Hashomer Hatzair members Benno Kamil, Isak Landau, Isiu
Fuhrman (far right) and Ackerman.
The cultural phenomenon known as the “youth movement” is a product of the
first half of our century. Also, earlier times – we can well conjuncture: all
periods – knew the struggle between the generations, but it remained to our time
to give this phenomenon a conscious recognition and an organized form.
In the individual countries, the youth movement originated and developed
corresponding to the general usages, the national ideals and the economic
conditions in the framework of the social and cultural structure.
The concept “youth movement” can't be stretched too far, either concerning the
age boundaries which shouldn't exceed the student period, or as concerns the
form of organization, so that for example, groups of youth who are organized for
purposes of social help, can't be considered a student movement.
The historic events affecting the Jewish people during the transition from
the 19th to the 20th century, prepared the foundation for
the origin of the Jewish youth movement during and immediately after the First
The privilege of being the first important organization in this movement was
reserved for the Hashomer Hatzair (the Young Sentries).
Also in the history of Bukovina, over which this book reports, the Jewish
youth movement appeared at this time and the following pages attempt to report
about the beginning, the development, the essential ideals, their goals and
Many years have passed since the first blossoming. Details have vanished or
become blurred, but, ask who one will, of members of the movement – all will
admit, that even today, the memory of the great enthusiasm is still awake, that
the years of the youth movement were the most beautiful and richest not only of
that time, but of their entire lives.
Will we be successful in capturing and sharing something of the spirit of
that? The judgment of that will fall to the readers of the following lines.
In the Spring months of the year 1918, a group of Jewish gymnasium returned from
Vienna to their home in Bukovina. The events of the war had made them like
thousands of other residents of the various towns of Bukovina into refugees, who
sought and found possibilities for survival in the west of the Monarchy. As
children they came to Vienna, the metropolis and grew up there while their
fathers and brothers like many others fought on the battle fields or fulfilled
their obligation behind the lines. To live in Vienna at that time meant a bitter
lack of all the necessary things, but to be relatively better off than in many
other parts of the Monarchy. One had the school and one sensed the pulse of the
great historic events and as a conscious young Jew one could be a witness of the
strengthening of Jewish self awareness and find the way to groups of like
minded, which in youthful belief in a better tomorrow could distract one's self
from the dreary present. There were intellectual Jewish leaders. The names Buber
and Bernfeld were well known. The concept of Palestine assumed ever clearer
outlines. On the banks of the Danube canal, met hundreds of youth
who belonged to the movement “Shomrim.”
As an example served them the heroic sentries (Shomrim) from the time of the
second Aliyah (immigration to Israel), who were prepared to spill their blood
for the protection of the Jewish settlements in Eretz Israel (Land of Israel).
(then Cernăuţi, Romania)
Zellermayer, Schnitzer, Brull, Wald, Einhorn, Edith Neuberger, Chacham, and Ruth Kramer.
The Shomer Organization developed ever further in the last years of the war.
Its spiritual basis became deeper and more serious. The organization form
corresponded to the Boy Scout principal. The basic unit called the “Kwuzah”
consisted of 10 to 15 boys or girls in a certain age range. The “Gdud” consisted
of several Kwuzot. The general framework was called “Histadruth.”
Among the Vienna groups there was one with the name “Dror” (Freedom), made up
of refugee children. This was the group we spoke of in the introduction. Some of
the members of this group were: Imaneul and Jehoschua Bierer, Zwi Krämer, Josef
Augenblick (Ambach), Abraham Buller (Dori), all sons of families from Czernowitz
or the provincial towns. With them at the same time came parts of a similarly
aged girls group, among them Ester Zellermayer, Channa Schnitzer and the Brill
The return of the refugees from the west of the Monarchy to the eastern
provinces had started. It appeared as if the war had ended. The Russian October
Revolution of the year 1917 had removed the Tsar, Russia had accepted a separate
peace treaty, and the East was quiet.
The monarchy was breathing its last, but there were ties between the
metropolis and the provinces and one traveled home in order to continue where
one had left off at the beginning of the war.
The group Dror upon leaving Vienna did not leave its ideals behind. Hardly
were they home when they started to organize groups of 15 – 17 year olds, first
in Czernowitz and then in the provincial cities: Radauti, Suceava, Storozynetz,
Siret and Gura Humorului.
This was a phenomenon previously unknown in Bukovina. In the period before
the war, one was familiar with the fraternities and the beginnings of middle
school organizations which superficially resembled the fraternities.
The nature of the youth movement which in the west had blossomed long ago was
still unknown in the eastern outposts of Austria.
The movement which the group Dror brought to life in Bukovina was called
“Histadruth Shomrim.” Shortly thereafter it was to receive the name which
accompanied it during its further development, “Hashomer Hatzair.”
The building up and the securing of the organization was pursued with energy.
There was still no regular meeting place so meetings were held in the one of the
city gardens and there each Kwuzah gathered around its leader to hold a “Sichah,”
sing songs and play games, do physical exercise, and the work out plans for the
weekend excursion. But as autumn neared, a permanent home had to be found.
When the Russians withdrew, they left behind many of the cities houses half
destroyed or demolished. Like many other buildings, the façade of the proud
“Jewish House” was undamaged, but inside, it was plundered. It was a foregone
conclusion that the young Shomrim would find refuge in this house – no one else
wanted the building in its existing condition. They fixed it up themselves and
then had the right place to hold the Sichoth, the Hebrew courses and above all
the wonderful “home evenings” at which crowed close together, they listened to
the powerful words of the bible, the Aggadah
and the Chassidic tales and afterwards sang the songs of the new Palestine and
of youth until late into the night.
The feeling of belonging and the pride in being a
Shomer was strong.
No, we couldn't keep that to ourselves. Wider circles had to hear about it.
That meant to publish a newspaper. The times, however were hard and it would
have been impossible to print a real newspaper so we went back to the system
that was usual in old Rome: A hundred boys and girls sat there with paper, pen
and ink; a reader read the article and after three to four hours of work there
were 100 copies of a 10 page newspaper which could be distributed to the
gymnasium students in Czernowitz and in the provinces. When later, we could
print several hundred newspapers with a mimeograph machine; we thought we had
reached the peak of technology.
The political situation of Bukovina was unsettled. In autumn of 1918 the
monarchy had fallen apart. There was no real government. One heard of robber
bands composed of soldiers who had returned in a disorderly way from the front
and about farmers and city dwellers who used the opportunity to plunder deserted
military facilities and who wanted to expand their work to the houses of the
residents, especially, those of the Jews.
A self defense unit was organized and among the first to join were the
Schomrin. One stood watch, patrolled with a rifle on the shoulder and was
prepared for anything. Happily, the critical days passed without incident, but
the Movement began to take on a more serious aspect.
Already, hundreds had been organized. It became necessary to consider the
present situation and make plans for the future. For this purpose, a leader's
day was called at which, town and group leaders with voting rights were invited
and the other older Shomrim were permitted to attend, but only as passive
Still in the foreground were the discussion questions of the Youth Movement,
the life reform, the comradely togetherness and the relationship to the
surrounding society. But already, the beginnings of serious ideological problems
appeared. One spoke about strengthening the connection to Eretz Israel, the
other about the way to Socialism, the techniques of learning Hebrew were
examined, one spoke about the active work for the Keren Kajemeth (Jewish
The summer of 1919 was approaching. Bukovina had become a Romanian province;
one was finally cut off from the German cultural influence. The Jews of Bukovina
recognized the political fact, but not so quickly, the cultural one. The
everyday language remained German; there were books in the German language from
which one took intellectual contents.
Although the Shomrim belonged to the circles which most enthusiastically
studied Hebrew, one had not yet succeeded in mastering the language well enough
for everyday use.
Names on back of photo:
Jonah, Baron, Nick,
Mark, Hauselmann, Neuberger and Katz.
Photo by Erhlich & Brull, address: Rusfachgasse 6.
Undated photo taken by
Wilhelm Strassberg, Liliangasse 24
The great event in the Movement in summer, 1919 was the first summer camp. It
is difficult to describe what this accomplishment signified. Parents, enmeshed
in the prevalent prejudice about co-education (boys and girls in the same
classroom) were convinced only with difficulty to let their sons and daughters
go to “Heim” together, let alone to give permission for their children to go for
several weeks to a far away village in the south of Bukovina without proper
supervision; sleeping in hay barns, eating meager meals, and being involved in
intellectual and athletic pursuits. Many tears were shed by mothers and many
hard words were spoken by fathers, but the strong will of the youth on one hand,
the active help, which was offered by respected men like Dr. Josef Bierer or
from parents who were prepared to give the youngsters their full trust made
possible the completion of the plans.
This vacation camp also took place during the first generation change among
the leadership. The group of founders had finished school and before them stood
personal decisions about their future paths. Some, like the Bierer brothers took
training as hand workers in order to prepare themselves for life in Eretz Israel
since at that time, the Hachscharah (training in agriculture) didn't exist. A
few like Abraham Buller took a gamble and went directly to Eretz Israel. He
spent many years there as an active member of the Kwuza Ginegar until he died in
1956. Again, others saw this period of their life as completed and entered “real
life” by continuing their studies or getting a job or working actively in the
Zionist organization of the grownups.
It signified a real moral victory for
Hashomer Hatzair when a like minded
Jewish youth group with the name Hechawer combined with the organization. On the
other hand, it must be recognized that that the Movement in its second and at
the beginning of its third year of its existence in Bukovina was internally
stronger and was able to interact with other circles of the Jewish population
with more self confidence in the provincial cities than in Czernowitz.
A crisis developed that was a serious danger to the continued existence of
The affair developed from the so-called “Ethical Seminar.”
This movement which Dr. Kettner brought to life knew how to attract to
itself, large circles of youth. Their “guru” was the philosopher, Constantin
Brunner, the author of “The Study of the Intellect and the People.” As further a
basis for his lectures, Dr. Kettner used the works of Spinoza, above all the
Ethics and furthermore the New Testament and the Dialogues of Plato.
The older members of
Hashomer Hatzair felt themselves for the most part drawn
to this circle and to the ideas which were developed at these meetings. There
was much youthful devotion and enthusiasm in the atmosphere which prevailed at
these meetings and at the same time, one can't forget the important decisions of
conscience regarding the personal decision concerning Eretz Israel which one
could avoid or at least delay and finally, based on the anti-Zionistic views of
Constantin Brunner, completely deny.
Since many of Kettner's followers simultaneously continued their work as
leaders and members in the Youth Movement, it was clear that the danger of
internal dissolution threatened and could only be avoided by making a clear
It was up to the younger generation of leaders, which meanwhile had become
strong enough to take the fate of the movement in their hands, to take this
step. At the center of this group stood Arje Schächter, Seew Levin, Jazkow
By stressing the national feeling and the worth of Judaism, through
strengthening the connection with Eretz Israel, through diligent study of works
like those of A.D. Gordon and Trumpeldor, through contact with the Movement in
other countries – above all, however, through increasing the value of the Youth
Movement and personal attachments, the Movement succeeded in creating a new and
stronger foundation and seriously to prepare it for the third and decisive
period, about which will be spoken later, that of the Obligatory chaluzischen
It must be made clear: the rejection of the ideas of the Kettner Movement did
not mean entirely abandoning its values which had an essential place in
Hashomer Hatzair. However, only the specific ideas which were useful in the
Movement were stressed.
Above all were the ten
Shomer rules. For the sake of historic truth it must
be said that they had their roots in the Boy Scout movement. But the
modifications that they took on in the Movement and the stressing of certain
points gave them their distinctive stamp.
The first rule states that
Shomer loves the truth and was prepared to be
honest at all costs.
A further rule speaks of loyalty to people, language and land. It was the
foundation of the national awareness of Hashomer Hatzair.
Other rules speak of the connection to nature, about the requirement to be
brothers in the Movement, to be helpful to everyone, to view the world
optimistically, to be courageous and ready to carry out orders when the
situation demands it. An essential expression of the general philosophy of life
was the 10th rule which called for abstinence from alcohol, smoking
and sex during the youthful years.
The rules were never viewed as empty words, but as a serious obligation. The
“white lie” and well as all others were despised and rejected. There was no
shading between moral values. We dealt in absolutes.
Did the erotic play absolutely no roll? That would be difficult to assert.
Cases of powerful affection between boys and girls without doubt did occur
and that was the essential point. There was no flirting, no “love affairs,” The
gatherings were serious business.
Everything that wasn't essential for the Movement was viewed as superfluous
and unnecessary. The clothing worn by the boys and girls was very plain.
Cosmetics were not used and the body was hardened in sun and snow and joy was
taken in air and water.
Proudly we marched through the main street of the town in short pants and
short sleeved shirts, passing the “dandies” and their girls followed by
astonished scornful or outrage looks. We laughed at people who were afraid of
the rain or on cold winter days sat in their rooms before the oven. Instead,
every free hour and above all on the weekends, we took hikes through the woods
and fields, all this to prepare for the future simple life in Eretz Israel.
It's possible that if we only speak about lifestyle reform, communal life of
the young and outward demeanor, it doesn't appear that the Youth Movement is a
Everyone, however, must concede the point when he sees with his own eyes that
unambiguous cultural values creation was an essential part of the life of the
Youth Movement, in our case, the Hashomer Hatzair.
The study of Hebrew has already been mentioned; the Tenach (Torah), at first
in translation and later in the original Hebrew was a constant for work and
experience. Jewish history was brought forth in lectures and courses within the
movement like a glowing phoenix out of the gray ashes of the usual religious
instruction. Palestine geography brought knowledge about the smallest details of
the land; the reading of Chassidic literature, illuminated through Buber's
writings, the study and the discussion about philosophic themes, over Nietsche,
Kant, Schopenhauer, Cohen and going further back, Spinoza, Plato, the
pre-Socratic and from other areas, pre-Zionistic and Zionistic literature:
Hess, Pinsker, Nordau, Achad-Haam and above all, Herzl whose diaries were
published then for the first time and which provided a powerful experience;
further the heralds of revolutionary and social thoughts: Kropotkin, Landauer,
Gorki, the greatest figures of world literature: Tagore, Tolstoi, Romain Roland,
Thomas Mann, Upton Sinclair, the great pedagogues and psychologists :
Pestalozzi, Spranger, Freud, Adler ….. no, one cannot doubt that there had never
been such a happening in this little country before, that youth, organized youth
between 16 and 20 dedicated themselves in a serious way and with devotion to the
greatest works of the human spirit, without giving up any of their claim to true
joy in life. How time was found to do all that is today, still a riddle since
one had to complete his normal school work and further was responsible for much
work around the house.
And not only that. One gladly gave a helping hand for positive opportunities:
one helped to keep the garden and yard in condition at the orphanage, one
answered the appeal of the Joint (Joint Distribution Committee) and gathered
children from the suburbs in order to have “play afternoons” with them and to
give them a meal, one sent delegations to Zionist meetings, took part in
receiving Jewish “celebrities” who visited the city, was active in the great
sports events – all those, however were things that only touched the periphery.
One only had the feeling of real being and achieving within the Movement.
The striving for synthesis was the decisive factor. Only the externals, the
common, the banal, the compulsive were rejected.
All that had real value was accepted and experienced. One recognized the call
for justice and truth made by our great prophets, the “Kalos K'agathos” of the
Greeks, the “mens sana in corpore sano” of the Romans, the unshakeable readiness
for sacrifice (Kiddush- Ha-Shem) of the Jews in the Middle Ages, the Chassidic
“Hitlahawuth (inflaming of the soul),” the deepened “Matmid” (diligent student)
united the approaching renaissance of the Jewish people with the belief in the
coming “springtime of man.”
And we weren't dealing here with empty words, with theoretical arguments, but
with personal responsibility and readiness to take action.
Now let us talk about the great luck of the Jewish Youth Movement as compared
to that in other countries. While there the same question, the realization of
the deed – couldn't find any real solution and because of that, again and again,
waves of potential youthful energy crashed into nothingness and dissolved,
before the Jewish Youth Movement – as far as it represented true movement –
stood the possibility and the goal of personal fulfillment in the old-new
However, before we report on the step to Hagschaman (self realization)
let us cast a little light on the previous events.
Around 1922, it was indisputable: if one wanted to talk about youth movements
in Bukovina, Hashomer Hatzair was “it.” In this period contact with groups of
Jewish youth in other parts of Romania became more frequent and led in the
course of the following years to first Bessarabia and then groups from the “Old
Kingdom” joining the
movement. This signified not only an increase in the membership of the
organization, but also a social and intellectual “cross pollination.”
photo: Hashomer Hatzair
If one didn't want to use the Romanian or Yiddish language as a means of
communication, which was would have been unthinkable, above all for the Bukovina
part of the Movement, so the learning of Hebrew had to be accelerated and it had
to be recognized as the accepted means of expression. However, one opened gladly
his heart and ear to the Russian and Romanian folk songs, the folklore in
Yiddish and other languages, the works from previously, not so much respected
The Jews of Bukovina despite their distance from the culture metropolis of
Vienna always had the feeling of connection with the German cultural circle and
lived in a “wide horizon,” as compared to the Jews of Bessarabia and the Old
Kingdom who were in a certain sense “provincial.” For the youth from these
regions, association with the Bukovina Movement signified a widening and
deepening of their life experience. It was no wonder that the waves of
enthusiasm rose high and that the feeling of belonging worked like a religious
experience, that people who one revealed the great and beautiful truth to
absorbed it with hunger and returned friendship and love.
All the activities of that time, whether courses, home evenings, summer
camps. work farms or excursions were filled with enthusiasm and became
And again came the time when the younger generation had to take over the
leadership of the Movement. This time, it wasn't a sign of crisis, but a sign of
strength. One sang with regret a song for the departing leaders, perhaps
suppressed some tears, but one knew that they would remain true to the Movement
and would help it with advice and action on the way to achieving its goals.
The younger generation of leaders, at whose center stood Zwi Huber (Ben
Cohen), Jizchak Nussenbaum (Ben Aharon), Jizchak Pessach, to name only a few of
the Bukovinians, had the well defined tasks of completing the process of pioneer
education and teaching the Hebrew language, of giving expression to the
approaching affiliation with the World Movement, of increasing the membership of
the home organization, and of spreading the idea to new circles of Jews and new
The Seeds Take Root
The year 1924 brought the decisive events. Let us try to follow the course of
Among the groups in the Czernowitz branch of the organization at that time
was one with the name “Trumpeldor.” This fact is significant. The names that the
groups chose usually came from nature. There was the “Lilly” and the “Lion” and
other plants and animals. Sometimes there were cosmic elements like “Sun” and
“Stars” and sometimes, abstract ideas like “freedom.” For the units composed of
several Kwuzot, the names of Palestinian cities or territories were used. The
group which choose the name Trumpeldor did it to prove that they were serious
about the realization of their goals in Eretz Israel. Could there be a better
symbol than Trumpeldor, the Jewish hero who went from assimilation to Jewish
consciousness, who was a worker and a fighter at the same time, who wanted to
work the land in peace, but when the moment came was ready to fight to his last
Trumpeldor decided to do the agriculture Hachscharah, as a group and to use
Hebrew as their daily language to prepare themselves for the Aliyah (emigrating
to Israel) instead of taking the normal route in which every member of the
movement from a certain age. whether a student or in business, a boy or a girl,
an old member or one who had just entered joins a Hachscharah group in order to
prepare themselves for the Aliyah.
The most active, to name a few were Jizchak Nussenbaum (Ben Aharon), Menachem
Weidenfeld (Schadmi), Jitzchak Beiner (Givoni), Jitzchak Altenhaus (Altuvia) and
We don't want to dwell to long on the difficult conflict between parents and
children which this decision brought with it and not give to many details about
the difficulty of finding half way suitable places. These difficulties were
overcome and names like Lukawetz became well known. The work was hard, very
One knew of individuals who already had done Hachscharah, but the situations
varied. Some were able to find easier jobs and generally one only worked for a
short time. But now it meant being responsible for all the work in the fields
and barns on a large farm in good and bad times of the year.
The work day had a minimum of 12 hours. The pay was laughable corresponding
to the pay of unskilled agricultural workers. From that, one had to buy train
tickets, and for many whose parents had withheld permission until the last
minute work clothing had to be purchased, possible sickness or accidents had to
be provided for. Very little remained for daily needs and in spite of the hard
workday, the meals generally consisted of nothing but cornmeal mush, beans,
herring and milk.
Naturally, there were parents who were prepared to send money or food to
their children. One rejected that with pride however. It was much easier to get
used to the lack of every external comfort. Naturally, there were no beds and
one slept on the floor or on benches padded with straw and was satisfied with
army blankets. But one was used to that from excursions and summer camps.
One managed the work, but it wasn't easy in the evenings after a long work
day, to discuss Torah, to listen to the lecture of a visiting member of the
leadership, or by the scant light of the candle or oil lamp to study literature
about Zionism, Socialism, general philosophy or science - and to learn Hebrew.
But under no circumstances would one skip this work.
How bright and beautiful the Friday evenings and the Shabbat were. There were
songs and games, lectures and walks; like the most pious Jew, one felt the new
It didn't remain with the one Hachscharah group. Others joined and the
Pioneer idea took root within the Shomer Movement.
There are many wonderful stories to relate from that time. Two delightful
One day, or better put, one evening between Mincha and Ma'ariv (afternoon and
evening prayer), in the prayer house in the village which lay near where we were
working, several Jews sat and talked about this and that, among other things,
the Pioneers and what good workers they were and how enthusiastically they sang
and another wanted to join the conversation and finally almost ready to burst,
he blurted out, “but tell me, are they really Jewish children?”
And another time, the heavy work of harvesting was going on in the hot summer
and the well-to-do mother of one of the girls – the woman was considered a
millionaire – tried and failed to talk her daughter into coming home. She turned
to the group and said, “I'll give you 50,000 lei right now if you send my
daughter home.” The transaction of course did not take place.
To better understand the attitude that made it possible to overcome all
difficulties, we quote a piece from the book which Jizchak Ben-Ahron
(Nussenbaum) wrote while he was held as a prisoner of war by the Nazis and which
after his release, he published in English under the name, “Listen Gentile.”
We knew what awaited us in Palestine, that we would have to compete with the
low paid Arab laborers. Therefore, a complete change of expectations was
necessary in order to survive the coming disappointments and crisis. There was
not only the test of our physical abilities to consider, but above all, we had
to find out if could live together in a commune under difficult economic
conditions. The true social test would come when one didn't have enough bread,
when one had to give up his bunk to a sick comrade, when unemployment brought
unrest and irritability into the camp. Then, the key to success would lie in
character. Our ideal was not only to become workers, but to build up a new
social unity and collective principal. We believed in our ideals, now we wanted
to know if we would succeed in forming our character, so we could build a life
conforming to our principals (pages 101, 102)
In spite of a certain degree of reluctance, several of the active members of
the Hachscharah groups had to go to work in the Movement whose framework became
ever larger. The first Hachscharah group, after 1-1/2 years of preparation was
ready for “aliyah” to Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel). The departure of this
group was a great event in the Movement. After their arrival, it was proven that
their Hachscharah was not in vain.
But before we speak about it, let us turn our attention to the further
development of the movement in Bukovina and the bordering territories. After
preliminary contacts, a decisive meeting took place in 1923 in Kischinew at
which the joining of the youth group in Bessarabia with the Bukovina Hashomer Hatzair was decided upon. At the head of the newly elected leadership stood Zwi
Huber (Ben-Cohen) a Czernowitz member from the younger generation. In the
following years, groups from the Old Kingdom joined the Movement.
In summer of the same year, that is 1924, the World Organization of
Hashomer Hatzair was founded in Gdansk. Zwi Huber (Ben Cohen) was able to represent at the
founding conference not only Bukovina, but also the “All-Romanian” Hashomer Hatzair” which after Poland and Galicia was the third larges organization when
size and significance were considered.
The repercussion of this affiliation with the World Organization had great
influence at home. One felt not only theoretically, but also organizationally
part of a great nation spanning band whose meaning for the renaissance of Jewish
youth in the Golah (Diaspora) and for the building up of Palestine was now
recognized by the leading powers of the Zionist organization. When, for example,
Professor Weizman visited Czernowitz in 1926, he invited J. Nussenbaum (Ben
Ahron) whose welcoming speech had made a great impression on him, to several
meetings at which the roll of young Jews in general and in Hashomer Hazier in
particular was discussed. From Prof. Weizman, who for many years had been a good
friend of Hashomer Hazier, many words of recognition were spoken on this
At earlier occasions, talks were held about the resistance to the Movement
offered by the parents and by the Jewish public (especially the religious Jews).
It was also determined that there were those who viewed the youth with
understanding and trust. We must here remember a group of parents and above all,
a leading personality, to whom the Movement was very grateful, namely, Dr. M.
Glaunbach. He was a true friend of the youth and took it upon himself not only
to vouch for the moral integrity of the members of Hashomer Hatzair, but also as
the elected president of the Parents Association to represent the Movement
before the authorities. Anyone who is familiar with the political situation
during those years in Romania and especially in Bukovina knows the respect that
this position deserves.
We succeeded for a short time in cooperating with the general Romanian Boy
Scout Organization (Cercetasi), while Captain Sidorovici, who later became
adjutant to King Carol was their leader. We would like to use this opportunity
to remember his objectivity and friendliness. Later, however – because of the
ever increasing anti-Semitism – leading officials, above all, the Siguranta,
began to persecute and hinder the work of Zionism and of course, that of Zionist
youth groups. Dr. Glaubach knew how, with tact and dedication to turn away
danger and to provide the necessary help.
From modest beginnings, a wide reaching movement had developed. The Bukovina
branch can no longer be considered in its individuality, but must be observed in
the framework of the total Romanian Movement.
Numerically, naturally, the other regions of the Reich overshadowed Bukovina.
But that didn't reduce its significance. The beautiful locations in South
Bukovina remained by far the most beloved meeting places for summer camps as
long as the growing anti-Semitism still permitted it. The leading people who
sprang from the Bukovina Movement represented the desirable synthesis between
Jewish and general cultural values. Here we want to mention Abraham Siegelbaum
(Toren), Jaakov Melzer and Grischa Levant (Zwi Lawi). It should however be
stressed that the general interest of the Movement hindered the eventual
emerging of particular inclinations. For example, when the Zionist organization
in Romania could not overcome provincial borders, the Hashomer Hatzair was
successful in this effort. One learned to value the positives of different
groups, judged the differences as unimportant, and thanks to the common
centrally directed work, the consolidation of Hebrew as the universal means of
expression, the recognized Shomer style, a unity was created which without
effort overcame pre-judgments and misunderstandings.
GROUP IN CZERNOWITZ
Whenever a Shomer met a
Shomer he was meeting a friend. The Shomer from
Czernowitz, for example who in the streets of Braila was recognized by a local
Shomer because of his badge, could without any further ado be his guest and be
sure of his help. This unity brought with it a certain distancing from other
groups. This didn't disturb the Zionist organization since Hashomer Hatzair
remained fully active in Keren Kajemeth (Jewish National Fund), Schekel, etc. At
that time, there was no talk of Hashomer Hatzair's affiliation with any
political party, so that issue was of no significance.
The first serious discussion of this topic was stimulated by the Hechaluz
(the Pioneers). The Hechaluz of Romania had developed into a relatively strong
organization as a consequence of the fact that for a large number of Chaluzim
(Pioneers) who came from Poland and partly from Russia, Romania was only a
temporary “way station.” At that time Hashomer Hatzair was by far the largest
contingent of Chaluzim in Romania.
The demand to completely fold themselves into the general Chaluz (singular of
Chaluzim) framework could not be accepted by the Shomrim who above all
considered themselves members of their own movement.
It took much serious discussion to come to a “modus vivendi.” It was the
start of the politicizing of the Movement. Its representatives had to learn how
to propose resolutions, deal with majorities and minorities, publish propaganda,
get votes – in short, behave like adults.
Also, one had to be “tuned in” ideologically. As was to be expected, the
demand for Hagschamah (self realization) met with difficulties. It was simple
for those who at a certain moment just turned their backs on the Movement and
returned to the bourgeoisie life. Others – whose numbers weren't very large –
found their way to youth groups whose requirements weren't so demanding. They
didn't present any significant danger. But the extreme left elements which
wanted to influence the Movement to distance itself from its Zionistic leaning
had to, especially among the more mature members, be fought against. Also this
situation accelerated the politicizing of the Movement.
As clear proof of its strength, we can see that also in this period – the
years 1927 – 1930 – it continued to grow and its work with youth, especially the
younger and mid-aged groups continued undisturbed.
The Movement experienced substantial growth because of the annexation of the
youth groups from Transylvania (old name Siebenbürgen). With that annexation,
all areas of Romania were covered. The joining of the Hungarian speaking groups
brought with it a step back in the solidifying of the use of the Hebrew
language, but that was compensated for by the addition of fresh enthusiastic
We can remember from that time the visits of Meir Jarri and Jaakow Chasan
from Eretz Israel, the recognized leaders of the World Movement, whose voices
among the working class in Eretz Israel were deeply respected.
Many uncertainties were eliminated then and growth accelerated. The events of
the summer of 1929 as again innocent Jewish blood was spilled in Eretz Israel,
caused the Movement to redouble its efforts in preparing Aliyah groups training
Before we turn to the further fate of the Movement in the coming years which
were to be rich in historical events let us give a brief report on the fate of
the first Shomer Chaluz groups in Eretz Israel.
When the first Hachscharah group – it was the former Kwuza “Trumpeldor” –
arrived in Eretz Israel it found there were already several Shomer groups
there: the Kibbutz Beth-Alfa, in which the Shomrim from the old guard from
Vienna and Galicia found themselves, Kibbutz Beth, the “second kibbutz” in which
mainly the founders group of the Polish Hashomer Hatzair was located and which
later changed its name to Mischmar Haemek and then a Kibbutz called Herzlijah.
Many Shomrim were scattered in various parts of the land. In Kibbutz Beth, the
arriving groups from Romania found their first teacher. But after a short time,
they decided to make themselves independent with the name “Gimel,” that is the
third letter in the Hebrew alphabet. They knew that many tasks stood before
them: to get their economic affairs in order, to find a way to join the workers
of the land and also to remain true to the Movement and to serve as an example
for the organization in Romania. This last point signified among other things,
remaining in constant contact and constructing an “intake station” for the new
In order to evaluate the situation, we must remember that at that time, the
outlook in the land was not rosy. There was great unemployment. Very few got
jobs and the pay was very low; no wonder that many got “fed up” and returned to
Kibbutz Gimel held its flag high. One worked in Jidro draining swamps,
building roads, doing heavy work on the docks, diligently studied sociology and
pedagogy even when ones' stomach was growling. One learned the building trades
and was in demand for work in the citrus plantations until the longed for day
came on which one could go to the settlement. The piece of land that one got in
Wadi Chawarith (today Emek Chefer) was not large; however they went to work with
burning zeal and today Kibbutz Maabaroth is known in the land as a beautiful and
And what was no less important was maintaining a constant connection with
Romania through correspondence and delegates (Schlichim) and a further honor was
the fact that Kibbutz Gimel was one of the four Kibbutzim which in 1927 helped
to found the Kibbutz Arzi, that is the “umbrella organization” for all the
Kibbutzim associated with the Hashomer Hatzair.
Of other Kibbutzim which grew out of the Hachscharah groups, we want to
briefly mention: Schar-Ha'amakim, Sarid, Schamir, Dalish, Ebron, Zikim and
The Approaching Storm
Dark clouds covered the skies of the world, including the Jews of all lands of
Europe and naturally also Romania. The great economic crisis that hit the world
directly and indirectly affected the Jews. Fascism grew at an alarming rate. And
at the same time, the gates of Eretz Israel were barred to Jewish immigrants.
In spite of the pessimism, the work of the Movement had to be strengthened
The intellectual work had always played an important roll in the Movement.
Now that the Movement consisted for the most part, of students, the intellectual
work, which through the years had been carried out in courses, Sichoth and
lectures and during the summer camps in real seminar work, had become merely a
type of “extra.” Now, however, people were coming into the Movement who lacked
the basic foundation.
The requirements were a given; get on with the job. Programs were worked out,
instructional materials developed and then an organization with insufficient
means had to do a job with young people which normally would have required the
power and resources of the state to be accomplished, that is, helping hundreds
of young people to further education, and giving them knowledge in various
areas, which up to then they had been denied.
The intellectual upswing, brought with it ideological strengthening. Many
groups went to Hachscharah and were ready for Aliyah. The tenth Leader's Day
which was solemnly celebrated in 1936 expressed this new determination.
But the external events were not of the kind to let the Movement quietly
continue its work. In Eretz Israel, the unrest started again in 1936. Nazism
influenced many countries and in Romania, in which anti-Semitism was always
secret, forces came into the government which were very dangerous to the Jews
and which represented brutal Fascism like Goga and Cuza. The Jews were delivered
defenseless to the protectors of “law and order” in the state. A natural
consequence of this situation was that the official right to exist was withdrawn
from the Youth Movement and one had to find ways to continue the work under the
new conditions. One was still permitted to have some activity within the
framework of the existing Romanian Youth Organization (Guardians of Romania),
under constant observation by the not exactly sympathetically inclined Romanian
inspectors. At the same time one met in private dwellings for real Shomer
Sichah threatened by constant great danger for the participants and the owner of
the house. The “life force,” however prevented us from bending and we didn't
even stop the visits of the leading personalities to the various local groups.
About the ways and means one used during the trip and at arrival to avoid the
spying looks of the open and secret police, and to find the necessary funds,
stories were told that could fill volumes.
The Movement demonstrated as always its tenacious grip on life, the number of
members didn't decrease, but in contrast, it grew and a leadership was built up
from the younger members which remained true to the Cause and handled the job
with skill. Above all, we should mention Jaakow Schärf, Max Mehler (Kimchi),
Menachem Rosner among others. One avoided using written or printed documents, so
as not to give and aid to the hostile forces of the state. Therefore, one had to
memorize the necessary material, and go back to using “oral tradition, so well
know in Jewish history.
Luckily, there was a break now and then in the strictness of the regime. Such
pauses were rapidly taken advantage of for leader's days, parents gatherings,
holding short courses, celebrations were held, which cheered up wider circles of
the Jewish population. Aliyah groups were equipped and preparations were made
for the difficult days that were expected to come.
For the Movement in Bukovina, and above all, the central group in Czernowitz,
the two years to come were in a certain sense, years of growth and renaissance.
The number of members grew and the work was deepened. What was originally
thought to be impossible occurred. One was recognized by the officials and could
legally function. It was the previously mentioned Dr. Glaubach who obtained the
official recognition of the “Skautnbundes der Shomrim” (Band of Shomrim
Scouts) in Bukovina).
At that time, the city of Czernowitz was again home to one of the decisive
conferences of the Movement. Plans were worked out for the expected further
pressure from the authorities, for the case when individual districts had to
work independently, for the possibility that leaders were arrested or their work
was hindered in other ways.
In Spite of All Opposition
The year was 1939. The criminal followers of Hitler had gone from murder and
robbery to open warfare. Poland was the first to fall victim to the Nazi bands.
As much as all strata of the attacked people suffered, the suffering of the
Jewish people was a thousand times as great. A stream of refugees flowed across
the border where they expected to find rescue. If you want to know how the
Shomer Movement reacted with toughness in those days when normal life was
completely disrupted, read the books by Emma Levin-Talmi, “Barbed Wire on the
Dniester” and “Between Borders.”
No, one did not want to fall into despair, to blindly give in to merciless
fate. One fell down seven times and got up again for the renewed struggle for
Among the refugees who succeeded in crossing the Romanian border, there were
naturally also Shomrim. The first stage was Bukovina, and here originated a new
task for the members of the Movement, to help their brothers, to provide them
with the most necessary, sometimes to conceal them in order to protect them from
the chicaneries of the Romanian officials. Fortunate were those who could
rapidly continue their trip to the harbor of Constantinople with the hope,
legally or illegally of reaching Eretz Israel.
The events developed rapidly. In the middle of September Russian troops
crossed the border and approached Bukovina. One saw in that a hope for rescue
from the nearing Nazi powers.
In view of the rapid developments and the great danger, one stood before the
most difficult of all questions: Would one have enough time and the possibility
to get ready? What could be rescued? And how was it to be done? The responsible
leadership of the Movement together with delegates (Schlichim) who had come from
Eretz Israel gave earnest attention to the answering of these questions. Were
the burden and the responsibility to much for young people? One grew with the
task. Above all, it was necessary to keep one's head high, to believe in
oneself, to be courageous and to give comfort to the desperate.
One knew to be sure that Romania's days of relative independence were
numbered, but nevertheless, one operated as if one had time for the new
obligations as well as for the regular tasks. Only so, could one maintain the
internal strength to continue. That is not to say that one wanted to conceal the
In all lands, it was the
Shomer Movement which strongly demanded that the
open truth be told to all groups. Only with full knowledge of the truth and the
threatening danger could one prepare ones self.
Because of the situation of the last several years, one was used to illegal
work, and also the preparation with all available means of fighting for
protection of life and limb of the Jewish population. Since the male youths for
the most part had been drafted into the military or stood before this
eventuality one transferred responsible tasks and leading positions to the grown
up girls of the Movement. After Bessarabia and North Bukovina were occupied by
the Russians, persecution by the Romanians increased. It was as if the Jews were
to be the sacrificial lambs for the dishonor the Romanians were subjected to.
Murder and plundering were the order of the day. There was no safe place and no
quiet hour. For a Jew, every trip was a life-threatening undertaking. A member
of the Shomer leadership was thrown from a moving train and only by a miracle
escaped with his life. Let us rescue from the danger of being forgotten, an
important episode in the history of the Hashomer Hatzair in Czernowitz. As in
the period between the withdrawal of the Romanian troops and the entrance of the
Russian troops, a short but dangerous period with no government originated, it
was the leadership of the local Hashomer Hatzair that organized its older
members and other groups and sent them to protect the public buildings like the
University, the Jewish House, the theaters, the Residence, the bridges, etc.
The city was in an orderly and peaceful condition when it was turned over to
the Russian commander and he expressed his thanks for that situation.
The newly created situation made it possible to strengthen relations with
Shomer circles in the Soviet occupied part of Poland. Much was achieved in this
endeavor until this connection was also broken by Hitler's attack on Russia.
After a relatively quiet beginning period while the
Shomrim were still able
in one way or another to carry out their original goals, the backlash came when
Jewish and above all Zionist groups were deported. With the start of the
Nazi-Romanian-fascist rule, the great catastrophe spread. There are witnesses
who can report about the strenuous perseverance and bold deeds from these
Let us try to follow the series of events. One can divide the time into the
following periods: June 1940 – June 1941, The first phase of Soviet rule in
Bukovina: The general framework of the organization was dissolved, but
smaller groups continued their activities. Many Shomrim from the Bukovina
province and from Bessarabia gathered in Czernowitz to try to keep up the
connection among themselves. Yes, the attempt was even made in Storozynetz, on
the confiscated estate of the former Baron Flondor to set up a Hachscharah Farm.
After a few weeks of its existence, the deportation of Zionists to Siberia began
and the Hachscharah was given up.
Sichoth of the various small groups were held and an attempt was made to
publish a newspaper. The arrest of the leading young men and women put an end to
With the retreat of the Russian troops before the arrival of Hitler's
soldiers, many Shomrim joined the stream of refugees who left the land with the
Russians and went into the interior of Soviet Russia. Many of them then fought
in the ranks of the Russian army against the great enemy of mankind: Hitler and
his hoards. Here they worked, as much as they could to strengthen the Zionist
Chuzischen awareness of the youth.
The Nazi colossus began to stagger. To be sure, there was still much effort
required by allied powers to completely destroy it. But, in the meanwhile, great
land areas had been cleared of the Nazi pestilence, among them Romania and
The Shomrim, who had been freed from the Hell of Transnistrian attempted to
get to Romania in order to reach a harbor from which they could travel to Eretz
Israel. Czernowitz again became a significant transit point. The Shomrim, who
met here, could tell much about their lives as fighters in the ranks of the
Soviet Army, as partisans, as participants in the fights in the Ghettos as
workers in the mines and Siberian forests. One knew only one goal – to the south
– with their eyes on Eretz Israel.
The southern part of Bukovina which remained as part of Romania saw a
re-building of several local groups of the Movement, since for the time being,
the newly established Peoples Republic of Romania didn't hinder Zionistic work.
Again, Hebrew was taught, Eretz Israel was talked about; one went to Hachscharah
and was seen as an important factor in the life of Judaism. Still in 1947, a
summer camp was able to be held.
Again, it was the beautiful region around Jacobeni in which about two
thousand Shomrim gathered and in serious conversation, with song and dance
expressed their connection to Eretz Israel. The forest covered cliffs echoed the
joyful cries of young people who believed in a better tomorrow. Branches of 100
year old trees listened astounded to the sounds of Hebrew. And it must be seen
as a significant symbol, that it was young Shomrim, who in the prayer houses of
the villages, in which there were no remaining Jewish residents, held great
discussions about the Kibbutzim and the tasks to come.
It was the last great common work of
Hashomer Hatzair in Bukovina and
actually in Romania. Not long after that began the severe restriction of
Zionistic work by the People's Republic of Romania. Persecution and arrests
began. A beautiful unique work of youthful belief and aspiration was destroyed.
Will reason triumph there? Will one for the transition period, until the last
Jew has found his new homeland in Israel be allowed to continue with creative
We fondly wish it would be true.
We said at the beginning that youth movements are cultural phenomena. For the
Jewish people, they are more than that. They were and are a part of the forces
that write its contemporary history. The pages represent living deeds which
Hashomer Hatzair has written in the book of Jewish history and still writes; it
is the 70 Kibbutzim which stretch from the extreme north of Israel to the
southern end of the Negev; it is the deeds performed by the Shomrim in Palmach
(Strike force within the Haganah) and shoulder to shoulder with all the
courageous fighters of the Zahal (Israel Defense Force) from the days of the War
of Independence to the Sinai battles; it is the unique education arm of
Hashomer Hatzair with its 20 middle schools and 100 elementary schools and
And it is the world movement of
Hashomer Hatzair which again is on the
upswing and which in 20 lands prepares thousands of Jewish youth for the
building up of Israel.
On all that, the Hashomer
Hatzair in Bukovina did its honest part.
Symbol of Hashomer Hatzair
official logo of Hashomer Hatzair. The inscription, roughly
translated, says "Be Strong and Brave." Logo created by Shmuel Nyssen, Mexico. From Wikipedia.
contributions from: Zwi Ben Cohen (Huber), Max Kimchi (Mehler),
Menachem Rosner and Menachem Schadmi (Weidenfeld)
1. Shomrim: This is the plural of the Hebrew word for guard or sentry. The
singular is “Shomer.”
2. Sichah: In modern Hebrew sichah means prayer or more importantly,
conversation. It also seems to be a discourse on a subject concerning the
Jewish religion. The plural is sichoth.
3. Aggadah: Hebrew term for non-halakhic (nonlegal) matter, especially in
Talmud and Midrash; includes folklore, legend, theology/theosophy, scriptural
interpretations, and biography.
4. chaluzischen hagschamah: The early settlers in Israel, especially on
Kibbutzim were called chalutzim or “pioneers.” Hagschamah is the Hebrew word
for “preparation.” The British required a certificate showing 1 year of
apprenticeship in farming (hagschamah) before they would grant an entrance
5. Old Kingdom: The Romanian Old Kingdom refers to the territory covered by
the first independent Romanian nation-state, which was composed of the
principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia.
Museum note: The translation of the original article spells the name
of the group as "Hashomer Hatzair." It has been changed here to
the more commonly used spelling.