A training camp for Jewish volunteers to Hagana (military organization set in 1920. Its main aim was self-defense of Jewish districts in Palestine) was established in fall 1947. Recruitment establishments were in major Polish cities. Young, mostly 20-year-old people of Jewish descent were offered fast training and departure to the Near East, where they had to settle down and fight with Arabs for the new country.

Bolków was the right place where the training organization was possible. Grzegorz Smolar, a member of Jewish fraction of the Polish Workers' Party and a supervisor of the training wrote: “ In the Lower Silesia in the corner was a city called Bolków. Its location had a lot of advantages – woods in which mud huts and field kitchen could be built. It was also a place in which a training with guns could be led”.

A center of training was established in two buildings on Wyskokogórska street. The trainings were led nearby on Mount Richard on a territory of a post-German range. In fall 1947 groups of Jews came to Bolków with the aim to get illegally from Czechoslovakia to Palestine.

On spring 1948 first volunteers started coming to Bolków. Mainly the activists of Zionist organizations recommended by the authorities came to Hagana training. The activity was strictly controlled by The Ministry of Public Security that registered the volunteers lists and cared about the reasonable world view of the emigrants. Members of Polish Workers Party were blackmailed. The only condition for them to approve the departure was the cooperation with the UB (Department of Security) They were obliged to reveal the moods during trainings and became the UB agents in the Near East.

Trainings in Bolków were led by Hagana emissaries, but appeared also military instructors who served in the Red Army and People's Army of Poland. As Smolar claimed: “They were tall officers who didn't have any idea of fighting conditions in Israel. What could be done with an officer […], who was a cavalry commander […]. The situation changed when the Hagana instructors from Munch came.”

Trainings lasted 12 hours for 10 days. Except from the typical military training or military parades, there were also lectures about Zionism, Palestine, Hagana. The future combatants wore green, American uniforms from demobilization sent from United States to Poland by the Joint activists (American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee). The weapons, which came from illegal sources, were delivered by communists from the Polish Worker's Party.

The camp existence was never a mystery. Smolar, quoted before, wrote in June 1948: “People from the town, Jews and Poles, knows exactly about the camp purpose. There is no secrecy about it. An officer stands near the gate. The training take place nearby the camp, on the widespread field. On the day when I was on the camp, a group of 50 people returned from the two – day walk. This group came to the camp, passing the town streets, singing a soviet song in Russian”.

There was a good contact between town inhabitants and training participants. One of the town inhabitants said: “We knew about them, they did what they were supposed to do, whereas we did our works. Everyone was working. We knew they were there. Then they left and that was over”.

After the training the groups of volunteers received the documents of traveling. The Ministry of Public Security of Poland created lists of their names. Basing on them, they were able to leave the country. They went by train from Bolków to Katowice. Through Prague and Paris they tried to get to Marsseille, from where Jews went on the ship to Palestine, where they joined the Hagana. Some of them died during fights.

A camp in Bolków was an opportunity for some Jews to leave Poland, as the emigration was strictly limited. The decision about the camp was dependent from the politics, namely the close relations between the newly-formed country Israel and the United States, which was precisely registered in the reports by The Ministry of Public Security. Over fall 1948, authorities from Moscow ordered to cease issuing passports for Hagana volunteers (in accusation of taking huge amount of money and gold abroad). At the end of that year, the camp was dissolved. The camp trained 7 thousand soldiers.[1.1]

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Footnotes

  • [1.1] B. Szaynok, Żydowscy Żołnierze z Bolkowa, "Odra" 1999, no. 9, p. 22-26.