Within the confines of the Ghetto, the Jews of Warsaw slowly began to give and attend lectures, concerts, and courses. Feeling safe behind the Ghetto walls they established community kitchens and institutions for the aged, homeless children, and refugees. It was common knowledge that some Jews worked as informers for the Gestapo, but it was explained as their way of making a living — a despicable livelihood; the Gestapo sought details of merchandise hidden in the Ghetto as well as gold, smuggled food, and medicine. The Jewish Council, a Nazi-sanctioned government-in-miniature, furnished work battalions, maintained peace and order (by Jewish policemen), trained skilled workers, managed sanitation and medical needs, and organized workshops where raw materials allotted by the Germans were finished by Ghetto workers for the armed forces of Germany, the Wehrmacht.
“Elzbieta secured an acceptable place for us to stay in the Jewish Residential District,” Marian said. He, Menache, and their mother Rivka shared a two-bedroom apartment. Elzbieta had her own apartment where she operated her dental supply business until all the merchandise she managed to salvage had been sold. These were the first of many “accommodations” — including a later stay at a church on Leszno Street, which they would inhabit as the Nazis transformed the Ghetto from a Jewish community to a holding place before eventual deportation to the Treblinka death camp. Elzbieta took charge of the family in the Ghetto, securing their safety and saving their lives, as long as she could. Marian suggested to me, with little detail, the desperation they felt as they began to understand the ramifications of forced expulsion from their home.
By now, Marian’s life must have been increasingly restricted, but he did not speak of his experiences in the Ghetto — the lack of food, the intolerable lack of hygiene, and the constant threats to his safety and security. He did not tell me the untellable — the images of starving men, women, and children in the streets of the old town, morphing into corpses lying on the sidewalks, neglected and ignored.
Have you ever really thought about your ancestors beyond their names and dates of events in their lives? The stories of how they lived their lives can be a source of strength as well as inspiration in your own life.
In this new work of narrative nonfiction, Susan M. Rostan invites us to experience her journey as she seeks to uncover the story of her husband s family, including two courageous but silent survivors of WWII s Warsaw Ghetto: her mother-in-law Elzbieta and Elzbieta s brother, Marian Rosenbloom.
With the passing of Elzbieta, an aging Uncle Marian is the only surviving link to his family s history — the stories of tragic loss and heroic survival — that he and his sister had refused to share with anyone throughout their life. Encouraged by the author and driven by an emerging sense of responsibility to his sister s namesake and future generations, Marian begins a difficult journey into the memories of his childhood in the Warsaw Ghetto and subsequent survival.
As his experiences unfold, he haltingly recalls how he managed to escape the Ghetto and survive, thanks to his courageous rescuers. Out of his remembrances, the author nurtures not only the story of her husband s family history, but finds herself immersed in an insistent desire to honor Marian s rescuers. Through her poignant and compelling narrative, she revives Elzbieta s legacy of hope, caring, and laughter for all of us to share.
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Genre – Creative Nonfiction
Rating – PG-13
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