Women of Valor: Partisans and Resistance Fighters
Zenia Malecki | Part I | Part II | Part III | Footnotes

Zenia Malecki - Part II

We had schools for the children in the ghetto. We had a choir. We had theater. We had discussions. It's just unbelievable. Can you imagine? We wrote poems and songs. We did whatever we could. The mothers were called to special discussions. I'll never forget what they said, "Now we are in a cage, but we have to do everything, everything possible that when the children will come out of the cage, they should be able to fly." They did everything they could to create a normal atmosphere. A leader from Warsaw, Jozef Muszkat,10 really taught the women to do everything for the children, so that they shouldn't feel that they were in a cage.

The Resistance had a lot of trouble with the Judenrat. As a matter of fact, when the Gestapo demanded that the Judenrat give up Witenberg,11 the FPO leaders tried to convince the Judenrat that liquidation will come anyway, so why should we give away our leader?

Abba Kovner's mother lived at the same address as our bakery. She wore long, old fashioned skirts. I got a skirt from her and I dressed Yizhak Witenberg as a woman and took him to my room, which we used in emergencies. Witenberg was hidden in my room, and I was the contact between him and the staff. I had the key to the room, and we communicated like in a prison. Three short taps and one long; that was our signal. Then I got the order that the FPO staff decided to give him up, because they said if Witenberg will not be given to the Gestapo the liquidation of the entire ghetto will come. If he will be delivered to the Gestapo, there will be no liquidation. When I got this order, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I just couldn't.

I went up to my room, to Yizhak Witenberg, and I said, "Yizhak, the staff decided to give you up." I said, "Look, we will go up to the attic." The criminal police were downstairs; it was a bright, sunny day. He dressed himself again, with a scarf; I will never forget his face. I took him up to the attic even though the criminal police ordered all the attics to be closed. You hung the laundry in the attics, which were connected from one building to another, but the connecting doors were locked. I went up to Mrs. Davidowich and I said, "Oh no, I'm not going to give it to you." I said, "Please." But she didn't give it to me. I searched until I found one hole that he could squeeze through because he was very skinny. I left him up there. When somebody came and asked, "Where is Yizhak?" I said, "I don't know." I just couldn't tell them and I couldn't give him up. I couldn't, no.

By doing this I worked against the staff of the FPO and I want you to know that we were very much like soldiers. We had discipline. We had to obey orders. Witenberg tried to run from one attic to another and the criminal police found him anyway. It took a whole day. Then I felt guilty that I didn't follow orders so I wrote a letter to the staff in which I said, "I committed a crime, so to speak. I didn't follow orders." I had a small trial, but they understood and didn't punish me. The leaders of the FPO at that time who were making the decision to give up Witenberg were Abba Kovner, Abraham Chwojnik, Sonia Madeysker, and Nissan Reznik and the Judenrat. This was the Witenberg chapter in my life which I think created my character. I was very young then.

Meanwhile, Witenberg's wife, Etel, and younger son were hiding because she didn't have a yellow Schein.12 Since I was the connection between Witenberg and the staff, he asked me to go to his wife and tell her that he was all right. I went in there and she said, "Zenia, I can't take it any more. All the women are saying, "Nu, nu, did they catch him already? Did they catch him?" She was sitting there with the child.13 She was a little woman, slim. She said, "I probably will have a heart attack here" But she didn't.

After Witenberg was taken away,14 Abba Kovner took command15. We had out meetings. We had also connections with the Polish partisans. Sonia Madeysker16 looked like a Christian girl and she was very important. She organized everything. We were trained to work with rifles and we also filled up bulbs with acid. In case we would have to resist, we planned to throw the bulbs because we didn't have enough armament. We did everything ourselves.

© Copyright Judy Cohen, 2001.
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