Active Political Organizations 1900-1939
A large body of literature has examined the political, cultural, and social uniqueness of the shtetl in Poland. Each shtetl experienced it’s own unique combination of self government and political awareness during the 1800’s under the leadership of strong personalities and particularly under the guidance of Rabbinical leadership during the establishment of the Pale of Settlement edicts. One noted publication title reflects this attitude and awareness with the title “Miasto Ben Rabina Nie Moze Istniec (A City Without a Rabbi Cannot Exist)”* It details 56 Rabbis of Poland with a brief bio and location descriptions. (One rabbi was listed for Zychlin-for more information, see “Rabbinate“)
After the establishment of the Republic of Poland in 1918 and up to the mid 1930’s each shtetl and the larger Jewish urban communities experienced a phenomenal rise in political awareness. Simultaneously, an awareness of the possibility of a homeland in Israel began to take hold with the writings and leadership of Theodore Herzl, emigration to agricultural colonies in other parts of the world (Baron von Hirsh), and continuously increasing anti-semitic oppression which culminated in the Nazi led slaughter of almost the entire Jewish population of Jewish Central Poland.
The Jewish community of Zychlin experienced the following political groups and associations.
(Source: www.sztetl.org.pl, Pinkas Hakehilot Polin, Zychlin).
GUR HASIDIM (est.~1900)
An organization supporting the Hassidic Zychlin dynasty of orthodox persuasion. Thr Gur Hasidim controlled myc of Jewish community life in Zychlin. Over the years, there were regular conflicts between the Gur Hasidim and Zionist and other Hasidic groups in the shtetl.
BUND (est. 1903)
Established by Yitche Getzel, the Bund was one of the first political organiations in Zychli. It fell into decline a few years later when its members faced persecution by the Czarist regime.
POALEI ZION (est. 1903)
Organized initially in the 1903 to 1905 time frame, Poalei Zion was one of the town’s first political groups. Like the Bund and Zionist-Socialists, its membership faced persecution by the authories in the early 1900s and declined. Nevertheless, the organization was a force in the community in the inter-war years, as described further below.
ZIONIST SOCIALIST (est. 1903)
Also one of Zychlin’s first political organizations, the group was formed in 1905 by Shimon Skrobek and Moshe Zyger. It disintegrated a few years later when its members were persecuted by government authorities.
SELF DEFENCE GROUPS DURING WW1
These groups got established to protect Jewish citizens and counter the invasion of German armies into the shtetl and surrounding area between 1900 and 1914.
Zychlin’s chapter of Bnai Zion was founded during World War I (while the town was occupied by the Germans), by Avraham Yitzhak Rozenfeld, David Steinberger (later Shamir), Aharon Kanarek, Avraham Getzel, Rivka Rozenbaum and Berish Adler. Members participated in efforts to prepare for defense oF the Jewish community in anticipation of anti-Semitic violence. Under Yitzhak Kelmer’s leadership, the group distributed the Zionist shekel, raised funds for Keren Hayesod, Keren Kayemet, and the Jewish National Fund, organized a special fundraiser for the benefit of Jewish academics in Poland, and distributed the weekly Hebrew newspaper HaTzfira in Zychlin.
Founded during the Germans’ World War 1 occupation of Zychlin.
ZUKUNFT (est 1920)
Zychliners tried to form a local Zukunft organization of non-partisan professional union but were shut down by the German occupiers.
Like several other political organizations, the Jewish Scouts were organized during Zychlin’s World War I occupation by the Germans. Leaders of the Scouts were: David Steinberger, one of the Rozenfelds, and Meir Helmer. With time, that scouts’ organization turned into the Zychlin branch of Hashomer Hatzair, led by Bunim Steinberger.
From the Pinkas Hakehillot Polin entry for Zychlin:
“The student [Avraham] Toroncyk from Lodz founded branches of the Scouts Organization in
Zychlin and Kutno…In Zychlin, where I [Yaacov Ben-Binah] led the group, we carried out a broad
range of activities organizing outings on the outskirts of town and visits to Gombin and Kutno.
We were a group of idealistic young people, non-partisan, but devoted to the Zionist values
which at the time seemed a distant reality. Everyday we carried out the good deed of
distributing aid to the needy as well as communal tasks like serving as honour guards at various
BETWEEN THE WARS
“Zychlin’s Jewish population was overwhelmingly Zionist. All the Zionist parties had branches in our town: General Zionists, Mizrahi and Hapoel Mizrahi, the Folkist party, Tzeirei Zion (later the Zionist Socialist Party, which united with Poalei Zion Right), Poaeli Zion Left, Hashomer Hatzair, etc. These groups were active everywhere and excelled in fundraising for the Zionist foundations: Keren Kayemet, the Jewish National Fund, Keren Hayesod, Torah and Avodah, and even held a fundraiser for the benefit of academics from the minority groups in Poland. There was also a small group of the Bund party, but it did not have significant influence. The members
of Agudat Israel were zealous defenders of religion…Yizkor Book, “This is what life in our town was like”)
LINAT ZEDEK / BIKUR HOLIM
These organizations were designed to help to poor and needy within the community and health relief. Both organizations were prominent in Zychlin and provided support for health services.
Linat Zedek was a large prayer house where both Hasidim and common folk went to pray. It was established in 1911-12 by the local Hasidim who opposed the followers of the Gur dynasty. The founders were Shmelke Biderman, Mendl Kraut, Avraham Berman and David Steinberger. Later, the prayer house became the main activity center for the religious Zionists of the Mizrachi party and the activists of all other Zionist groups.
The Gemilat Chesed was an important local organization providing loans to the needy (including 450 loans in 1936/37 alone).
(POALEI-ZION) (est. 1918)
The Poalei Zionists formed the Zychlin Arbayer-Heim Club in 1918.
POALEI_ZION RIGHT/LEFT (est. 1914)
A Zychlin branch of the Poalei Zion party was reestablished in 1914 by Moshe Zyger, along with Avraham Zaiderman, Shimon Majdat and others. The party gained prominence in Zychlin and became a large organization within the community. Nationally, the Poalei Zion party split into two factions – Left and Right – in 1917. Poalei Zion Left won a
majority of the Jewish seats in the 1919 elections for a joint Labor Council of Polish and Jewish workers in Zychlin. It lost some of its membership in the early 1920s as young people moved away from Zychlin, and as some activists, led by Shimon Majdat, joined the Communists and others shifted to Poalei Zion Right.
Sponsored by Poalei Zion Left, a local trade union council made up of both Jews and non-Jews was founded in Zychlin in 1924. The union led a successful bakers’ strike that year. In 1932, the organization created an agricultural school to train members for future life in the kibbutz. They also managed the public library.
This conservative movement played an important role in Zychlin and its educational institutions.
- active in community and education
- after WW I, took over administration of the community
- after WW I established a yeshiva and a school for girls called Beit Yaakov.
MIZRACHI (est. 1920)
Mizrachi opened the Tarbut school offering evening classes for Hebrew, the Bible and history of Israel (closed down in 1928). One of its founders was Reb Menachem Meir Rozenbaum, who guided yeshiva students at the beit hamidrash.
After the Scouts organization transitioned into a branch of Hashomer Hatzair, several members left the group and formed Tzeirei Zion, including Yaacov Ben-Binah and A. Getzel. They were joined by Avraham Wrontzberg, Yehoshua Wojdeslawski. Tzeirei Zion became the basis for Zychlin’s Poalei Zion Right.
LEATHER WORKERS UNION
Formed by the Poalei Zionists in Zychln after World War 1
UNION OF NEEDLE WORKERS
Also sponsored by the Poalei Zionists following World War 1.
THE JEWISH MERCHANTS’ ASSOCIATION
Administered a lending fund to support its local members.
THE CRAFTSMEN’S ASSOCIATION
Secured craft licenses for its members and assisted them with low-interest loans.
Social/Sports Organizations/Youth Groups
A branch of the Hechalutz was founded in the 1930’s to bring together youth of all the local organizatons.
TUREN FAREIN SPORTS ASSOCIATION
Zychliners received a license from the German occupation authorities during World War I to establish a local Turen Farein branch under the name of Association of Jewish Athletes and Gymnasts in Zychlin. They leased an open lot, formerly a lumberyard, on Podwal Street for their activities. The group attracted more than 100 members. Meetings, which began in 1917, were held in the hall of the general library. However, by summer 1919, the Association lost may members to the Polish Army draft and opportunities outside of Zychlin.
TURNPAREIN (Self defence group)
Local members of Turnrparein formed a youth self-defense group about 1918, following harassment of Jews by members of General Haller’s army.
Hashomer Hatzir evolved out of the Jewish Scouts. Its activities took place on the “Hashomer Field”, an open pasture area along the side of Pasieka Road outside town. The heyday of the group was from the end of World War I to the mid-1930s.
HAPOEL FOOTBALL CLUB
The Club was established in 1927 by Zionist youth and the Poalei Zion organization.
From the Pinkas Hakehillot Polin:
“Despite the small size of the community, there were many Jewish educational institutions in Zychlin. The community ran a Talmud-Torah for the poor. Immediately after the First World War, Agudat Israel established a yeshiva and a school for girls, Beit Yaakov. The Zionists opened the Tarbut school, offering evening classes for Hebrew, the Bible and the history of Israel. Due to lack of resources, the Tarbut school was closed in 1928. The… 4-grade municipal school for Jewish children was transformed in 1922 into a 7-grade school that was attended by most children of the town. The principal and the teachers (except for one) were Jews, which was not typical of such public schools in other towns of Poland. During the interwar period there were three Jewish public libraries in Zychlin. The two larger ones were run by Poalei Zion-Left and Poalei Zion-Right. In addition to the already mentioned sports organization Turnparein, the football club Hapoel was also established in 1927 by Zionist youngsters and Poalei Zion”