Thursday, June 11, 2015


HeChalutz , from Hebrew means “The Pioneer", was an association of Jewish youth whose aim was to prepare its members to settle in the Land of Israel. It became an umbrella organization of the Zionist pioneer youth movements.

Hechalutzim in Denmark 

During World War I, HeChalutz branches developed across Europe, Russia, America and Canada. The organization had strong leadership. Its membership peaked between 1930 and 1935. By the end of Second World War, in 1949, HeHalutz numbered 100,000 members worldwide, with approximately 60,000 having already made “Aliyah”, and 6,000 members in hakhsharot (training centers) for the pioneering life in Israel. 

A training program of ḥalutzim contemplating settlement in Eretz Israel later became "a general Jewish workers' organization made up of unmarried young men and women of sound mind and body. Each member was committed to settle for a period of at least three years in Eretẓ Israel, where he or she would attend army service for the Jewish people. Their weapon would not be “the sword and the rifle, but rather the spade and the plow" .

Early interest in ḥaluziyyut among German Jewish youth caused the establishment in Germany at the end of 1918 of a Hechalutz, and, as a first step, hundreds of ḥalutzim - calling themselves Praktikanten and organized in a Praktikantenbund – such as Blau Weiss who had their roots in the German youth movement (e.g the Wandervogel), went out to work on farm estates in order to train for life in Eretz Israel.

While the movement laid decisive weight on practical training most of all in farming, it also tried as much as possible, to supplement the pupils’ training with lessons in Hebrew, Zionist ideology, Jewish history and general knowledge of Palestine. The idea was to make sure that all the members of the movement would come to Palestine prepared and not be confronted with hard work and unaccustomed social norms.

After Hitler’s seizure of power, when it became clear that this would lead to violent measures against German Jews. The “Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland” a union of a number of larger German Jewish organizations was created. Included in this umbrella organization was Hechalutz. Hechalutz had set up a number of training centers in various places in Germany and in other countries in Europe, where young Jews could gather in preparation for possible immigration to Palestine.

“Reichsvertretung” was a voluntary union of a number of larger German Jewish organizations that was established in 1933 as the umbrella organization. For the first time ever all the Jewish organizations and religious bodies were united and represented Jewish interests at a national level. The Berlin Rabbi Leo Baeck was elected president of the Reichsvertretung. 

A national Civil Service Law was passed by the National Socialist regime on April 7, 1933 two months after Hitler came to power. The law allowed the dismissal of government employees who were not of Aryan descent, an opponent of the Nazi regime, employee whose previous political activities indicated less than total support to the national state. They were forced to resign. This meant that Jews and political opponent could not serve as teachers, professors, judges or have other government positions.

The Reichsvertretung was therefore created to help German Jews to establish central welfare organizations, occupational training for dismissed officials. Thus the Reichsvertretung developed - at least to some extent, a response to the Racial Policy of Nazi Germany.

With the passing of the Nuremberg Laws two years later, in 1935, the Reichsvertretung was forced to rename itself as Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland (Reich's in charge of Jews in Germany). In the same year Israelitisches Falienblatt, newly relocated to Berlin, became the mouth piece of the Reichsvertretung. 

Under this umbrella there was also Hechalutz. Hechaluz had set up a number of training centers in various places in Germany, where young Jews could meet before their actual training in one of a number of European countries in preparation for possible immigration of Palestine.

Denmark was well suited as a training country. The high standard of Danish farming was generally acknowledged and the cooperative idea particularly was greatly developed and harmonized with the view held in Zionist circles on building an up and coming Jewish society in Palestine. Hechaluz worked closely with the Agricultural Travel Bureau in Denmark, an institute that was affiliated with the Alien Department of the Police, which issued the necessary permits. 

The Agricultural Travel Bureau also worked with Danish agricultural organizations. The bureau enjoyed the confidence of the authorities and by this time had long experience in placing foreign agricultural trainees in Danish farms, in dairies agricultural colleges or other institutions which could be of use to agricultural students. 

Ever since the creation of Kibbutz-Alijah Denmark in 1933, one of its main tasks had been to care for the spiritual needs of the trainees and to make sure that they became ideologically prepared for life in Palestine. This idea is clearly seen in a correspondence written by a trainee back in October 1935, and sent out by the Hechaluz office The ultimate goal was to move dispersed people in exile to Palestine”. 

During the year 1932, emigration from Germany began, as seen in direct correspondence between the Hechalutz offices in Berlin on Meinickestraasse 10 and Denmark. From April 1933 the application from came to a stop. Binjamin Slor was the Berlin office’s contact in Copenhagen. He was informed that the bureau had found training places for a seven young Jews for permits from the State police. When Hechalutz in Berlin asked the bureau for those residence permits, the Hechalutz office replied that the State Police would first have to investigate the homes, to see whether the conditions for exchange were met. 

Commemorative plate in Meinekestraße #10.Source: Wikipedia

From then on, clearly influenced by Hitler’s seizure of power, the influx of immigrants increased noticeably.

With the immigration of the Alijah children, a formidable task presented itself to the leaders of the Hechaluz group in Denmark: to form the many children with such different backgrounds and in widely different monetary situations. 

The Zionist movement offered them a possible solution for their future existence. The aim was to explain to them why they were in temporary exile in Denmark, what duties they had in this foreign nation, with its foreign customs. As Jews, they also had to hold fast to their Jewish identity. The children must be given hope and a vision of a Jewish future, in a Jewish society in Palestine, in the longer term perhaps a Jewish state.

Julius Margolinsky was in charge of the practical aspect of Hechalutz in Copenhagen where he was born in 1895. Originally he had wanted to be a doctor and began the study of medicine at the University of Copenhagen, but gave up and established himself as an antique bookseller after the war. 

He became a librarian at the Mosaic Religious community’s library. He was an ardent Zionist from his youth and in 1925 watched the official opening ceremony of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem which he maintained a contact through his life. In the years 1933-34 his work was limited to the Hechalutz activities, but his sphere of interest was extensive. Chief among them was Jewish history in general and family history in particular. 

His numerous letters to Hechalutz trainees in the difficult years 1940-1943 bear witness to this warm interest in each of the immigrants and their problems. The chief Rabbi Ben Melchior in his eulogy of Julius Margolinsky, in 1978 said:

“In many ways Julius was an original in the best meaning of the word – he was an individualist who went his own way, never played to the gallery, but had an unfailing sense of assessing a situation on the basis of a Jewish interest that was marked by humanity."

Rudolf Sinnreich left Berlin by rail on July 26, 1939, to attend an agricultural student exchange program in Denmark, with a visa, a huge travel case, personal belongings and two suitcases in hand. He had gone to the Hechalutz office in Berlin where he had met with Ms. Reha Freier, the leader of the Youth Division. She had promised to find a solution for him. The Youth Division negotiated with branches in England, Sweden, and Denmark and had succeeded finding an exchange program in Denmark.

A throng of people were at the train station along with several other Hechaluzim heading for Denmark and Sweden. At that time, it became clear that leaving Germany would be leaving for good. In the train heading to Denmark, he wondered whether he would be able to cross the border before the War broke out. 

He arrived in Warnemunde, Denmark, one month before the War started. The train cars were driven on-board the Danish ferry. Once he felt the breeze from the sea, the feeling of safety was complete. His next destination was Tastrup. A fellow from Hechalutz, Nante Ehrenberg, who had escaped Germany some months earlier, met him upon arrival. He brought Rudolf to a village called Sengelose, where he had been secured employment.

The Hechalutz had to remain with the assigned farmer. The place of employment and name of the farmer were indicated in the workers’ passport. Any changes in employment status had to be approved by the Police and Labor Department. Mr. Sinnreich received several job offers, one of them was at a farm in Galsgaard, a suburb of Brøndbystrand, close to Copenhagen. At some point, the owner Mr. Galsgaard received notice from the Hechalutz office in Copenhagen that the Danish State Police recommended that the Jewish farmers do not to work in proximity to Copenhagen. He could not hire Mr. Sinnreich, who was later transferred to a new work place, on the island Mon, where he met the owner whose name was Warner Henriques.

As it turned out, Mr. Sinnreich, along with 7,220 out of 7,800 fellow Jews in Denmark, was among those who were rescued by the Danish resistance movement and brought to safety by sea in Sweden in October, 1943. The rescue allowed the vast majority of Denmark's Jewish population to avoid capture by the Nazis and is considered to be one of the largest actions of collective resistance to aggression in the countries occupied by Nazi Germany. As a result of the rescue over 99% of Denmark's Jewish population survived the Holocaust.

Mr. Sinnreich was a true hehalutz. He held fast to his Jewish identity and lived to see the creation of a Jewish state of Israel and lived a long, full life there.


Jewish Encyclopedia
Jørgen Hæstrup Passage to Palestine