Members of the Warsaw branch of Tsukunft on a hike to a camp in Gąbin, Poland, 1938. Photograph by Kuper. (YIVO)

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Founded in 1913, Yugnt-Bund Tsukunft (the Future) was the main Bundist youth organization in interwar Poland. Its predecessor, Der Kleyner Bund, was a network of youth organizations that spontaneously appeared throughout the Pale of Settlement at the time of the 1905 Revolution. A product of the idealism and enthusiasm of the times, Der Kleyner Bund declined in the years of reaction following the revolution. An attempt to recreate the youth organization on a more systematic basis immediately preceding World War I led to the creation in 1913 of the Sotsyal-Demokratishe Yugnt-Organizatsye Tsukunft.

Tsukunft meeting, Warsaw, 1930s. The speaker (standing, left) is Zalmen Fridrich. (YIVO)

When Poland was under German and Austrian occupation during World War I, Tsukunft (like the Polish Bund itself) lost contact with the movement in Russia. It became a de facto separate Polish organization in 1916, when a Tsukunft conference decided to follow the Bund’s leadership but only as an autonomous organization. Tsukunft grew into one of the most active and dynamic organizations within the Bundist movement. Its members (“Tsukunftistn”) were organized in “circles” (krayzn). After age 18, participants were expected to join the Bund. Thus, not only did Tsukunft help the Polish Bund in its political campaigns, in particular during elections, but it also provided a constant source of new members for the party.

The first separate and independent congress of Tsukunft met in Warsaw in June 1919. At the time, its structure consisted of 250 local organizations, with some 15,000 members—1,200 in Warsaw alone. By 1939, the Warsaw Tsukunft had 2,400 members in 95 circles. Tsukunft organized summer camps (all-Polish or regional) and, later, established winter and hiking camps. Cultural activities included choirs, theater groups, and evening courses for young workers. Its biweekly publication, Yugnt veker, was published for more than two decades. The final issue appeared in late September 1939, when Poland was already under Nazi occupation.

Arayn in Tsukunft” (Join the Tsukunft). Polish/Yiddish poster, Warsaw, 1930s. Artwork by H. Cyna. Tsukunft (Future) was a youth movement of the Jewish Labor Bund. The slogan can also be read as "Into the Future. (YIVO)

Tsukunft’s activists also led the Bundist children’s organization SKIF (Sotsyalistisher Kinder Farband; founded in 1926 as SKIB, or Sotsialistisher Kinder Bund) for boys and girls age 10 to 15. SKIF prepared its members for Tsukunft and was organized according to similar principles: krayzn, camps, sport activities. At age 15, Skifistn joined Tsukunft. Between 1926 and 1939, the Bund’s daily newspaper, Naye folks-tsaytung, published a children’s section, Di kleyne folks-tsaytung, in addition to SKIF’s own publication, Khavershaft.

Although Tsukunft had links with the Bundist students’ organization Ringen, which brought together high-school students attending Jewish and Polish schools, most Tsukunftistn were young workers who had already left school. Tsukunft coordinated with the youth sections of trade unions to promote the material interests of working youth, teaching them skills and organizing to improve wages and working conditions.

In response to rising antisemitism in the 1930s, Tsukunft organized its own militia, Tsukunft-Shturem. This disciplined paramilitary organization, which had a chain of command, organization, and uniform, played an important role in protecting Bundist locals and activities (such as May Day demonstrations) from hostile provocateurs. The group also provided self-defense against pogroms. Many Tsukunft activists and former activists played a crucial—and often tragically heroic—role in resisting Nazi occupation during World War II; among the activists were Marek Edelman, a leader of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, Asie Big in Vilna, and Shmul Tabachnik in Białystok. After the war, Tsukunft was rebuilt as a legal, though not long-lasting, organization.

Suggested Reading

Jacob Sholem Hertz, Di geshikhte fun a yugnt: Der kleyner Bund; Yugnt-Bund Tsukunft in Poyln (New York, 1946); Jacob Sholem Hertz, Gregor Aronson, Sophie Dubnow-Erlich, E. Mus (Emanuel Novogrudski [Nowogrodzki]), Hayyim Solomon Kazdan, and Emanuel Scherer, eds., Geshikhte fun Bund, 5 vols. (New York, 1960–1981), see specifically vol. 4, pp. 119–136 and vol. 5, pp. 107–134; Jack Jacobs, ed., Jewish Politics in Eastern Europe: The Bund at 100 (New York, 2001); Moshe Kligsberg, Di yidishe yugnt-bavegung in Poyln tsvishn beyde velt-milkhomes (New York, 1974).

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 108, Manuscripts, Collection, ; RG 201, Abraham Liessin, Papers, 1906-1944; RG 205, Kalman Marmor, Papers, 1880s-1950s; RG 251, William Edlin, Papers, 1900-1947; RG 315, H. (Halper) Leivick, Papers, ca. 1914-1959; RG 360, Shmuel Niger, Papers, 1907-1950s; RG 362, Zukunft, Records, 1923-1940s; RG 398, Nahum Baruch Minkoff and Hasye Cooperman, Papers, 1930s-1980s; RG 644, Mark Khinoy, Papers, ca. 1908-ca. 1962.