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[Page 336]

Hava Wuszka Jolles, A Girl Who Fought

by Menachem Levenstein

Translated by Sara Mages

[Caption under the photo]
Seated: Ita, wife of Motish Eckstein. On the right: Hava Wuszka Jolles
On the left: Chana daughter of Reuven Eckstein.

A column of female Jewish prisoners left the gates of the notorious Montelupich prison, and walked slowly to the center of Helclow Street in the city of Krakow.

The young women, who were dressed in rags, rubbed their eyes. They were blinded by the rays of the morning sun. The air was sharp and cold.

They just came out of a dark damp cell, number 15, in the prison's basement. There were over twenty young women there. Some were fighters in the Jewish resistance of Krakow Ghetto. They were captured and imprisoned after a row of daring actions which caused heavy losses to the Germans

They knew where they were being taken. To the “death hill” of Plaszow concentration camp, from which no one returned.

The column moved slowly. The SS guard, who led the column, shouted: Fast! Fast! The column slowed its progress until it stopped. A peasant's wagon rolled slowly towards the column. The second S.S. man, who stood at the rear, froze in his position.

The girls listened carefully, waiting for the agreed signal. But it wasn't late to come. The familiar voice of Hava Jolles pierced the silence. The girls leaped in all directions. Shots, screams, the first bullet missed, the second bullet hit Hava. With her shout she gave the signal for the escape, and thus, she directed the full attention of the German guards towards her - and fell bleeding profusely. Four girls managed to escape, the rest were killed or captured.

Hava has come a long way in the three and a half years since she graduated, at the age of sixteen and a half, from the trade school in her birthplace Rzeszow. She was born on 5 October 1923, the youngest daughter to Mendel-Menachem and Tehila from the Eckstein family.

She had been orphaned from her father at the age of seven, and her older brothers and sisters scattered in all directions. Some wandered to a place of Torah, and some left for distant lands. Today, out of five brothers and sisters, only her older sister Chaya, who immigrated to Israel in 1933, is still alive. Hava remained with her mother and both of them lived with her grandfather, R' Mordechai Eckstein.

Hava joined “Hashomer Hatzair” movement at an early age. “I study during the day, and the night is dedicated to the movement's nest” - she wrote to her sister in Israel. In her last letter she writes: “I finished school with honors and I was sent to a youth camp for the summer months…”

She was sixteen when the Nazis invaded Poland. Few are the details about her activities during the first two years of the war. Obviously, she continued with the battle for existence together with the rest of the Jews. The Nazi beast began to tighten its death trap on the Jews of Poland. Her family - mother, old grandmother, sister and brothers - disappeared, one by one, and perished in the death camps.

[Page 337]

One of her brothers headed eastward and tried to flee to Russia, but all traces of him were lost. Hava knew how to evade the Germans and moved to the Arian side. She didn't only save her life, but also the life of other Jews. Young men and women, who owe her their life, live in Israel. She smuggled them out of the ghetto to hiding places in the Arian side.

She brought my niece Gizla to our hiding place, sat and ate with us. We found out that her name was Wuszka Jolles. She got up and left - and we haven't heard from her again. It turns out, that thanks to her courage she managed to slip away from all the Aktziot that were carried out in the ghetto.

Hava transferred her main activity to nearby Krakow. As a member of “Hashomer Hatzair” she was immediately recruited to the resistance which was led by: Heshek [Zvi] Bauminger (the organization's leader), Benek (Binjamin) Halbreich (operation officer) and Salk Schein (treasurer and provider of forged documents, today he lives in Petah Tikva). For security reasons the resistance was organized in groups of five. Hava has been appointed as the headquarters' liaison.

To understand the significance of the role of a liaison, it's necessary to review the conditions which existed in the locations where she operated. The Jews were concentrated in a narrow ghetto with two gates. They were allowed to enter and leave with a permit, and only during daylight hours. Also in the city the Germans could arrest a person at any moment, and traveling from city to city was very dangerous. The Jews were forbidden to travel. Permits were inspected at the entrance to the train station. and spot checks were conducted in the cars. The Germans searched for everything: smuggled food, escaped prisoners of war, people without work certificates and without travel permits. A Jew that was caught - was taken into custody, and if he was lucky - he was executed on the spot. A Jew, who was suspected of being a member of an underground organization, was interrogated at length, and severely tortured before his execution.

And here is Hava, a Jewish woman without an “Aryan appearance,” leaves the ghetto in the morning, carrying leaflets, weapons, the organization's newsletter, firebombs, and at times, a smuggled child that a hiding place was found for him outside the ghetto. She boards the train in Krakow. She sits in the car, the leaflets and her purse next to her - a pistol and a grenade on her body. Around her Polish men and women, their eyes are prying, at any moment someone might recognize her. The train stops in Bochnia. Policemen enter the car. Documents are checked. This time they didn't search. Arriving to Rzeszów and descending with tension. Somehow she also walks out of here safely, and now, quickly - to the ghetto. To look if someone was following her. To slip unnoticed to the secret address. Deliver the material. An action was planned for that evening - and its success depends on the firebomb that Hava is bringing. Shalom (Parizk) Globerman, today a resident of Tel-Aviv, is telling: “These bombs were made by a physicist, who was with the fighters in Krakow, from primitive materials. A cardboard box the size of a shoe box, filled with shredded films. There was a hole in the box. The box was brought to the sabotage area together with a bottle of acid that was mixed with another substance. When the acid consumed the paper and dripped into the film, it burst into flames, and a garage or an officers' club went up in flames.” And Hava brings the material to Rzeszow, Bochnia and closer locations. The journey to Rzeszow is about 129km. It's necessary to return soon, because the searches will intensify after the operation. Dozens of journeys - thousands of kilometers, a week pursues a week, a month pursues a month. Each note needs to be delivered to a neighboring town - thousands of seconds, and each one of them means the danger of torture and threat of death.

The mother, the family - all have already disappeared. The goal now - to hit the Germans. To fulfill a duty - and to see a friend, Moshe Traum, for which, in this cauldron, a romantic corner is reserved in the heart of an 18 year old girl.

Years later, Pessia Warshawsky (today a member of Kibbutz Aylon) says, that Hava (Wuszka as she was called by her friends) was born for these roles. “She had an abundance of inner confidence which radiated around her.” She was quick and knew how to avoid danger. She was caught a number of times - but with an amazing speed she managed to distract her captures and slip from their hands.

She also participated in offensive operations. In the book “Jewish Partisans” Volume B (page 154), we find “…Two Gestapo detectives sat and drank in a tavern on 4 Jalana Street. The fighters Laban, Libeskind, Hava Jolles and Faiz'ka ambushed them and shot them. They attacked the cash register at the Bochnia strain station. We need both, money and German victims…”

In the hours between missions, she sat together with the members of the headquarters, Heshek Bauminger, Benek Halbreich and Schein, in the attic which served as the headquarters, a place of residence and a hiding place. She prepared meals and helped with everything that was needed.

At any time of danger - Salk Schein is telling - when the Germans increased their searches, the members of the headquarters, even those with “Aryan appearance” didn't dare to go out. It it was necessary to arrange urgent matters in the city, Hava set off, day and night.

The relationship between them and the Jews weren't without friction. Most of the Jews in the ghetto, especially the older ones - opposed their activities. They feared that these operations may bring the end closer. However, there wasn't a total unity among the members of the underground. The “Akiva” organization had its own active underground, and the members of “Hashomer Hatzair” - had their own organization. Hava was the liaison between the two organizations, and passed information and plans of action for the joint activities. She also connected between the organization and the P.P.R (the Polish revolutionary party).

Pesia Warschawski is adding: “Hava had a direct access to people. She was tall, broad-shouldered, her face was round, and she had lively big eyes. Her maturity was felt immediately despite her young face. She was articulate and wise. She didn't suffer from false illusions, which characterize people in a state of hopelessness. She was a realistic in her character, and together with it, she was subjected to the feelings of love and longing of a young woman. Those around her felt her inner strength which radiated around her.”

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After the organizational activity, which began in the first months of 1942, and a series of acts of sabotage on installations and the killing of individual Germans for more than half a year, it was decided on a turning point in the underground's activity. The relationship between “Akiva” and “Hashomer Hatzair” was tightened towards larger operations. The boldest operation took place on 22 December 1942, at the dawn of Christmas. On a single night several cafés and officers clubs were attacked. Blue and white flags were hoisted on the bridges of the city of Krakow. Firefighters were dispatched to remote corners of the city. The main action was in Cyganeria Café. The place was bombarded with grenades and bombs- and many senior German officers were killed. This activity aggravated the situation, and the Germans set out to eliminate the underground. Many members were arrested, some of them as a result of denunciations. The commanders were captured. The underground activity concentrated mainly in self-preservation. Hava moved to Kalwaria, and continued with the clandestine work together with Gustek Deutscher. They managed to carry on for three more months. In March 1943, they were caught and thrown to Montelupich prison. We can read full details about the prison and life in “Justyna's Diary” [1] (published by Hakibbutz Hameuchad Publishing House).

Hava was in jail for almost month. On 29 April 1943, the girls were intended for a “transport” to an unknown direction. The members of the underground organizations, and also most of the fighters, decided on the last action - perhaps the last in their life… During the transfer, when they'll lead us from Helclow to the courtyard of Montelupich prison, to transport us to “Plaszow's hill” for extermination, they will encounter an unexpected obstacle: in the alley, in front of the prison, we will break into the end of the street, a place of normal traffic. The Germans would open fire at us and chase us. They will kill us in the streets. But the city will know that we didn't walk like sheep to the slaughter. It will be told through the city that Jewish women dared to “rebel openly before their death…” (from the words of Eugenia Meltzer, “Jewish Partisan” Volume 2 page 161).

Pesia Warschawski is telling: “after it was decided to escape, a question arose, who will give the signal. The success of the entire operation depended on the signal. The person who would give the signal will draw the attention of the guards to her. The signal had to be strong and loud, and heard throughout the column of 30 girls. Hava stood up and said: “I will give the signal…” Pesia Warschawski remained in jail, she wasn't sent in this transport. Through the small window she could see how the column stopped, heard Hava's shout, and saw the girls scattered to the barrage of gun fire and the screams that filled the street. At nightfall Pesia heard a knock on the cell's window. One of the guards (whose entire family was in a concentration camp) whispered excitedly: “I must tell you about the escape.” I wasn't on duty and watched the column. Suddenly, the big Jewish girl gave a signal, and all of them started to run. The big girl, who gave the signal, was shot and fell first.”

In this manner, Hava, granddaughter of Motish and Ita Eckstein, fell on the pavement of Helclow Street, and she was nineteen and a half years old.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. “Justyn'as Narrative” - http://books.google.com/books/about/Justyna_s_Narrative.html?id=2NjEDbHFnzwC Back

Reisha in 1946

by Marcus Dornfest

Translated by Sara Mages

In 1946, the truth was revealed in all of its horrors. I didn't delude myself, I knew that everyone perished. Yet, I longed to reach Reisha, my birthplace.

Here is the deserted square (Rynek) with the Town Hall clock tower. Poor Nathan Hoffan used to stand here for hours, looking at the hands of the clock, and find it difficult to determine the time. Along the streets, rows of Jewish homes turned into a heap of rubble. Even our meager house was destroyed, and in its place a road leads to the Vislok River. In house number 4, in two rooms on the ground floor, which used to be a fabric store, the Reisha's committee just opened its office. It serves as a temporary shelter for Holocaust survivors, residents of Reisha, who returned to the city.

For lack of financial means to continue my journey westward, and without a clear prospect for my future, I began working for the security service. Once, when I sat in my office immersed in my work - a work that I didn't enjoy because I had to discover the fate of my former friends during the mass imprisonments, torture and extermination - the door opened and a young handsome officer entered the room. With a smile on his lips he threw several pictures on my desk and said “this is for you!”

Without glancing at them I asked him for the nature of the pictures, “The Secret Service arrested an SS man and found these photos in his possession. Do you want to know who is photographed in them?” I didn't respond to his question, and when I turned my eyes to the pictures I was shocked. The officer's face, which saw me shocked and moved, grew serious. “These are Reisha's people, it happened in the forests near Glogow, do you recognize them?” I couldn't answer this question because the power of speech was taken from me. The images in the photos weren't familiar to me because they were taken by an amateur and weren't clear.

There is no need to describe the difficult ordeal that was caused me as a result of my meeting with the murderer, the SS man. He squirmed during the investigation and avoided giving answers. He repeated the song that he carried out his superiors orders. He explained what was shown in the pictures, even though it was easy to understand their content. In the pictures it was possible to see “our people” climbing on the trucks that led them the forests, the Polish policemen who downloaded them from the trucks, removed their clothes, and helped them to dig pits…


[Page 339]

Reisha's rebellious daughter

(A chapter of memories from Auschwitz)

by M. Weinstein-Lazer - Tel-Aviv

Translated by Sara Mages

January 1944. At that time I worked the night shift at the “Union” munitions factory. It was during the worst selections. My three sisters (Chava, Rozia and Rachel) were sent to the gas chambers. Right now it's difficult to write about these things. It happened in one of the evenings of the month of February. Our company marched as usual to our work place, and here, trucks filled with people passed before us in the direction of the crematorium. In an instant, their naked bodies flickered in the headlights, and disappeared. We heard heartbreaking cries. I knew that my three sisters were transferred in one of these trucks.

The men, who sang “Hatikva,” were transferred in another truck. This melody penetrated deep into my soul, and didn't leave me for a moment, day or night, in my dreams and when I was awake. It accompanied me on my way to work and back. One Sunday, Ela Gartner walked over to me and told me that she wanted to talk to me. It was the first time that I saw her. I walked out to the yard with her, and she told me: you lost three sisters, and I can tell you how you can avenge their blood. You work in the manufacturing of explosives, which are necessary for us. Who are you? - I asked. Ela answered me that she would give me the information if I agree to cooperate with her. I agreed. A few hours later she presented Rozka Robota and another young blonde girl whose name I no longer remember. Both of them worked in the dressing rooms.

Rozka told me the plans of the “special company” (“Sonderkommando”) without giving me the names of the members. After we plotted the plan for the next few days, I left them and returned to the hut with Ela. I didn't believe that it could be possible to fulfill these plans, in my opinion, it seemed impossible to raise a rebellion in Auschwitz. But I had nothing to lose. Two days later, when I returned to the camp from the factory, I've already had the first batch in my pocket - a packet of gunpowder. It was just an experience, because we weren't sure if the “special company” could benefit from this stuff.

A few days later we received a positive response, and I was asked to provide the maximum quantity of gunpowder. It wasn't an easy matter. The foreman grumbled that we wasted a lot of powder. He started to weigh the powder in the saucers, and knew how many cartridges we could fill with the amount of powder that was given to us. But, I secretly took a teaspoon or two from every saucer, and put it into the packet in my pocket. Five young women worked with me. Regina Sapir sat next to me. I knew her well, and knew that I could trust her. I told her why we need this powder, and she immediately agreed to cooperate. She even got angry that I didn't tell her earlier. Out of all the girls I only trusted Ester Weisblum (Astosha). And indeed, later on she proved herself with her actions, initiative and cleverness. She took out the powder straight from the fireproof box. This box stood in the next room and the keys were always in the foreman's hands, but sometimes he left the keys on the table, or left the box open. Astosha used these opportunities skillfully. After the night shift at the explosives warehouse was eliminated, I was transferred to work at the spraying warehouse, and all the burden of removing the powder fell on shoulders of Regina and Astosha. Only sometimes I was able to help them to transport the powder from the factory to the camp. Henia Weisblum, Astosha's sister, also helped us.

Searches and inspections were conducted every day when we entered and left the factory. The most severe inspections were the personal searches at the entrance to the camp. More than once we had to carefully disperse the powder on the sand. It was particularly difficult to get rid of the powder in the form of solid grains, since we had to crumble it with our fingers. The heart throbbed like a hammer, and the Germans sniffed around us like dogs. At the camp we gave the material to Ela who passed it to Rozka in the “dressing room,” and she gave it to the “special company.” From them I learnt that the “company” opened a small factory in which they cast cartridges and filled them with the powder that we provided. There was also a contact with the underground, and the entire enterprise was managed by a Russian Jew, an officer in the Soviet Army, whose name I don't know.

A few weeks later the “Union” factory was transferred to another camp, and the contact with it was severed. I will restrict myself and tell the facts relating to our friends.

After the extermination of the members of the “special company,” the Germans discovered their ammunition factory. It became clear to them that the gunpowder was stolen from the “Union” factory. Bur since none of the members of the “special company” was alive, the Germans searched in all directions. One day they arrested two workers at the explosives warehouse: Regina and Astosha, but they didn't reveal anything. They stood bravely against the interrogators who tortured them, and didn't break down. The Germans took brutal measures but failed to get anything out of them. They brought them to the crematoriums and threatened to burn them if they won't give the names of their partners, and promised to release them if they would give the names of the guilty. These two brave young women didn't admit to anything, or gave anyone away. A few days later they returned to work beaten, wounded, bruised and bloody, like they had come from another world. We didn't recognize their faces. They avoided all contact with the other workers, because they felt that they were being watched.

“We were in hell, don't approach us because they are following us” - Regina told me the day after she returned. Much later, and with great difficulties, we were able to learn from her the details of the brutal investigation. We thought that with that the matter ended, but to our sorrow, a bitter disappointment awaited us.

Because of a silly incident they fell again into the hands of the German executioners. This time they paid with their life for their courage and the weakness of others.

[Page 340]

Even today, twenty years later, my hands are shaking as I write these words. Again, I am reliving the nightmare, and I can't grasp the chain of circumstances. In Birkenau, two women slept on the same bunk with Ela and me. One of them was X. Once, during a search, they found forbidden items that belonged to X. She was arrested. Ela was arrested on the day she was released. X was transferred to an easy job, but Ela was taken to an atrocious and cruel interrogation. Ela wasn't able to face this terrible investigation, and after three days of torture she gave the Germans the names of Astosha, Regina and Rozka, but this trio stood bravely in front of their interrogators to the last moment of their life. The Germans didn't get a single word out of them. All four were sentenced to death by hanging, and the sentence was carried out.

I didn't decorate my memories with the fruit of imagination. I only gave the facts and the absolute truth.


Gola (Golda) Mire, an Anti-Nazi Fighter

by Dr. Moshe Yaari Wald

Translated by Sara Mages

My poems are my assault in torture on actions and plots.
These poems are like arms that yearn for a weapon. (Gola)

I didn't know Gola Mire, but I've heard from our townspeople, the survivors of the ghettos and the camps, about her glowing personality, her desire to help those who suffer, her struggle with the enemies of the Jewish people, her efforts to break the fetters of evil, her heroism in the clandestine war against the German occupiers, her torture, and about the organization of the Krakow Ghetto uprising together with her friends: Justyna [Gusta Dawidson Draenger], Dolek Liebeskind and his friends from all the youth movements. Her friends asked me to dedicate an article in the Yizkor Book to the heroine of our city, and I turned to them and also to her mother Gizla who lives in Netanya. Their answer was, that they couldn't express and describe her personality, in her life and her death. Finally, her friend Rivka Kuper, a member of Kibbutz Degania Bet, responded to my request. According to our conversation and a letter from Gola's brother, a member of Moshav Beit HaLevi, I'm writing this short article.

I knew her mother's family. Her mother was the daughter of Leib Landman from Reisha, who owned a warehouse for the export of feathers. It was an observant family. Gola was born in 1911, grew in our city, and graduated high school as an exceptional student. She was gracious, pleasant, wise and gentle. Her anti-Semitic teachers also admired her, because a pure soul and a clean conscience resided in her, and the spirit of poetry pulsed in her. At that time, she still belonged to “Hashomer Hatzair” movement. She spent several hours a day tutoring the children of the rich, and dedicated her income to outstanding students of the poor, to enable them to continue their studies.

In 1929 her parents immigrated to Belgium, however, upon the movement's request, Gola moved to Lvov to work in the main leadership of “Hashomer Hatzair.”

It was in the 1930s. The Nazi beast grew stronger in Germany and undermined the foundations of the Weimar Republic. The anti-Semitism of the Sanatzia [the government of Joseph Pilsudski between the First and Second World Wars] raged in Poland. In Israel, the British government slowly slowly emptied the content of the Balfour Declaration from its anti-Jewish interpretation, and issued decrees on immigration. The desperate Jewish youth, who was thirsty for redemption, was confused and many lost their patience and faith, and as in the days of the Messianic movement of Shabbetai Tzvi, many expected the Messiah and immediate redemption. The light of the communist doctrine, which came from Moscow, blinded the eyes of the best intellectual youth of all nations, especially our youth, until some of them realized that this God had failed. I remember the period of André Gide, Artúr Kösztler, Stephen Harold Spender, Albert Camus and others, who returned disappointed from Moscow. At that time, there was a struggle in “Hashomer Hatzair” between those who were loyal to Zion and the followers of the Communist party. In 1932, Gola left the movement together with her husband, Alexander Hausman from Przemyśl, and joined the PPR (the communist labor party) in Lvov. At that time, Gola earned her livelihood working at the “Kontakt” electronic factory. She wrote articles and pamphlets until she was arrested. At the trial, which took place in Przemyśl, she appeared without a counsel. She was a remarkable speaker and the judges were spellbound by her words. Yet, they sentenced her for 12 years of hard labor, and transferred her to Bydgoszcz prison near the German border. When the war between Poland and Germany broke out the prison guards fled, Gola and her friends broke the gate and headed westward until they reached Bialystok which was in Russian hands. The communists transferred her to Lvov where she met her husband. From Lvov she wrote letters in Hebrew to her brother Yosef, who lived in Kibbutz Ein HaMifratz and later moved to Moshav Beit HaLevi. The Ukrainians ruled Lvov, and Gola and her husband were accepted with joy to the “Kontakt” factory where they worked during the Polish rule. Gola continued to study at the Polytechnic, and was appointed as a justice of the peace

[Page 341]

in the communist regime. In 1941, the war broke out again and Germany invaded Russia. Gola was at the last months of her pregnancy and remained in Lvov. Her husband joined the retreating Russians and all traces of him were lost. Gola, lonely, hungry and hunted, delivered her baby in the basement where she hid from German informers. A short time later she was able to contact her family in Krakow, and they sent a Christian friend to bring her and her baby to Krakow's Jewish quarter. It was in the winter of 1941. The difficult journey and the hardship weakened the young mother. She arrived to Krakow with wounded feet, exhausted and weary, and a critically ill baby who died several days later. The devoted mother, who retired from her political work to take care of her baby, slowly recovered and rejoined the underground. She wrote poems in Hebrew, Yiddish and Polish, and a few of them were published in the “Partisans Book.” In the resistance she was known by the name of “Lidka.”

Krakow's Jews were locked in a ghetto. The Jewish youth, who was educated in various youth movements, united for action. The common destiny united - Aharon (Dolek) Liebeskind, Rivka Kuper, “Justyna” (Gusta Dawidson), Shimshon Draenger (Simek) from the “Akivah,” Heshek [Zvi] Bauminger from “Hashomer Hatzair,” Avraham “Laban” Leibowich from “Dror-Freiheit,” and Gola Mire from the communist party. The fighting group organized acts of sabotage against the Germans. Near Plaszow they derailed a train which carried ammunition to the eastern front. On Christmas 1942, they threw bombs and grenades into restaurants where the Germans celebrated. Gola also contacted ghettos in other cities (including Reisha). She was captured at the PPR printing office because of a denunciation, and was sent to Montelupich prison. There, the Gestapo beat her for 14 days and kept her in a dark cell. Gola wasn't broken in spirit. She threw words of scorn at their faces and ended: “your defeat will come soon.”

In May 1943, Gola was taken, together with Justyna and the rest of the members, from the prison for a transfer to Auschwitz. Together with Justyna she organized a mass escape during the “transport.” There were 30 girls in this transport. The girls escaped, but didn't get far because the Germans hunted them. Gola was shot and killed during the escape, and Justyna managed to escape. She operated in the forests together with six members of the ground until she was caught and executed in November 1943. Out of the 30 girls only one managed to stay alive and reach Israel. She is Genia Meltzer Schonefeld from Krakow.

Gola's struggle against the Nazis was also appreciated by the Polish ruling circles. After the defeat of Germany, the Polish government posthumously awarded her its highest decoration for military valor [the Order Virtuti Militari].

 

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