Women of Valor: Partisans and Resistance Fighters
Anna Heilman - Part II
Out of this friendship evolved the ideas of resistance. I can't tell you who initiated it ... The idea was what could we do, each one of us, to resist? I thought, "You are working in the Pulverraum. How about taking gunpowder?" We started to talk about the idea. The gunpowder was within our reach. We thought, "We can use it!" Somebody in the group knew that the Sonderkommando was preparing resistance. We said, "Let us give the gunpowder to them!" We gave it through Marta to Anitchka who was working in Birkenau. She ran between Auschwitz and Birkenau and gave it to Roza Robota. Roza Robota gave it to the men in the Sonderkommando. This is how it went.
Among a very select few there was talk about a plan for mass escape, but we didn't know who or when or where. We only knew that they would use the gunpowder for blowing up the crematorium. We knew that the Sonderkommando had decided to burn the crematorium because they knew that every Sonderkommando was going to be executed.13 There was contact between the Resistance in the camp and the PPR,14 the Resistance outside of camp. In our group there was a girl who had direct contact with PPR. We were waiting for word from the PPR to tell us when they would start from the outside.15 We would then start to rebel from the inside, to break the camp down because the Russians were coming. But somebody from the Sonderkommando snitched on them and they were attacked by the Germans before they had a chance to carry out their planned revolt. A crematorium was blown up16. And then the time to die approached.
We went on the famous death march in January17. We walked on foot in snow piled so deep we felt we were walking on our knees. We didn't see our legs any more. Marta took me bodily. She had to force me to come; I wanted to stay in Auschwitz. It was worse than a nightmare. We stayed in Ravenbruck18 just a few days. Then we were transferred to Neustaddt Glewe19 by train in cattle cars.
After liberation I was in a hospital. I was operated on several times for gangrene and then I refused to be operated on again. Finally we were repatriated, but I decided that I didn't have anything to go back to Poland for. I convinced my camp sister, Marta, to come with me to Belgium because one of the nurses was telling us that the best ice cream in the world was in Belgium. I said, "We are going to Belgium." We were flown there by the Red Cross plane and I stayed in Belgium for a year before I went with Youth Aliyah to Israel. I married in Israel in 1950. We came to the States in 1958, and after two years we went to Canada. I find it very difficult to speak about it; I find it very difficult to remember, but I understand that this is my responsibility and I want to bring about the commemmoration of the four girls who were executed in Auschwitz. This is what I wanted to do; this is the essence of my talk.
My Auschwitz number was forty-eight, one hundred and fifty (48150). The numbers add up to Chai.20 The girl who tattooed my numbers told me: "You are going to come out alive because your number is Chai."
Interviewed by: Bonnie Gurewitsch, 10/14/85