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Jankiel Kulawiec

And all that time I thought a few times about going to Israel. The first time was when the Haganah [19] was being formed - with friends we wanted to go as volunteers. We even went to Left Poalei Zion to sort it out, but something didn't work out, I can't remember what.
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I went to that Hashomer Hatzair [4] too. I went there just like that, because I had friends who were members. That was a left-wing organization, but a Zionist one. Good, active, they were mostly into sport, less of the politics and mostly physical culture. They had this hut rented on the same street as the synagogue, and that was where the meetings were held. There were trips too. I remember we would go to the woods in these gray uniforms and short trousers. And at the end - from 1936 to 1937 - I belonged to the Zukunft [5]. But that was for a short time and I remember very little.
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Rafael Genis

My elder brother was a member of Betar [3] and enrolled me there. I didn't attend the meetings of Betar, where the methods of foundation of the Jewish state were discussed. Our Grandpa made brown shirts for me and my brother. I became a member of Maccabi [4], we often arranged all kinds of sports game and contests. We still celebrated Jewish holidays and Sabbath at home and we did it not to hurt our parents. On holidays I went to the synagogue with my father though I didn't believe in God at that time.
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Janina Duda

And how did it happen that I ended up in jail? Long story. When I was twelve, in Lublin, I was influenced by others to join this Zionist organization Hashomer Haleumi [17]. It was supposedly a religious organization, but I didn’t feel it. But the family of this Hebrew teacher, Gorzyczanski, they influenced me, especially their daughter Malka. So I dropped out of Hashomer Haleumi and I became involved with communist youth. Why? Mother made some food and took me with her to Ruska Street, to some old, sick people who lived there, sleeping in holes in the ground. This shocked me. So I thought: these dreams of our own state, kibbutzim, that’s a beautiful thing. But who will help these people from day to day? This system has to be changed.

This was a basic problem: should we look for a future for the [Jewish] nation in Palestine, even though there was no talk then of getting land there to form this state. Even as young people we knew this was necessary, but there were no possibilities, it was a utopia then. So I liked the fact that here we could all change our fate. And that was what attracted me, not some Marx. [Marx, Karl (1818-1883), German philosopher, economist and revolutionary. The system of beliefs he created was the basis of the ideology of socialist and communist parties.] All I knew about Marx was that he had a beard. Really, you do have to be a complete idiot to convince young, 17 or 18-year-olds that they’re Marxists. It’s just some idea of social justice. The fact that I went to school hungry, that I sat on the other side of the door, because my tuition wasn’t paid… All that influenced me. This is why I became involved with communist youth and then with socialist youth in Lublin, with TUR [Towarzystwo Uniwersytetu Robotniczego] [18]. And these last few years before the war, between 1935 and 1937, I was very active in TUR. When they told me to distribute leaflets, that’s what I did and… nothing more.

I met fantastic, young working class people in TUR, especially from 1 Maja Street. A group of students from KUL directed TUR at that time. There was Feliks Baranowski, later the ambassador of Poland in Germany, in the GDR, the minister of education, Jozef Kwiecinski, who was in Anders’ Army [19], sailed on a battleship and drowned when he was leaving Iran for England. There was Stanislaw Krzykala, after the war a professor of history at Maria Curie-Sklodowska University. Is it strange that there were students from a Catholic university in a leftist organization? Well, but there was only one university in Lublin – the Catholic University of Lublin.

There were different student groups there. There were student corporations influenced both by Sanacja [20] and ‘endecja’ [Endeks] [21] and socialist groups. TUR was a group of socialist students, mostly sons and daughters of railroad workers from Lublin. When we organized some events, for example ‘no more war,’ we were afraid that police agents would spy on us. So the mothers of these students made sure strangers wouldn’t come up to us.

Communist youth and TUR were very close in Lublin. They took advantage of the fact that TUR was legal. I remember the pavement-makers’ strike. The trade union of pavement-makers had a place, where they had a ping-pong table. Felek [short for Feliks] Baranowski and I played ping-pong there, but I used to go there with a pan of food for the pavement-makers. We brought food for those who were on strike. I also remember how, during 1st May demonstrations, students from the most radical corporation waited for us, for the TUR demonstration, with clubs, ready to beat us. So we brought clubs as well, to fight back. There were many Jews in TUR. There weren’t any problems. We were all Polish citizens. That’s how it was in TUR in Lublin.

And I was accused in the trial of TUR in Lublin. Accused of communism. They were playing a bigger game, the supervisor of the school district Mr. Lewicki and the Polish authorities, which were becoming pro-fascist after 1935. He was connected with the supporters of Pilsudski, with Sanacja and also had PPS [22] roots. So his daughter, Wanda Lewicka, was accused of communism. So what this was all about, speaking in plain terms, harassing this Lewicki and his family.

When TUR was dissolved, PPS protested – you have no right! So TUR was reopened, but the entire board was put in jail, including some of the young people who could be accused of communism. And this is how I ended up in the so-called ‘Trial of 40’ in Lublin [one of the numerous so-called show trials]. To make this trial more communist, they dragged in from Bereza Kartuska [presently in Belarus, 300 km east of Warsaw] where in 1934 the Polish government created an isolation camp for prisoners, primarily political, Franciszek Jozwiak, pseudonym Witold, who was the chief of staff of the AL [23] during the war and later the commander of militia.

I have to say that this entire indictment, at least to the extent that it concerned me, was not true. All the accusations were fictitious. They just took three boys, Okonowski, Durakiewicz and one more guy and they signed a declaration; they signed everything that the police gave them. This is how the indictment was drafted and there wasn’t a word of truth in it. And there were sentences. I finally got four years, just like others from TUR. [Mrs. Duda was in jail from 1937 until the day of the commencement of WWII, 1st September 1939.
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Lily Arouch

In Thessalonica there were two different views among the Jews: one of the two groups believed that everyone should leave and go to Palestine; they were called the Zionist movement. The others held the view that they should try and be incorporated in the society they were living in. My father supported the second view; he thought efforts should be made to assimilate with the Greek society.

My parents' friends were all Jewish and had similar views. They would talk to my mothers' sister and her husband, with my father's sisters and their husbands and other friends, but they were all Jewish. They would come over or go out probably to other people's houses or somewhere outside to sit and chat.
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Isroel Lempertas

There were Lithuanian guys in the class up till 1938. We got along with them. In general, there were very few anti-Semitists in Lithuania. I think, Lithuania was one of those countries, there anti-Semitism was rather weak as compared to the other countries, especially by the middle 1930s. Before 1924 there was a 'golden age' for Jews in Lithuania. Jews were not oppressed in any way. There were Jews in parliament [8], when in 1926 there was a coup d'etat in Lithuania [9] Tautininki came to power, there was an end to democracy. Communist party, 60% consisting of Jews, was banned. Jews were driven out from parliament and from leading positions in the state. But, that was not it. Dictator Smetona [10], came to power and he thought that Lithuanians should be leaders and the rest should keep quiet and help Lithuanians make a happy state. Though, Smetona treated Jews pretty well and we practically felt no anti-Semitism. Of course, in every day life anti- Semitism was displayed in different ways. I remember that once Lithuanian guys in elementary school tried to put some pigs fat on the lips of Jewish guys. But it was childish unmalicious prank. It was as if guys did not understand what they were doing. I came across with a real anti-Semitism in late 1930s. By that time I did not have any particular political interests. I paid attention to the conversations of my father and friends and later on I understood that father belonged to any party- neither communist, nor any other. He had his own views, 'left' views. There were Zionist organizations in the town, including Betar [11] and Maccabi [12]. I did not go deep in the politics I joined «Maccabi», where I played ping-pong and communicated with people of my age.
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Nachman Elencwajg

I joined first the Hashomer Hatzair, the youth wing, the Kwir. But I wasn't there for long because I became a communist. I joined the communist youth, where I was active until the war. The organization was illegal. It was the Communist Party of Poland [7], but our unit was made up almost solely by Jews.
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Of my mother's relatives I remember one cousin, Uncle Fejga's son. He was called like me, Nachman, and his last name was Zylbersztajn. He legally went to Palestine before the war. He was a member of the Hashomer Hatzair [3], secured the certificate [4] and went.
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danuta mniewska

My father was heavily involved in the Zionist organization, so when the Germans marched in [German troops occupied Lodz on 9th September 1939] and started arresting people - Jews in the first place - my parents decided to go to Czestochowa [large town 100 km south-west of Lodz], to their friends, Mr. and Mrs. Szymkiewicz.
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He was a very active Zionist, a member of the Hatechija party [Editor's note: no information on a party of that name could be found]. That was for grown-ups, and the youth organization was called Hanoar Hatzioni [1]. I know it was a conservative party - not the revisionists, not Jabotinsky [2], but the center-right. I don't know when it was founded, who was the leader. My father went to party meetings but I don't know where they were held. I never met any of his fellow party members. He subscribed to the periodical Haynt [3], which was in Yiddish.
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When I was still in elementary school, eight to nine years old, I joined the Gordonia [5], simply a home-inherited tradition. I wasn't there long, a year and half, but I remember everything very vividly. My sister joined too. It was a scouting organization. On Zeromskiego, in a tenement house, there was that big room. Attendance was usually quite high - some thirty kids, boys and girls. We sang Hebrew songs, recited poems, danced the hora [6]. There was talk about Palestine.
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henryk prajs

I preferred to join a Jewish [here: Zionist] organization, because I believed it necessary to build our own state. That's why I joined the Right Poalei Zion as a scout. I was still a kid, I was 14. It was a social democratic labor party, they wanted to liberate Palestine to create our own state in which the social democratic parties would flourish. There were maybe 50 of us [Frayhayt members] in Gora Kalwaria. We rented a room on Pilsudskiego Street. It was about 10 meters long and 7 wide. There was a library and everything else was there. The room was paid for from the membership fees. All the pre-war organizations were funded from membership fees, unless someone rich from abroad donated 100 zlotys, it was an awful lot of money before the war.

We often had our meetings there, always on a Saturday or Sunday, on free days. There were talks, excursions. The talks were basically about the culture, the world, what was going on, how things in India or China were, in Warsaw, or in the rest of the world. Basically the economic life, wars, and so on. If I knew something, I prepared a short speech. Do I recall any such speech? We fought for freedom, democracy, or the unions in other words, for equal rights, and against exploitation. You had to quote a paper, Robotnik [The Worker, a Warsaw newspaper of the Polish Socialist Party] or some Jewish paper. There were many different of those, the Bund published Folks-Shtime [Editor's note: probably Folks-Tsaytung, People's Journal, a newspaper published by the Bund; Folks-Shtime, People's Voice was published after WW II], there was Haynt [7], and later the orthodox Jews started to publish their paper, and the Zionists published some, you quoted one of them and basically gave a speech.

We didn't go on excursions, where would we go, we didn't have the money. But we did take walks into the woods on Saturday mornings in May. It was called Kepa, nowadays a pasture a few kilometers from Gora Kalwaria. There was also the so-called Klajnowski Forest, or Karolin, or we would simply take a walk to the river Wisla, if the weather was nice. There was always a lecturer on such trips and he gave his speech.

The chairman of the Gora Kalwaria branch of Poalei Zion was Mojsze Skrzypek. He was also our lecturer. We had those, well in Yiddish it's called 'kestelgesprekh,' talks. Questions were posed anonymously and the speaker would answer them. He spoke about literature for instance. Everything in Yiddish of course, I don't know if maybe ten people in Gora Kalwaria spoke Hebrew. Mojsze Skrzypek was an intelligent guy. I don't remember what he did for a living, perhaps he worked in some office, there was the Zajdemans soap factory, a bank, maybe he was a bookkeeper there, I don't know. Chaskiel Goldsztajn, Mendel Cukier, Chane Gotlib were my friends from the organization. I remember them all, I can still see their faces.
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Saturdays I either worked or went to the organization [Mr. Prajs was at first a member of the Bund's children organization, Skif, and after that - of Frayhayt].
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We were both members of the youth organization 'Frayhayt' of the Right Poalei Zion [2] party.
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