Excerpts from Rosner
Blay, A. (1998) Sister, Sister, Sydney, Hale & Iremonger pp 106
Janka: For many years after the war we were asked,
“Why did you Jews go to your death like sheep to the
slaughter?” This generalisation wasn’t true, as history
has revealed. …we were not sheep being led to the
slaughter; we didn’t, and couldn’t, believe that eventually
everybody would be killed by the Germans. Hope is
an amazing thing. We hoped to survive, and refused
to ‘die with dignity’ in our thousands. How could
other people know of our high hopes, nourished daily
by fantastic and optimistic rumours? We had a wild
instinct for survival and knew we had to play for
time. We were ignorant and lived on hope.
August 1942, not by blowing
it up but simply by unbolting the rails. Then in December
1942 they bombed a coffee-house, ‘Cyganerja’, frequented
by German officers,and killed 11 of them as well as
severely injuring many more. They launched this attack
anonymously, so as not to endanger the population of
the ghetto. (After the war, the proud Poles placed a
commemorative plaque on this building, stating that
the attack had been carried out by the Polish underground).
|There was some
resistance organised in the ghetto. The Jewish
Combat Organisation (ZOB), which had been strong
in Kraków, was made up mainly of youth-club members.
They had their own underground newspaper and were
helped by the small Polish communist resistance
movement known as the People’s Guard. The major
Polish resistance movement, the Home Army or AK,
was unfriendly to Jews, and in any case was weak
in the Kraków region. The ZOB derailed a military
Sisters Hela &
Janka Weiss (Haubenstock)
The Jewish resistance was active for about eight
months in 1942 - 43. A man I knew, an electrician
called Scheinwitz, had a hidden radio that he listened
to. I also had a handsome friend who ran away from
the ghetto and joined up with the resistance forces.
Some news reached us but it was generally bad. I never
heard from him again.
There were three lines I later saw scratched into
a wall at Auschwitz:
I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining.
I believe in love even when I don’t feel it.
I believe in God even when He is silent.
That’s how I felt too. Despite the suffering and
pain, the deprivation and torment, I somehow managed
to maintain a positive attitude.
Hela: The remarkable thing was that people kept their
sense of humour, albeit grotesque, amidst the most
appalling and unspeakable atrocities. We were always
singing and telling vulgar jokes about our predicament.
Macabre humour about death and bodies cropped up everywhere.
There was a dreadful song about Hujowa Górka, the
hill where the executions took place, and what went
on between the bodies there after dark. Another song
which the whole camp knew was sung to the tune of
the trumpet call played by Wilek, Poldek’s brother,
It’s already nine o’clock All the camp is going
to sleep The latrines are locked up now You’re no
longer allowed to shit.
Toward the end, friends used to farewell each other
saying: “Soon we shall meet on a shelf as two cakes
of soap.” It was as if only by confronting the worst
horrors imaginable, and then making jokes about them,
could we survive the daily threats to our existence.
(The sisters of the book’s title,
Hela and Janka, survived the war and immigrated to
Australia in December 1949.)