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[Pages 176-182]

The Zionist Movement

By Yosef Nisnberg

Donated by William Kaufman

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

Oh where are my comrades?
Do they still wander? Are they alive?
Or have they died?
Sing about the little cradle
Sing about the little goat
Sing about the poverty of the Jews

– L. Yafe

The Zionist movement in Zyrardow, the roots of which went back many years, renewed its activity soon after the German occupation during World War I, and became especially vibrant and strong with the issuance of the Balfour Declaration in 1917.

The Agudat Hatsionim , which was already in existence, strove to take advantage of the favorable feelings toward Erets-Yisroel, and the enthusiasm that had engulfed large masses of Polish Jewry. Zionist propaganda found a receptive ear and warm response even in those circles that had earlier refused to consider something that seemed too secular and heretical. It became urgent to adapt the movement's methods to the new spirit of the times, and to the newly expanded opportunities. The existing Agudat was not prepared for this, because the majority of its officers were from the older generation, more “sedate,” prosperous people, who still breathed the romantic Love of Zion atmosphere of the past, who limited themselves to collecting money for the Jewish National Fund, selling a few “shekels”[1] and bringing in the occasional speaker from Warsaw.

In 1918 a new organization was founded, called Merkaz Hatsioni, which included all the more active officials of the earlier organization, as well as quite a significant number of new, young comrades, especially from among the Zionist youth, who were unable to freely express their nationalism in the nonpartisan, general library, where the ideological conflicts and the struggle for influence in the leadership were becoming sharper.

Merkaz Hatsioni grew quickly and developed a broad range of Zionist activities. They formed their own Yiddish-Hebrew library and reading room for members; and they organized readings on political and literary themes, evenings of open discussions; and musical evenings with local talent, as well as performers brought in from Warsaw.

During this period, the most important leaders and officers were Fayvl Rotshtayn, Avrom Yakob Mazelshtayn (who was especially active in disseminating the Zionist press and literature,) Hershl Yakubson, Itsik Orbakh, Sholem Blumenshtayn and myself (at that time much younger than the others mentioned but already playing an active organizational role), Rokhl Levitas, with very good propaganda and organizational skills, Yakob Boymerder, and Menakhem Landau. A bit later came the brothers Yehoshua and Moyshe Rozentsvayg, and their sister Khava, Rayzl Mazelshtayn, and Avrom Pasternak, a young , very devoted active comrade, who was, incidentally, among the very first Zionists from our shtetl to make Aliyah to Israel. With the coming of Merkaz Hatsioni the following also joined the membership: Moyshe Nayman, Khaim Itsik Altman, Khava Levitas and the very dedicated members, Shmuel Mazalshtayn, Motl Vaynberg, Avrom Tiger, Azriel Gavrilovitsh, Khanele Nayman and Leybl Funtovitsh.

The political developments and events of those years, when Poland became free and independent, the nationalistic and social fervor in Europe as a whole and in Russia in particular, naturally affected the Jewish world as well, and therefore the ideological differences became sharper. Different factions and groups formed within the Zionist movement. The differences between opposing ideological positions deepened over events and problems of the new conditions in general, and Jewish life in particular. Anything that happened in the great center of Jewish life, Warsaw, was reflected in our provincial town. After many years of working together despite internal differences, there came an organizational division.

The Merkaz Hatsioni, which for many years was located in the very center of town at 19 May First Street, was in 1927 taken over entirely by a new youthful rising force, which had actually begun to have influence in its ranks as early as 1919. This was the socialist Tseirei Tsion (Young Zionists) party, which, after it united with the Poalei Tsion–Right, became one of the largest in town.

The general Zionists, who were forced to leave the quarters they shared with the Merkaz, later formed a new party, Hertseliye, in 1928. Naturally, I'm not in a position to describe their activities, or those of any of the other Zionist or non-Zionist organizations and movements that had their lesser or greater position in Zyrardow, like the Poalei Tsion – Left, Histadrut, Revisionism, Mizrakhi, Aguda, the Bund, or the Communists. By the way, it should be noted that in general the relations among the parties in Zyrardow were civil, and based on mutual respect.

As noted, I was one of the first members of the Tseirei Tsion, at the beginning of Zionism in Poland, in 1918-19, and therefore, among those who laid the early foundations of the organization started several years later, the consolidated Tseirei Tsion, later combined with Poalei Tsion – Right. I also had the honor of contributing to the continuing growth of that movement, as a member of the leadership, until I made Aliyah in 1934.

For many years, the movement encompassed quite a large part of the older youth, a substantial number of who were drawn in the beginning from petit bourgeois and even Hasidic homes. Under the pressure of changing social conditions, these young people had more and more moved into productive employment. Involved in a constant struggle with other political movements and especially with the important and active Bundist movement for influence over the minds of the youth, we nevertheless managed to dominate the majority of the young and adult tailors and boot stitchers in Zyrardow. Thanks to tireless political and cultural efforts and education, in general our influence grew stronger in the communal life of the town.

Without question, the movement's continuing growth was the result of cooperative effort, selfless dedication and deeply held beliefs in shared ideals on the part of most of the members. They contributed greatly to the growth of the Poalei Tsion movement in various periods, beginning with the very first members of Tseirei Tsion – Avrom Yakob Mazelshtayn, Khava Levitas, Yakob Boymerder, Melekh Ayzenberg, and myself, Yosef Nisnberg, and a bit later, the grown youth who were active members, who also displayed much dedication to the movement, like the members of the party committee Avrom Pasternak, Shmuel Mazelshtayn, Ruven Vaynberg, Avrom Kshonzhenitser, Gutshe Nisnberg, Yosef Levitas and Tuvye Rotshtayn. Later, more young people became active, contributing to the growth of the party as members of the party committee – Yosef Haldzband, Itsik Frost, Mordkhe Boymerder, Leya Shtrasburg, Avrom Bromberg and the young members Leybl Funtovitsh, Shmuel Moshinski, Khaye Dzshalovska, Yankev Bresler, Moyshe Kimelfeld, Moyshe Meyer Poznanski, Moyshe Mendl Tupman, Mendl Nisnberg. Also, later, the active and dedicated members, the brothers Getsl and Natan Haldzband, and from the last period, the members Nakhman Vayntraub and Menakhem Poznanaski. Last, the devoted activist Levkovitsh. All of those mentioned did all that they could to help the development of the Poalei Tsion movement, the youth organization “Freedom”, and all other branches of the movement in Zyrardow.

A large portion of those mentioned are unfortunately no longer alive, and were killed by the Nazi murderers. Some are in Israel, having made Aliyah before the outbreak of the Second World War and the Holocaust.

The party developed a very varied range of activities in the social arena. They organized readings, reports, discussion evenings, and created literary groups. They organized excursions and Saturday mornings in the woods around town; a drama circle; and a chorus, Hzamir, under the direction of Yosef Levitas, which also benefited from the permanent participation of the member-musicians Shloyme Birnboym and Matias Vagner. Our literary-musical events and concerts were always big hits. It was also a generally recognized fact, that the most important Zionist work and fundraising for the Jewish National Fund was conducted by the Poalei Tsion–Right.

A separate youth organization was created, connected to the party, called “Freedom,” which quickly grew into a large force, and also had a big influence on the adult workers and shul youth. In addition, the party created a “League of Working People of Erets Yisroel,” which included all the friends of the workers' Histadrut in Israel, and raised a significant amount of money for the Palestine Workers' Fund, through various activities.

The Party also created a branch of the organization Hekhaluts, led by comrades Ruven Vaynberg, Itsik Frost, Leya Shtrasburg, Avrom Kshonzshenitser and Khane Malovantshik. Their main work was to propagandize the Hakhshore[2], Aliyah, and Hebrew courses. The branch also helped to organize and run a Hakhshore section, the Grukhuv kibbutz in Zyrardow.

There was also a sports club, Kraft Hapoel, or “Workers' Strength,” under the dedicated leadership of comrades Moyshe Zilbershtayn and Akerman. The club distinguished itself with it excellent playing, including competitions with accomplished Christian sportsmen.

In 1933, party members founded a department of Haavod, which organized the small-scale artisans and Zyrardow workers and was led by Shmuel Mazelshtayn. In 1932 the Grukhov kibbutz-Hakshore was founded. It struggled hard for survival, by finding various kinds of heavy work in the town and around it. In addition, the members also had to fight a political battle. On the party's initiative, a committee was formed, comprising various groups who gave moral support to the Hakhshore branch, and helped them find employment possibilities, as well as developing sympathetic feelings on the part of the majority of the Jewish population.

Although the party experimented with working in partnership with the I.L. Peretz Library on certain cultural projects, for various reasons these never went beyond some limited initial efforts.

It bears repeating that it was at the initiative of Poalei Tsion that a multi-party committee was formed to erect the memorial at the graves of the Jewish freedom fighters who were killed in 1906. This also brought honor and importance to the Jewish population, and strengthened their connection to the Polish socialist party, and led to joint efforts between Poalei Tsion and the socialists in mounting May 1st demonstrations. Incidentally, the erection of the memorial also was a way of thanking the former comrades and fellow fighters who emigrated and who belonged to the Zyrardover branch #501 of the Workmens Circle in America.

In a word, Poalei Tsion-Right grew into a great force and an important axle around which the active communal life of Zyrardow revolved.

In ending my remembrances, I will also fulfill a special obligation as an older comrade to the 5 younger “freedom comrades,” later fighters, who so valiantly fell in the heroic Warsaw Ghetto uprising – Itsik Blaushtayn, Itsik Grinboym, Aron Haldzband, Moyshe Tsigler and Fayvl Shvartshtayn. I mention their names with awe and pain for their young lives so tragically cut short. I am proud of the fact that all of them were comrades in the Zionist Socialist movement of Poalei Tsion and drank from our spring. Raised in the spirit and in the tradition of the most beautiful Jewish and universal humanist ideals, through fire and blood they resisted temptation and with honor passed the test of loyalty to the ideals in which they were raised. All five grew up together, dreamed, believed, and hoped together, and heroically fell together for the honor of the Jewish individual and the Jewish people. May their memory be praised and sanctified forever.

And looking back, there come to mind all the many tens of dear comrades with all their unique qualities and aspirations, and the tragic destruction of their hopes. And my heart fills with inconsolable sorrow.


Photos in order of appearance in the original text:

Page 176: A group of leaders of Agudat Hatsionim in 1916-17. From right to left,
First row, standing: Sholem Blumenshtayn, Yosef Nisnberg, Avrom-Yakob Mazelshtayn.
Second row, standing: Yehiel Muster (Skernovits); a second person from Skernovits, Yakob Boymerder, Boaz Plotsher.
Seated: Hershl Yakubson, Fayvl Totshtayn, Yehiel Linderberg. Directly in front: Dovid Pshikovski (Skernovits).
Page 177: The council of Merkaz Hatsionim and a group of comrades, in honor of the departure of Herr Avrom Pasternak for Eretz-Yisroel. From right to left, standing: Moyshe Rozentsvayg, Note Faygenboym, Yisroel Berkovitsh, Menakhem Landau, Yehoshua Rozentsvayg, Moyshe Nayman, Yosef Nisnberg. Seated: Khava Levitas, Yakob Boymerder, Avrom Pasternak, Fayvl Rotshtayn, and Rayzl Mazalshtayn.
Page 178: Membership card for Agudat Hatsionim in Zyrardow, #9 for the year 1920.
Page 179: Identification card for Merkaz Hatsionim, for member Avrom Mazelshtayn, from 1920.
Page 180: The leadership of the workers' sports club, “Power”.
Right to left, standing: Yisroel Goldberg, Leybl Rozenkrants, Moyshe Tupman.
Seated: Noakh Rozenkrants, Avrom Kshonzshenitser, Yosef Levitas, Munye Malovantshik and Moyshe Zilberman
Page 181: A group of active members of Merkaz Hatsionim.
Right to left, standing: Menakhem Landau, Matias Vagner, Avrom Pasternak, Reyzl Mazelshtayn, Peretz Fridman, Shmuel Mazelsthayn.
Seated: Yisroel Berkovitsh, Khava Levitas, and Dvore Vargatsh.
Page 182, top: The council of the General Zionist organization, Hertsiliya.
Right to left, seated: Motl Vaynberg, Yehiel Levkovitsh, Khava Rozentsvayg, Avrom Mordkhe Liktenshtayn, Menakhem Landau.
Standing: Yakob Grushka, Akiva Rozentsvayg, Khaye Goldberg (now in Israel), Ezriel Gabriolavitsh, and Yehoshua Rozentsvayg.
Page 182, bottom: Leadership and delegates to the council of “Freedom” in Zyrardow in 1927.
Right to left, standing: Shloyme Birnboym, Leybl Rotenberg, Leya Shtrasburg, Shmuel Shoshinski, Arye Gothard.
Seated: Yosef Gelson, Shmuel Mazelshtayn, Avrom Kshonzshenitser, Pinkhes Flantser, Leybl Funtovitsh, and Yosef Nisnberg.


Footnotes

  1. Tokens representing contributions to the Jewish National Fund. return
  2. Zionist training cooperative return


[Page 183]

The Establishment of the Bundist Organization
in Żyrardów after the First World War

by Hertzke Shwartzshtayn

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Donated by Jack Fine

 

Zyr183.jpg

 

This was the beginning of the autumn of 1915. The fighting positions between Russia and Germany already were far from the earlier border, across the Vistula [River]. The Germans had consolidated administratively on the left bank and the assault by the Germans had moved deeper into Russia.

Horses pulled wagons of Jews who were returning to their home shtetlekh [towns] after the expulsion that had been carried out by the military commander of the Russian army, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich. Our city, Żyrardów, had not avoided the expulsion edict. It was declared when the front was near the Rowka River between Skierniewice and Żyrardów and it [the Russian front] had begun to collapse; the defeat was blamed on the Jews… and then came the prikaz [order] of expulsion.

The Jews were ordered to leave Żyrardów during the next 48 hours. They grabbed what they could and ran to Warsaw.

The landsleit [people from the same town] would meet in Warsaw, but for the most part it was the young who met and stayed together. Here in Warsaw, the young people observed city life, the activities of the young and dreamed about [doing] the same things when they returned home.

As soon as there was an opportunity, the Jews of Żyrardów began to return to their home city. They began to restore the life that had been destroyed. The question of doing something in the cultural-educational area immediately appeared among the young and some of the progressive older people. Before anything else, it was decided to create a society where they could come together.

At the initiative of a group of people (Feywl Rotsztajn, Hershl Jakubson, Yisroel Jakubowicz, Lozer Jakubowicz, Moshel Szwarcsztajn, Hershl Jakubson, Ester Dzaloszynska and the writer of these lines), a gathering was called about this matter. About 20 men came and they decided to create a library. Three people were chosen to work on the legalization of the society.

In general, this was the first time for us in Żyrardów that a legal, Jewish society was created. More than once, before the First World War, we had tried to obtain permission to open a Jewish cultural institution in our city, but without results. Older townspeople said that the Russian regime considered our city to be a revolutionary nest. We were also told that in 1906 a bomb was thrown at the police. I was very young then and do not know the facts about this.[a]

It was the second day of Sukkous [Feast of Tabernacles]. A delegation of three people, Yisroel Jakubowicz, Lozer Jakubowicz, Moshel Szwarcsztajn, went to the mayor of the city about [receiving] permission. The mayor was the director of the textile factory. He

[Page 184]

was of German origin. He was personally acquainted with Moshe'l Szwarczstajn, with whom he did business.

City hall was located in the post building at the square across from the factory.

The delegation was accompanied by 10 people who impatiently waited outside for an answer. There was great joy when the delegation came out with a positive answer.

They immediately rented premises in Tripne's house, the second house from the whiskey factory (we called it goczelne [distillery]) on Wiskitker Street.

The work was very intensive. We made tables and chairs, prepared cabinets for books and we began preparing for a solemn opening of the society.

The opening took place on a Shabbos [Sabbath] evening. The women's committee had decorated the rooms. In general, we had two rooms and both were over-flowing. They stood in the corridor, on the steps. The mood was ceremonial.

The first managing committee consisted of 15 men;[1] I think I remember them all and they were:

1. Yisroel Jakubowicz (hat-maker); 2. Lozer Jakubowicz (he was called komek [comic] because he was very cheerful); 3. Moshe'l Szwarcsztajn (Chaya-Itka's son); 4. Feywl Ratsztajn (the son of Moshe the Bolimower [from Bolimow]); 5. Hershl Jakubzon (the son of the swindler); 6. Ahron Kaufman (the son of Moshe the shoemaker); 7. Nota Fajgnbaum (the son of the butcher from Biala); all perished at the hands of the Nazis in Poland; 8. Moshe Raitowski (watchmaker); 9. Chana Rotenberg (daughter or wife of Dovid Szmelke); 10. Ruchl-Nekha Nisenberg (daughter or wife of Itshe-Leyzer); 11. Elka Lubtszanski (daughter or wife of the blond religious teacher); they are all in America; 12. Ester Dzloszinski (daughter or wife of Ahron-Chaim, deported from Paris and perished); 13. Perl Bomerder (she was called Czarne's granddaughter; I do not know where she is) and 14 Hercke Szwarcsztajn (son of Chaya-Itka, the writer of these lines). A name is missing; I think it was Yankl Baumerder (son of Binem the shoykhet [ritual slaughterer]), now in the Land of Israel.[2]

I remember a curious thing about Yankl and his father's shtreiml [fur-trimmed hat worn by Hasidim]. We already had a library with a few books. They were mainly books that the members had given, one 10, another 20. Ahron Kaufman, for example, had donated 30 books; the writer of these lines 40 and so on. However, we wanted to enlarge the library with new books and we did not have any money to arrange an evening in our own premises.

We created a dramatic circle and this was the first appearance. We settled on three works; each was one act, and we had arranged it so that these particular plays would be somehow connected; they would have a bit of a connection. We needed to have a shtreiml for the last act and the only one of us who could obtain it was Yankl – his father Binen Shoykhet owned a shtreiml… Yankl did bring the shtreiml, but as the undertaking took place on Shabbos night and Binem Shoykhet always put on the shtreiml for Havdalah [ceremony marking the end of the Sabbath], we had to rearrange the presentation and acted the third work as the first one.

The activity of the library developed very well. In general, both the work and composition of the membership was apolitical.

In 1916 a Bundist organization was created in Żyrardów, which immediately attained great importance in the city. The Bund received a majority [of votes] at the first election of the managing committee of the library. The remainder on the managing committee was impartial. A number of Zionists who had been on the previous managing committee left and created a Zionist union.

A Youth Bund was then created. The dramatic circle was strengthened and we staged several theater pieces.

I remember another curious thing: we staged [Stanislaw] Przybyszewski's Shnei [The Snow]. By chance, Dovid Herman, the famous director from Warsaw and leader of a dramatic studio was at a rehearsal. His opinion was that one could sense [that we were amateurs] but it was not bad.

As the work became more diverse, we arranged readings with comrade speakers from Warsaw. The readings were on political and cultural-literary themes. Among the literary guests who came, I remember Natan Szafran, Gershon Ziberet, Leyzer Lewin, Dr. Yoska Lipszic, Dina Blond (the wife of Beynish Michalewicz) and so on. The readings drew many of the young from all strata of the population. The readings were a school for education and instruction for the young. There were those among the young who could barely read.

[Page 185]

Bundist organizations were created in the neighboring shtetlekh Grodzhisk [Grodzisk] and Amshinov [Mszczonow] with the help of the Żyrardów Bundists. We maintained close contact with them and even held general consultations from time to time, in which the Bundist organization in Skiernovitz [Skierniewice] also took part.

The 11th of November 1918 particularly remains in my memory. It was the day of the cease-fire. The streets of Żyrardów were filled with people. There were meetings on the Christian streets of both the Naradowcys [nationalists] and of the Polish Socialists (P.P.S. [Polska Partia Socjalistyczna – Polish Socialist Party]).

The same day, our comrade (Yankl Najman) came from Warsaw and brought appeals from the Bund. We distributed the pages and pasted some on the walls. The pages were written in the Polish language.

At their meetings, the Naradowcys also began to agitate against the Jews. We made contact with the P.P.S. about this and we arranged a meeting the next day at our premises. We already had exchanged our meeting place for a much larger one. This was on the corner of Fabriczner Street and Targowa. A representative of the P.P.S. appeared at the meeting.

The room was too small. People stood in the corridors and on the stairs. People from all strata and of all opinions came. The opposition to the anti-Semitic agitation was expressed here.

When the workers councils were created in Poland, such [councils] naturally were also created in Żyrardów. The largest faction then was the Polish Socialist Party. There were also representatives from the S.D.K.P.L. [Social Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania] (later the Communist Party in Poland) and the Bund. We had one representative – the writer of these lines and two substitutes – Borukh Kszoncznicer (the son of the small Itshele the tailor) and Ahron Kaufman. The former was the secretary of the Bund committee and the latter was the librarian. The election was proportional. There were not many Jewish workers.

Despite the fact that we were few in number in comparison to others on the workers council, they listened to our voice. However, the workers councils did not have any longevity. Very quickly, it and the workers councils all over the country collapsed.

On New Year's Day 1919, in the afternoon, two people came to my brother where I worked; one the son-in-law of Lozer Wajnhendler and Szifman (from the bookstore) and they asked if they could tell me something. We went into another room and they told me that a special messenger, a Jew, had come from Amshinow and said that peasants had assembled on the marketplace there and were preparing to attack the Jews. Therefore, they turned to me as a representative of the Bund and of the workers council that I should see that they were helped.

Borukh Kszoncznicer and I immediately went to the chairman of the workers council. He was from the P.P.S. and told us that he was in his house because it was a holiday. He immediately left for the office and telephoned Amshinow. His answer was that this was correct; there were peasants assembled at the marketplace, but it was quiet. There was no sign that they were preparing for trouble.

They telephoned from Amshinow a little later that movement had begun there and they had begun to send several wagons of the militia from Żyrardów. The militia officially was under the supervision of the workers council. However, it really was from the P.P.S. It had as great an influence in the city as the official police. This militia was dissolved along with the dismissed workers council.

We stayed in telephone contact with Amshinow until late at night. Fortunately, nothing happened there. Perhaps it really was thanks to the arrival of the militia group.

With the rise of the Polish government, we had to renew permission for the unions and societies. The library was renewed with the name Tsukunft [future]. Previously the permission was for the name Library. The current statute gave us the opportunity to have a legal dramatic society, various courses and so on.

The Bund then strengthened its political and cultural activity even more. We took part in every demonstration with our flag in Yiddish and Polish. A representative of the Bund was present in the presidium at every general meeting.

When excesses against the Jews began in

[Page 186]

Poland, the reactionary element here with us [in Żyrardów] wanted to make the shtetl joyful [agitate against the Jews]. The workers council then called a meeting at which esteemed representatives appeared. One speaker (from the P.P.S.) among others, said: “Do not let yourselves be misled by the Naradowycs and other right-wing members who agitate against the Jews in our city. Let our city, which is a workers city, not be covered with shame, that it not be sullied with Jewish blood.” And we can really affirm that no anti-Jewish attacks took place then.

Elections to the city council took place at the beginning of the winter of 1919. We did not propose any candidates because we could not do so. We had to be 25 years old in order to be able to be candidates and we did not have anyone [of that age]. However, we did carry on informational work.

Then a professional union of needle workers was created at our initiative. There were no other unions then. The first work carried out by the union was an action for a normal workday and increased wages.

The dramatic sections worked very intensively. They often staged plays as well as arranged recitation evenings. The leaders and those taking part in the dramatic circle were: Gitl Dzaloszinski (Ahron Chaim's daughter), Yankl Najman (I do not remember his father's name), Borukh Kszoncznicer, Shlomo Tepen (Yosl Gricer's son), Meylekh Herszkowicz (Ahron the watchmaker's son) – all in America. Gela Nisnberg (Itshe-Layzer's daughter, now in Israel)[b] and there were others whose names I do not remember, but among them there are survivors and I would wish there were more. May they forgive me for leaving out their names.

At the initiative of the Bund we also received the theater room at the folkshoyz, the Dom Ludowy [people's house], which was at the marketplace where the fairs took place. I do not know what is there today. The theater room was at the disposal of the workers council. It actually belonged to the factory and this was the first time that a society, in addition, a Jewish one, that did not belong to the factory had received [the use of] the premises. Christians also had not received [the use of] the room.

 

Zyr186.jpg
The Bund committee in 1918
From right to left: Borukh Kszoncznicer, Ahron Kaufman, Yankl Najman, Yehiel Holcsztajn, Hercka Szwarcsztajn, Melekh Herszkowicz

[Page 187]

Every presentation was crowned with success. Entire groups would come from the surrounding shtetlekh. The half-assimilated Jews, who would seldom be seen at Jewish gatherings, also always came to see our theater performances.

Passover 1919. The writer of these lines was at a national conference of the Bund, as a delegate from the Żyrardów region. A comrade from Żyrardów (Eidel Rozenfeld, now in Paris) came in the middle of the conference and informed me that I must go home quickly. I was being called to the military. This was the age group of all of those who were most actively engaged in communal work. Returning from the conference, we first of all had to replace these comrades [in this age group] with other as well as with female comrades.

(By chance, a number of the reports that were presented at this conference about the state of the organization in Żyrardów at that time wre preserved. It is said in the report that was published in the Arbeter-Luekh [Workers Calendar] of 1920: Żyrardów: political members of the Bund – 26; general professional union – 108 members; workers cultural society Tsukunft, Szeroka [comprehensive] 116 – 187 members; youth organization Tsukunft – 55 members.

The work did not cease but many comrades decided to leave Poland.

The activity greatly continued and the Bund then, at that moment at the beginning of the new Polish state, was the strongest and most respected Jewish party in the city. Despite the fact that it was known that the Bund was far from piety, pious people also respected us and did not dare to say anything [about our lack of piety] as happened in other cities. In general, it must be said that the greatest circles of the young came from pious, Jewish homes and they were the reservoir for our organization and its activity.

Characteristically: two Hasidim: a forest merchant and his employee, a shreiber [recorder of timber sales, etc.], had a dispute; they came to the Bund to reach an agreement.

The activity continued like this until spring 1920. Extensive emigration from Poland began, led by the young people. The hostile situation between Poland and Russia; the war, which had begun and caused agitation, did not avoid our city. Many comrades left for abroad, including my wife and I.

We would receive greetings from afar that the work that we had begun then, after the First World War, had not been for naught. The organization we had built, as we heard, had gone through a transformation that we were told about by confident comrades who later remained in Poland. In any case, we always carried with love the memories of that beautiful springtime when young, Jewish fervor brought new ideas, new ways of life to our Żyrardów.

Now these lines about our home, which was exterminated by the brutal, Nazi murderers, are being written. Those closest to us were murdered. May these lines truly be in memory of all of our dear families, all our friends and close ones who perished el Kiddush haShem [in sanctification of God's name – as a martyr]. 


Original Footnotes

  1. There are facts about this bloody event in the Pinkes [chronicles of a Jewish community] in a series of memoirs. return
  2. We have a special work about the dramatic circle by Gela Nisnberg (Land of Israel) in our memorial book. return

Translator's Footnotes

  1. The author writes that there were 15 men on the first managing committee, but women appear in his list of committee members. return
  2. The author of this article uses two Yiddish spellings of the name Bomerder/Baumerder. return

 

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