In his book Memories, the first Israeli PM and pragmatic early Zionist, David Ben Gurion writes about his early years in PÅoÅsk, Poland.
“For many of us, anti-Semitic feeling had little to do with our (Zionist) dedication. I personally never suffered anti-Semitic persecution. PÅoÅsk was remarkably free of it… There were three main communities: Russians, Jews and Poles. … The number of Jews and Poles in the city were roughly equal, about five thousand each. The Jews, however, formed a compact, centralized group occupying the innermost districts whilst the Poles were more scattered, living in outlying areas and shading off into the peasantry. Consequently, when a gang of Jewish boys met a Polish gang the latter would almost inevitably represent a single suburb and thus be poorer in fighting potential than the Jews who even if their numbers were initially fewer could quickly call on reinforcements from the entire quarter. Far from being afraid of them (the goyim), they were rather afraid of us (the Jews). In general, however, relations were amicable, though distant.” (Memoirs: David Ben-Gurion (1970), p. 36)
Ben Gurion is very explicit when describing the balance of power between Jews and Poles in his town in the early days of the 20th century. âFar from being afraid of them, they were rather afraid of us (the Jews).â
Jews were indeed very powerful in Poland in the first years of the 20th century. The Jewish socialist party, the Bund, was a leading political force in the 1905 Revolution particularly in the Polish areas of the Russian empire. In the early stages of that Revolution, the Bundâs military wing was the strongest revolutionary force in Western Russia.
The Vow, the Bundâs anthem didnât leave much room for imagination, it declared war and practically sentenced to death those who didnât fit with their political agenda:
âWe swear our stalwart hate persists,
Of those who rob and kill the poor:
The Tsar, the masters, capitalists.
Our vengeance will be swift and sure.
So swear together to live or die!â
âTo wage the holy war we vow,
Until right triumphs over wrong.