Life in the Tluste Ghetto

A Last Attempt to Save Tosia's Life

"Someone must survive to tell the world."

"It's almost impossible to describe. If there ever was a hell on earth this was it. There were a few narrow streets in that ghetto, thousands of people were brought in from other surrounding towns and villages, Typhus was raging-- my brother had typhus at the time-- and hunger was raging. It was really a horror place.

That winter, though, my mother made a last attempt to save my life... She met a man who helped my cousin escape on Aryan papers. And we went to visit my aunt, and there he was sitting. He was from Kiev, I think, Russian or Ukrainian, I’m not sure, and he took one look at me and he said, 'Well, she doesn’t look Jewish.' Whatever that means. 'Get her ready in two days. Let her meet me at the railroad station, and I’ll take her to a friend of mine in a remote village, and I will tell them she’s my cousin.'

My mother was absolutely overjoyed. She thought at least one of her children would have a chance to survive, so the next two days she tried to get some of my clothes together. She borrowed a little suitcase someplace. And all the time she was teaching me how to behave in church; she was teaching me some of the prayers. As a teacher in public Polish schools she was there when the priest came to instruct children, so she was quite familiar with all of that. And every time my resolve waned, she kept repeating over and over again, 'Someone must survive to tell the world; someone must survive.' And as you must know, that is the title of my memoir.

In the evening I said goodbye to my brother and my mother and I walked to the edge of the ghetto which is where I was going to steal my way out and go to the railroad station to meet him, and I stood there embracing her, and it suddenly became more clear than ever that I would never see her again or my brother. Why would I want to live in a world where our people were so brutally murdered? Why would I want to live a life of a lie? And I told her, 'I’m not going.'

To this day I’m very grateful for her, I had a few more precious weeks with her. She died only three months later. I was only fourteen years old, but I had to make a decision, and she did not force me to leave."