Leaders of a local branch of Yugnt with a portrait of Karl Marx, Łowicz, Poland, 1919. (The Ghetto Fighters’ Museum/Israel)

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Youth movement of the Left Po‘ale Tsiyon Party, literally meaning youth in Yiddish. Founded in 1904 in Galicia, Yugnt worked in parallel with two organizations: the student youth organization Frayer Shoymer (The Free Scout), whose membership consisted of Polish-speaking gymnasium students in Warsaw, from 1926; and the children’s movement Yungbor (Yung Borokhovisten [Young Borochovists, after the Labor Zionist Ber Borokhov]), which was primarily a scouting organization, from 1927. Yet another youth group affiliated with Yugnt was the sports union Shtern, the only Jewish sports organization that was a member of a general socialist Polish sports union.

Yugnt was a politically partisan youth movement par excellence: the ideological education of its members was based on its unique reading of Socialist Zionism. It rejected the idea of pioneering volunteerism promoted by He-Ḥaluts; generally refused to cooperate with non-Left Zionist parties; regarded Yiddish as the language of the Jewish people, even of those who settled in Palestine; and placed a strong emphasis on “practical work” to improve the situation of Jews in the Diaspora.

Members of Yugnt often tended to adopt radical positions, rejecting the uneasy synthesis, characteristic of the Po‘ale Tsiyon, of aiming both for agricultural pioneering in the Land of Israel and amelioration of conditions in the Diaspora. Some left to join the Communists (or worked in the Communist spirit within the framework of Yugnt); others wished to cooperate with He-Ḥaluts—particularly in the second half of the 1930s, when some of Yungt’s members were willing to stray from some of the party’s principles. Another way in which members exhibited their radicalism was through their zeal for the Yiddish language; many joined Friends of YIVO circles, viewing the Yiddish Institute as paving the way for a proletarian Jewish culture.

In 1919, the Galician branch of Yugnt joined with groups from Central Poland and from the eastern border districts, increasing their combined membership to approximately 5,500. In 1920, the world Po‘ale Tsiyon movement’s split into two factions left Yugnt almost unaffected, since the overwhelming majority of its Polish members belonged to Left Po‘ale-Tsiyon. At the height of Yugnt’s strength at the end of the 1920s, it had nearly 16,000 members, and some claim the number was as high as 20,000; its leaders included Ya‘akov Peterzeil, Emanuel Ringelblum, Yosef Rosen, and Raphael Mahler. The last mentioned was the editor of the movement’s organ, Frayer yugnt (Free Youth), published in Warsaw from 1925 to 1936 and thereafter under various names, including Di yugnt fon (The Youth Flag) and Der nayer dor (The New Generation), which disseminated popular knowledge in plain language.

Almost all of the movement’s members came from poor, working-class families. The movement was able to exert a powerful influence upon them through its involvement with various educational institutions, among them the Borokhov schools, and with the activities of trade unions, all of which served to strengthen members’ ties to the youth movement. In Yugnt, on balance, Palestine-oriented objectives became subordinate to professional and educational activities oriented to the actual situation of Jews in Eastern Europe.

Suggested Reading

Bina Garncarska-Kadary, Be-Ḥipuse derekh: Po‘ale-Tsiyon-Semol be-Polin ‘ad milḥemet ha-‘olam ha-sheniyah, trans. Aryeh Ben Menaḥem and Yosef Rab (Tel Aviv, 1995), pp. 298–210, 173–149, 420–365; Raphael Mahler, “Yugent: Tenu‘at ha-no‘ar shel Po‘ale-Tsiyon-Semol be-Polin,” Ha-Tsiyonut: Me’asef le-toldot ha-tenu‘ah ha-tsiyonit veha-yishuv ha-yehudi be-Erets-Yisra’el 3(1974): 247–257; Israel Oppenheim, The Struggle of Jewish Youth for Productivization: The Zionist Youth Movement in Poland (Boulder, Colo., 1989).



Translated from Hebrew by David Fachler