Michał Trębacz, Lodz, Poland

Yisroel Likhtenshtayn (1883-1933). From Kowal to New York / Izrael Lichtenstein (1883-1933). Z Kowala do Nowego Jorku

My current research project, referring to Bund history is a biography of Yisroel Likhtenshtayn – a Bundist, one of the most prominent politics of interwar Lodz. This person has been forgotten by historians, usually placed in the second row of Bund’s leaders, after H. Erlich, V. Alter and many others. It is a result of Likhtenshtayn’s early death (1933) and, maybe the main reason, that the history of Bund is still not a very interesting topic for researchers. We still don’t know much about Bund, neither the local structures of the party nor its leaders. Likhtenshtayns contemporaries didn’t doubt that he was an extraordinary figure. The best evidence of that was the crowd of people who came to his funeral. Among them were not only his comrades but also political rivals, with whom he often was fighting on arguments in city council. Likhtenshtayn deserved for this respect with 15 years of his political activity in Lodz. He first came to “Polish Manchester” during the revolution of 1905, but he didn’t stay for a long time. He came back to the city before the First World War and became a teacher in school for deaf-mute children. He started his political activity again in 1915, under German occupation. Likhtenshtayn’s first achievement was a successful campaign for Jewish secular school with Yiddish as the learning language. In 1917 he was elected to Lodz city council which he found to be a perfect tribune to present Bund’s political program. From this time he was indisputable leader of Lodz Bund’s community and one of the best recognizable politicians in the town. Likhtenshtayn was not only a prominent politician but also a teacher in several Lodz primary and secondary schools. He didn’t abandon his struggle for Jewish secular schools being a councilor and a TSYShO member. He couldn’t agree for discrimination of Jewish children and wanted for them the best possible education. In this activity Likhtenshtayn was persistent and assiduous, what caused him to be accused of presenting anti-Polish demands. Yisroel Likhtenshtayn died too early. In 1932 he was sent abroad to look for financial support for the Bund. He died in 1933 in New York after a surgery. His corpse was transported back to Lodz, where he was buried on a Jewish cemetery. His grave stone was arranged to look like a sign “בונד”. Even during the German occupation of Lodz, his grave was a place of Bundists’ meetings. The biography of Yisroel Likhtenshtayn will be a theme of my doctoral dissertation. I will base it on archival materials from Lodz (Lodz State Archive), Warsaw (Central Archives of Historical Records, New Act Archives), New York (YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Archive) and in Amsterdam (Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis Archieven). It is worth to mention that a lot of interesting documents are kept in Lodz, especially referring to Likhtenshtayns activity in city council. Another source of information will be Polish as Jewish press releases. One of the most important titles for me would be “Lodzsher Verker”, a local paper of Bund organization, where Likhtenshtayn was a journalist. I will also do a detailed research of historical works about Bund, as it is the best way to get a perfect view of what was the Bund, its history and members. To the main books belong “Gegen den Strom” by G. Pickhan and “Jewish Bund in Russia” by H. Tobias. I think however that I will be able to get more information about Likhtenshteyn and his community from works that are available in Yiddish, like 5 volumes of “Di geshikhte fun Bund”, “Di geshikhte fun bund in lodz”, and last but not least – “Yisroel Likhtenshtayn gedenkbukh”.