Women of Valor: Partisans and Resistance Fighters
Zenia Malecki - Part I
Soon after the Germans came they started to catch men in the street. People would go to business and not come back. The Lithuanians cooperated, collaborating with the Germans. One day in Autumn 1941, the Germans came into our house and said, "Take what you can," and we were sent to the ghetto. We had a good friend, a very handsome young Pole, who had come to my parents before that and said that there would be a ghetto. He wanted to make some papers for me as a Karaite.2 But I said, whatever will happen to my parents will happen to me. My parents also hesitated. Somehow they didn't trust him, but later, when we were in the ghetto, he was waiting at the entrance and when we went to work, he brought bread. He risked his life and hid and he waited for me and my father. He probably wanted to prove he was a good human being.
The Germans didn't ask anything. They ordered. There was no conversation. Sometimes I see in the movies that Jews talked to Germans. It didn't exist. There was an order and you were afraid and you did what they said.
There were two ghettos. Ghetto 2 was closer to our house so they took us there. It was the old Jewish area. It had very narrow streets. People were already living there and other people came as well, so we didn't have anywhere to live. My mother, my father and I were lying on the floor, in a corner of a room. We didn't go out to work yet because we had the feeling that this was only temporary. It couldn't continue like that. We weren't at all organized. We were there three weeks or so.
Then came the liquidation of the second ghetto. They took people to Ponar3 and killed them. There were constant Aktions. They used to come in and take whomever they wanted, old people, young people. Germans came with Lithuanians. They just accumulated a group of people and took them away and that was that. We knew that Ponar was a place where they killed them. One girl escaped from Ponar and her mother was still in the second ghetto. She told about it. We believed anything. Anything. We understood that this was it. We go to death.
When the second ghetto was liquidated we went to the first ghetto.4 With our bundles in our hands we were looking for some spot, some corner. We went to the apartment of the parents of some people who were in the same business as my father. Again, we slept on the floor because it was impossible to get a regular room.
From there, my father5 organized a bakery called The Public Bakery, Die Gesellschaftliche Bekerei, located on Oszmiana 8. The idea was that everybody who belonged to the FPO, the Fareynitke Partizaner Organizatsye, (United Partisan Organization) could get bread.
At the same time, the FPO was organized in the first ghetto intending to prepare the youth and whoever wanted to belong to resist.6 That was the resistance. The partisan staff had a command post on Oszmiana 8. That was the place where we could hide rifles and whatever we could "organize". When we came to the first ghetto everything was already organized. My friend Sonia Madeysker was one of the leaders of the partisans. She was a very, very important member of the FPO. She perished, unfortunately. At that time she was very active and this is actually how I got into the underground.
The resistance consisted of people from all shades of political inclinations: Zionists, Revisionists, Beitar, HaShomer HaTzair, Communists, Bundists; everybody was in FPO. This is why it was called United Partisans Organization. We knew we would have to do something. We couldn't be passive any more. Our leader was Witenberg, Yizhak Witenberg. There were also Jewish police in the ghetto. Thanks to an uncle of my friend, Hershke Gordon, who was in the Judenrat. I got a kitchen in on apartment. They took out the stove and everything and that was a room which was used for an emergency. I lived there with my mother. My father lived nearby on Oszmianska 8.
There were times I worked with my father besides being in the bakery. My father used to go out of the ghetto on purpose to bring in whatever he could. Everyone who had a yellow Schein could work. Otherwise, you were really condemned to death. So whoever could, got a yellow Schein from the Judenrat. My father got one in order to be able to go out to get ammunition for the rifles or other parts for the FPO. He smuggled things in. I also smuggled them in. You couldn't carry a whole gun; you had to smuggle it in parts. It was a holy task. We had to do it. It was our goal. We didn't have anything, just survival.
Whenever there was some order from the Germans, they transmitted it to us and we had to carry it out. There might be an order that on a certain day, they would want a number of people. Gens7 and Dessler,8 our Judenrat leaders, had to provide the people. After every Aktion they let us rest for a couple of days and then again and again they demanded people. It is difficult to admit, but when our own people got the order they had to take the people. The Jewish police would come and take the old people first.
There was great hunger. We had rations, but because we were involved in the bakery we had a little bit more bread. Some people used to smuggle food into the ghetto when they went to work. I had long narrow pockets sewn into my clothes so I could smuggle in flour or peas. One time I was caught and, oh my God, I was beaten. When we walked back into the ghetto with the SS someone walking with another group, or even someone from the Jewish Police would walk towards our group, and say: "Kittel9 is at the entrance." Kittel was a murderer. He threw me in the corner and I was beaten - oh God! Because he found some peas in my pocket.