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The Betar Faction

From: Sefer Vladimirets, 1963

Author: Meir Brill

** Webmaster Note: The following translation was generously provided by Lior Mordechai Burko.  We have presented it here exactly as it was translated for us. 

THE BETAR FACTION

The Vladimirets Betar Faction – I was one of its founders – I must comment that there was initially some confusion about it, because I was also one of the founders of the HaShomer Ha’Zair Faction too.  

It was 1926. I was returning from Dombrovic, a town nearby Vladimirets. That town already had then organizations of Zionist youth movements. My prime objective was to organize the youth in Vladimirets too, but I was still unfamiliar with the various different movements. We were boys of 14 or 15, and no social contact existed at the time between boys and girls.  

One Sabbath I summoned a meeting of a youth group (which in itself was surprising). For boys and girls to meet under the same roof was something we were not used to in Vladimirets.  

This was the founding meeting of a youth movement at my house. I invited Moshe Rosenberg, who was studying at the time in Vilnius, to give us a lecture of some sort, without even knowing the nature of this youth movement. One thing was clear to us: It will be for the best if a scouts group whose slogan would be mens sana in corpore sano [“a healthy mind in a healthy body”] were to be established in Vladimirets.  

Most of the boys were Cheder graduates, filled with nationalistic and Zionist spirit. We did not enquire too much, and contacted the leadership of HaShomer Ha’Zair. Bubbling life was starting in town: meetings and gatherins, Hora dances, educational talks, etc.

After some time I read [Ya’akov] Yaari-Polskin’s book Dreamers and Fighters [a book on the life and deeds of the creators of the early pioneer settlements of Eretz Israel between the years 1871 and 1921, L.M.B]. I was fascinated by the actions of Joseph Trumpeldor and Zeev Zhabotinsky. At the same time I read in the newspaper Haynt a story about a national youth movement called after Joseph Trumpeldor. The name “Joseph Trumpeldor” intrigued and fascinated me, and I tried to convince my colleagues at HaShomer Ha’Zair to move to the new movement that was called Brit [Yoseph] TRumpeldor – The Trumpeldor Covenant [Betar]. I was not successful at that.  

I therefore left HaShomer Ha’Zair by myself, and started to organize the new Betar movement in town. I contacted the Warsaw Betar Headquarters, received much propaganda materials, that I distributed in town. The Warsaw Center must have thought we had a true Betar faction in town. It was the time of election campaigns for the Zionist Congresses, and the HaShomer Ha’Zair members fought me vigorously. Especially remarkable in this struggle was Dov Chizhi, who later left HaShomer Ha’Zair, and founded the HaKhalutz.  

Dr. Lipmann of Warsaw arrived one Sabbath by my invitation to give a lecture. I rented by myself the Kina Hall. I recall one anecdote from that lecture. A young boy, who was not a very shy boy, tried to heckle the speaker a number of times. He particularly dwelt on one phrase of the lecturer, and bothered him with requests to interpret the “diagnosis and prognosis” of his talk. The lecturer, who was already upset, responded [in Yiddish]:

Prognose, diagnose,

Wipe up your nose. 

The lecture was very successful, and attendance was high. After the lecture I invited an elder youth group for a conversation with Dr. Lipmann at the house of Leah Beider. This was the beginning of the true Betar faction in Vladimirets. With time, many youth joined us. The Betar faction was especially strengthened when Knesset member of today, Eliezer Shostak [Knesset member between 1951 and 1988, L.M.B], joined us. Also the following were very active in the Betar faction: Sarah-Fassil Dik, Leah Beider, Yudke Bas, Khassil Resnick, Aharontsik Gorzig, Aharele Millstein, and dozens more, that brought the Betar faction in our town to the prime of its success.  

No too long ago, I met here in Israel with Khamra [?] of Rovno, who was a member of the Center of HaKhalutz, and he told me that at that time the HaKhalutza Center received communications that Betar grew too strong, and needed to be weakened. He came to Vladimirets for that purpose. Vladimirets people surely remember how he was hidden in one of the beds under the covers when they came to arrest him, but he was discovered and arrested all the same. The next day he was released after Nathan Tsherniak’s advocacy.  

I will mention here an incident, I believe it was 1930, during the Polish national Holiday of the Sea [?]. We received a formal invitation from City Hall to participate in a military parade to be held in town. I commanded the march of the Betar members, who marched like soldiers in a real military style, carrying our national flag. This arose the curiosity and admiration of the gentiles. After the parade the mayor and the priest came to shale my hand admirably. I will mention an anecdote again: It was 1931, I believe. By the Hill of Five Trees, adjacent to the “Susza Wald”, they held a sharpshooting competition. It was a Sunday, and also I and my Betar colleagues participated. We shot with real rifles.  

When I returned to town Tema Devlin greeted me with with contempt, and she said “here comes the shooter.” Indeed, it was considered improper and un-kosher  in those days to shoot a rifle, outside the realm of Betar.  

I made Aliya in 1933 leaving a strong Betar faction behind. When I came for a visit in Vladimirets in 1937 I found a manifold stronger faction. The youth of 1933 had grown and I hardly knew them anymore – strong and healthy young men and women, who had  not had the chance to make Aliya, and were destroyed by the enemy. 

May their memory be blessed.


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