day, and I could not see any hope for the future in the anti–Semitic Poland. From my early childhood I was active in the Pioneer movement and with all my heart I hoped for Aliya.

I was the secretary of JNF and later the secretary of the local Hehalutz branch. My activity in the pioneer life gave me much satisfaction. In 1933 I went to a training camp to prepare for Aliya.

After six months of training, the Aliya gates closed. I remained six years in camp and after a great effort and many dangers I succeeded to reach our country through the illegal Aliya.

I went straight to Kibbutz Ashdot Ya'akov, where I made my home, and I am living there until this day.

Meanwhile WWII broke out and I did not receive many letters from my sisters, which caused me much worry. In 1941 I received their plea through the Red Cross: “Our situation is very bad; if you can, please help us.”

I knocked on every gate, but all were closed.

I was left the only one to eulogize those who have perished, Frida and her three children: Feige'le, Yeshaya and Rose'le; Feige and her husband Yosef Grosskopf and their baby; Gitel and her husband and child.


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The Joy of Youth at the Hashomer Hatza'ir Branch

by Zahava Weinbrom – Golda Goldwasser

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

 

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The Hashomer Hatza'ir Branch in Wolomin was located on Daluga Street, in Leiba'le Berman's apartment. The first counselors were Moshe Weinbrom and Moshe Platkovski z”l and the writer of these lines.

Every evening we gathered, boys and girls, some of them from very religious families. The reaction of these families was severe; they opposed the youth movements' programs, fought with their sons and daughters and forbade them to participate in the activities; however, little by little we overcame the difficulties. Those youths, who connected their fate with the Zionist movement, have found here, at the Hashomer Hatza'ir youth movement, a home. The activity proceeded and sprouted deep roots among the Wolomin youth, who found great joy and satisfaction in the activities.

 

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A group of Hashomer Hatza'ir members

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A group of Hashomer Hatza'ir members
In the center, sitting: Zahava Weinbrom

 

We conducted ideological counselling activity, we learned about the historic relationship of Judaism to Eretz Israel, we strengthened the collaboration between the branches and we arranged frequent meetings – in the form of camps or seminars. Our branch was blessed by a number of very devoted members who, in addition to their activity in the branch were active among the general public as well as in the Scout Camps.

We made every effort to keep our place of meetings clean and beautiful, decorated with pictures, slogans and a “wall newspaper” that appeared regularly. In the effort to create an image of a true “Shomer” – a devoted and fitting member – we had to overcome difficulties stemming either from the family situation of the youth or from their cultural environment, since our members – those who were interested in hearing about Aliya – came from all social strata

Our Branch excelled in collecting money for the JNF. We were active in Hehalutz and The League for Working Eretz Israel. We had meetings in the forest, every group wits its flag, we sang Hebrew songs and danced Eretz Israel dances.

The Lag Ba'omer outings were particularly impressive. The outing [tiyul] has become an important event in town. By the end of the day, old and young went out of town to meet the walkers, proudly carrying their flags. The proud scouts made a great impression on the Polish population.

We are carrying with love the memory of those days, when the members of the movement became adults hoping to make Aliya, but were murdered by the Nazis.


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The Youth in the Zionist Movement

by Zev Nadvorny

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

The town Wolomin was located 18 km. from the capital Warsaw. It was not famous, just one of the small towns in Poland, similar to so many other towns, and it had a very small train station. No famous names of rabbis or poets are connected with it, great leaders or magnates have not lived there and stormy events did not take place there; but the thing that did distinguish the town and constituted its pride – was its Jewish youth, who was active and lively, and its heart and soul were open to the love and devotion for our nation and our far homeland.

The Wolomin youth knew that the first thing to do was to acquire knowledge and to understand what nationality meant. It was not an easy thing, since this was not a simple science. It was not enough that the Jewish people possessed a strong will to live, that they fought for their existence, longed for redemption, created, along the generations, a great literature in the ancestral language and suffered terribly during many years; theoretical proof was needed as well, in order to show that this was indeed an existing nation. The youth in our shtetl began to participate in discussions, went to lectures, argued with opposers and became more and more convinced of their ideas and rights.

The best of the young people gathered around the Zionist movements: Gordonia, Hehalutz Hatza'ir [the Young Pioneer], Hashomer Hatza'ir, BEITAR, Hehalutz, etc. The young boys were polite, and at the same time full of energy and joy. Those youth movements brought a new spirit of life into the small town. To this day I can hear the common singing, and I remember the “horah” dance in the house and around the bonfire in the forest.

One of the most beautiful festivities took place on Lag Ba'omer, when hundreds of young boys and girls marched through the central streets of the town wearing

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their festive costumes – blue, white or gray shirts and carrying the blue-white flags over their heads. Even the weather collaborated mostly and we had blue skies, just like the sky in Eretz Israel.

The young people walked, singing and dancing, toward the Mironova forest on the hill, from where the entire town could be seen. The dancing had no end.

After the dancing we ate sitting around the bonfire, singing and playing on instruments. Most of the songs were Israeli and traditional songs and we were excited like little children.

But the day was devoted to discussions as well. Every group would talk about life in Eretz Israel, about the development of the Pioneer movements, the importance of the training camps and the preparation for Aliya.

Among others, there was the question of educating the members according to the aims of the movement. Even during discussions of such serious subjects it was possible to feel the atmosphere of satisfaction and happiness. When learning about the wonderful past of our nation, during moments of spiritual elevation, we fully believed that the day of redemption was near and that we will take an active part in rebuilding the land.

But when night came and we were on their way to our homes, we met on the road the reflection of the foreign land – the ugly face of anti-Semitism, which was present in Wolomin as in all the other Polish towns and carried the hints of the coming disaster. The young Jewish people in town were the first to fight it.

The anti-Semitism was expressed by acts of violence, as attacks on Jews and public quarrels and clashes with incited Polish youths. Vocal and written propaganda against Jews was conducted, largely supported by the Polish authorities. The Christian population

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in Wolomin was full of hate and it happened more than once that Christian youths attacked Jews.

I remember one Sunday, at noontime, some of my friends walked on Daluga Street, one of the central streets in town, where most of the residents were Jews. Suddenly a group of Christian youths came from one of the alleys and one of them took out a gun and began shooting toward the Jews. One of my friends, Avraham Teitelbaum was hit. Fortunately he was not severely wounded and soon was out of danger; the bullet remained in his body to this day.

I also remember one evening, as I came home, I found my father z'l sitting in the chair and his face was full of blood. My mother was washing his wounds and relieved his pain. He said that he was walking on one of the side streets to the house of one of his clients. A few young Christians attacked him with sticks and stones, and only thanks to his courage and composure he managed to escape.

Those events angered us and we organized, aiming to help whenever there was an attack on Jews. Mostly we succeeded to chase away the hooligans.

Those attacks showed us how vital, important and necessary self-defense was, and we realized that it was our duty, since the authorities did not react to the attacks and did not help.

The young people began to think about their future and only one solution seemed real: Aliya to Eretz Israel. The various movements began to make practical preparations for that purpose – the first thing being the establishment of training camps, where young people were trained for manual work, in particular working the land. The life conditions in the camps were not easy, but the aspiration to make Aliya gave the youths courage to complete the training and go to Eretz Israel, whether through legal or illegal Aliya. In Eretz Israel, they very soon became an integral part of all branches of the economy – agriculture, industry, commerce, crafts, medicine etc. But many of them did not have the chance to reach Eretz Israel – they perished in the Holocaust.

We remember what our enemies did to the Wolomin youth.

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We shall never forget the dear and devoted young people who remained forever loyal to the eternal Jewish people and to the vision of rebuilding the Nation in Eretz Israel, and were murdered by Hitler.

We shall remember the wonderful youth movements that were destroyed before they could fulfill their dream of Aliya to Eretz Israel and help with its rebuilding.

Their memory shall be kept forever in our hearts. May God avenge their blood!!


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Hakhshara

by Kalman Fruman

Translated by Sara Mages

In order to obtain an immigration certificates we had to go through “Hakhshara” [training], meaning, we had to work for a certain period in agriculture and all kinds of other jobs.

In 1933, “Agudat Yisrael” organized the first “Hakhshara” group in its history, in an agricultural farm near the town of Chorzele.

Among the fifty members of the group there were, in addition to me, three others from Wolomin. Most members of the group came from Frankfurt, Germany.

For half a year, from Passover to Sukkot, I worked on the farm. It was an interesting period that played a role in shaping our spiritual and mental image.

 

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Zionist youth marching on the streets of Wolomin

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We did our arduous work with enthusiasm. In our free time we studied and debated, sat and enjoyed a page of Gemara, but more than any other great Jewish sages, we were enthusiastic by the Tannaim and the Amoraim who were craftsmen. Our heroes were: Yochanan HaSandlar [the shoemaker], Rabbi Yitzhak Nappa?a [the blacksmith], Shemaiah who said: “Love the craft and hate the rabbinate,” and R' Yehudah, of the earlier sages, who left a teaching: “Any father who does not teach his son a trade teaches him banditry,” and it is told of him that when he went to Beit HaMidrash he carried a pitcher on his shoulder saying: “Labor is great, as it brings honor to the laborer who performs it.”

We searched and found in the sacred books all the words of praised said in them about craft, like: “The merit acquired from labor may be helpful even when the influence of one's ancestors is not,” or: “Lest a man say, I am the son of the patriarchs of the world, I am from a large family, and I do not deserve to do a job and be humiliated.” They say to him: “Fool, your creator preceded you, who did the work before you came to the world, as it is said: “From all His work that He did.”

Sometimes we listened to lectures. One of the lecturers, who came to us from time to time, was HaRav Yitzchak Meir Levin, a leader and speaker, who stirred up our emotions with his speeches and encouraged us to face the problems of our time.

I got married after completing the training period. I received an immigration certificate for my wife, and I and we immigrated to Eretz Yisrael.

 

Affinity to Eretz Yisrael

Life was difficult in Israel at that time, full of worries and pains and there was almost no livelihood. We worked in all kinds of arduous jobs solely to ensure our basic existence.

We overcame the difficulties thanks to our affinity to Eretz Yisrael which was also the ideological cause of our immigration.

I was raised and educated in a religious home and absorbed within me the affinity of our people to their homeland. In the Torah there are two mitzvot that can only be observed in Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, the preservation of the Jewish constitution in its entirety is conditional on the Jew's residence on the land of his ancestors.

The affinity of the Jew to Eretz Yisrael accompanies the course of his life, as Hazal [Our Sages, may their memory be blessed], said: “Anyone who resides outside of Eretz Yisrael is considered as though he is engaged in idol worship” (Ketubot 110b:23]. In the same place, Rabbi Yochanan said about the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael: “Anyone who walks four cubits in Eretz Yisrael is assured of a share in the World to Come.” The spiritual superiority of Israel found expression in the words of Hazal: “There is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael and not wisdom like the wisdom of Eretz Yisrael.”

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The Midrash expresses the affinity between the people and their homeland in its commentary on the biblical verse in Shir Hashirim [Song of Songs 8:14] “And liken yourself to a gazelle”: “This gazelle walks to the end of the world and returns to his place, the Jews, even though they scattered all over the world, might return in the future.”

The holiness and affection of Eretz Yisrael did not end in the studies of the worshipers of Beit HaMidrash in Wolomin. The yearning grew stronger from year to year but to our great sorrow only a few were able to fulfill their aspiration.

 

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A group of Tzeirei Agudat Yisrael

 

They absorbed the spirit of Judaism and tradition and remained faithful to the path of the Torah and mitzvoth, and the immigration to Eretz Yisrael was the highest stage in their thinking. These young people were sensitive, and their hearts told them even then that a Holocaust was approaching and coming upon humanity, especially upon Judaism.

 

My parents' home

I had someone to learn from. I learned the affinity for our country and also other good virtues.

My father, Yehusua, was a teacher at “Yesodei HaTorah” and acquired love and admiration from many. He knew how to instill in his sons the treasure of piety and virtues.

My mother, Masha of the Newman family, was endowed with a warm Jewish heart, with vigor and the spirit of a true “Woman of Valor,” Together with that she contained a treasure of patience, modesty and humility.

My eldest brother was a scholar and fulfilled God's work in faith. He nurtured a warm and traditional Jewish home, was a devoted husband to his wife and a compassionate father to his five children. He was twenty eight when I left Poland.

My sister Ester was beautiful and a devoted daughter to her parents. She was gentle, kind-hearted, listened to the words of others and knew how to help in good faith and emotion.

During the German occupation she supported the family by smuggling food from Wolomin to Warsaw. She was blonde with blue eyes and looked like a Pole. The Poles betrayed her, handed her to the Germans who murdered her.

My young brother studied at “Yesodei HaTorah” and continued his studies at Beit HaMidrash. With joy and excitement he carried within him the desire to immigrate to Israel and join us. He knew his destiny in life but he was not able to do so.

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My sister Rivka was twelve years old when I left Poland, a charming girl, beautiful and modest. She was our pride and joy and everyone who saw her, saw a graceful rose.

My youngest brother, Avraham, was young and innocent. He was ten years old when I left the town. Here I see him playing a childish game and his childish words, full of love, ringing in my ear. He was so intelligent, so developed and so sweet.

Their memory will not leave my heart forever.

When I remember them, I feel as if something is about to explode in my mind and my heart is torn to pieces. I cannot express on a paper everything that I feel, everything that is raging in my soul. May HaShem avenge their blood!

 

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The First Zionist Organization

by Shmuel Vinogoro (Argentina)

It was in 1916, in the middle of the summer, in the month of Av. We were a group of several friends, men and women, who came together with the goal of fashioning a Zionist organization. With us were: Binyamin Nodvarni; Chava, Manya, and Feige Vinogoro; Itke Moroko; Feige Lichtman; and others. Avraham Tenenboim directed the cultural activities.

We were full of enthusiasm for the Zionist idea, and we threw ourselves passionately into the activities of clarifying the idea and attracting new members. We arranged meetings, lectures, and referendums on various subjects.

There was already a library in the shtetl, and we took it over, buying new books and giving it the name “Haskalah.”

The first Zionist organization, which called itself “Hatikvah,” assumed an important place in the life of Wolomin. Our cultural evenings were very successful and we were forced to rent a larger venue.

Discussion evenings were added to the original cultural accomplishments. We discussed literary and political questions, national and cultural problems.

Quite important were our evening courses for learning the Hebrew language.

In the club we also formed a drama circle, which through its performances threw light on our collective future and conferences. We also arranged performances in the city auditorium that attracted huge audiences among both the young and the old.

With the outbreak of the Polish–Russian War, almost all of the Jewish young men entered the army, and our work was interrupted. We stored the archives and the supply list of the first Zionist organization in the home of Chaim Rodziminski.

Later on, Chaim Rodziminski also entered the army, from which he never returned.

After the war, activities resumed on a larger scale. Until the dark night overtook us and the Wolomin Jews suffered the fate of the six million horribly–killed martyrs. Among them were my nineteen martyrs, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and their families. May the Lord avenge their blood!


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The Organization

by Y.A. Weinbroom

The first Zionist center in the shtetl forty years ago was “Tarbus”. The local “Tarbus” chapter included all those who felt a connection with Zionism. Generally the Zionists were the upper–householders. The idea of creating a party called “The Organization” arose because the comrades who wanted to lead the party's activities ran into opposition from the general Zionists. It happened that on a certain Friday evening when there was a gathering of the “Association”–comrades, the general Zionists came out against them and the conflict spread so widely that the local police came and forbad the local to hold meetings.

This and similar difficulties confronted the first steps of the “Association” in Wolomin. They had to fight for every greater enterprise, such as organizing a chess evening, a lecture, a get–together, or a meeting.

The guiding spirit of the Association was Leibele Berman, who was tireless in his activities and showed great initiative in organizing the association's efforts and in dealing with the difficulties caused by the conflict with the other Zionists. Leibele Berman was a family man and also businessman who had to worry about making a living, but nevertheless he often neglected his business, telling his wife that he had to take care of something important. These important things consisted of going to the meeting hall of the Association, finding out what was going on, if anything needed organizing, leading a meeting, planning an evening or an election. The party activities were to him the most important things, and activities for the population, especially for the young people of the shtetl, were for him more important than his business.

The day finally came when the Association in Wolomin received from the Hechalutz Center three certificates. When the first three members from Wolomin set out on their aliyah to Eretz Yisroel, it was quite an event. It gave impetus to the organization. It increased the number of members. It led to creation of the youth organizations “Gordonia” and “Hechalutz Hatzair.” Diverse political and cultural activities developed. Young people began preparing for life on kibbutzim, and the dream of making aliyah to Eretz Yisroel seized a majority of the shtetl's youth. A portion of these young people was thereby saved from Hitler's murderers.

 

Keren Kayemes For Israel

The initiative to organize a fund drive for Keren Kayemes for Israel in Wolomin came from the general Zionists, who were also the first collectors. In the beginning it worked this way: early on Shabbos, people would come to the Tarbus Hall to pray, and when they were called up to the Torah, they promised a contribution for the Keren Kayemes. Keep in mind that this system did not have the appropriate status or the educated character that the collections had to present. The collections were private and lacked the reputation of openness. No one undertook to distribute pushkes from the Keren Kayemes in homes. There were also many other better known causes, and therefore the idea of the Keren Kayemes collection did not resonate among all the sectors of the population, both among the young and the old.

With the coming of the Association, came also a change of direction. The idea of Keren Kayemes began to come to life and the consciousness of its importance began to grow. The cause left behind its narrow confines of the party hall and people began to speak of it openly.

For the first time a flower day was declared. People had to have permission from the authorities so that the comrades, male and female, could go out into the streets with the blue and white pushkes and collect money. This made a strong impression. For many people it was a new thing and it created enthusiasm.

But people also had to take into account that they could not be satisfied just with that. First, they could not declare “flower days” too often. Second, it wasn't a matter of just more less money. The psychological moment was also important, awakening the feelings of the Jewish populace, making positive people's attitudes toward the Keren Kayemes. Keep in mind that the unique “flower day”, with the impression it had made in the shtetl, still could not solve the problem that confonted the young idealists and supporters of the cause.

The importance of distributing the Keren Kayemes pushkes was clear and understandable, but at the same time there were various disturbances. What started out as the cause distributing pushkes turned into a difficult and responsible task. The Zionist idea was not yet popular enough in all sectors of the Jewish populace in the shtetl. It was the time of the Fourth Aliyah, when Eretz Yisroel was going through a huge crisis, and many who had gone there were returning, which made a bad impression in the shtetl. All of this made the undertaking of the Keren Kayemes more difficult.

With this situation in mind, the leadership of the Association in a joint meeting with the general Zionists decided to create a special committee that would devote itself to the Keren Kayemes and give it their full attention, strength, and initiative. The writer of these lines was put in charge.

We went to work with great intensity and began to distribute the Keren Kayemes pushkes among the Jewish homes. Clearly this was not among the easiest jobs. We had to plead with people, persuade, influence, clarify for them the significance of our cause for the Jewish people throughout the world and for each individual Jew.

To be absolutely truthful, not every household required such exertion. There were Jewish homes in Wolomin who happily encountered the people who came to them with the Keren Kayemes pushkes, openly showed their enthusiasm and good will to the collectors in regard to future activities.

At the same time we organized lectures and readings which took place either in the Tarbus Hall or in the beis–hamedresh, in which the speakers clarified for the audience the great importance of the Keren Kayemes and the duty of each Jew to take part in the cause. This approach was direct and fruitful.

We made a promise that we would not be exempt from our great duty to the Keren Kayemes. We did not separate the idea of the Keren Kayemes from the larger Zionist ideal, from the greater Zionist activities among the Jewish populace in Wolomin. Helpful to us was the newly formed pioneer organization “Gordonia,” which provided enthusiastic activities to popularize Zionist ideals among young people. Soon after, the youth organization “Hashomer Hatzair” was formed, which included many members of the Association. Zionist activities increased and became more intense and involved more sectors of the population. Hechalutz Hatzair was formed. Since it had so much strength, we committed ourselves to Keren Kayemes with more diligence. School children also were involved in the cause. They distributed pushkes not only in their own houses but in those of neighbors. The cause took in almost the whole Jewish population of the shtetl. There was barely a dwelling that could deny the children's requests. It was hard to oppose the children's enthusiasm for Eretz Yisroel. In their eyes burned a holy fire for the building of Eretz Yisroel. Their faces burned with the joy of actively participitating in collecting money for the redemption of the land in Eretz Yisroel. They saw before them the realization of the dreams of generations in exile. Hardly anyone could withstand the devotion of the children.

The results were tremendous, psychologically, politically, and also practically. They spiced up the Zionist propaganda. The young people were filled with the pioneering ideals; they took preparatory classes for kibbutz living, getting ready for the hard work in Eretz Yisroel.

This great success attracted the attention of the Keren Kayemes central office in Warsaw, and they sent us greetings and awards for our hard work.

That was a time when the Jewish youth in Wolomin lived spiritually, developed culturally, broadened its horizons, and adopted all the Zionist colorations.

Our shtetl did not lack adherents of any of the existing Zionist youth organizations and parties in pre–war Poland.

But all lived with the hope of being redeemed from exile and of living free, Jewish, and human lives in their own land.

But it turned out differently–––––

Terribly differently.

No more the sparkling youth, the rebels against the government, who participated so eagerly in Zionist activities; those who dared to bring into the observant shtetl the first cabinet with secular books and called it a library; those who dared to march in the streets with blue and white banners, singing Hatikvah, and who were ready to sacrifice themselves for the idea of national and social liberation, and who with Chasidic fire and devotion threw themselves into the battle for the thousand–year–old dreams of Jews and of human beings.


[Pages 186-189]

Gordonia

by Shmuel Zucker

Just as in other shtetls in Poland, so in Wolomin there was a chapter of the youth movement Gordonia. This was a reaction to the other aspirations of different youth movements like Hashomer Hatzair or Hano–ar Hatzioni. The Gordonia movement appealed to the working and student youth to join their ranks and adopt their new approach to the daily problems of working youth. The youth organization Gordonia had its own way of enlightening and appealing to Zionist young people.

At that time Jewish life in Wolomin sparkled with diverse social activities, for a single Jewish life, for a better future: the young people sought new ways to achieve their huge aspirations.

I remember the long winter nights when we used to come to the meeting room of the Zionist organization the Association. We were a group of young people who were determined to organize the Gordonia in our shtetl.

One winter night I was invited to the Association meeting room. The room was small and cold. The weak gleam of the naphtha lamp fell on the faces of the young people, a group of friends who gathered with the aim of organizing in Wolomin a chapter of the youth organization Gordonia.

The idea of Gordonia had captured us. It was new and captivating, and we threw ourselves wholeheartedly into the work, together with a group of young men whom we thought of as candidates to be pioneers.

Our first step was to create a bond with different young people in the shtetl and work out the forms of organizational work. In the cold little Association hall, we began to breathe with a new spirit. The young members approached the activities with energy and zest. The work was not easy. The economic state of the Jewish population was difficult and the idea of Gordonia was foreign and strange. We were not frightened. We debated with our opponents and clarified for our followers the words of the new movement. Little by little we overcame the crisis and felt that with each day the pioneer spirit got stronger among our members. New young people joined us. At the beginning they were only from the working classes, but as time passed young people from the schools also joined us.

After a short time the Gordonia organization decided to rent a larger and nicer meeting place where we could gather every evening to conduct conversations and lectures on different topics.

Our instructors had to confront peculiar problems, which were not easy to solve. Most of our members came from the folk–class. Many did not have the opportunity to study, but they had a thirst for learning and education. In our organization these young people had their first meeting with the wider world, with the problems of the Jews in Poland and the problems of Jews in general, with Jewish workers in exile and in Eretz Yisroel, with our place in the Zionist and in the socialist movement. There were some who learned for the first time through our organiztion to read a book and understand the ideas and problems that were expressed in them.

We conducted our enlightening work through words and deeds, led private conversations and held lectures, helped form the thought of a national home in Eretz Yisroel. That thought gave a sense to the young people that the life of the shtetl and the organization had a significance for life, infused with the aspiration to make aliyah to Eretz Yisroel.

There were some young people for whom the Zionist idea seemed distant and strange, and it was not easy to explain it and bring it into their minds and hearts.

But together with our logic, our enthusiasm and deep convictions also convinced them that we had chosen the right path.

At first the working–class young people came to us, people who were imbued with the idea that the Jewish people in their own land would be a working people, a free people, who would combine the material with the spiritual, with toil and mind, a people without oppressors or oppressed, only partners and comrades in work and in economic life.

In this way the young working people of Wolomin accepted the idea of Gordonia. Then came the more educated students. Our membership increased and we acquired a big and attractive meeting place where we came every evening, discussed and conversed about various topics, literary, political, and social.

Gordonia grew in quality and quantity, blooming like a beautiful blossoming garden. It became an effective factor for the young people in the shtetl.

In our organization the Jewish young people of Wolomin developed and prepared a new path. The Jewish young people in Wolomin for the first time faced the need to take its full place in society, to bear collective responsibility and to participate in the reciprocal help between one young person and other and all together with their leaders.

Gordonia blossomed and grew. In the shtetl people began to feel the influence of the Gordonia youth. At work people began to sing songs about Yisroel, which they learned in our organization. The spirit of Gordonia was felt in many Jewish homes. Mothers sang their children to sleep with a song that was sung in the evenings at the Gordonia hall.

On Lag B'Omer the Gordonists would march through the streets of Wolomin. Their parents would stand on both sides of the street with smiling faces as they watched their children.

Young people with talent to organize, expound, and educate grew in the ranks of Gordonia.

When I was 34, I left Wolomin and left behind Gordonia and all it did, full of aspiration and hope. The young people worked sincerely and passed on their message. But that did not last long. The horrible war came and cut off everything.

The majority of the activists in Gordonia did not merit to see their ideals fulfilled, ideals for which they were ready to give their lives.

Blessed be their memory!


[Pages 190-193]

From Wolomin to Tel Aviv

by Menachem Tayblum

Decades have passed since I lost my shtetl, Wolomin. Who could conceal it,, since I exist always with my shtetl, with my large, many–branched family, with all the dear and friendly Jews, who lived in an environment of hatred, with their warmth in joy and in sorrow, with their help for the poor and sick and their great generosity to each other?

I was born and raised in Wolomin. My parents were well–to–do, ran a lumber business and belonged among the most distinguished families in the shtetl. My father was one of the founders of the Merchants' Bank, one of whose goals was to help any merchants who couldn't get on their feet and needed a loan. My father, a fervent Alexander Chasid, became the chairman of the bank, and at home I often used to hear how he spoke with the members about impoverished merchants who needed help. Often people came to us for donations for poor, beaten down Jews. Wandering preachers and ordinary guests would come. Our home was open to anyone in need and to anyone whose heavy worries pressed on his heart so that he sought from my father a word of advice on how to get out of trouble.

In general the Jews of Wolomin did not lack for problems. They were always oppressed by heavy taxes. There were times when the Poles conducted boycotts, a bitter agitation, so that the peasants and the workers would not buy from Jews. The government, the tax office, the magistrate all helped to oppress the Jewish shopkeepers.

Although our home belonged to the upper–class world, more than once I saw my father worried and predicting hard times for the Jews in Poland. More than once I heard my father groan over me, over someone whose head was full of stories and games and who could not conceive of what would come. My job, I knew, was to learn. Where can one learn serious business if not in the Gemara? There, the people of Wolomin believed, lay the whole of a man's luck, the best that one could achieve in life.

Jewish children in Wolomin, poor and rich, were lively, vivacious, and happy. Yet those years quickly passed. The children quickly faded and became, at a young age, little Jewish adults, with thoughtful, worried faces. Even their fun and their pranks were serious and calculated, although done with heart and soul

Early on I was enrolled in the Zionist youth movement and in 1933 I went to a Zionist preparatory course in Bialystok that was organized by the “Gordonia” youth organization.

At home they were worried whether, for the sake of the Holy Name, I would pray every day. I must confess now that every encouraging speech of my parents resonated not at all in my heart. My dream was already to become a pioneer, to make aliya to Eretz Yisroel and build a Jewish land.

Being young, I was not proficient in all the problems of Jewish social life, but I realized that for Jews in Poland there was no future.

This fact was proven when a non–Jew shot my brother. This caused a great commotion in the town. My mother lost her power of speech from fear. She became ill and died in that very year.

I was then in Bialystok when I received a telegram about my mother's condition. I went home right away, but when I arrived in Wolomin, my mother was no longer alive. I was only in time to go to her funeral.

Good, dear mother of mine, you have stood before my eyes through my whole life. I hear your good words, warm, comforting. You had a good word for everyone and you felt every sorrow that befell the Jews.

Your heart, dear Mother, even in the hardest times never failed to believe that better days would come, as the Master of the Universe would avenge the wrongs done to the Jewish people.

Even before Wolomin became a valley of destruction, of holocaust, you were already a sacrifice for the murderers of Jews.

You, dear Mother, were an omen that dark clouds were moving in over the Jews in Poland.

Soon after, I left Wolomin with the feeling of leaving a tottering house, like an ark, struggling against stormy waves, which at any moment could sink. My only hope was to go to Eretz Yisroel.

For a long time I was in Kibbutz Givat Chaim. From early in the morning until late at night the day was filled with different kinds of labor. I loved life in the kibbutz, despite the constant toil. As soon as my work was finished, I became involved in the social and cultural activities in the kibbutz, in the comradeship among the members, in the idealism which pervaded all of us.

Once, when I was working on the road, I saw Rodl Ostroviak, a Wolomin native, who had already lived in Israel for several years. She recognized and called out teasingly: “Look there, Tayblum's son working on the road.”

That she had seen my proud bearing and had swallowed her own astonishment attracted me to her. At that moment once again the shtetl swam before my eyes and I felt even more strongly the desire that all the Jews of Wolomin should live in Eretz Yisroel and there help to build a new land.

This remained a dream. Only a few succeeded and are now with us in Israel. We are united by the memories of our old home, the memories of our nearest and dearest, the holy martyrs of Jewish Wolomin, which once was and is no more.


[Pages 194-195]

The “Maccabee” Sports Club

by Shmuel Fierovitch

The social life in the “Maccabee” Sports Club remains in my memory like a bright dream of active youth.

The sport club gave birth to an intense life among the young people in Wolomin. I remember the 29th of May in 1929, when we, a group of friends, sat in a poor, dark room and discussed the gloom that affected the youth of the shtetl. That was when the idea arose of creating a sport club that would include all strata of the Jewish youth in our shtetl. The founders were: Yisroel Grossinger and Yisroel Lichtman, and also Ch. Kver z”l. We went out into the shtetl and began to mobilize young people around the idea of creating the “Maccabee” Sports Club. Although we had no location for gathering together, Chaver Zucker invited us to the “Gordonia,” where we held our meetings. In a short time we were legally certified to use our own locale and we proceeded to create a gymnastics division and to join the global organization “Maccabee.” Soon after we created the soccer division and we appeared in competitions with other sports clubs. And then our troubles began. As the goalie for the Maccabees, while guarding the goal, I always had to be careful of the stones that were thrown at us by the anti–Semitic Polish youth.

Our sport club also fostered a warm cultural life. We had a drama group, took part in different Zionist activities, and worked diligently for such Jewish charitable organizations as Keren Kayamis and Keren Hayisod.

In this way we went about our business until the outbreak of the Second World War.


[Pages 196-199]

The “Maccabee” Sports Club

by Malkeh Yellen–Greenberg

The grown–up youth who, at the time of the German occupation, led the community cultural and organizational activities, had at the outbreak of the Polish–Soviet War entered the army. When the war ended and life slowly became normal again, these young people started to contemplate the knowledge that they had gained about the wider and broader world and a social life began to simmer and ferment with discussions, speakers, and lectures.

Even before the First World War ended, when Wolomin was taken by the Germans, we heard the repercussions of the October Revolution in Russia. There were young workers who were suffused with the socialist ideas of that era and who believed that with the October Revolution had come the liberation of the working class and the redemption of mankind.

There were young people in Wolomin who were not simply dreamy idealists but who were also filled with strong wills and aspirations towards action and who enlisted in the fight for a better life. Many dreamed of traveling to Russia and joining the ranks of the communist fighters.

These seeds fell on fertile ground, and later, in the Y.L. Peretz Club a leftist group was established that people called “The Reds.”

The activities of this group were illegal. The members stood out for their extraordinary enthusiasm and spirit. Not worried that they were being persecuted by the police, they expanded their underground work with their full youthful idealism.

The young Jewish communists were in close contact with the Polish communist workers in the glassworks. They had collective get–togethers and meetings, where Jewish and Polish communists presented talks about the situation in the country, about strikes and other painless [?] topics.

Among the communist activists were some who came from deep within the masses, from poverty, while others came from well–to–do homes but had arrived by different paths at the ideals of the revolution and with idealistic impulses through themselves into the illegal activities, studied historical materialism, Lenin's writings and other illegal works, books, and pamphlets.

During the nights, the young communists used to plaster the fences and walls with communist slogans for communism and throw red pennants over the high telephone wires.

It seemed like the very air was filled with revolt and idealistic young hearts made me feel the highest ecstasy.

 

The Oyfkum [Awake] Drama Club

The members of the Oyfkum Drama Club in the Y.L. Peretz Library came from different organizations, from the working class and the intelligentsia. I remember the two brothers–in–law Moyshe Zissman and Lippa, with their wives, from Katchelna Street, who had a radio store; Aaron Demski, who lives today in Brazil, Tuviah Weinberg, Shoyme Flotkowski, I and my sister Beiltshe, and others, whose names I forget.

The drama club went through crises, especially when a portion of its membership left Wolomin, whether for Warsaw or for Paris.

But the club came to life again when people got to work: Tuvia Weinberg, Leibl Radziminski, Noson Wolfovitsch, Yechiel Zucker, Yankev Markito, Shloyme Flotkowski, Kapelushnik with his wife, Freidke Greenshpan, Zhenya Asman, who lives today in America; Esther Friedman, now in Brazil. I and my sister Beiltshe were active participants in the drama club.

We began to rehearse Yakov Gordon's play “God, Man, and Devil.” The rehearsals lasted for two months. The participants were enthusiastic.

The first performances of Peretz Hirschbein's “Neveylah” [Infamy] and Yakov Gordon's “God, Man, and Devil” took place in the hall of the Peretz Library. The audience was large, and later on we performed in the Adria movie theatre in the marketplace.

The audience exceeded expectations. The performance brought together a significant gathering and the profit went to the library to buy new books.

After the presentations in Wolomin, we went on a tour of the neighboring shtetls, like Rodzimin, Tlushtsh, and others. These performances also attracted large audiences, and the profits also went to the library.

Everywhere the halls were full and we, like true actors, suffered from stage fright. These memories have lived long in my mind. When it became dark in the hall and the curtain went up, there was such silence that you could hear a pin drop on the floor. Our hearts stopped beating. We gave each other courage and strength.

Part of the way through the first act, we heard the first applause, and our hearts became lighter. The second act was more soaring, livelier.

When the curtain went down after the last act, the people in the hall rejoiced and our hearts were full with joy and pride. Backstage, people came to thank us and to praise the performance.

In Wolomin people talked about our drama club, about certain members, as they talked about actors and actresses. Wolomin was raised to a new height and was moved to greater endeavors.

We tried out one–actors, recitations, music. We put on Mark Arnstein's “The Eternal Song,” Sholem Aleichem's “Mazel Tov,” Anski's “Dybbuk,” Goldfaden's “The Two Kuni Lemels,” Yakov Gordon's “Mirele Efros,” “The Intellectual,” and others.

Our drama club had a reputation beyond Wolomin, in the other shtetls where we toured. Every new production was a holiday for the public and for the actors.

We regarded our work as serious and even sacred. We put so much strength and effort into our productions so that they would maintain a high standard. The star of our club was Noson Wolfovitsch, who is today a famous actor and director in Israel.

The comrades: Shoyme Flotkowski, Tuvia Weinberg and Kapelushnik painted the sets. Meyerovitsch was the prompter.

The drama club allowed people in Wolomin to feel culture, and it brought to the shtetl a holiday feeling and joy.

The members of the drama club were young people who worked all day–in the glassworks, in workshops. In the evenings they came to rehearsals, often tired, worn out, but full of enthusiasm and energy, and, as opposed to professional actors, they never thought about earning money through their appearances. In fact, they often made up for box–office deficits through their own few groschen.

The drama club enjoyed a moving reception from the Jewish population of Wolomin, and they all perished together.


[Pages 200-202]

The Peretz Society

by Yakov Rosenblatt

Wolomin, people used to say, was a town crowded with people from every corner of Poland, as was the case in every town and shtetl, full of a variety of Jews; religious, liberal, Zionist, progressive and all manner of others. As the proverb says, “Ten Jews and fifteen parties.” Overall Jewish life in the shtetl was both religious and cultural, modern. I will, however, not write about all the different partisan societies in the shtetl, because I do not know so much about them, but I will take this opportunity to say a few words about the Peretz Society, where I was for several years a member, and try to commemorate its workers and activists who were, for the most part, killed by the German beasts.

The Peretz Society had its own beautiful library, where workers used to come to take a book to read in order to acquire a little knowledge and clarity. The directors of the library used to bring different speakers, organized readings, crossword puzzle evenings, as was then the custom, organized a variety of literary and political debates, as in the old times. In a word, it was good cultural work.

The managing committee of the library: Mlienek–chair, Meirovitsch–secretary and librarian. Liffa, Moyshe Zusshman, Leah Asman, Feyge Burtchevski, Yitzhak Krasutski, the writer of these lines, and others whose names I cannot remember.

It is worthwhile mentioning other members whom I remember: both Meinemer brothers, Rochel Goldwasser, Helya Budny, Toyvah Jagoda, Moyshe Grosinger, Shepsel Zilbershtein, Gitl Manga, Neshe Kahn, both Greenshpan sisters, and scores of others, whose names I have forgotten.

I must mention Meir Falkovitsch, who later went to Paris in 1940 and who fell in the war against the Nazis.

In the Peretz Library there was also an active drama group that presented different plays, and not badly. The director, a unique fellow, a Wolomin native, was Tuviah Weinberg. These are the participants I remember: Yechiel Zucker, Shoyme Flatkovski, Yosl Flatkovski, Yankl Mankita, Zhenya Hasman, Malkah Yelien, Shmulke Manga, Freyda Greenshpan, and others.

 

The Framian Sports Club

Also in the library there was a sports club–“Framian,” whose members participated in light exercise and a football division. The directors: Zhenya Katz, Avraham Rosenberg, Shimon Wishnievski, Karol Jagoda, Shloyme Trosterman. The members: Chana Chofkovitsch and Rochel Chofkovitsch, Rochel Flatkovski, Rivkeh Bartchevski, Chaika, and others. Players in the football division were Moyshe Butz–Bramkacz, Shimon Wishnievski, Shoyme Blumenkranz, Shulke Topol, and others. All of the above and others whose names are not listed were for the most part killed by the Nazi criminals.

Yet, regardless of the great cultural work of the Peretz Society and its contributions to wresting the young workers from ignorance and darkness, to everyone's great sorrow and grief, they bled fruitlessly and many of them ended up in Polish prisons for defending a false idea, even though they themselves fully believed that this idea, for which they gave away their lives, would bring salvation both for Jewish workers and also for the Jewish people, so that, albeit not with bad intentions, they led the young Jewish workers astray on a false, bloody path.

Today, in view of the events of recent years, as we are replanted in the historical land of our ancestors, we see at every turn the falsehood of that path, it is sufficient to point out the great prejudices against the Jews among the same “progressives” and “peace”–advocates to whose ideas and directions the leaders of the Peretz Society clung. It is sufficient for us to shout out the famous verse from the Song of Songs, “They made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept…”

In all my travels in states and lands, enduring the worst experiences, always before my eyes are the ideal patterns of the Jewish youth in Wolomin. Their loud voices ring in my ears, arguing in the union, in a club, over matters that seemed to have universal and national significance. It was not their fault that they were so bitterly deceived.


[Pages 203-206]

Philanthropic Societies

by Chaya Rubinstein

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

All of the philanthropic societies that existed in Jewish shtetls also existed in Wolomin and were occupied in helping the poor and the sick. The Linas Hatzedek [Lodging of Righteousness] was such an institution. It was occupied with helping sick poor people who lacked the ability to call a private doctor or to buy medicine.

The Linas Hatzedek would lend the ill a hot water bottle, a thermometer, an electric lamp, and other things that they needed and could not obtain in any other way.

There was no hospital in Wolomin, and therefore the Linas Hatzedek served as a primary resource for those in need and was a true helping organization for the poor who were ill.

The members of Linas Hatzedek used to go and watch over the ill, sitting awake near them for a whole night and performing the functions of a nurse.

The poor Jews in Wolomin knew that the Linas Hatzedek was a place where they could find their first help for the ill.

Linas Hatzedek was on Dluge Street in the same building as the Amshinav Chassidic prayer house.

In the same area was the Gemilus Chasadim [Deeds of Lovingkindness] window, where in times of need, people could get loans without interest and pay them back in small monthly installments.

I remember one case when an older woman became ill and she had no way to get treatment. Her condition deteriorated daily and the fear of death hovered over her. The doctor held firmly that she should go immediately to the hospital in Warsaw, but this poor sick woman could not cover the expense of a trip to Warsaw.

I went to the Gemilus Chasadim window and told them about this case, that the woman needed 150 zlotys. That was the cost of getting this sick lady to Warsaw and to the hospital.

I described the situation to the leaders of the Gemilus Chasadim, and I assured them that I could gather that sum, but it would take me several days. The leaders of the Gemilus Chasadim took me at my word and immediately gave me the money. On that day I took the woman to Warsaw, where she stayed in the hospital until she was well and could go home to Wolomin.

I kept my word and, together with my friend, collected the money and returned the full amount to the Gemilus Chasadim so that they could help other people in need.

I tell this story as just one representative of scores and hundreds of other cases in which the Gemilus Chasadim was the only place that people knew to go to for help.

Wolomin did not lack for needy people, merchants and workers, from whose bones the tax offices sucked out the marrow. At the Gemilus Chasadim window they could always borrow a sum sufficient to help get back on their feet. Most of them were able to repay the loans. The installments were reasonable.

 

The Cooperative Bank

Wolomin was one of the newest cities in Poland and it developed very quickly. Over a short period of time, many new houses and streets were built, and it became a modern shtetl.

But not everyone could keep up with such growth. Many who had created businesses or workshops ran out of breath trying to face crises, and a moment arrived when it became clear that it was necessary to create a bank that would help the inhabitants at a time of economic crisis.

The merchants and the craftsmen then created in Wolomin a branch of the Warsaw cooperative bank, of which they were members.

The bank was established on Pshechadnya Street, in Baruch Shulman's brick house, for which he was compensated and which contained all the facilities necessary for a bank.

The bank truly became a real source of help for the Wolomin merchants and craftsmen, who could there get a loan of up to 1,000 zlotys at a low interest rate. It was enough to have two guarantors who would guarantee that the debt would be paid.

The members of the bank chose a committee that supervised the giving of loans.

The loans had tremendous significance and truly helped many merchants and craftsmen keep their jobs, enlarge their stores, their workshops, and pay off their debts in order to expand their businesses.

The bank prospered. It attracted new members. I must mention the discipline of the members, who punctually made their payments, worried that the bank should grow, because they saw in it an institution that served their interests.

The situation of the Jews in Wolomin, as in all of Poland, was like that of a ship that is about to be flooded by evil waters, without a today or a tomorrow. As in every small shtetl, everything was out in the open. Everyone knew each other and each other's business, either by seeing it or by hearing it. The Jewish merchants' groschen were earned through sweat and blood. There was always pressure from a lack of money, which was made worse by the vexations and persecutions of the Polish government, which did all it could to worsen the situation of Jewish merchants, leaving them not even air to breathe.

Consequently, every little bit of help was terribly significant, and such was the cooperative bank.

The shops, workshops, and businesses of the Jews in Wolomin barely survived, and each loan that was successfully obtained, helped them get on their feet, helped them survive and hope for longed for salvation.

In short, when a city is being built, there is work for different kinds of craftsmen. But as time passes, a crisis arises and the Jews strengthen themselves by filling small shtetls. Families without income increase, and their situation becomes worse each day so that they require aid.

Let me praise Jewish creativity, energy, and vitality, that led to the warmth with which Jewish Wolomin responded to every appeal.

These are only a few hints about the greater philanthropic institutions in Wolomin. Certainly I have not accounted for all the people who took part in organizing these efforts, who were active in bringing help for those in need. I beg pardon and understanding, because I am writing all of this from memory, since I have no written sources.

That is why I have not presented just plain facts and events that should be recounted, because I am not sure of their accuracy and I do not want to get things wrong. They gave away so much and got so little in return and were so tragically murdered.


[Page 207]

Because we were Jews…

by Henia Knopf

Translated by Sara Mages

I was born in Wolomin and also grew up there. I was lucky that in my time there were already elementary schools for girls and I was given the opportunity to get a thorough education and as a result to broaden my horizons. During my time, political movements also arose in the town.

I belonged to Gordonia. This movement instilled in us political views and also helped us to broaden our horizons. From time to time we heard lectures on political, biblical or just current affairs. In the movement I made social connections. I keep some of the connections to this day.

Of all my friends the image of Leah Mendelson, a girl with blue eyes and brown hair, was etched in my memory.

I also remember an incident related to this girl: unlike most of the city's Jews, who lived in the center, Leah lived in a Christian area and we, the members, accompanied her to her home in the evening after the lectures.

 

Wol207.jpg
The school students with their teachers

[Page 208]

Once, when we accompanied her, and we were near her home, a gang of Polish children attacked us and beat us with murderous blows. From all the beatings I lost consciousness and when I woke up I was lying alone in the street. I could barely get up and somehow got home. For a long time I was broken and depressed.

Why did the Poles beat us?

Because we were Jews…

For this reason the buds of revival in our town have found an echo deep in our hearts. The activities of the pioneering youth organizations, which began to influence us already at school, expanded and deepened the aspiration for a political revival in Eretz Yisrael.

This activity created an atmosphere of glowing hopes instead of despair and melancholy, of exaltation instead of disappointment and apathy, of lofty aspirations instead of distress and doom, the belief in small and big deed brought a great change in the life of the people.

This is how branches of “HeHalutz,” “Hashomer Hatzair,” “Gordonia,” and all other Zionist organizations, parties and institutions, were established in our town. We were able to overcome various elements of opposition and unified the aspirations and actions for the idea of the settlement in Eretz Yisrael.

 

Wol208.jpg
A group of primary school students and their teacher

 

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