Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Berek Rothenberg - May 20, 1984

Zionism and Anti-Semitism

I want to ask you again about the, the Zionist organizations. Did you uh, practice uh, any military uh, in those organizations?

In the Betar there was the movement from, from Jabotinsky. We practiced, although we didn't have no--we practiced. We were more like a military movement. So we had brown uniforms, we had black ties and we sung uh, military songs mostly, and we always was dreaming that we're going to fight for our fatherland--for our, for our land. And that was a more a military movement. In the other organization...

Did you have, have weapons in these organizations?

No, no, no, no, no, no. No, no kind of weapons. And just--just we--we were more military. They....

How old were you when you joined the Betar?

I, I was about thirteen years old. And I was in Betar and, and I was in the Maccabi, I played soccer ball. And uh, in Akiva I liked it because I had a lot of friends and neighbors and friends because--and we had all kind of meetings, all kind of lectures. And it was very interesting. We were poor but we were rich--in the other way we were very rich because you didn't see a boy or girl be on the street. Everybody was busy. Or we had a meeting come Monday night or we 'em Tuesday night. In the wintertime we went this, on this, on this lights. We--our town was a very hilly. We got--we had big hills. So we went down with the sleds and then we walked up and--the life as a young fellow was very interesting. Only we had troubles with the Gentiles. When we went to school they accused us that we killed Jesus Christ and they throwed stones on us and sticks. So everyday what we went to school or when we walked, walked out from the school we had always wars, always wars. There always--and it was--and Poland was very anti-Semitic, and especially our home town. We had eight churches and it was a very religious Catholic city. And so we always had to fight for existence. It was a soccer ball game, so they had the--they called themselves ??? that means young fellows before the army, and we the Maccabi. And we had a, a, a ball on Saturday or on Sunday, and if you lose--so they, they, they started booing us. If we won they start hitting us. So we didn't know what to do or--to lose the game or to won the game. We always were losers. Only they--we were raised and we went to school together and everything. Always they had told the, the last, 1938 to 1939 they always--they were going, "Watch out Hitler is coming on you, Hitler will come on you, Hitler will come on you." Well, we didn't know too much about Hitler. Only they were threatening us. When came, when came up before the holiday--Christmastime--and the students from the universities, when they returned from Krakow--from Warsaw--and they used to wear all kinda caps--red caps with medicine or green caps--they used to wear such caps. They, right away when they came home for their vacation--for the Christmastime vacation--they stayed by the Jewish stores and they told the, the Gentiles not to go into shop by Jew or who shops by the Jews that they're pigs. And then the little, the little uh, merchant person what was standing outside, he had a, a table with a few things for sale, they turned over those tables and they always--we, we always had to struggle. Always was...

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