Emanuel Ringelblum, in his Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto, September 1939 - January 1943, noted:
“The future historian will have to devote sufficient attention to Jewish woman during the war. She is going to take a prominent place in the history of the Jews”[1.1].
Today, when the historical perspective is becoming increasingly popular, these words take on an almost prophetic dimension. The fate of Jewish women during the Holocaust is becoming the subject of discussions, academic dissertations and conferences. On the occasion of another anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, we would like to recall the figures of women who found themselves in the enclosed quarter and left their mark on it.
Mira Fuchrer, before the war, was a Zionist, a member of Hashomer Hatzair. It is probably there, where she had met Mordechaj Anielewicz, whom she got involved. They were sent to the ghetto together in November 1940.
When imprisoned in the ghetto, Mira Fuchrer worked in a sewing cooperative together with Towa Frenkel and Rachela Zylberberg. She was a fighter in Jewish Combat Organization (Polish: Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa) from its beginning and served as a liaison of its command. As part of this function, she also travelled to ghettos outside Warsaw. In February 1943, she took part in a robbery on the treasury of the Judenrat (37 Nalewki Street). Its task was to transfer the 100,000 zlotys robbed there to the headquarters of the Jewish Combat Organisation. The action was completed successfully.
During the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Mira Fuchrer fought in the central ghetto, side by side with Mordechaj Anielewicz. They both were killed on 8 May 1943 in the bunker of the uprising command at 18 Miła Street (Polish: ul. Miła 18).
Rachela Auerbach took a very different road. After she had met Ringelblum, she first took charge of the people's kitchen at 40 Leszno Street (Polish: ul. Leszno 40) and, from 1941, worked in the underground archives of the Warsaw Ghetto. She wrote a paper for Oneg Shabbat organisation on the functioning of the people's kitchen and gave reports on living conditions in the ghetto. Apart from Bluma and Hersz Wasser, she was one of three people connected with Oneg Shabbat who survived the Holocaust.
Auerbach left the ghetto shortly before the uprising broke out. Outside the walls, she collaborated with the Jewish and Polish underground, with the Jewish National Committee (Polish: Żydowski Komitet Narodowy) and “Żegota” Council to Aid Jews (Polish: Rada Pomocy Żydom „Żegota”). For some time, she hid in a disused zoo in Warsaw's Praga district, thanks to the help of Jan and Antonina Żabiński. She took part in the Warsaw Uprising.
Rachela Auerbach was helped in her escape from the ghetto by Szoszana Kossower, also known as Emilka Rozencwajg. Kossower was born and raised in Radzymin. She was also sent to the ghetto there. She managed to escape from it a moment before its liquidation in the autumn of 1942. She made her way to Warsaw, where she hid in Warsaw Praga. Beyond the walls of the ghetto, she collaborated with the Jewish Military Union (Polish: Żydowski Związek Wojskowy), which she supplied with weapons. In cooperation with the Home Army, she organised the escape of Emanuel Ringelblum from the Trawniki concentration camp. She also took part in the Warsaw Uprising.
It is also worth mentioning Mary Berg, born as Miriam Wattenberg. Thanks to her grandparents living in the United States, she had American citizenship. However, she was born in Łódź She settled in Warsaw at the end of 1939.
In the closed-off area, Mary took part in the illegal activities of the community, worked in self-help organisations, attended courses in graphic design and architecture, and was even a member of a theatre group called Łódź Artistic Assembly (Polish: “Łódzki Zespół Artystyczny, that is: ŁZA). However, she is best known as the author of a diary entitled Warsaw ghetto: A Diary by Mary Berg covering the period from 10 October 1939 to 5 March 1944. In April 1943, Mary Berg was already outside the ghetto. She was staying with her entire family in an internment camp in Vittel, France. As citizens of the United States, her family was among a group of people listed as German citizens interned by the Allies.
Each woman listed above met a different fate. Mira was killed in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Rachela and Szoszana managed to survive the Holocaust in Warsaw, and moved to Israel in the 1950s. Mary lived to a grand old age in the United States. You can read their full biographies by clicking on the links in the text. Learn also about other women from the Warsaw Ghetto:
Obviously, this “pantheon” of women fighters, activists and memoirists compiled by researchers is far from exhaustive from “prominent place for Jewish woman in the history of the Jews” postulated by Ringelblum. Warfare, the occupations and, above all - the Holocaust, affected millions of Jewish women, both in and outside Warsaw, of every age, from every social stratum, today still often, despite the efforts of many institutions, forgotten, unknown, anonymous. Let us remember them all on 19 April - in the 78th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
- [1.1] Ringelblum E., Kronika getta warszawskiego wrzesień 1939-styczeń 1943, Warszawa 1988, p. 394