Thursday, May 07, 2015

At What Time Do You Decide?

Dr. Sophie Turner-Zaretsky (born Selma Schwarzwald) is the daughter of Laura (Litwak) and Daniel Schwarzwald...Selma's mother had studied economics at the Lvov Academy of Commerce before her marriage. During World War II the Schwarzwalds remained in Lvov through the Soviet occupation.
Following the German invasion in June 1941, Daniel obtained a job as a guard in a hostel for Organization Todt construction workers. In November 1941 the family was forced into the Lvov ghetto, along with Laura's parents, Josef and Mina Litwak, and three of her siblings, Emanuel, Adela, and Fryda. (A fourth sibling, Edek Litwak, had immigrated in the early 1930s to Palestine, where he died of typhus in 1935.) Through the window of their room in the ghetto, which overlooked Janowska Street, Laura observed the deportations of Jews from the city. It was a Polish landlady who first suggested to the Schwarzwalds that Laura and Selma flee from the ghetto and seek refuge in a Polish resort town. She even supplied them with a Christian Bible and prayer book to give them cover. Daniel then started making efforts to secure false documents for them. He purchased a birth certificate for Selma and a marriage document for Laura. In addition, he found false papers for Adela and Fryda Litwak. In August 1942 Josef and Mina Litwak were rounded up and deported to Belzec. By this time the ghetto was nearly empty, and Daniel decided that his wife and child must leave at once. Before they could do so, however, Daniel was caught up in an action that took place on September 1 at the headquarters of the Jewish council. On that day the entire membership of the Judenrat was rounded up and hanged in reprisal for the death of a German soldier. Daniel tried to escape from the building by jumping out of the window, but he was shot and killed.
The three Litwak siblings decided that Laura and Selma would be the first to leave the ghetto. They did so on September 6. With the assistance of a Pole, who subsequently stole their luggage, Laura and Selma boarded a train for Krakow. Adela and Fryda managed to reach Krakow soon afterwards, but Emanuel was arrested at the Lvov train station and later executed. At first Laura and Selma, who were living under the aliases of Bronislawa and Zofia Tymejko, had difficulty finding a place to live and a means of support. But ultimately Laura found a job in a German bank. She worked there only for a short time, however, before moving to the resort town of Busko Zdroj, where she was hired by an SS officer named Leming to be a bookkeeper at the Regional Agricultural Mercantile Cooperative. Later, she also tutored local Polish children in German and Latin, though this was illegal. She and Selma lived in a small rented room with a kitchen. Laura's sister Adela joined them in December 1944 after having worked for two years as a governess in Krakow. Her other sister, Fryda, volunteered for forced labor in Germany after working in a pharmacy in Bochnia for a time. In the summer of 1944 she was working in Gelsenkirchen near Mainz, where she was killed in an Allied bombing raid. In the course of her life in hiding in Busko Zdroj, Selma completely adopted her Polish Catholic identity. She attended church and celebrated her First Communion after the liberation in 1945.

After the war the Schwarzwalds remained in Busko Zdroj until a local pogrom convinced Laura that it was time to leave Poland.

No comments: