für jüdische Geschichte und Kultur an der universität Leipzig

Ofer Nur

Doktorand/University of California at Los Angeles, USA

Forschungsaufenthalt: 20. Oktober bis 21. November 2003


The Hashomer Hatzair youth movement and the European roots of Zionism


In my dissertation I look at Hashomer Hatzair (HH) youth movement from a wider European perspective in the search for the European roots of Zionism. More specifically, I look at Hashomer Hatzair as a central European phenomenon. Hashomer Hatzair was founded in 1916 in Vienna as an independent and autonomous Jewish youth movement. In the entire history of youth movements there are only a handful of movements which were autonomous, that is, relatively independent of adult influence. HH originated in eastern Galicia, a backwater province of the disintegrating Habsburg empire. It started out as a merging of two organizations: Tse’irei Zion, »The Young of Zion,«  which was a Zionist movement, founded in Lwów, the capital of Galicia  in 1902 as a study group association for highschool students. ????? ????  emphasized the value of belonging to the Jewish culture and many of its members knew Hebrew and were interested in the study of Jewish history and literature.


The second organization, Hashomer, »The Watchman,« was modeled in 1913 after the Polish Scouts which was founded in 1911. It was named after the Hashomer organization in Palestine. During WWI many of the movement's members spent the war years, along with their families as impoverished refugees in Vienna. In this intellectual metropolis, the members were exposed to a wide variety of intellectual trends such as Anarchism, spiritual socialism, youth culture and psychoanalysis. Many of those trends, little known to non-Viennese circles have been adopted into the movement’s nascent worldview. Examining those trends and their impact is a major part of my project. After the Vienna years, in 1918, many members returned with their families to their homes in Galicia. Without doubt, it was the trauma of the civil war that broke out in Galicia between the Poles and the Ukrainians in late 1918 where Jews were caught in the middle, which gave the final push to actual Aliya – or immigration to Palestine for the several hundred members of the movement, who were deeply assimilated into the Polish nation but were rejected from that nation as it became independent. The movement began its immigration to Palestine in 1920 and made an original and significant impact on the third aliya – that is, the wave of immigration to Palestine between 1919–1923, on the labor movement in Palestine, on the nascent kibbutz movement and  on youths all over the Jewish world from Bulgaria to Morocco, and from North to Latin America.


During my tenure of the Fellowship at the Simon Dubnow Institut I will develop one chapter from the dissertation for publication in either a German journal or one in Hebrew.