The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Interwar Poland in the Diaries of Hashomer Hatzair Members: Emotional Refuge or Emotional Restraints?

Diary writing was a common and even desirable practice among youth in the early 20th century in general and among members of Zionist youth movements in particular. The reasons for this were varied and include the use of diaries as an instrument for developing language skills and for emotional sublimation.

In the proposed lecture, I aim to examine the use of diaries in the context of the emotional atmosphere that Hashomer Hatzair created. I will do so by examination of a variety of diaries written in Poland in the 1920s and 1930s by members of the movement. The diaries, which one may think reflect an intimate sphere, underwent constant reviews by peers and guides.

The lecture will present the emotional context of the diaries, and stress the tension between the diaries` potential to serve as an emotional refuge; and what appears to be the use of the diaries as a tool for emotional regulation.

The lecture will follow two trajectories:

First, I will examine how national and social processes that took place in independent Poland are emotionally reflected in the diaries of Hashomer Hatzair members. Issues such as despair, disappointment, sense of lack of belonging, and even fear were part of the emotional experience of the young members of Hashomer Hatzair in independent Poland. Second, I will seek to analyze the use of the movement`s leadership in the diaries as a tool for emotional restrain and political socialization. Through the examination, one can discern not only the educational strategies adopted by the leadership but also sketch which emotions were considered "legitimate" emotions and which were despised in the Shomer`s utopian worldview.