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Katz, Pinḥas

(1907–1941), Estonian Revisionist Zionist leader. Pinḥas Katz was born in Daugavpils, Latvia. After his graduation from high school in 1923, he worked in several businesses. In 1926, he moved to Estonia to study law at the University of Tartu, an institution famous for liberal academic traditions and a popular place for Latvian Jewish students. He joined Hasmonea, a Zionist Jewish student organization that gradually advocated Revisionism.

Katz moved to Tallinn in 1928 and worked for the Estonian Zionist organization. A full-fledged Estonian Union of Revisionist Zionists, with 25 members, was officially registered in 1931. Despite their enthusiasm and dedication, the Revisionists managed to establish local branches only in Tallinn and Tartu. An Estonian branch of Berit Trumpeldor, the Revisionist youth paramilitary organization, was founded in 1933. Estonian followers developed close contacts with Latvia, where the movement was quite active; Katz’s personal connections played an important role.

Katz continued his studies in Tallinn, graduating from the university in 1935. In the same year, he was elected to be an officer of the Hasmonea alumni society. He was also a member of Tarbut, an organization promoting Hebrew culture, and in 1938 was elected as its spokesman. He married an Estonian citizen and mastered the language (in addition to Yiddish, Latvian, Hebrew, German, Russian, and English), and in 1934 was granted Estonian citizenship. When Vladimir Jabotinsky visited Estonia in 1939, Katz was his host and also accompanied him on his trip to Tartu. Katz remained the leader of Estonian Revisionists until the Soviet occupation in 1940 and the consequent liquidation of all Jewish organizations.

In April 1941, Katz was arrested with five other Revisionist activists (including the leader of Berit Trumpeldor). He was accused of Jewish nationalism, anticommunism, and hostility to left-wing Jews. Katz did not deny his views or his opposition to the occupation of Estonia. He did emphasize that the Revisionists had ceased activities in 1940 and acted as loyal citizens to the new regime. At the outbreak of war between Germany and the Soviet Union, Katz and the other prisoners were transferred to Kirov, Russia, and were placed on trial. Katz and another Revisionist activist, Wulf Gerschanovitsch, were executed; the others were sentenced to 10 years in labor camps. Katz’s wife and two-year-old daughter were among 500 Jews that the Soviet authorities deported from Estonia to Russia in June 1941, though they survived and later returned to Estonia. Katz was rehabilitated in 1992 after Estonia’s independence had been restored.

Suggested Reading

Dov Levin, Pinkas ha-kehilot Latviyah ve-Estonyah (Jerusalem, 1988), pp. 308, 311.