Zionism and emigration

The Beitar Movement attracted several young people in Bodzentyn. In this photo from 1935, the men and women gathered at the castle ruins are some of them.

Far on the right side is Menachem Weinstok (Wajnstok). It is said—and this has not been verified—that he was the assistant of the first Likud Prime Minister of Israel, Menachem Begin. Tamar Szafir is the second girl from the right side. The third woman on the right is Sara Zilbershtein, then follows Devora Orbach and Rivka Grossman (the man in the middle has not been identified); next to the gentleman is Rivka Zilberberg, then Sara Reichmann and Sara Reizel Obender.

It is common knowledge that the members of Beitar groups played important roles in the fight against the British during the Mandate, and in the creation of Israel.

In times of hardship

At the time of WWI Jews and Catholic Poles in Bodzentyn suffered alike from the hardship of those years. In one letter from Toronto in 1916 Yitzchak Leib Rosenberg, who had emigrated from Poland, expresses great concern for his relatives.

"Already, it has been a year that I have not received a letter. Therefore, I am asking you, sirs, to make an effort, if possible, to find out what has happened to my family. I am writing to you where my family is and what their names are: Raizel Rosenberg, Chaim Korenblum, Pesach Korenblum – Bayzetshin, Kelts province, Russia-Poland."

Source:  HIAS – Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society. Digital source, accessed in 2008 at http://www.hias.org/files/u1/120stories/20daitch.pdf

In times of hardship, Jews from Bodzentyn moved to all kinds of places, for example, Brazil, the USA and Canada, and especially Toronto.

Several of the Jews from Bodzentyn chose to immigrate to Toronto in Canada during the first decades of the 1900s. When one member of the family had moved several relatives soon followed. Sharing a common heritage of traditions, language and Orthodox way of life many of them gathered in Toronto. In fact, Baizecheeners/Baizetshinners, as they were called, were awarded a special piece of land at The Dawes Road Cemeteries. There were also sizeable communities of Baizetshinners in Baltimore and in Brooklyn in the United States. 

Zionism, the Jewish movement to establish a national homeland, was active in Bodzentyn and its vicinity as it had been in virtually all Jewish communities in the Pale of Settlements, especially in the inter-war 1920s and 1930s. Most young Jewish men and women were involved in the groups of Poalei-Tziyon and Beitar. More than organizing lectures, setting up a library, and performing plays in the house of the local fire station at the upper market, they emulated the collective living of the kibbutz in preparation for emigration to the British mandate of Palestine.

The castle ruins in Bodzentyn (1918–1933).

Rachel Szafir Ejnesman Binstock sings in Yiddish.

For most Jews in Bodzentyn, Yiddish was the mother tongue. However, from the early 1930s, more and more people, especially from the younger generation mixed Polish with Yiddish in conversation with friends.

Antisemitism

Antisemitism is known to have been a major factor in precipitating Jewish emigration from Poland.

In the time between the wars, Polish residents engaged in patriotic endeavours establishing the state of Poland. Jews were thought of as sympathizing with the Russian Bolsheviks, accused of being communists, and became targets for antisemitic riots. Also, some of the priests serving in the local Catholic Church encouraged the growing hostility towards Jews.

Most historians would agree that from the mid-thirties, that is, after the death of the former chief of state Józef Piłsudski in 1935, Polish antisemitic propaganda intensified. For example, with war closing in on Poland, local antisemitic activists in Bodzentyn would take up posts outside Jewish shops and stalls, attempting to prevent Poles from entering them.

Nationalistic factions agitated for economic boycotts to persuade all the country’s Jews to emigrate. This movement was endorsed by the Polish government and many leaders of the Catholic Church in Poland. There were barriers introduced to ritual slaughter and restrictions on Jews’ access to education and certain professions.

In the 1930s, antisemitism was escalating and had even become part of official government policy. It was that ongoing antisemitism that served as a major factor in precipitating Jewish emigration from Poland.

More than a few Jews from Bodzentyn chose to leave for England, France, the USA, Canada, Brazil, and some emigrated to the British mandate of Palestine.

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Useful information

Stay tuned, in January 2022 you will find a video filmed interview with a Holocaust survivor on this page.

Sources

  • Browning, C. R. (2010). Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave-Labour Camp. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
  • Rubinowicz, D., Janicki J., Wiernik B, Pałysiewicz E., Pałysiewicz J., & Wymark E. (2010). Pamiętnik Dawida Rubinowicza. Reszta nie jest milczeniem. Bodzentyn: Towarzystwo Dawida Rubinowicza.
  • "Songs from the villages and cities" by Rachel nee Szafir. (In the archive of Yad Vashem. Made available to the Editor by a relative and Yad Vashem.)
  • Kalib Szachter, G., Wachsberger, K., & Kalib S. (1991). The Last Selection: a Child's Journey Through the Holocaust. Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press.
  • Wołczyk, A. (1987). Pozostał po nich tylko kirkut ... (6th edition), Bodzentyn.
  • Wołczyk A. (2007). Bodzentyn jako miasto i osada. Bodzentyn.