Women of Valor: Partisans and Resistance Fighters
Anna Heilman - Part I
We were first in Lager A1 which was called the quarantine camp.2 There were all kinds of rumours flying; we heard it was good to say that you are a metallurgist. So we did. We were transferred to Lager B3 and from Lager B we were assigned to the Union Werke, a German munitions factory.4
At that time we did not know exactly what the factory produced. We knew that this was an ammunition factory. Now we know that V2 missiles were made there.
Two shifts worked in the factory, one night shift and one day shift. The day shift worked from very early in the morning till five and the night shift worked immediately after. My sister and I worked the day shift.
Alma was our Kapo. She was German, non-Jewish. There were German SS women who were Aufsherin and there were also four Jewish Arbeiterin who were responsible for the Jewish girls. This was the hierarchy.
My job was to inspect some of the manufactured pieces on the production line. They were round bakelite pieces very much in the shape and size of a checker. Each piece had a little indentation. My job was to check those indentations and move the pieces on to the second person on the line.
My sister5 also worked in the Union factory, but she worked in the Pulverraum together with Ruzia Meth. The Pulverraum was the only place in the factory where they were handling gunpowder. Nine girls were involved in this small department.
We smuggled the gunpowder from the factory into the camp. It was smuggled in tiny little pieces of cloth, tied up with a string. Inside our dresses we had what we called a little boit'l, a pocket, and the biot'l was where everybody hid their little treasures, wrapped in pieces of cloth. Often there were searches. When they conducted searches we used to untie the string and spill the gunpowder behind us on the ground so it wouldn't be found.
My sister brought the gunpowder out. She gave it to me and to other girls, whose names I don't remember.6 I gave it to another girl in the camp, and this girl gave it to another girl who was running between Auschwitz and Birkenau. The fourth girl,7 who was executed, was the one who used to give it directly to the man who worked in the crematorium. I think we were involved in it for about eight months.
Very little contact was permitted between men and women but we managed somehow. None of the people in charge had any idea that gunpowder was being smuggled out. There was one man that I knew, a Belgian Jew whose name I don't remember, who was participating in the resistance in the men's Lager. He was my link with the men. He was blond, slight and had green eyes. He was about 30 or 35 years old. I had contact with him. When my sister was taken to the bunker,8 which was a prison in the men's Lager, I approached him to ask for information. I needed to know what others were saying so that my explanation would coincide with theirs. But he pushed me away saying, "Don't ever come near me. I don't want anybody to see you with me." This was the end of my contact with him.
I'm not sure how many people were involved because there was such great secrecy. I only knew about myself, about Ruzia,9 about Estusia,10 and I think Alla.11 I cannot remember anybody else. We only knew each other and we were very, very careful.
It began this way. A small group of girls were getting together after work in Auschwitz dreaming of Israel, singing Hebrew songs and talking about life outside, or in the future, if we survive. I remembered my agonizing decision in Warsaw, whether to go with HaShomer HaTzair12 into the ghetto or to stay with my parents. It left me terribly guilty. The last order of the day in HaShomer HaTzair was that we were not going to let ourselves be taken alive. We were all going to die, but were not giving our lives for nothing. I survived the Warsaw ghetto, and I felt guilty. Nobody in Auschwitz, unless they came from the Warsaw ghetto, knew about what happened there. We, too, decided that we were not going to let ourselves be taken without a struggle. We came from different countries, from different walks of life, from different organizations and some were not affiliated with any organizations. We were about seven or eight girls, no more.