Warning! The text retains the original spelling of surnames and place names by an Israeli researcher; in many cases it may not be correct. Fragments that could contain current personal data have been removed from the interview.

 

Name of Interviewee: Chavka Raban-Fulman [Folman-Raban], born in 1924 in Kielce;

Subject of the Interview: Life and family of Chava Folman-Raban.

Family 

I was born on 19/4/1924 as Eva Fulman [Ewa Folman], in Kielce, Poland, to my mother Rosalia, nee Katzengold and to my father Abraham Benjamin Fulman [Folman]. I had two brothers elder than me: Wolf (born in 1914), Mordechai (born in 1916).

My father was an administrator on behalf of owners of houses in Warsaw and his task was to collect the rent, take care of the maintenance of the buildings and current paper work as preparation of the balances, correspondence with the municipality's instances and different arrangements.

Our family was conservative, held Zionist political views and had a good financial status. My parents had many friends and they used to go out a lot both with them and with the family: trips, country holidays, theatre shows, concerts, the opera and restaurants.

In 1925 my parents, my two older brothers and me – the baby – moved to Warsaw, where we lived in a three and a half room apartment with my grandmother Hinda and Uncle Motel, my father's brother, in a happy, comfortable and cultural atmosphere. Grandmother Hinda travelled before the Second World War to Palestine (Israel) to join her eldest son who was already living there, so that she would one day be buried in the Holy land. My uncle Motel joined her on that journey and so the two of them were spared the horror of the war and escaped the fated Jewish Holocaust.

Up to the outbreak of the war on 1st September 1939, I had completed three years of studying at the Hebrew secondary school in Warsaw. The curriculum included subjects such as Hebrew, bible studies and Israel's geography and history. Our school had visits and performances by the most prominent Jewish stage and culture figures of Eastern Europe, including the members of 'Habima' Theater Company. I was particularly impressed by their production of 'The Eternal Jew', which starred the great actress Chana Robina [Rovina].

My two brothers, Wolf (Wock) and Mordechai (Mark) gained their matriculation certificates from the Hebrew secondary school "Laor".

They then went on to higher education – Wolf studied at a polytechnic and Mordechai studied road engineering at the faculty of architecture. Wolf (Wock) got married before the war to his girlfriend Rene and they had a boy, Raphael (named after the Italian Reminiscence painter). After the Germans' entry to Warsaw, he joined and became a member of the A.L. (Armia Ludowa) underground.

II World War

With the outbreak of the war, I have experienced – together with my parents and the people of Warsaw – the siege, the bombardments and the entry of the German army.

At the age of 15, a few months into the Nazi occupation, I and a group of friends my age found a connection to "Dror", a movement that already began to operate in secrecy. Yitzchak Cukierman and Cywia Lubetkin, who were later among the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, and some other friends, were nurturing our young group as we were being "groomed" to become the young activist section of the movement's underground activity.

We operated within youth groups and assembled and organized other youths with us. We were the first students of "Dror" secondary school who became part of the underground; we partook in a drama society that was headed by Yitzchak Katzenelson and performed at "Bible evenings". I participated in publishing the Underground's newspapers (specifically the "Dror" newspaper in Polish), participated in a Movement seminar, and so forth.

I did all that when I was already staying at the "Dror" Kibbutz, on 34 Dzielna Street, to which I have moved from my parents' house. That was where the uprising "grew". At that period in my life I was at the height of my excitement, giving and dedication that characterizes youth and assisted in strengthening one's character amid the conditions of distress, hunger, fear and death that existed in the ghetto.

Upon the complete cut-off between the ghettos and the outside world, my activity changed – I took upon myself the role of liaising and travelled between the ghettos in the General Government area under false identity, using a fake I.D. and the name Ema [Emma] Marciniak and relying on my Arian appearance.

I travelled days and nights on my own through roads and train stations to get to our friends at various locations. I delivered information, Underground newspapers and fake I.D.s; at times I helped to move people from one place to another; I escorted groups into a forest; finally, I also transported weapons into the ghetto.

On 22 December 1942, when I came with Yitzchak Cukierman to Krakow and following a large operation by the local Jewish underground movement – "The Night of the Cyganeria", I was arrested by the Gestapo with other fighters.

After a month at Montelupi prison of constant interrogations and physical and mental tortures, through which I insistently stuck to my false Polish identity, I was sent to Auschwitz concentration camp. I was taken as Ema Marciniak to Birkenau, where the number 32291 was tattooed on my arm, a red triangle (the mark of political prisoners) was attached to my clothes, I was given wooden clogs and a striped garb and I was sent to work outdoors in the height of winter. We were moving heavy stones with our bare hands from one place to another.

Then I worked in "Uppinger" [Eppinger] commando, where I was sorting the clothes and other items that belonged to people who were killed in the gas chambers. There were piles of certificates, letters and personal documents as well as heaps of family photographs. Whenever I found dollars or gold coins, I used to hide them and later toss them in the urinal; it made me feel that I was thus contributing to sabotaging the Nazis.

The neglect, filth and crowdedness were a breeding ground for the spreading of infectious diseases and I became ill with typhus. When my mother Shoshana (Roselia [Rozalia]) Fulman learned from our friends at the A.L. that I was a prisoner in Auschwitz, she searched for and found a way to send me packages and letters that were encrypted using Latin and Hebrew letters. In 1944, a young woman who was a member of "Hashomer Hatzayir" was sent to see if there was a way I could be rescued and smuggled out of Auschwitz, but in the meantime the Polish uprising broke out and the whole thing fell through.

The camp authorities moved me to an extension of Birkenau – a camp called Hermenza [Harmense, pol. Harmęże], which was a farm for breeding animals that were intended as a food source for the staff of the Auschwitz camps. I worked in the company of Polish and Czech prisoners, and a group of Christian women of 'Jehovah Witnesses'. The conditions in the camp were better than in Birkenau. The farm guards were regulars and the (female) prisoners got to know them and make contacts with them. Sometimes when the guards finished eating, they left their food leftovers behind for the prisoners to take. At Hermenza I became ill with malaria and had a high fever. I hid the fact of my illness because I did not want to be sent to the gas chambers. My girlfriends at the group protected me, stole eggs for me and nursed me – they saved my life. At the camp I also kept in contact with some Czech Jewish women and revealed to them my true identity. In 1944 Hermenza was bombarded by the airplanes of the Allied Forces.

Up until the Death march in January 1945, when the Germans abandoned Auschwitz and retreated to Germany due to the Russian advancement to the area, I remained in Birkenau. After the Death march I was led to another concentration camp – Ravensbruck.

At the end of April the Swedish Red Cross took out a few thousand female prisoners from Ravensbruck and took them into Sweden. I was among those prisoners. After a few days there, we learned about Germany's defeat and the end of the war.

After the War

After two months in Sweden I was called upon by friends from Warsaw, who survived the Uprising and the Holocaust, to return for activity in Poland. I took part in setting up kibbutzs and preparing people for Aliya Bet (the second wave of immigration to Israel, then Palestine), known as "Habricha" ("The Escape").

Emigration to Eretz Israel

I operated in Poland for a year and in October 1947, with the permission of the Movement's establishments, immigrated to kibbutz Yagur. That was where the 'nucleus' (small group of founders) that was about to set up my future kibbutz, 'Lochamei-Ha'getaoth', was being formed.

Both my brothers died in Underground actions against the Nazis. Rena, the wife of my brother Wolf (Wock) and son Raphael were saved and immigrated to Israel after the war. Rena remarried and Raphael was brought up in kibbutz Yagur. When he was 12, him and his mother lived in the city of Ramat-Gan, near his grandmother – my own mother, Shoshana. He became the center of her life. In 1953 Raphael immigrated with his mother and stepfather to Canada. My father, Abraham-Benjamin Fulman, died in Treblinka. My mother passed away in Ramat-Gan when she was 59 years old.

At kibbutz Yagur, I worked mainly in agriculture, in irrigation, as well as working for a few months as the secretary of the 'nucleus' that was making preparation towards founding the new kibbutz 'Lochamei-Ha'getaoth', named after the fighters of the ghettos.

In 1948 I married Yechezkel Raban (Rabinowitz), who grew up in the city of Slonim, Poland, and came to Israel (then Palestine) as an illegal immigrant right before the outbreak of the World War. The British captured the illegal immigrants' ship 'Colorado' on which he was sailing and imprisoned him at the Atlit detainee camp. During Second World War he served at the Jewish Brigade as a gunner and was the editor of a newspaper for Israeli soldiers. After his release from the army he worked at 'Hapoel' center. As early as our acquaintance began, I made clear to him that if he wished to marry me he would have to join our pioneering group. He resigned from all his occupations and duties in the city and came to kibbutz Yagur, where we moved into a family lodgings, an even that made my mother very happy.

Yechezkel Raban worked in journalism whereas I was in the field of education and tutoring. Our mutual occupation was in maintaining and developing the kibbutz's library. We had three children – a son, Benny, and two daughters, Razi and Maya – who granted us 12 grandchildren.

For many years I was a teacher and educator at the kibbutz, and also trained and worked as a group counselor/moderator. I also assisted in setting up the 'Educational Center' of Lochamei-Ha'getaoth Museum, where I have been working since 1987 – lecturing, moderating discussion workshops, and giving my account and testimony of my past during the Nazi occupation. In addition, I accompany youth groups of "HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed" ("The Federation of Working and Studying Youth") to Poland.

 

Drukuj