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General Jewish Labour Bund in Poland

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Title: General Jewish Labour Bund in Poland  
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General Jewish Labour Bund in Poland

Polish Bund redirects here. For other meanings, see Bund.

The General Jewish Labour Bund in Poland (Yiddish: אַלגעמײַנער ײדישער אַרבעטער בּונד אין פוילין tr:Algemeyner yidisher arbeter bund in poyln, Polish: Ogólny Żydowski Związek Robotniczy) was a Jewish socialist party in Poland which promoted the political, cultural and social autonomy of Jewish workers, sought to combat antisemitism and was generally opposed to Zionism.

Creation of the Polish Bund

The Polish Bund emerged from the [1] Theoretically the Bundists in Poland and Russia were members of the same party, but in practice the Polish Bundists operated as a party of their own.[2] In December 1917 the split was formalized, as the Polish Bundists held a clandestine meeting in Lublin and reconstituted themselves as a separate political party.[3]

Communist split

In April 1920 the first convention of the Polish Bund was held, during which the merger of the Galician Jewish Social Democratic Party into the Bund was materialized. At the conference a dispute over whether the party should join the Communist International erupted. A majority resolution calling for the entry of the party into the Communist International was passed at the convention, but never implemented. As a result the Polish Bund was divided, with around a quarter of the Polish Bund leaving the party to form the Communist Bund in 1922 (which subsequently merged into the Communist Party in 1923).[4][5][6]

Organizing workers

In 1921, Bund-affiliated Polish Socialist Party trade unions. However, while part of the KCZZ, the Bund unions were not part of the ZSZ.[7][8]

Merger with Vilno groups

The Bund branch in [9]

In 1923 both Vilno Bund groups merged into the Polish Bund.[9]

Electoral participation

Contrarily to the other Jewish parties, the Bund advocated an electoral cooperation with other Socialists, and not just between either Jewish parties or with other minority parties (in the electoral alliance "Bloc of National Minorities"). Thence, Agudat Israel, Folkspartei and the various Zionist parties were represented in the Sejm, but the Bund never was, mostly because its potential partner, the Polish Socialist Party (PPS), was reluctant to appear as a pro-Jewish party.[10]

The party obtained 81,884 votes (0.9%) at the 1922 Sejm election, approximately 100,000 (0.7%) in the 1928 Sejm election and 66,699 at the largely rigged 1930 Sejm election.[11][12][13]

In the autumn of 1933 the party issued a call initiated to the Polish public to boycott of goods from Germany, in protest of the Hitler regime.[14]

In December 1938 and January 1939, at the last Polish municipal elections before the start of the Second World War, the Bund received the largest segment of the Jewish vote. In 89 towns, one-third elected Bund majorities.[15] In Warsaw, the Bund won 61.7% of the votes cast for Jewish parties, taking 17 of the 20 municipal council seats won by Jewish parties. In Łódź the Bund won 57.4% (11 of 17 seats won by Jewish parties).[16] For the first time, the Bund and the PPS had agreed to call their electors to vote for each other where only one of them presented a list. This however did not go so far as common electoral lists. This alliance made it possible for a Left electoral victory in most great cities: Warsaw, Łódź, Lwow, Piotrkow, Kraków, Białystok, Grodno, Vilnius.[10]

After its municipal electoral successes in December 1938 and January 1939, the Bund hoped for a breakthrough at the parliamentary elections due in September 1939, but these were de facto cancelled by the German-Soviet invasion.[10]


The party organization was based on local and regional groups, which formed the lowest level of party cells. Each group had its local party committee. The highest authority of the Bund resided with the Party Congress, which elected the Central Committee and the Party Council, an advisory group. The Central Committee was composed of delegates designated by the larger local parties.

In 1929 the organization of the party was changed. The Party Council was replaced by the Head Council, which was still organized by the Party Congress, but now the members of Council were selected from the members of the Central Committee.

The party was a member of the Labour and Socialist International between September 1930 and 1940.[17]

Position towards emigration

In Poland, the activists argued that Jews should stay and fight for socialism rather than emigrate. Marek Edelman once said "The Bundists did not wait for the Messiah, nor did they plan to leave for Palestine. They believed that Poland was their country and they fought for a just, socialist Poland, in which each nationality would have its own cultural autonomy, and in which minorities' rights would be guaranteed.".[18] When the Revisionist Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky toured Poland urging the "evacuation" of European Jewry, the Bundists accused him of abetting anti-Semitism. Another non-Zionist Yiddishist Jewish party at the time in Lithuania and Poland was the Folkspartei.

World War II

On August 26, 1939, the party signed the joint statement of socialist parties in Poland, calling for the people to fight against Hitlerism (other signatories included the German Socialist Labour Party of Poland).[19]

After the 1939 German-Soviet invasion, the Bund continued to operate as an underground anti-Nazi organization in German-occupied Poland. Several Bund leaders and structures stayed in Soviet-occupied Poland and endured the Stalinist repression. Two most eminent Bund leaders, Wiktor Alter and Henryk Erlich were executed in December 1941 in Moscow on Stalin's orders under accusations of being agents of Nazi Germany.

In 1942, the Bundist Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and was also part of the Polish resistance movement Armia Krajowa (Home Army), which fought against the Nazis in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.

From March 1942, Samuel Zygelbojm, a member of the Bund Central Committee since 1924,[20] was the Bund's representative on the National Council of the Polish government in exile in London. He committed suicide on May 12, 1943 to protest the indifference of the Allied governments in the face of the Shoah.[21] Zygielbojm's seat in the Polish exile parliament was overtaken by Emanuel Scherer.[22]

However, as a Bundist resistant later wrote, the situation differed between the government in exile and the National Polish Council inside Poland, even in July 1944:

The illegal National Council within the country consisted of four parties, the PPS, the Peasant party, the National Democrats, and the Christian Democrats. These groups were represented in the London parliament-in-exile. So was the Bund, represented first by Artur Ziegelboim and then by Emanuel Scherer. But in Poland the National Council would not accept a representative of the Bund.[23]

Post-World War II

After the end of the Second World War, the Bund reorganized itself in Poland. Whilst Zionists organized mass emigration to Palestine after the war, the Bund pinned its hopes to a democratic development in Poland. At the time the Bund had between 2,500-3,000 members. Around 500 lived in Łódź. Michal Shuldenfrei was the president of the party, Dr. Shloyme Herschenhorn the vice president. Salo Fiszgrund was the general secretary, assisted by Jozef Jashunski. The party had functioning branches in Warsaw, Łódź and Wrocław. The party ran three publications, Folkstsaytung, Yungt veker and Głos bundu (in Polish).[22]

The Bund began setting up various production cooperatives. Together with Jewish communists, the Bund was active in promoting Polish Jews to settle in areas in Silesia that were previously German territories.[22]

Antisemitic activities continued in Poland after the war, and in Łódź (the main centre of Jewish population in post-war Poland) the Bund retained a militia structure with a secret armory.[22]

The Bund took part in the Polish elections of January 1947 on a common ticket with the Polish Socialist Party (PPS) and gained its first and only Sejm seat in its history, occupied by Michal Shuldenfrei(already a member of the State National Council since 1944),[24] plus several seats in municipal councils.

In 1948 around 400 Bund members illegally left Poland.[25] The Bund was dissolved, along with all other non-communist parties, in 1948 following the consolidation of single-party rule by the Polish United Workers' Party.[4] Schuldenfrei was then ousted from the Communist-led Parliament.[26]

In 1976, Marek Edelman, a former Bundist activist and leader during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, became part of the Workers' Defense Committee[27] and later part of the Solidarity trade union movement.[28] During the period of martial law in 1981, he was interned.[28] He took part in the Round Table Talks and served as a member of parliament from 1989 until 1993.


  1. ^ Johnpoll, Bernard K. The Politics of Futility; The General Jewish Workers Bund of Poland, 1917-1943. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1967. p. 37
  2. ^ Johnpoll, Bernard K. The Politics of Futility; The General Jewish Workers Bund of Poland, 1917-1943. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1967. pp. 52-53, 61
  3. ^ Johnpoll, Bernard K. The Politics of Futility; The General Jewish Workers Bund of Poland, 1917-1943. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1967. pp. 69-70
  4. ^ a b Guide to the YIVO Archives, Volym 0. p. 43
  5. ^ Universiṭah ha-ʻIvrit bi-Yerushalayim, and Makhon le-Yahadut zemanenu ʻa. sh. Avraham Harman. Studies in Contemporary Jewry. Bloomington, Ind: Indiana University Press, 1984. p. 20
  6. ^ Campbell, Joan (1992). European labor unions. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 352.  
  7. ^ Campbell, Joan (1992). European labor unions. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 356.  
  8. ^ Marcus, Joseph (1983). Social and political history of the Jews in Poland, 1919-1939. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 124–126.  
  9. ^ a b Johnpoll, Bernard K. The Politics of Futility; The General Jewish Workers Bund of Poland, 1917-1943. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1967. pp. 132-137
  10. ^ a b c Bernard K. Johnpoll, The politics of futility. The General Jewish Workers Bund of Poland, 1917-1943, Ithaca, New York, Cornell University Press, 1967
  11. ^ Bacon, Gershon C. (1996). The Politics of Tradition. Agudat Yisrael in Poland, 1916-1939. Studies on Polish Jewry. Jerusalem: The Magnes Press.  
  12. ^ Leslie, R. F. The History of Poland Since 1863. Soviet and East European Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983. p. 168
  13. ^ Jack Lester Jacobs, Bundist Counterculture in Interwar Poland, Syracuse University Press, 2009, ISBN 0-8156-3226-6
  14. ^ Lakeberg, Beata. Das Judenbild in den Presseorganen der deutschen Sozialisten in der Zweiten Polnischen Republik
  15. ^ Rabinowicz, Harry M (1965), The Legacy of Polish Jewry: a history of Polish Jews in the inter-war years, 1919-1939, New York: Thomas Yoseloff, pp. 118–125 
  16. ^ Polonsky, Antony (1997), "The Bund in Polish Political Life, 1935-1939", in Mendelsohn, Ezra, Essential Papers on Jews and the Left, New York: New York University Press, pp. 194–5,  
  17. ^ Kowalski, Werner. Geschichte der sozialistischen arbeiter-internationale: 1923 - 19. Berlin: Dt. Verl. d. Wissenschaften, 1985. p. 318
  18. ^ "Warsaw Ghetto uprising leader Marek Edelman dies at 90".  
  19. ^ Marcus, Joseph. Social and Political History of the Jews in Poland, 1919-1939. Berlin: Mouton Publishers, 1983. p. 432
  20. ^ R. Henes, Shmuel Mordekhai (Arthur) Zigelboim, Commemoration Book Chelm (Translation of Yisker-bukh Chelm, published in Yiddish in Johannesburg, 1954), pp. 287-294.
  21. ^ Melvyn Conroy, Szmul Mordekhai "Artur" Zygielbojm, The Terrible Choice: Some Contemporary Jewish Responses to the Holocaust.
  22. ^ a b c d Minczeles, Henri. Histoire générale du Bund: un mouvement révolutionnaire juif. Paris: Editions Austral, 1995. pp. 424-425
  23. ^ Goldstein, Bernard (1949). translated and edited by Leonard Shatzkin, ed. The Stars bear witness (original title  
  24. ^ Zimmerman, Joshua D. (2003). Contested memories: Poles and Jews during the Holocaust and its aftermath. Rutgers University Press. p. 324.  
  25. ^ Minczeles, Henri. Histoire générale du Bund: un mouvement révolutionnaire juif. Paris: Editions Austral, 1995. p. 431
  26. ^ Meyer, Peter (1953). The Jews in the Soviet satellites. Syracuse University Press. p. 637. 
  27. ^ "Rz" Online, "Pożegnanie Marka Edelmana" (Farewell to Marek Edelman), Rzeczpospolita, 09-10-2009
  28. ^ a b "Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Leader Edelman Dies At 90"
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