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haganah (Hebrew: defence) – illegal military organization formed by Jewish settlers in Mandatory Palestine as a body devoted to defending Jewish settlements from Arab attacks, active between January 1920 and 1948. The idea of forming a self-defense organization was born even before the British Mandate, when Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire. The establishment of the British Mandate brought about the hope that such an organization would not be necessary, since the role of keeping public order and ensuring that the population was safe was taken up by the Mandate authorities and their institutions. However, Arab attacks on Jewish settlements in the Upper Galilee, threats of attacks in the Lower Galilee in the spring and summer of 1920 and the fiasco of the attempt to establish a legal self-defense body by W. Jabotinsky in the spring of 1920 in Jerusalem dispelled all those illusions. Soldiers of the former Jewish Legion and members of Hashomer paramilitary organisation came to the conclusion that it was absolutely necessary to form a self-defense organization. The decision was made at the Achdut HaAvoda (Brotherhood for Work) conference in Kinneret in June 1920. In September 1920, Gdud HaAvoda (Batallion for Work) named after Yosef Trumpeldor was established, formed of the former members of the Hashomer. Its members were supposed to perform works and simultaneously serve as a reserve force of the Haganah which was being formed during the same period. Most members of the organisation were socialists and the organisation itself operated under the supervision of the Histadrut (General Federation of Workers in the Land of Israel). Officers have started to receive military training and new routes were sought that would allow for weapons to be purchased and smuggled from Europe to Palestine. After the Arab riots of 1929, the Haganah strove to provide military training for every Jew capable of carrying arms. From 1936 onwards, the Haganah was receiving proper financial and organizational support from the Jewish Agency. In late January 1930, representatives of Jewish military organizations in Palestine established contact with the Polish authorities, as a result of which members of the Irgun (The National Military Organization in the Land of Israel, formed by the New Zionist Organization) and of the Haganah received training in Polish military bases in Andrychów and Rembertów. There were also transports of arms and ammunition shipped from Poland to Palestine; the largest of them (5 thousand rifles) was allegedly shipped days prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. The large part of this transport was transferred by the Jews back to the Warsaw Defence Command in mid-September 1939.  The leaders of the Haganah were representatives of various Zionist political formations. On the basis of the agreement between which they reached in June 1941, Moses Kleinbaum (Sneh) became the head of the Haganah. On October 1, 1945 Haganah commenced military opperations against the mandate administration. The Haganah, Etzel (an acronym of Irgun) and Lehi (Lohamei Herut Israel – Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, commonly known as the Stern Gang, an illegal right-wing militant group) formed HaMeri HaIvri (Hebrew: The Jewish Resistance Movement) headed by the so-called Committee X, in which the Haganah was represented by M. Kleinbaum. Jewish soldiers and NCOs who left Russia with the army of general Anders and subsequently deserted once the forces arrived in Palestine became the key players in the process of building the Israeli Army.  After the war, Jewish fighters were still being trained in Poland, in a camp located in Bolków in Lower Silesia. The camp was established in 1947 with the support of the Joint and certain other entities. It is known that several thousand fighters finished training in the Bolków camp, with more than 2500 Jews receiving training in October 1948 alone, although many have left for Israel at an earlier stage. Zionist organizations collected funds and recruited volunteers for the Haganah. The camp was closed at the end of 1948.               

Natalia Aleksiun

Quoted after: Tomaszewski J., Żbikowski A., Żydzi w Polsce. Dzieje i kultura. Leksykon. [Jews in Poland – Their History and Culture. A Lexicon.], , Warsaw 2001.