I. Up to the First World
In the Period of “Naïve
The Jewish Worker
Movement of Bukovina grew organically out of the international
movement which started in the 90's of the previous century. At that
time originated in Czernowitz the first labor unions and the first
Social Democratic party groups. In the first years of the 20th
century organizations were created in the cities of Radauti,
Suceava, Siret and Storozynetz. In 1899, the Volkspress [Peoples'
Press] originated as the organ of the party and the union. At first
it was published once per month and quickly was changed to a weekly
paper and after the First World War appeared as a daily newspaper
under the name Vorwärts [Forwards].
While today, we can't
say with certainty that the first Social Democrats of Bukovina or
actually, the first union leaders were Jews, there was no doubt that
Jews played an important part in the pioneering work of the
movement. The building up and structuring of the organization
followed the model prevalent in the rest of Austria. The party
groups joined the Social Democratic state organization of Bukovina
[“state” always refers to the political entity of Bukovina] and the
Social Democratic party of Austria. It was the same with the unions:
they were united in the Bukovina State Union Commission and the
trade organizations joined the corresponding trade organizations of
Austria. In addition, there were “General Union Associations” which
led a more independent life. In the provincial cities, the General
Union Associations were the rule.
The first trade unions
in Czernowitz were the typesetters and the book printers followed by
the tailors, wood workers, metal workers, waiters, backers, retail
There was a very
harmonious relation between the party and the unions in Austria. In
Bukovina, there was absolutely no difference between the two
branches of the organization. Being a member of the Social
Democratic party was obligatory in the unions and party dues were
taken out of the pay along with union dues. Similarly, every party
member also had to be a union member. So, every member of a Bukovina
organization was a full member of the Social Democratic Party of
Austria (Collective Party) and the membership was not merely a
formality. The feeling of a close connection to the organized labor
of the state lifted the self esteem of the new young members. In
union as well as in political matters the Central in Vienna set the
tone. Also, the young worker's movement happily used the flattering
name of “Little Vienna” for Czernowitz. In addition the movement
looked past Galicia to western Austria as the ideal example for its
upward striving organization.
The leaders of the
movement hardly noticed at the time, that just the characteristics
that so beneficially differentiated Bukovina from the rest of
Austria would make it, in spite of the lack of an industrial
proletariat, would make it fertile earth for Socialist recruiting.
At the turn of the century, the nationalistic strife in Austria was
in full swing. In the mixed-language crown lands, it was steadily
becoming more intense. In Bukovina, however, there was a barely
perceptible echo of the clamor of discord in the West. Here lived
five nationalities - in addition to small splinters of other
nationalities - in complete harmony, listed by numerical strength as
follows: Ukrainians (Ruthenians), Romanians, Jews, Germans and
Poles. They understood and respected each other and didn't fight for
a superior position.
It is not difficult to
see that exactly these circumstances would not be favorable to the
formation of workers organizations along national lines and also,
the formation of a special Jewish organization.
The small weak
organizations were permeated with high idealism, their public
actions, even the smallest union fights were carried off with great
élan. All-inclusive internationalism, however was the guiding theme
of the new “world view” which was preached among workers of all
nationalities. National separation within the movement, every type
of national effort, must have appeared to them like a disharmony.
This international concept of Socialism is a characteristic aspect
of the beginning of the Socialist movement in all lands. Otto Bauer
later gave it the apt name “Naïve Cosmopolitanism.” In Bukovina,
this period, for understandable reasons lasted longer than in other
For Jewish Socialists,
there came another grave moment that was not amicable to the
formation of special national organizations.
At that time, most of
the members of the organization were hourly paid industrial workers
from the cities. The workers of the lumber industry in southern
Bukovina in which very few Jews were employed did not join the
organization in appreciable numbers for a long time. Since hand work
in Bukovina was largely done by Jews there was naturally a large
Jewish majority in the organization. In the provinces, the
membership was almost entirely Jewish. This made it easier to direct
propaganda to the Christian workers that pictured the movement as
the “Jewish party” and to warn against it. For the Jewish
Socialists, this was not an encouraging situation. The responsible
leaders saw that creating national groupings within the party would
simply lead to an all Jewish Socialist movement while at the same
time; the path to organization of the non-Jewish workers would be
blocked. At the center of the Austrian Worker's Movement the
discussion of the “national question” consumed ever more energy.
Just when the first workers' organizations were coming into being in
Bukovina, the narrow international [did the author mean “national?”]
framework of the Social Democratic Party of Austria was blown to
pieces. At the congress in Vienna in 1897, a new set of by-laws was
adopted. Two years later in 1899 the congress took place in Brün.
Socialist delegates from
all nations agreed on a nationality program for Austria and also
agreed on new party by-laws. The unified international Social
Democratic party which had been accepted up until then was replaced
by a series of autonomous Social Democratic Parties which together
composed the International Social Democratic Party of Austria and
which were joined at the top level by the International Party
The congress in Brün was
of historic significance. The apparent conflict between
nationalistic feelings and thinking and international socialist
sensibilities was finally overcome. It was realized that the growth
of a national consciousness was a natural outgrowth of the social
awakening of the workers. It was no coincidence that in the same
year, 1899, the first scientific socialistic writings concerning the
“national question” appeared, Karl Renner's “State und Nation.”
It took some time before
this realization penetrated to Bukovina. This development was
accelerated by the great political events of the following years.
Outside the borders of
the Austrian empire, in Tsarist Russia, the drama of the great
revolution played itself out before the eyes of the world. The
socialist organization of the Jewish workers, the Allgemeine
Jüdischen Arbeiter-Bund [the General Jewish Worker's Alliance
commonly known as the Bund] reaped great honors due to its roll in
the revolutionary battles by the organizing of “self defense” groups
to protect Jewish life and property from the pogroms of the
Tsarists. Jewish members of the Social Democratic Party in Bukovina
used all their resources to help the Bund in Russia by smuggling
revolutionary literature - proclamations and brochures printed on
thin cigarette paper - over the border at Nowosielitza into Russia.
After the defeat
of the revolution in Russia in 1905, Bukovina became a refuge for
the escaped freedom fighters. They came to Czernowitz not like
soldiers after a lost battle, but with unbroken spirits like upright
revolutionaries who have to temporarily escape the reach of the
Tsarist thugs. Among the refugees were also many Bundists
who were warmly welcomed and supported by Jewish Socialists in
Bukovina. The direct contact with new friends opened a new world for
the Jewish Members of the Social Democratic Organization.
On the other side of the
Bukovina border in Galicia, there occurred in the same year (1905)
the founding of the Jewish Socialist Party of Galicia - called for
short “ZPS” for the beginning letters of the name in Polish - which
adopted the program of the Bund in Russia. The new party requested
entrance into the Austrian Social Democratic Party, but because of
agitation of the Polish Social Democratic Party (PPS) was not
admitted. The Jewish Socialists who until 1905 were organized in the
PPS were called “Separatists” by the PPS which was antagonistic
toward the Jews. That however didn't reduce its attraction for the
Jewish Social Democrats of Bukovina. The example of the up till then
overlooked Galicia displaced in their hearts the Vienna ideal which
they had been striving to achieve for many years. The wish to join
their comrades in Galicia became ever stronger.
In Bukovina great events
were soon to occur.
The fight to allow all
citizens to vote for members of parliament which broke out with
renewed vigor in autumn of 1905 and enveloped entire Austria from
end to end also spread to quiet and traditionally Kaiser true
Bukovina and stirred the masses of ordinary people to action. There
followed a great influx to the workers' organizations: construction
workers from the suburbs of Czernowitz, industrial and farm workers
from the north of Bukovina, workers from the brick works, from the
sugar factories and from Luzan and Zucka - Ukrainians, Germans and
Romanians - found the way to organizations. The non-Jewish element
quickly came into the majority.
The question of
nationality groups in the party soon found, without much dispute, a
practical solution. There soon came to life, without a statutory
authorization, formless lecture groups which spread the propaganda
for the common goal in all the languages of the Bukovina nation.
The victorious fight for
general suffrage for parliamentary elections was rightfully called
the “spring of the Austrian people.” Also, the people of Bukovina
experienced their “spring awakening.” The Social Democratic Party
became a great workers movement. The use of all national languages
in the propaganda work mirrored outwardly, the once more harmonious
living together in the Bukovina nation.
In the election for the
first parliament in 1907 under general suffrage the separation of
groups in the Bukovina Social Democratic Party was maintained and
In the Jewish election
district Czernowitz-East (with Sadagura) the party backed a well
known Socialist Journalist from Vienna, Jakob Brod, editor of the
monthly periodical Arbeiterschutz [Worker Protection] against Benno
Straucher, the candidate for the Jewish National Party. It was clear
from the beginning that the assimilated Jew from the West, in spite
of the fact that he was a polished orator would have no attraction
for the voters of Czernowitz, but the party couldn't back a local
candidate for a reason that was very characteristic for that time:
None of the Jewish intellectuals in the Social Democratic Party who
could be considered had yet reached the minimum age of 30 years. The
youth of the leaders matched the youth of the movement. The result
of this “candidate by numbers” was very discouraging for the Jewish
Social Democrats. Jakob Brod won a surprisingly large number of
In the voting district
Czernowitz-West the voting movement took a stormy course with bloody
clashes that had to be suppressed by the military. A run-off
election from which the Social Democratic Party emerged victorious
had to be held. Georg Grigorovici was elected. A Bukovina Romanian
born in Storozynetz, Grigorovice spent several years abroad after
graduating from middle school - in Switzerland, in the Russian
Caucasus and in other countries. When during the fight for the
general Parliament suffrage the lack of intellectual resources
became ever more apparent, Grigorovici followed the call of the
party, interrupted his medical studies at the Vienna University and
returned to Bukovina. The energetic, widely traveled and politically
educated Georg Grigorovici took over the leadership of the party and
union secretariats. He brought new energy to the movement. His wife
Tatjana who had earned a doctorate in philosophy in the Zurich
University was a Russian Jew, a member of the Bund in Russia. She
was a well educated woman, an extremely gifted speaker and an
The parliament district
Czernowitz West was created by the government in order to give an
advantage to the German speaking residents. The conquest of the
district by a Social Democrat - and a non-German Social Democrat to
boot - was considered by the German nationalists as a great loss for
Grigorovici who also won
in the second parliamentary election (1911) in Czernowitz West was
one of the most highly respected members of the Social Democratic
faction in both Austrian parliaments. He proved himself to be a true
internationalist, a champion of the idea of national equality and
the international brotherhood of man.
In the fight for general
equal voting rights and in the election movement of 1907 Jewish
Social Democrats used both spoken and written Yiddish for their
propaganda. That was a great innovation. They were not the first
Yiddish speakers in public gatherings in Bukovina, but in Social
Democratic gatherings up to then, The Yiddish language had never
been heard from the tribune.
While the intellectuals
who had been educated in German schools could no longer speak
Yiddish (and often didn't want to) workmen and business men acted as
trailbreakers for Yiddish. Among the later should be mentioned the
young plumber Nathan Tropper of whom more will be said later. In
appearance, he was a proletarian figure, tall and broad shouldered,
made for the sculptor, his eyes glowed and he was a speaker of
captivating power. His language was unsophisticated and earthy and
filled with true pathos. He captured the hearts of his ever growing
The use of the Yiddish
language was rapidly taken up by the Social Democratic Party.
Participants in Jewish gatherings quickly discovered their love for
the Yiddish language; it had to be used in every gathering, also in
large international gatherings. For a new observer, these gatherings
offered a moving picture of international brotherhood and mutual
respect. Often hundreds of participants in the gathering sat
together and listened to speeches in the German, Ukrainian,
Romanian, Yiddish and Polish languages even though only a minority
could understand the content of the individual speeches and only
German was understood by the majority. Gradually even the
intellectuals in the Social Democratic Party found their way back to
the Yiddish of their childhood.
It was, however, just
the language question which for some time prevented unconditional
acceptance of the Bund platform.
parliamentary election of 1907, the demand of the Jewish Social
Democrats for an autonomous national group within the Party became
more insistent. They were able to point to the good experience that
the Party had in the just fought political battles with the de facto
national groups (functioning even though they were illegal). The
Party leadership after some resistance had to give into the
pressure. They agreed to the national groups with the condition that
they would only concern themselves with education issues and on the
other hand, the central unit would take care of political action.
The Jews who had fought for this success were the first to use it in
building up their cultural
organization. They had arrived at the threshold of the founding of
the Bund. Also in Bukovina namely the Jewish Social Democrats had
adopted the ideological foundation of the Bund in Russia. The fight
for national recognition and equal rights for the Jews was preached
by them as the chief task of the Jewish Socialists in all lands.
Like the Bund in Russia, they considered it only possible to solve
the “Jewish question” in the actual lands of settlement. They fought
assimilation as well as Zionism.
therefore included the right to schooling in the mother language and
the right to use the national language in public life. Yes, that is
the alpha and omega of national equality. In the Austrian state,
there were informative examples of the practical carrying out of
That was also the
standpoint of the Bund in Russia. Its program demanded national
cultural autonomy for Jews with all consequences of the recognition
and equality of the Jewish language in school and the workplace.
Later, the newly founded Jewish Social Democratic Party of Galicia
also followed this program. About the same time in the theoretical
works of Otto Bauer and Karl Renner national cultural autonomy was
described as the most suitable form of living together for peoples
in a democratic state.
Only the Jewish
intellectuals in the Social Democratic Party of Bukovina were
hesitant about this demand. Influenced by the German culture in
which they were educated, it wasn't easy for them to accept the
Yiddish “jargon” as a legitimate language. Also, this wall which
separated them from the Bund was soon to fall.
In 1908, the Yiddish
language conference was held in Czernowitz.
The conference sprang
from the initiative of Dr. Nathan Birnbaum. An highly gifted
essayist of great learning with a masterful German style who himself
spoke a labored Yiddish, Dr. Birnbaum became the trail breaker for
the recognition and appreciation of the Yiddish language by the
Jewish and non-Jewish intelligentsia. Shortly before announcing the
conference he had moved to Czernowitz. He gathered around himself a
circle of young followers and admirers, mostly students who promoted
his work with youthful enthusiasm. Among them were also socialist
Jewish poets, authors
and journalists answered the call to attend the conference. Most of
them came from Russia (including Russian Poland). There were also
numerous delegates from other countries and naturally, there was no
lack of local attendees from Galicia and Bukovina.
In public sessions,
often with full galleries ways and means to advance the Yiddish
language were discussed and in passionate arguments, the conflict
between Yiddish and Hebrew was fought out. Among the speakers who
followed one another at the conference were (to name just few): J.L.
Perez, Abr. Reisen, Schalom Asch, Dr. Chajim Zytlowski and naturally
also Dr. Nathan Birnbaum who was one of the chairmen of the
conference. A series of wonderful literary presentations crowned the
work of the conference.
The Czernowitz language
conference was noted by Jewish cultural historians as a milestone on
the path of the Yiddish language to societal prestige and
recognition. The most radical change it brought about however was in
the attitude of the Bukovina Jewish intelligentsia. Also in the eyes
of stalwart opponents the prestige of the Yiddish language was
enormously raised. The scornful designation of “jargon” disappeared
by itself. It was no wonder that also the last reservations of the
Social Democratic intellectuals over the Yiddish language were
There were also several
Bund members from Russia participating in the conference and among
them were the already well known Esther Frumkin who appeared as a
speaker for the left wing at the conference and at seminars held
within the framework of the conference. Friendly contacts between
the Jewish Social Democrats in Czernowitz and the Russian Bund
members were soon established. Esther Frumkin remained in Czernowitz
for several months after the language conference.
In the Jewish group of
the Social Democratic Party, the cultural work (just as in the other
national groups) was managed by a committee chosen for this purpose.
From the beginning this was considered too unstructured. Yiddish had
to continually compete with German in the education work and only to
often drew the short straw. The Jewish Social Democrats quickly went
to work to give a firm form to, and through a legal framework to
solidify and build up. the autonomy in cultural activity which had
been granted to them by the Party leadership. They founded their own
In fall of 1908 the
charter of the first Jewish worker education association in Bukovina
was granted under the name Morgenrot [morning red.] A new page was
turned in the history of the Jewish worker's movement of Bukovina.
“Comrade Esther” was the godmother at the birth of the new child.
Morgenrot was really the
Bund's organization even though that wasn't stated explicitly in the
charter. To the contrary: In the charter, in accordance with the
strict requirements of the Austrian laws concerning associations, a
clause had to be inserted stated that activity of the educational
association in the political arena was strictly forbidden. Also, the
division of the party assured that the cultural activity didn't
extend into the area of political activity.
Merging with the Jewish
Social Democratic Party of Galicia
The switch to autonomy,
also in political activity appeared to be only a mater of time.
Autonomy could only be complete realized by merging with the Social
Democratic Party of Galicia. Merging with this party which was still
not recognized by the Austrian International would result in the
complete isolation of the Bukovina Jewish organization by the
Austrian overall party. In earlier years, the tight connection with
the international worker's movement of Austria was a source of
inspiration and encouragement. Now the stakes were much higher for
the Jewish Social Democrats who were completely emancipated from the
naïve cosmopolitanism of earlier times: the implementation of the
principals of national affiliation and independence. It was a
dictate of national dignity, to brush off concerns about
organizational matters. In autumn of the same year, 1908 a congress
of the Jewish Social Democratic Party of Galicia took place. The
Jewish Social Democratic Party of Bukovina which officially didn't
exist yet sent two delegates to this congress as guests and
“observers.” Both delegates, the plumber Nathan Tropper and the
printer Markus Kaswan were accepted by the congress with great
warmth and brought an enthusiastic report from the congress.
Finally, the Party had to give in to passionate demands and again
the Jewish party members were the first national group, whose
autonomy including political matters had been guaranteed by an
organization that was legally constituted and registered with the
authorities. It registered with the state government the founding of
a political association conforming to the restrictions set out in
the Austrian association laws (members restricted to male Austrian
citizens with a minimum age of 24 years). To eliminate any question
about the aims of the organization, it was given the name “Bund.” A
political action on a grand scale awaited the new organization, the
fight for recognition of the Jewish nation at the Austrian census of
For all peoples of the
Austrian nationality state, the census was an event of the highest
significance because the official determination of their numerical
strength would give them a weapon in the fight to expand their
national vested rights. Jews were the only large national group in
Austria who were still not recognized as such. To the nationally
aware Jews of Austria, the census preparations appeared like a storm
warning for the fight for national recognition. A true peoples'
movement started in Galicia and Bukovina. Unobserved because of the
common goals in the struggle, a complication arose which right from
the beginning led to a split in the Jewish camp. In the
questionnaire that was prepared for the census there was not a
specific question for nationality, but merely one for “everyday
language.” Using the answer to this question, the corresponding
nationality would be registered. This methodology seemed made to
order to bring to the foreground the old fight about the language
question among nationally aware Jews.
The everyday language
question gave the Jewish Social Democrats a welcome opportunity to
combine the fight for the recognition of their nationality with the
fight for the recognition of the Yiddish language. They therefore
called for the choosing of Yiddish as the everyday language in the
In the last weeks of
1910, gigantic gatherings were called by Z.P.S, Poale-Zion and the
Zionists in all large and many small cities of Bukovina and Galicia.
To carry out this action, a common committee was formed in Bukovina
with representatives of all persuasions attending and in the Bund
gatherings Poale Zion and Zionist speakers also appeared.
It was about this time
that one of the most outstanding members of the international party
leadership joined the Bund - Dr. Jakob Pistiner, the editor of the
Volkspresse who already then worked with theoretical periodicals and
in the political daily publications of the international socialist
movement. Pistiner placed his great knowledge and his practical
sense for the political questions of the day at the service of the
One year later
after the Austrian parliamentary election of 1911 followed the
[absorption] of the Bukovina Jewish Social Democratic Party by the
Jewish Social Democratic Party (Z.P.S.) of Galicia.
In the election movement
of 1911, from which emerged the second parliament elected by general
suffrage in Austria, parliamentary democracy had already lost some
of its shine. In Galicia, election terror - which was also present
in the election of 1907 - took on frightening forms. In Bukovina,
the candidates of the Christian Socialist Party spread strong
In this election, the
Social Democratic party gave support in all areas of Austria
including Bukovina. In the district Czernowitz West which in the
election of 1907 was only conquered after a hotly contested run-off
election, Georg Grigorovici was elected in the first round of voting
with a large majority.
For the election
district Czernowitz East, the candidate backed by the Bund, Wilhelm
Ippen was accepted by the Bukovina party leadership without protest.
Wilhelm Ippen, a well-to-do merchant from a middle class milieu came
as a young man to the Socialist movement and immediately joined the
Jewish group. An educated sociable man, he enjoyed great favor in
the worker's circles and unstinted admiration among the middle
The Social Democratic
candidate in Czernowitz East was thought as in this election as a
“sacrificial” candidate since the election of the Member of
Parliament, Dr. Beno Straucher also this time had to be taken as a
certainty. And that is what occurred, but the Social Democratic
candidate Ippen received a respectable number of votes.
The joining of the
Bukovina Jewish Social Democratic Party with the Jewish Social
Democratic Party of Galicia (Z.P.S.) was completed in a festive
manner at the party congress in Lemberg in the autumn of 1911.
The internal battles in
the Socialist camp in Galicia had been laid to rest. The
organizational principal of the Bund were completely accepted, also
in Galicia. Shortly before the Parliamentary elections, the Polish
Social Democratic Party (P.P.S.) gave up its Jewish organization
that had been led with tendencies toward assimilation and agreed to
its combining with the Z.P.S.
Bukovina was represented
at the congress by three delegates: Dr. Jakob Pistiner, Nathan
Tropper and Markus Kaswan. The short explanation of the Bukovina
delegation concerning the unconditional joining with the Jewish
Social Democratic Party was enthusiastically accepted. The
combination called for a change in the name of the party to reflect
its wider geographic span. Without further discussion, it was
decided to include the word “Bukovina” in the party name which then
became, “the Jewish Social Democratic Party of Galicia and
The coordination of the
party activity with the new center in Lemberg presented no problems
for the Bukovina organization. Actually, party life in Bukovina long
before the “anschluss” was permeated by the same spirit and moved
along the same lines as the Jewish Social Democratic Party of
Galicia. In matters of their own state politics, the Bukovina
organization was given full autonomy.
Things were completely
different when it came to technical questions about the
organization. By and by all the national groups in the Bukovina
Social Democratic state organization had joined the independent
Socialist Parties of their nationalities in Austria (one exception
was the Romanian group since there was no Romanian Socialist Party
in Austria and outside of Bukovina there was no Romanian
population)]. Neither the Jews nor the other national groups
considered making membership in the Socialist Party of their
nationality an exclusive party principal and to abandon the
international organization of Bukovina. One had to take some
contorted paths to make this arrangement work. In little Bukovina
evolved the most complicated organizational structure of the Social
Democratic Party of Austria.
It would go too far to
explain here the details of the means and ways which were used to
solve these technical problems. It is important only to say that the
solution followed in a generally satisfactory and harmonious manner.
Afterwards as before, union organizations collected the obligatory
dues for the Social Democratic Party. In the unions the membership
of the workers in the national party group was registered and the
cashier sent the dues to the appropriate group without troubling the
individual members about the convoluted web of the organizational
structure. With mutual understanding and good will the national
fragmentation was welded into a unity of striving and effectiveness
which presented a pattern for the Worker's Movement of the
With the “anschluss”
lively organizational work commenced in Bukovina. It was important,
to maintain the common interests and goals shared with the organized
Jewish workers of Galicia.
Special tasks accrued to
the Bukovina organization in the area of the press. Even before the
anschluss, the organ of the Jewish Social Democratic Party of
Galicia, the Yiddish weekly newspaper, the Social Democrat which was
published in Lemberg had been declared the official organ of the
Bukovina organization. From then on, a wider distribution of the
newspaper had to be arranged for and also, the paper had to devote
more attention to events in Bukovina then it previously had.
The multi-faceted work
in the area of the organization and the press was accomplished with
great prudence and devotion by the married couple Markus and Sarah
Kaswan. The editing staff of the Lemberg Social Democrat which at
that time was directed by a Bukovina resident, the writer of these
lines unhesitatingly provided space for Bukovina news.
organization however was not satisfied with merely distributing and
supporting the Lemberg weekly newspaper and other newspapers of the
Party in Galicia. The energetic leader of the organization quickly
went about getting their own articles about the united party into
print. They founded a monthly Yiddish periodical for the youth
The Jewish Social
Democratic Movement possessed a strong and well-disciplined youth
organization in Bukovina as well as Galicia. The lack of their own
organ was a palpable lack that the party executives couldn't correct
because of a lack of funds. The offer of the Bukovina organization
to take on the task of publishing a youth periodical was therefore
accepted with the greatest joy.
The carrying out
of the plan was done by the Kaswan family, of whom, Giza Rosenbaum[A],
the sister of Mrs. Kaswan was a member. The former took over the
management. In January 1912, the first issue of the monthly
periodical appeared under the name, The Free Youth (Der Freie Jugend).
The editor was at first Dr. Siegmund Jacob and later, the writer of
The Free Youth was
published with great care given to technical maters and to the
quality of the contents. The title page indicated two cities of
origin, Czernowitz and Krakow which symbolized that the Jewish Youth
Movement encompassed all of Bukovina and Poland. It appeared
regularly until the outbreak of the First World War when the
government forbid further publication. With the July issue of 1914,
this modest but beautiful and courageous press organ of the worker
youth Bund of Galicia and Bukovina was silenced. July 1914, however
signified more than that. It was the end of an epoch of Jewish and
II. Between the Two
Equiped to Enter the New
During the war years,
1914-1918 one couldn't speak of any meaningful work accomplished by
the Social Democratic Party, but from the beginning Bukovina had the
unhappy fate of being a staging and operations territory for large
armies, either the Austro-Hungarian or the Russian depending on the
situation at the front lines.
The Party, however,
especially the Jewish organization, even during the most difficult
times kept up contact with the working population wherever there was
a possibility. During all the hardships that afflicted Bukovina
members of the Party leadership stood by the population and shared
their tribulations. Nathan Tropper who had remained in Czernowitz
during the first Russian invasion did much valuable work in his
activities for the Jewish hospital and other institutions of the
Jewish community. Dr. Jakob Pistiner returned to Czernowitz after it
was re-occupied by the Austrian army. Even under the Austrian
occupation life was not easy for the civilian population. Dr.
Pistiner did what he could to help.
In spring of 1918 the
majority of the Party leadership returned to Bukovina. At the
initiative of the Social Democratic Party the Worker's Home that had
been occupied by the military (the Old State Theater) was cleaned
out and again put at the disposal of the worker's organizations.
Since during the last
months of Austrian rule the collapse of the monarchy seemed
inevitable and an uncertain fate hovered over the heads of the
population, the organizational and order bringing skills of the
party became apparent, especially in the areas of housing and
At the beginning of
September 1918 the Jewish Social Democratic organization held a
conference attended by leaders from Czernowitz and the provinces.
The purpose of the conference was to prepare for the changes that
were inevitable. Whatever awaited Bukovina, the conference attendees
clearly saw the path the organization was to take. It was the way of
the Bund, by which was understood: close cooperation with the
international Socialist Movement in all actions and full autonomy in
all Jewish questions. A new executive committee was elected. Dr.
Jakob Pistiner was selected as chairman.
The name, Bund also had
been used to designate the Jewish Social Democratic organization
before the war although it hadn't been used consistently became from
then on the official and generally used name for the organization.
After Bukovina had been annexed into the Greater Romanian Nation,
the Social Democratic Party was among the first organizations in the
country to take up its full activity in a new nation wide alliance.
The entrance of Romanian
troops into Czernowitz on November 12, 1918 took place without
fanfare and without celebration. The soldiers with their ragged
clothing and torn shoes and worst of all, their loose discipline,
made a miserable impression and had a sobering effect even on the
The crude regime
established by the military occupation in Bukovina frightened all
circles of the Bukovina population. During the period of arbitrary
police power and siege mentality, the Worker's Home on Schulgasse
was a true refuge of the persecuted and threatened out of all strata
of the population. The overwhelming majority of those seeking help
Happily, it turned out
that the initial fears for the fate of the worker's organizations
although not groundless, proved to be greatly exaggerated. The
organizations were subjected to all imaginable harassment, but one
could soon see that the police who attacked individuals without
concern were restricted by the barriers of the law when dealing with
organized groups. This behavior of the police was largely due to the
activity of the former Austrian Member of Parliament, Georg
Grigorovici who played a major role in the new state and whose
Romanian national inclination was not questioned in spite of the
fact that he continued to be active in a leading position in the
Social Democratic movement.
Even the press was not
to strictly censored.
In a short period of
time, the organization of the Worker's Movement was again
reconstructed. Not only were the old political and union
organizations from pre-war times brought back to life, also new
organizations were started that corresponded to the needs of the
times: consumer's unions, rent associations, etc.
The organ of the Social
Democratic Party Forwards (Vorwärts) which before the war appeared
weekly was changed to a daily publication. Editorial work was
entrusted to a committee consisting of: Dr. Jakob Pistiner, Georg
Grigorovici and Dr. Albert Silbermann. The Bund founded a weekly
organ in the Yiddish language, The New Life (Dos Naye Leben).
Editing was directed by Sarah Kaswan with Dr. Jakob Pistiner, Dr.
Berl Friedmann and Markus Kaswan also being members of the editorial
committee. Also the Romanian and the Ukrainian groups in the Social
Democratic Party founded their own press organs, which however
The popularity of the
Social Democratic Party grew appreciably. It acquired great respect
also with the higher authorities including the Bucharest central
government. Often, negative government policies were stopped by the
efforts of the Social Democratic Party.
The first election for
the Romanian Parliament was a great victory for the Social
Democratic Party. In the Czernowitz district, three Social
Democratic candidates were elected to parliament. It was a symbol of
the true international character of the Movement that the three
seats that were won went to three different nationalities. In the
Senate, the Romanian Georg Grigorovici won, in the Chamber of
Deputies, the Jew Dr. Jakob Pistiner and the German Rudolf Gaidosch
In the Jewish National
When on October 17, 1918
the Kaiser's manifesto appeared proclaiming the self determination
right of all Austrian nations, it drove the formation of a Jewish
National Council in Bukovina to which all the Jewish national
parties belonged. The formation of the Jewish National Council was
preceded by a lively dispute between the Zionist organizations and
the Bund. The Zionists insisted that there should be a clause
concerning the “Aliyah” to Palestine in the unification platform and
this ran contrary to the program of the Bund. Finally, a milder
expression of this Zionist demand was agreed upon. For the Bund, the
value of the existing state of things outweighed any concerns about
principals. The National Council seemed the most suitable “umbrella
body” for defending the rights of the Jewish population, especially
(in view of the expected Romanian assumption of government power)
for guarding their civil rights. Moreover, the National Council
seemed to be a beginning of national cultural autonomy which was one
of the most important demands in the Bund's program. The Jewish
National Council encompassed all parties and points of view. The
Bund was represented in the National Council by ten members. At the
constitutional convention which followed on November 10, 1918 Dr.
Mayer Ebner was elected president, Dr. Jakob Pistiner as vice
president and Markus Kaswan as secretary.
National Council soon got into a difficult situation when it had to
take a position on the annexation of Bukovina by Romania. Namely,
after the occupation of the land by Romanian troops the Romanian
National Council under the leadership of Dr. Jancu Flondor wanted to
issue a declaration about the voluntary acceptance of the annexation
by all nationalities. For this purpose, he invited the National
Councils of the other nationalities (with the exception of the
Ukrainian National Council) to officially state their positions on
the question of annexation. The Polish and the German National
Councils willingly agreed. The Jewish National Council which had
declared its neutrality during the fight for possession of North
Bukovina decided to make its agreement to the annexation by Romania
conditional on the Jewish population being guaranteed the full civil
rights that they had possessed under Austrian rule and moreover that
the Jews of Old Romania
be guaranteed the same rights.
This dignified answer of
the Jewish National Council under the occupation of the Romanian
army was rejected by Dr. Flondor who demanded an unconditional
declaration for the annexation. The Jewish National Council declined
to take part in the ceremonial Romanian Unification Congress which
took place on November 28 (compare a.a.O.)
that the National Council would gradually take over the functions of
national cultural autonomy appeared at first to well on its way to
becoming reality as the Community
and the public school system came under its control.
For administering the
Community which up to then had been led by Dr. Neumann Wender
the National Council designated a commission in which the
Bund was represented by five members. For the schools, a Jewish
school inspector was created. In the elementary schools, parallel
classes were set up. For middle school instruction, the Jewish
students were concentrated in the Third State Gymnasium which
consequently became a pure Jewish school.
In one point, however,
the most important and decisive point the Bund experienced a great
disappointment. Its suggestion to introduce the Yiddish language for
Jewish children in certain schools was defeated by a small majority
(27 votes against 24 votes). With the same vote totals, a Zionist
suggestion for introducing Hebrew as the language of instruction was
accepted. The Bund didn't accept defeat after this negative vote. A
compromise was reached wherein the children's parents upon
registration in the school could decide - which in practice would
have been difficult to carry out. The fight about the language for
The Jewish National
Council soon lost its significance and was together with the
national councils of the other nationalities dissolved by the
Attack on Civil Rights
One who was familiar
with the traditional Jewish politics of Romania had to be prepared
that the Government sooner or later would make an attempt to take
away from the Jewish population that valuable good that they
possessed in the new state - their civil rights.
The test of wills came
in the course of a workers' conflict which in itself was nothing
unusual and under normal circumstances would have been resolved with
compromises by both sides. However, the atmosphere at that time in
1920 was far from normal. In the atmosphere of overheated Romanian
nationalism and with the deep mistrust of the authorities concerning
the non-Romanian population, the most trivial event of everyday life
concealed the seeds of a great “state affair” within itself.
That's how it went with
the wage movement of the hotel, restaurant and coffeehouse workers
in the autumn of 1920. Both sides in this work conflict, the waiters
and the owners were almost entirely Jewish. Politics was not
involved in the conflict. The result of the fight would affect
neither the Romanian ruling classes nor the allegedly carefully
nursed economic interests of the Romanian citizens. In addition, the
demands of the union organization had not been met with a brusque
rejection by the business owners. On the contrary, after a short
negotiation, an agreement with the large majority of the innkeepers
had been reached and the conflict seemed near to a settlement.
Finally, there was only one undertaking - the largest, by the way,
the Café L'Europe - that remained unyielding and the union was
forced to call a strike.
Now the state
authorities intervened to beat down the “revolt.” Police violence
followed that by far exceeded previous arbitrary police actions. The
two most important officers of the organization, the waiters Flasch
and Sobel were censured.
Both had lived for many
years in Czernowitz and had belonged since before the war to the
“elite” among the waiters of the larger restaurants and coffeehouses
of the city. They both had served nobly in building up the union of
the hotel, restaurant and coffeehouse employees, Flasch at the time
of the outbreak of the pay conflict was chief waiter in the Café
L'Europe and had been chairman of the organization for years. Sobel,
employed in the restaurant Black Eagle was deputy chairman. They
were both born in Galicia, that is outside of the new Romanian
borders, but as former Austrian citizens who at the time of the
signing of the peace treaty lived in Bukovina, they were according
to the sense of the peace treaty, citizens with full rights in the
new Romania. Their rights as citizens of Romania had also previously
never been questioned by the authorities. Some time previously the
magistrate of the city of Czernowitz had for them as for thousands
of others issued official certification concerning their Romanian
citizenship. They were also on the voting lists for Parliament and
had already taken advantage of their right to vote form members of
Parliament two times.
Now they were suddenly
banished from the state as “undesirable foreigners.”
One must assume that the
official in the Interior Ministry who issued the banishment order
was unaware of the enormity of this step and of the outrage it would
arouse. It corresponded, however, completely to the traditional
“Judenpolitik” of old Romania. For years, the Jews there were
considered and handled as “foreign elements” even when they were
born there and resided there. Many were simply pushed over the
border. Why then make a “big deal” out of ejecting two Jewish
“agitators” who moreover came from the newly acquired territories.
Even the Czernowitz
Siguraza [political police], the leading Romanian authorities from
the “Old Kingdom” didn't have any idea of the major effects that
would result from this flouting of the law. The Siguranza chief had
both “criminals” hauled in and told them about the order of the
Ministry of Interior that they had to leave the land within 24 hours
and dismissed them with orders to pack their belongings and to
appear at the police station the next day to be escorted to the
border. It never occurred to the respected “guardians of the law”
that Jews would dare to disobey an order of the government.
Things didn't occur as
the police expected. The “bothersome foreigners” disappeared as soon
as they left the police building. The news of the banishment spread
like a wild fire in the city and created tremendous agitation in all
circles of society. The leaders of the organized hotel, restaurant
and coffeehouse workers immediately issued a call for a protest
strike. Several hours later all the restaurants and coffeehouses
were closed. In the evening the union commission called for an
extraordinary conference. Workers in all fields were represented.
Only short talks were given. The mood was universal. It was
unanimously decided to call a general strike.
On the following day a
complete work stoppage ruled in Czernowitz. Stores, banks, work
shops, factories and restaurants were closed. The street cars
weren't running and horse drawn transport had disappeared from the
streets as if by magic. Czernowitz presented the picture of a dead
city. At various places in the city strike posts were set up. They
did their duty quietly without the least disturbance. A word of
explanation sufficed to turn around the people who were on their way
to work. These weren't “strike breakers” in the current sense of the
word, but simply people who hadn't yet been informed of the decision
to strike. Even the lowest category of workers, the wood choppers
(almost small Ukrainian and Romanian farmers from the surrounding
area) were drawn in by the strike.
One can vividly imagine
the painful surprise in government circles when the news reached
Bucharest, that because of two Jews the capital of the “freed”
Bukovina had been completely paralyzed.
The government obviously
didn't want to drive affairs to the “point of no return.” In the
late afternoon, the police informed the strike leaders that the
Council of Ministers had withdrawn the expulsion order and Flasch
and Sobel could remain undisturbed in the country. With that, the
The workers flush with a
great victory returned to work the following day.
The International and
Jewish Party Activity
During the entire period
when it appeared as if there was a democracy in Romania, that is
into the middle of the thirties, the Social Democratic Party
asserted the same position in public life in Bukovina that it at the
beginning of the government upheaval.
Even as in 1930, as the
Socialist Movement in all the rest of Romania lost much of its power
because of government persecution, the power of the Movement in
Czernowitz was made apparent at the General Council election which
for the first time in history produced a Social Democratic vice
mayor (Dr. Moritz Oberländer).
The party at that time
won 12 seats in spite of the highly undemocratic method of voting.
Among the elected were three Bundists: Dr. Pistiner, the chairman of
the Group of Socialistic Businessmen Nathan Tropper and Mrs Leah
Kissman, member of the International Party Executive of Romania who
became the only Socialist “councilperson” of Romania.
The Party was firmly
established with the unions. After the association with the Vienna
Union Central was definitely broken off and the building up of
central union corporations only proceeded slowly in Bucharest, the
Bukovina unions led an independent existence. Membership in the
Social Democratic Party was completely optional for union members.
In the interest of the unity of the unions in that period of
continual splintering of the Worker Movement, any use of force to
promote party membership was avoided. The union members, however
held fast to the Social Democratic Party and regularly paid in the
no longer obligatory dues.
The relation ship of the
Bund to the unions was no different then the entire Party. The union
organizations in the businesses, which were chiefly in Jewish hands,
were almost all members of the Bund. Since the population of the
city of Czernowitz was over 45% Jewish, it could be taken for
granted that the majority of the members in the unions were of the
Jewish nationality and were firm members of the Bund.
In the state executive
of the Social Democratic Party which consisted of an equal number of
representatives of all national groups Jews were assigned to the
most important functions.
That applied above all
to Dr. Jakob Pistiner, who led the work of the Executive the entire
time. Mostly he was formally the chairman, but even when someone
else held that office (which happened now and then for short
periods) his work was in no way less important. At the same time, he
was chairman of the Bund and leading editor of the international
organ of the party, “Vorwärts” [Forwards]. The second editor of the
Vorwärts, Dr. Albert Silbermann, although not a member of the Bund
was also Jewish, , and because of Dr. Pistiner's parliamentary
activity he often had to carry the full editorial load. A master of
the German style, a literary aesthete and brilliant journalist, Dr.
Silberbann did not have enough political savvy to be the independent
leader of a party organ. So it was always Pistiner who in all actual
political questions gave the publication direction and tone.
Pistiner was by the way, also the representative of the Social
Democratic Party of Romania in the Executive Committee of the
With his parliamentary
activity grew the respect that Dr. Pistiner was held in. With the
frequent elections to the short lived Parliaments of Romania he was
repeatedly, except for the period from 1926-1928, re-elected. His
speeches from the Parliamentary tribune found respect in the entire
land. He was chairman of the Social Democratic faction in the
Chamber of Deputies and soon became one of the most esteemed
parliamentarians of Romania.
The decade 1920-1930 was
in spite of the strengthening of the Reactionaries in Romania, a
period of intense political activity. While the leadership of the
general Party activity was concentrated ever more in the person of
Dr. Pistiner, the leadership of the Bund went to the writer of these
In the summer of 1920,
Dr. Joseph Kissman came back from Vienna to Bukovina. He was
immediately drawn into Party work and absorbed into the Party
leadership with the editing of the weekly organ, “Dos Naye Leben”
[The New Life] and the leadership of the extended education work and
finally in 1930, elected to the chairmanship of the Bund and elected
as the Bukovina international state executive.
The Bund's weekly
newspaper had a considerable number of readers at that time in
Bukovina as well as in Bessarabia and in Old Romania. The
most important worker in the editorial department was Mrs. Sarah
Kaswan. Occasional workers were: Dr. Friedmann, Dr. Pistiner, Herz
Gilischenski, Leah Kissman, etc. A great number of friends from all
the larger cities in the land supported the paper by submitting
correspondence, articles and literary contributions so that the
newspaper reflected the multi-faceted picture of Jewish life in
In education work of the
organization, in the union work and in the many sided functions of
the Bund, in addition to the previously named many other Party
members worked in a selfless way. We want to mention only a few
here: Awner, Engel, Feuerberg, Fischbach, Glasberg, Goldberg,
Hammer, Hartmann, Dr. Alex Kissman, Merling, Perlmutter, Rosenkranz,
Rubinger, Sinnreich, Steinberg, Stieglitz, Stroh, Süsser, Samuel
Tropper, Wiesel and Zimmet - all in Czernowitz. The must important
functionaries in the province were: M. Fast in Storozynetz, Dr. M.
Drimmer in Radautz, Dr. K. Watner in Sereth and L. Rothkopf in
At that time the Jews in
Bukovina had an active social life in the city and in rural areas.
The Bund opposed the various Zionist groups. There were passionate
unsparing conflicts. These conflicts however were fought out
exclusively on a higher plane dealing with principals, ideas and
“world views.” Whatever the immediate goal of the fight in the
political arena might be, the fight was really for the heart and
soul of the Jewish masses. Never in all the years was the border of
personal respect for political opponents crossed. The best evidence
for the character of these conflicts came from the pen of Dr. Mayer
Ebener who as president of the Zionist State Organization and the
Jewish Unity Party was the main target of the Bund's attacks. One
reads today, not without melancholy in the yellowed pages of the
East Jewish Newspaper his realization after the conclusion of the
election battles that it was “a clean fight,” a fight with “clean
Unification, Loss of Civil Liberties
By some miracle the
Bukovina worker's organizations escaped the storm of reaction after
the abortive general strike of 1921.
The general strike was a
premature action. It was really an act of desperation in reaction to
the arbitrary actions of the police, especially in Old Romania.
Without the necessary preparations it was declared at the initiative
of the at that time radicalized socialist organizations of Old
Romania for the entire country. The strike collapsed on the first
day. Mass arrests followed with uncontrolled police brutality and
monster trials with heavy sentences.
In Bukovina, from the
beginning, the general strike was viewed not as a power struggle of
unlimited duration against the government, but was proclaimed as a
24 hour protest strike against official misconduct. As such, it was
carried out in a quiet and disciplined manner in Czernowitz and also
partially so in the provinces and in spite of police provocation, it
never provided a reason for the police to take a serious action.
In spite of that, the
Bukovina population, not merely organized labor soon felt the full
weight of the centralized force from Bucharest. The reactionaries
were firmly in the saddle. They not only shattered the upward
striving worker organizations of Old Romania,but alsoachieved a
definite victory against the progressive forces which were still
alive in government circles. From then on, accelerated “unification”
of all provinces with the Old Kingdom was the solution of the ruling
party. For the new provinces, that meant: suppression of
individuality and a sinking to the Balkan like level of Old Romania.
The Jews were hit the hardest by this course of events. For them,
unification meant the reducing of their social and civil rights
situation to that of the Jews of Old Romania who until after the
First World War, were completely without rights and whose new civil
rights had existed for only a short period and were still very
shaky. And that indeed was the goal of the ruling parties. Official
anti-Semitism was in Romania as overall and forever in history an
unavoidable accompaniment to the general atmosphere of reaction.
This spirit sprang from
the citizenship law of 1924, a malicious law to rob rights, which in
a cynical manner ignored the clear requirements of the peace treaty.
The law threatened the citizen's rights of all residents of the new
provinces; Jews were however the real target of the law and mainly
it was Jews who fell victim to the law.
The Jewish parties in
Bukovina held large protest meetings. Also the Bund organized giant
meetings together with the International Social Democratic Party.
Protests against the law were made at these meetings in the names of
all the Bukovina nationalities and sent to the government. Dr.
Pistiner castigated the law in sharp speeches from the parliamentary
tribune. There followed interventions by great Jewish world
organizations at the People's Alliance [Völkerbund] but it was clear
from the beginning that any attempt to defeat this law through
political combat would be unsuccessful. These protest actions had a
great unsettling effect on the Jewish population. On one hand, they
sowed the seeds of panic among the Jewish people and on the other
hand, they urged them to watchfulness and activity concerning their
threatened citizen's rights.
The organization of Bund
opened a “rights office” to protect citizens' rights which was
directed by the lawyers Dr. Berl Friedmann and Dr. Joseph Kissman.
With this action, the
question of citizen's rights was by no means resolved. Amendments
and revisions to the law were published. The Bund was always
watchful and stood by the Jewish population in every crisis. [loss
of ] Citizen rights became a permanent danger for the Jewish
The increasing pressure
from the reactionary regime resulted in two opposing phenomena, both
previously unknown to the Bukovina population, both brought in from
outside. On one hand, anti-Semitic excesses and on the other hand a
strengthening of the illegal Communist Movement.
Brutal acts against the
Jewish population with their proud national awareness and unbending
courage of citizenship were welcomed by the central government as a
form of “pacification.” The excesses were always initiated by
university students and were visibly encouraged by the authorities.
Jewish youth from the Zionist and Jewish Socialist organizations
reacted in an analogous manner against those responsible giving them
a good lesson.
Jewish youth were taken up by the illegal Communist Movement. That
was a serious danger. Mass arrests were made ever more frequently.
Those who were imprisoned were often badly mishandled and tortured.
There were many, who even in the eyes of the authorities were
innocent, but who had to undergo a full measure of police “handling”
before they could prove that the charges were groundless. The
persecution had a distinctly anti-Semitic character.
The Bund successfully
resisted the attempts of the Communists to infiltrate its ranks. As
energetically as it fought Communist propaganda, just so forcefully
did it support the victims of police brutality. Often, it was
children or siblings of Party members who fell into the nets of the
Communists or the hands of the police. In the processes before the
Tribunal in Czernowitz in which Dr. Kissman often appeared as the
defending lawyer not seldom screaming injustices, brutal abuse and
even cases of torture were uncovered.
The Bund became ever
more hated by the police. It was no secret that the police planed to
destroy the organization and take revenge on its leaders. The organ
of the Bund which was being changed over to a daily newspaper and
which for a while appeared twice a week was repeatedly banned by the
police. After every ban the organ of the Bund reappeared as a weekly
newspaper under a different name. The newspaper changed its name no
less than six times. It started as Das Naye Leben [The New Life] and
was alternately called Naye Zeitung [New Newspaper], Der Strahl [The
Ray of Light], Dos Freie Wort [The Free Word], Volkszeitung
[Peoples' Newspaper], Naye Volkszeitung [New Peoples' Newspaper] and
again Naye Zeitung. Dr. Kissman was also arrested two times; once in
1921 when the attempt was made to entangle him in a Communist
conspiracy that a number of young people from Bukovina and
Bessarabia were accused of running. The attempt failed miserably; a
decade later, a second attempt was made based on an “inflammatory”
article in the Naye Zeitung. This accusation was sent to the
military court in Iasi. The police also had no luck in this case
since the military prosecutor himself found no reason to press
The Bund let itself be
in no way intimidated by this harassment and unlawfulness.
General Jewish Worker
Bund in Romania
For many years, the
Jewish social life in Bukovina remained completely isolated from the
other provinces of the country. The Jews of Bukovina who could look
back on a long history of equal citizens' rights under Austrian rule
and who had gathered a rich experience in long years of activity in
the political arena seemed to be destined to play a leading roll
among the Jews of the new Greater Romania. But in spite of these
considerations for a long time the way to organizational unification
could not be found. It didn't go much better for the other
nationalities including the Romanians themselves. It was as if the
former national boundaries between Old Romania, Transylvania,
Bessarabia and Bukovina wouldn't let themselves be obliterated. It
didn't come to a complete integration until the very end.
The Bund was the first
Jewish organization which undertook to break out of the narrow
provincial isolation. After ongoing negotiations with Jewish
Socialists Old Romania and Bessarabia the Party leadership decided
in 1922 to formally expand the organization of the Bund in Bukovina
over all parts of the land and to hold the founding conference for
the Romanian Bund in Czernowitz on the 6th and 7th
of January 1923.
Representatives of the
organization from Czernowitz, Radauti, Suceava, Siret and
Storozynetz as well as four delegates from Old Romania and three
from Bessarabia attended the conference. The presentation about the
General Socialist Movement in Romania was given by Dr. Pistiner, the
presentation about the founding of the Bund and its goals by Dr.
Kissman. Herz Gilischenski spoke about Jewish education and Markus
Kaswan spoke about organization and the press.
It was a very
significant conference, the first Jewish worker's conference in
which representatives from three provinces of Greater Romania talked
together, the first Socialist conference of this type altogether,
because a unification conference of Socialist organizations of all
provinces and the founding of the united Socialist Party of Greater
Romania only took place later. The conference was warmly greeted by
the other national groups of the Bukovina Social Democratic Party
and the regional Party leadership of the other provinces. Also,
notes of congratulations arrived from abroad. The larger Bucharest
newspapers had extensive coverage.
The conference solemnly
proclaimed the founding of the General Jewish Worker Bund in
The founding resolution
started out with a reference to the founding of the Bund in Tsarist
Russia a quarter century previously (1897)and went on to say that
East Jewish workers in other countries had followed the same
developmental path to social and national awakening and had created
organizations with the same goals although they weren't connected.
In the resolution, the commitment of the newly formed organization
to the program of the Bund was solemnly proclaimed and essentially
the same program points were listed such as the fight for the
recognition for the recognition of the Jewish language in schools
and offices and others.
The founding of the
General Jewish Workers' Alliance [Bund] in Romania was like opening
a window in Czernowitz to Jewish workers in the other provinces, but
there were tremendous barriers to the building of local
organizations. In Old Romania, the Bund ran into the resistance of
the regional Social Democratic Party which stubbornly resisted the
long since dissipated “naïve cosmopolitanism” of Bukovina and
unreasonably fought the national combining of the Party
organization. Things were the same in Marmorosch with the
Transylvania Party leadership. Bessarabia however lived with the
fear of the military “state of siege” which made the existence of a
socialistic organization impossible.
There followed years of
hard work and great disappointments for the Bund. Loose groups of
followers of the Bund in the larger cities was the only thing that
could be achieved in the other provinces. In the parliamentary
elections of 1932, Dr. Kissman ran as list director for the Social
Democratic Party in the three northern districts of Bessarabia -
Chotin, Beltz and Kischinew - and in spite of the election terror
achieved a great victory.
In the Community
In the national program
of the Bund, the Community figured as one of the most important
political battlegrounds. No area in public life offered such a rich
opportunity for propaganda on social ideas as the fight for the
Community and the activity in the Community. The formulation of an
action program for the Community occupied the organization of the
Bund in Bukovina since its reconstruction after the war.
More than a decade was
to pass before the Jewish population of Bukovina were offered the
opportunity to choose the officers of their Community in a free
The Israelite Community
was the most important Jewish institution which passed from old
Austria to Romania. In Old Romania, there was no legally recognized
Jewish Community. In as much as Jewish associations in various
cities of Old Romania performed community functions for the
population they were either constituted of incorporated individuals
of private rights, for example burial societies or they led a
lawless existence and could neither acquire nor possess property.
The Israelite Communities in Bukovina were anchored in the Austrian
Community Laws which tentatively remained in force for the area of
Bukovina. First in 1928 was a general Community Law for the entire
The Israelite Community
in Czernowitz - which during the Austrian time remained for many
years the uncontested domain of Dr. Benno Straucher - became in the
Romanian era a position of strength for the party in power. It
served the governing party which was unpopular in Bukovina not only
as a strong point within the Jewish population but also as a
strategic position for conquest of the majority in the city and even
in the district in political elections.
The Jews who were
undoubtedly the most politically active group in the population who
in every election created the atmosphere and to a certain degree set
the tone. The Community as key to power - that was virtually an
axiomatic tactic of every party.
The government would
choose a “gerent” to administer the Community and to support him a
“reliable” person would also be named.
One change occurred with
the rise of the National Zaranistisch Party. At that time, the end
of 1938, a democratic spring storm blew over the land. The positions
of the reactionary “historic” parties were swept away. Also, the
Community seemed ripe for democratization.
According to the old
Austrian law concerning the statutes for individual Communities only
tax paying citizens had the right to vote. That is, it was
restricted to the strata of citizens who owned property. The working
population were from the outset excluded from exercising any
influence on the Community. The first condition for the fight for
the Community was therefore the winning of general suffrage. A
vigorous campaign was waged for this cardinal demand. Finally, an
election law with equal direct proportional voting rights was
accepted and confirmed by the government.
After an attempt
by the Gerent Dr. Lazarowicz to secure general voting rights failed,
Dr. Karl Gutherz was named gerent by the government and an advisory
board with representatives from all groups was formed. Also, the
Bund decided to participate in this advisory board since it was
certain that only by working with the sitting administration could a
democratically chosen Community Council
be achieved and end be put to the “buying” of the Gerent position.
The advisory board took
up as its first task the creation and revision of a voter list. The
voter list included all Jewish residents of the city of Czernowitz -
also those who were not Romanian citizens. Without unnecessary delay
preparations for the election for May 18, 1930 were made.
It was a great event.
For the first time in the history of the Jewish Community of
Czernowitz were Jews from all social strata were called to the urn
[where they threw in their ballots] to decide the composition of a
Community Council. The election campaign which started several weeks
previously was waged vigorously by all sides. The Community was
obviously much more important to the Jews that other public
institutions like, for example, the Gemeinderat, etc.
The platform of the Bund
which was published in the news papers and distributed in flyers was
based on the primary requirement that the Communitymust be changed
into a national Jewish organization. It started with the statement:
The Community is an institution governed by public law which
encompasses all of the Jewish people and therefore constitutes the
de facto Jewish nation within the framework of the Romanian state.
The platform continued: It therefore depends on the will of the
Community Council to make this body, recognized by public law into
the starting point for national cultural autonomy for the Jewish
people. It is necessary above all to enhance the existing
form with national cultural content, to create schools and cultural
institutions of all types for the maintenance and development of the
Yiddish language and to promote literature and culture. With
great emphasis, the platform called for the discontinuation of
indirect taxes and for the introduction of a progressive tax system
for property owners and demanded the building up of social
institutions like hospitals, orphanages, homes for the elderly and a
modern system of care for the poor.
A large number of
candidate lists were submitted since the proportion system of the
new election ordinance gave small groups the possibility to win
Every vote was
passionately fought for. In the middle class arena the fight between
the Jewish National Unity Party, the Straucher group and the
National Zaranistisch parties was carried on with the greatest
passion. The Bund stood in the cross-fire of all the parties and
groups. It was notorious as a godless party, and a representation of
the Bund in the Community would be considered as a danger for the
religious institutions. In spite of all these accusations, the Bund
asserted that its position was a special way of thinking for the
Jewish workers and led the battle on the high plane of an
ideological combat with citizens from all groups.
The great splintering of
the vote in the election produced the result: a Community Council
that was divided between small groups, none of which had a
commanding majority. The Bund won eight seats which was seen as a
great victory. The following candidates from the Bund's list were
elected: Dr. Berl Friedmann, Nathan Tropper, Dr. Joseph Kissman,
Mathias Rolf, Litman Schaffer, Markus Kaswan, Eisig Wiesel and Josef
When the new Community
Councilwas seated the Bund took the standpoint that the strongest
party should have the honor of providing the first president and
therefore voted for Dr. Myer Ebner, the president of the Zionist
Unity Party which had a small superiority in number of votes
compared to the National Zaranistisch group. Dr. Ebner and Dr. Karl
Gutherz, the candidate of the National Zaranistisch group won an
equal number of votes. Lots were drawn and the lottery decided in
favor of the later. The Bund won two seats, Dr. Berl Friedmann
became the first vice president, Dr. Joseph Kissman was elected as
chairman of the school section.
between the citizens groups prevented the newly elected Community
Councilfrom accomplishing any useful work. As an administrative
body, it is possible that this freely elected Community Council
didn't win a brilliant place in the history of the Jewish community
of Czernowitz. As a public tribunal for the existing parties and
trends, it was unique in its way. The passionate discussions that
took place during the long evening meetings in the packed hall were
at the center of public interest for the entire population. Never
before was the “Jewish question” dealt with by speakers of all
persuasions in such a forum.
What was necessary,
however, was more than mere discussion and with the existing
composition of the Community Council, constructive administrative
work would never be accomplished.
The years of
uncontrolled rule by the gerents had severely reduced the finances
of the Community. The social institutions, the hospital, orphanage,
etc. couldn't accomplish their jobs. The public school, under the
old teachers had come down severely.
The Bundists together
with a small number of council members from other groups tried their
best under the most difficult conditions to fulfill their
administrative tasks. Nathan Tropper and Litman Schaffer were active
in administering the hospital. Mathias Roll, who as an economist and
financial expert who was highly respected tried in vain to find new
ways and means to fill the Communitie's coffers. Dr. Kissman
developed a plan to gradually pension the old teachers of the
elementary school and started talks with the previous administrator
of the pension, teacher Dubensky. This was supposed to smooth the
path to a modernization of the school. It never came to this,
however, because the fight about the school took a completely new
Concerning the Language
of Instruction in the Community School
The leadership of the
Bund decided to quickly settle the question of the language of
instruction to be used in the public schools. One allowed one's self
no illusions how the decision would fall considering the composition
of the Council, but no more suitable tribunal for the fight for the
recognition of the Yiddish language could be found in the Jewish
community than just this council. In addition, there were other
considerations: The general interest of wide circles of the
population in the activities of the Council could not be expected to
last much longer. The Council stood before the danger of turning
into an unproductive discussion club. It was decided to leave the
possibility of success out of the consideration and to continue the
fight about Yiddish as the language of instruction as long as one
was certain that the public debate would call forth a lively echo
among the population. The situation in the school itself called for
a quick decision.
In the six class public
school, the German language from the Austrian time was still being
used for instruction while the patience of the education officials
was running out. That was an untenable situation since according to
the law; private schools with public rights had to instruct in
either the language of the corresponding national minority or in
Romanian. The school stood in danger of being closed by the
authorities if it didn't quickly obey this law.
After a short
preparation in the press and in meetings, the Bund started its fight
about the language of instruction soon after the start of the school
year 1930/31. The proposal for introducing of Yiddish as the
language of instruction resulted in the expected split in votes
along party lines in the school section of the Council: The two Bund
members voted for Yiddish, the three Zionists for Hebrew. As
referees for the plenum Dr. Reifer voted for the majority and Dr.
Kissman voted for the minority.
There then followed a
dramatic fight in the plenum. The Bundists were successful in
expanding the debate to wider aspects of Jewish life. For the Bund,
the language of instruction was more than a mere question of
education principals. And so the debate became more of a fight over
the basic principals of Jewish life, Bund vs. Zionism, that a simple
question of the language used in instruction. The debate was carried
out in two long night meetings. It was the high point of the clash
of opposing ideas on the battle field of the Council. In the general
debate that followed Dr. Reifer's and Dr. Kissman's votes one soon
saw signs of disunity in the middle class citizen camp. The speaker
for the Orthodox, Jakob Wiznitzer demanded merely that children be
taught to pray (daven) and expressed no interest in the language of
instruction. Dr. Max Diamant who belonged to the Einheitspartei
[Unity Party] who in the school question as in many other areas went
his own way proposed a conciliatory solution: the instruction
language should be Yiddish for the first three years and first from
the fourth year on should be Hebrew.
At the following plenum
meeting on Thursday October 17 however, the Bund faced a united
front of all the bourgeois groups. The meeting was for the final
speeches of the referees and the final vote. The members of the
Unity Party certain of their success pressed for the final vote.
The Bund faction decided
to put off the final vote for as long as possible in order to
perhaps cause some indecision in the voters. Therefore, Dr.
Kissman's speech advocating the introduction of Yiddish as the
language of instruction lasted more than four hours. In the early
morning, the vote which produced the expected result was held: with
all the bourgeois groups against the votes of the Bund, the proposal
of the Unity Party for the introduction of Hebrew as the language of
instruction was adopted.
After the vote, Dr.
Kissman resigned from his position in the school section, so as he
explained - not to preside over the “Romanianization” of the single
Jewish elementary school for which the decision to introduce Hebrew
as the language of instruction would certainly “open the door and
Shortly after that, the
entire Bund faction resigned from the Council. The Bund was richer
for the experience. Much difficult work would be required in private
schools teaching in Yiddish before recognition would be achieved in
the political battle.
Not long after that, the
Community Council was dissolved by the government.
Jewish Trade Schools
Jewish school and
cultural demands were an essential part of the Bund's program in all
lands. This attitude was strongly expressed at the second conference
of the Bund in Bukovina in May 1921. As important as the school and
cultural requirements were as the solution to political conflicts,
no one at first thought of using private means for the practical
realization of these ideas.
In the resolution
that was adopted at the above mentioned conference in response to a
paper presented by Dr. Berl Friedmann, the demand for construction
of Jewish elementary, citizen
and middle schools was presented to the state. Collecting money or
similar social actions for the creation of private schools was not
considered. Only at the conclusion of the resolution were a few
words devoted to the construction of model schools on their own
initiative - a pious wish about whose infeasibility everyone was in
In the public elementary
schools, which gradually were Romanianized, Jewish children were
enrolled without difficulty. The trade schools, however,
systematically repulsed the Jewish youth. In any event, these
schools were overcrowded and unsatisfactory in all respects, but it
was not by chance that it was always just the Jewish boys and girls
for whom no place could be found in the schools. The instruction of
these hand worker youth (3 hours daily after regular school was
over) was of doubtful value, but according to the Austrian trade
regulations which at that time were still in force in Bukovina,
graduation from a trade school was necessary to become a master
About that time, the
intensive Romanianization effort of the government was making itself
felt in the trade schools. Romanian farm boys were brought from the
villages to the city, housed in dormitory's at the expense of the
state and Jewish hand work masters were forced to teach them. You
didn't have to be very bright to connect the withholding of
educational opportunities from the Jewish apprentices with this
And so, the decision was
made to create a Jewish trade school. By happy chance, just at that
time an energetic young teacher from Bessarabia who had a wealth of
practical experience in private Jewish schools had come to
Czernowitz. This was Herz Gilischenski. He was entrusted with
running this first trade school and was the soul of this and the
later following school projects of the worker education organization
Morgenroit [Morning Red].
A modest role was planed
for Morgenroit (The name of the organization was made more Yiddish
sounding after the First World War) at its founding in 1908. It was
to provide for the educational needs of adolescents and adults. The
building up of a comprehensive library of modern Jewish literature
and the organization of periodic educational courses was until then
the activity program of the organization. Then Morgenroit became the
school organization of the Bund and expanded to ever wider
territories of Jewish cultural activity and gradually became one of
the greatest cultural organizations of Eastern Europe.
In Autumn of 1921 the
first Jewish trade school in Czernowitz opened. The Ministry of
Labor which supervised trade schools issued without difficulty the
authorization to open the school, with which the “public right” was
also involved. Large classrooms were provided in the Landhausgasse
elementary school for Morgenroit to hold evening classes.
Apprentices in all trades enrolled in the school which already in
the first year had approximately 300 students of both sexes. The
instruction (which started after a light meal provided by the Joint)
developed without a hitch. A number of respected Jewish teachers
like Karl Kohn, Chaim Fuchs and others instructed in the Yiddish
language following the plan prescribed for public schools while
Romanian teachers were brought in to teach the Romanian language and
the history of the Romanian people. Chief teacher Karl Kohn was
named director of the school.
Already in the next year
the first difficult arose when the organization Morgenroit was told
that it could no longer use the classrooms in the Landhausgasse
elementary school. Other locations were not suitable and renting or
purchasing was out of the question. The school had hardly started
and already stood before its demise.
One hope remained;
appeal to the comrades in America.
Help Action in America
The Bund had been in
contact with worker organizations in America for some time. The
founding of the General Jewish Worker Alliance [Bund] in Romania in
1923 had been warmly greeted by the leaders of the Jewish worker
movement in America. It immediately offered material help.
Of the numerous friends
of the newly founded Bund in Romania, two distinguished labor
leaders should be mentioned here, both of whom who are no longer
living; Baruch Czarny Vladek and Vladimir Medem, both immortal names
in the history of the Jewish labor movement. Vladek who was
considered almost god like (in his homeland, in Russia, he was
called the “young Lassalle”) had leadership positions in the most
significant Jewish world organizations such as the Joint
Distribution Committee [the Joint], Ort, Hias, etc. Medem, the
spiritual leader of the Bund in Tsarist Russia and after the First
World War, in Poland came after a passage through great suffering to
America. He was known as the legend of the Jewish worker's movement
in the old homeland and in America he soon was held in great respect
in all circles of the worker's movement. Both Vladek and Medem
immediately grasped the historic significance of a Bund movement in
the new Greater Romania and gathered the Romanian Landsmanshaft
[organization of people who emigrated from the same town or country]
groups of the Arbeiter Ring (Workmen's Circle) to work together for
the organization in the old homeland. Under their leadership the
Gross Rumänische Arbeiter Liga [The Greater Romanian Worker League]
in America was founded, whose goal was to help Jewish worker
organizations in Romania.
The league invited the
Bund in Romania to send a delegation to America.
Herz Gilischenski and
Dr. Joseph Kissman were chosen.
We will not report about
the events in America, but limit ourselves to several remarks. It
was much more difficult than one could have imagined from a
After the First World
War, there were in America numerous individual efforts to support
Jewish organizations and institutions in Europe - in addition to the
universal generous help action of the Joint for the Jews in Europe.
These efforts were however, held for the cultural and social needs
of the Jews in Poland and Russia. Never before had an action been
undertaken for Romania which for the Jewish public in America led to
the “logical” conclusion that the Jews of Romania had no social
needs and strivings. The most important task of the delegation
therefore consisted of convincing the organizations and groups which
were to be created of the existence of a large Jewish population in
Romania - because of its expansion after the First World War - and
to make them familiar with their struggles and the cultural efforts
of the Worker's Movement. It was no easy task to put a country that
was so little known “on the map” of the Jewish public in America.
The first thing to do
was to get the help of the press.
Dr. Kissman because he
had worked many years for the greatest Jewish daily paper in America
(and the world), the socialist Vorwärts [Forwards] stood in friendly
contact with the chief editor Abraham Cahan. The hearty welcome on
arrival was very encouraging. The campaign for the Bund in Romania
was advocated by the Vorwärts with great warmth and was soon popular
in all workers' circles. The newspaper willingly printed not only
Kissman's articles about the campaign, but also those of Cahan
himself and other fellow workers wrote articles and interviews in
which the necessity of the help for the institutions and
organizations of the Jewish workers in Romania was stressed.
What strongly impressed
the delegation right at the beginning was the small number of
Landsleuten from Bukovina homeland itself. How small this little
Bukovina “world” appeared in the American Babel [Tower of Babel].
The Bukoviner helped valiantly with the action, but the bulk of the
work fell on the Greater Romanian Worker's League, whose members
consisted almost exclusively of Landsleuten from Old Romania.
Before the delegation
started the trip to America, the universally honored Vladimir Medem
died in New York. Vladek then felt a doubled responsibility for the
action. He introduced the delegates to the large Jewish worker
organizations (trade unions) and as general manager of the Vorwärts
he made sure that the branch offices of the paper in the large cites
of the land were helpful to the delegates from Romania.
The campaign which
lasted for three months was carried out with great success. Already
after the first telegraphic report from the delegation the large
building lot at the corner of Althgasse and Schillergasse was
acquired and even before the delegation had returned the
construction of the Morgenroit-Haus had been started.
Culture House Morgenroit
The Culture House
Morgenroit as it was later named consisted of two large
interconnected buildings: one building on Althgasse was to be used
for the school and cultural institutions of the organization; the
second attached building, situated on Schillergasse was intended to
be a modern theater whose proceeds would finance the cultural work
of Morgenroit. The enterprise was well thought out and excellently
planed but it seemed that the unavoidable lot of public construction
to be that at first the available material, means and labor are
grossly over-estimated and only after some progress of the
construction a crisis that seems to be insoluble arises which brings
the undertaking right to the edge of collapse.
In the case of
Morgenroit there was the additional circumstance that simultaneously
with the building of the house the school and cultural institutions
were being enlarged. The functioning of the school and educational
system could not be even momentarily interrupted. These institutions
required a large budget and were always short of funds.
The available funds were
used for the construction of the building on Althgase. This work was
moved forward as quickly as possible and the large four story
building was completed within a year. The Morgenroit evening trade
school that had been threatened by the loss of the elementary school
on Landhausgasse was in the following school year able to move into
the comfortable modern large spaces in the new school. The
construction of the theater however was soon stopped and for years
didn't proceed past the foundation while the pressing load of debt
Also the long awaited
completion of the theater building after years of nagging worries
didn't bring relief from the pressing debts. The theater hall was
rented to a movie enterprise, but the income - far from covering the
budget for the cultural work of Morgenroit was hardly enough to make
the payments on the newly obtained loan.
In this need, the hope
for the promised help from America proved to be the only correct
calculation that Morgenroit had made when it initiated the
construction. The rescuing angle was the always ready to help Baruch
Czarny Vladek in New York who spurred the Romanian Worker League
again and again to new activities and in difficult situations
received appreciable sums from the large labor unions for
Morgenroit. Delegations came to America three more times. Twice they
were led by Herz Gilischenski for carrying out of help campaigns in
America and once Dr. Joseph Kissman came in 1934. All three actions
We want to immediately
add here that it was not the financial help from America alone that
made possible the completion of these glorious buildings. No small
measure of gratitude should go to the dedicated untiring members of
the construction committee. The chairman of the Morgenroit
Association Wilhelm Ippen was at the same time chairman of the
construction committee and the soul of the entire project.
In spite of all the
material worries Morgenroit had built two day trade schools - a
girls' school for tailoring and a boys' school for carpentry - as
well as expanding the evening trade school. In the day schools in
addition to the vocational education by first class teachers the
most stress was put on general education. Dr. Marco Schaffer, an
extraordinarily educated middle school professor was director of the
day school for tailoring; Dr. Israel Schäfler directed the carpentry
school. The evening trade school which was still under the
leadership of Chief Teacher Karl Kohn acquired the “one year right”
in military service for its graduates.
The success of the
instruction in vocational as well as in general education were
satisfying to the highest degree.
In all the schools
Yiddish was naturally the language of instruction as well as the
conversational language. Moreover, the greatest attention was paid
to teaching of the Yiddish language and literature as a subject of
instruction. Along with that went the teaching of Yiddish song. For
a time, Joseph Schmidt who was later to achieve fame was the music
teacher and Choir director of the Morgenroit school.
Of no smaller
significance was the institution for cultural work with adults,
which was run in the building on Althgasse. We want to briefly
describe it: a large hall which took up half of the ground floor was
used for the library which bore the name “Wladimir Medem.” The other
half of the ground floor was used for a lecture hall and the offices
of Morgenroit. A workers' club with the name Jakob Pistiner met in
the lecture hall. In a large, modest and comfortably furnished hall
in the basement was located the “Morgenroit workers' corner,” a
restaurant in which good meals could be had at low prices. The youth
organization and the sport club Morgenroit had their homes high
above in the attic. In addition, there was a Balalaika orchestra, a
theater group with amateurs from the youth group and a mixed choir
with adult and youth group members. This group had no assigned
location and practiced their activity in various classrooms.
Two floors of the school
building were rented to a private school which during the day gave
the building the appearance of a normal school with quiet school
activity. In the evening hours the building was transformed:
educational courses, lectures, theater music tryouts, conferences
and conventions took place. The greatest use was made of the reading
room of the excellently run Wladimir Medem library which in the
evening was filled to the last seat.
Even during the hot
summer time the use of the building didn't completely cease. The
schools were closed during the months of July and August and in
place of instruction, the students and youth organizations of the
Bund got together for entertaining and useful summer activities.
Vacation colonies were set up in various places in the Carpathians
and many who couldn't go remained active at home. Every week outings
were made to local destinations.
Even before the building
was completed and before the organization had completed this great
expansion the envious looks of the anti-Semitic movement were
directed at the lively activity on Althgasse-Schillergasse. Plans
were forged to destroy the organization and rob its assets. The
government which was always ready for such activity gave these plans
their full attention. Soon the first blow was delivered.
The library was hardly
opened in the new building when the police came and searched it.
They objected to books by Marx, Engels and Kautsky and confiscated
them. The district attorney's office issued an accusation against
Morgenroit and demanded the dissolution of the organization. A
similar process was started by the Higher Inspectorate for Judicial
People in Bucharest. The process before the Czernowitz tribunal drew
out for years while the proceeding with the Inspectorate in
Bucharest rested. Searches by the police in the library were often
repeated and many other books were confiscated in order to support
the assertions in the charge. Finally a verdict of “not guilty” was
The district attorney
took the case to the Appeals Court and that proceeding was drawn out
for over a year. Testimony about the confiscated books was given by
anti-Semitic university professors and also by Chief Rabbi Dr. Mark
and others. This process similarly ended with an acquittal by a
senate chaired by the Higher State Court Council Stefanelli.
At the same time
criminal proceedings for insurgency (under Lex Marzescu) were
started against the chairman of Morgenroit Wilhelm Ippen and the
librarian Sabina for being responsible for disseminating
inflammatory material. Happily the proceedings took place before a
senate chaired by State Court Councilman Dr. Bibring which declared
the accused “not guilty.”
Unhindered by government
bullying and legal persecution the great work of Jewish education
and cultural work was continued.
accomplishment of this great effort was for all those years in the
hands of the secretary Sarah Kaswan who carried out her service with
great competence and unequaled faithfulness and devotion.
The Cuza-Goga government
was to first to succeed in confiscating the great Jewish assets and
in banning the organization. To do this, it required at that time no
laws and no courts. But before it could enjoy the ill gotten gains,
already others were in power.
Leave Taking of Pistiner
The Social Democratic
Party and all its associated organizations were in full blossom and
strength and intensively active in all areas of public life when
they were met by a hard fate: on August 23, 1930 Dr. Jakob Pistiner
died suddenly. It was an irreplaceable loss for the Jewish
population of Bukovina who in Pistiner had a courageous fighter for
right and dignity and also an untiring opponent of injustice to
individuals. It was also a shattering human tragedy: Pistiner who
was not yet 49 years old literally broke down under his workload for
the community. On a trip to a repeatedly delayed short vacation for
recuperation he died from a heart attack on the train.
A funeral procession of
thousands accompanied Pistiner to his final rest. It was one of the
largest funerals that Czernowitz had ever seen, a manifestation of
the love, respect and mourning that international Czernowitz was
demonstrating for its greatest citizen and true friend. A true
circle of legends grew around Pistiner after his death.
One year later on
November 5, 1931 he was followed in death by his true friend who had
accompanied him on his path, Nathan Tropper. A skilled hand worker
who had an extraordinary gift for speaking, Tropper was not only the
uncontested leader of the socialistic union movement but also a
leading personality in the international workers movement in
Bukovina. Also Tropper was deeply mourned in wide circles of the
population. Both friends lay in adjacent honor graves in the
Martyr's Death of a
Young Jew, Edi Wagner
With Hitler's seizure of
power in Germany the anti-Semitic movement in Romania assumed an
ever more threatening character. The attacks against the Jewish
population in various parts of the land occurred more and more
frequently. The excesses were carried out by the Cuzisten (followers
of the infamous Professor Cuza) and the Eisernen Garde [Iron
Gurard]. The government which for some time still wavered between
the order of law and anti-Semitic terror inclined itself evermore
toward the later. In the summer of 1936, it was clear to see that
the anti-Semitic mob had become an actual “shadow government” in
Czernowitz was at that
time the show place for large anti-Semitic demonstrations. Students
gathered in bands and made the streets unsafe in broad daylight. In
the evening hours, a Jews' life was not safe. In front of the
newspaper publishing house Abraham on Herrengasse often trucks with
Bucharest and foreign newspapers were overturned and the offending
newspapers, - the anti-Fascist Jew press - were burned in bonfires.
For a week the Culture
House Morgenroit looked like a beleaguered fortress. When the rumor
spread that an attack and plundering of the building was planed
comprehensive countermeasures were taken. Hundreds of Jewish workers
occupied the building continually, slept in the hallways and posted
sentries around the building. The expected attack didn't
materialize. If these preparations for defense were a deterrent or
the rumor about the planed attack was exaggerated could not be
In the city the excesses
were continued every day. There were daily clashes with organized
groups of Jewish youth in which the anti-Semitic bands drew the
short straw. Finally the ground in the city got to hot for them and
they moved the showplace of their activities to the Volksgarten
[People's Garden]. For Jews entering the Volksgarten was associated
with great danger. Bold attacks on peaceful strollers were daily
occurrences. The police maintained “strict neutrality.” Police
posted at the entrances warned Jewish walkers that they entered the
park at their own risk and could not count on police protection.
So in those days the
Volksgarten became “Judenrein” [free of Jews]. The Jews of
Czernowitz also had to swallow this insult. At that time no one had
an idea that a avenger from the ranks of the Jewish youth would
hatch a plan to execute bloody justice on the Fascist youth. The
very last person that one would have dreamed of to take this role
was a delicate young man whose mild nature would have rebelled at
the thought of a violent act. Edi Wagner was his name. He was 20
years old and studied optics. The son of a widow he had grown up in
poverty. He made the youth organization of the Bund to his real
home. In spite of the fact that he avoided the noisy carrying on of
his contemporaries and was quiet and inward directed he was the most
popular organizer whose directions everyone happily followed. Edi
Wagner had one passion; music. He organized a Balalaika orchestra
which consisted of 100 young boys and girls. He was the director of
the orchestra and its soul. The orchestra often performed public
concerts. The orchestra was the pride and joy of the workers.
excesses of the summer of 1936 made a deep impression on Edi Wagner.
He visibly turned more into himself, became even more silent. In all
secrecy he organized a fighting group of youth. On a sticky July
night the group entered the Volksgarten determined to put an end to
the activities of the Fascist bands. A clash soon took place. The
leader of the Fascist band, a student of theology fell dead with a
knife wound in his heart.
In that same night over
30 members of the youth group were arrested. All were severely
abused by the police. Edi Wagner was beaten to death. On the
following day a dying Edi Wagner was brought to the Central
Hospital. The police asserted that during the questioning that night
he had jumped out of the second story window. What the police
executioners had really done to him is a bloody secret that won't be
uncovered. One learned later from the nurse who was the only person
allowed at his bed side that Eli Wagner's body was covered with
wounds and showed clear signs of beating.
Edi Wagner died on the
evening after he was brought to the hospital. The same night he was
buried by lantern light in all secrecy in the Jewish cemetery.
Besides his mother no one else was allowed at the funeral. Even she
was not allowed to see the face of her only son.
It was never discovered
who had actually delivered the deadly blow to the leader of the
Fascist group. The arrested youth were soon released; the police had
a bad conscience. About one thing the police were not in error: the
organizer and leader of the heroic defense group was really Edi
Wagner. The Czernowitz Jews will not forget him for that.
Then Came the Great
Further events do not
fit within the framework of this account.
The ties between the
working population and their Organization became even stronger and
deeper after Edi Wagner's martyr's death. After that July 1936 the
Bund and all its institutions were watched even more closely by the
police. Public activities were only possible in limited measures.
Because of that the
victory of the Bund in the Community election of 1937 must be that
much more highly valued. United with a group of leftist Poale
Zionists the slate won 8 seats: 6 Bundists and two Poale Zionists.
That was the last public
activity of Jewish parties in Bukovina.
What happened afterwards
during the Second World War was part of the greatest Jewish tragedy
in Europe and is reported on in other places.
Under Soviet occupation
the Morgenroit House became a branch location of the University. The
secretary of Morgenroit Sarah Kaswan remained as “custodian” of the
building until that day when the police of the “socialist” state
sent this true Jewish socialist to her death in Siberia. All other
administrators were removed and the school and various other
institutions were shut down.
Before the Russian army
withdrew the following leading members of the Bund and the Social
Democratic Party together with a whole series of Czernowitz citizens
were arrested and deported to Soviet Russia: Wilhelm Ippen together
with his wife and daughter, Sarah and Markus Kaswan, Herz
Gilischenski and wife, Samuel Tropper with wife and child, Dr.
Arthur Oberländer with wife and son, Dr. Albert Silbermann with wife
and son and others.
Many of those who were
arrested and deported fell victim to the rage of the Romanian troops
when they re-entered Bukovina. Among them was Litman Schaffer. A
member of the Council, he had during the Russian time voluntarily
served in the Jewish hospital. When the Romanian troops marched in
he was shot on the street in front of the hospital while carrying
out his duties.
And many of those who
escaped this bloodbath suffered in Transnistrien …
Out of Siberia came only
limited news and cries for help to America. With the exception of
several whose fate is still unknown all died from hunger and the
Authors Note bottom of
A) This truly dedicated Jewish Socialist fell together with
her husband, Dr. Jakob Edel as a victim of the Nazi extermination
of the Jews. On October 12, 1941 both were murdered by the Germans
in Yugoslavia after an adventurous flight from Vienna.
1. I'm going to
take the liberty of using the German word “Bundists” to describe
members of the Bund.
2. In these Gold
essays the German word “Kultur” is used quite often and if you look
it up it translates to the English word “culture.” I think however
it is used in a different sense perhaps meaning something like
3. The author likes
the word “anschluss,” and I'll use it since the best English
translation I can find is “annexation” which really doesn't have
quite the right tone.
4. “Old Romania” or
“the Old Kingdom” refers to the original Romanian state formed by
the joining of Walachia and Moldavia in 1861. “Greater Romania” was
formed after World War I by the addition of Transylvania (from
Hungary), Bessarabia (from Russia) and Bukovina (from
5. I have substituted the
word “Community” for Kultusgemeinde which the dictionary translates
as “religious community.” This institution is mentioned in many of
the Gold essays, but is no where explicitly defined. From the little
snippets I have picked up, I can make some educated guesses: The
word is used either to designate the Jewish community as a whole, or
sometimes to refer just to its governing body. The Austrian
government allowed the Jewish community to govern itself in
“internal” matters. The Kultusgemeinde gathered taxes and ran the
schools, the hospital, the orphanage, the insane asylum, the old
people's home, etc. It hired the rabbi, the cantor, the ritual
slaughterer. How many of the officials were elected by the community
and how many designated by the state, I'm not sure.
6. I translate
“Kultusrat” as community council, the governing body of the
Kultusgemeinde or Community.
7. The author uses
the word “Bürger” which translates to citizen of middle class or
by Dr. Joseph Kissman
Translated by Jerome Silverbush