Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

5 Av 5761 - July 25, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Reclaiming Jewish Children after the Holocaust

by M. Samsonowitz

These days as we feel the terrible, long golus so acutely and long for its end, we present these stories of some of the darkest days of the exile, and how these tragic stories were resolved.

When the Holocaust came to an end in April, 1945, the Jewish community faced a lengthy period of recovery and rebuilding that would take many decades. On an individual basis, relatives had to be found, families had to be established, people had to settle in new lands and set up their own homes, and they had to engage in livelihoods to support themselves.

In the public arena, the Jewish community had to rebuild its yeshivos and community institutions in the new locations where Jews had drifted and been tossed.

Although all these needs were necessary and urgent, no one would dispute that among all the rehabilitation efforts, one of the most urgent was reclaiming Jewish children who had been hidden among non-Jews during the years of fury. Most of these children had been given to gentiles by their heart- broken parents who feared that death was imminent. Some of them were even too young to recall their parents or to remember their Jewish heritage. Others had deep scars and phobias concerning their Jewish identity.

A few sensitive individuals devoted themselves to the difficult, delicate job of bringing these young children back to their people, in fulfillment of their dead parents' last wishes.

One of these heroes was Mrs. Sara Lederman who had lived a comfortable middle-class life in Jewish Warsaw before the Nazis overran it. Shortly after Germany conquered Poland, Mrs. Lederman read the handwriting on the wall and escaped to the Russian side of Poland with her two children. She spent the greater part of the war in the frozen Soviet North where her skills of adaptation and innate wisdom helped her family to flourish under the threatening conditions of Communist life and harsh Arctic weather.

When she returned to Poland with the Polish refugees after World War II, she undertook to run an orphanage in Bytom, Poland, near the Czechoslovakian border. During the five years in which she ran the orphanage, dozens of orphans passed under her devoted hands before being sent out of Poland to countries of the free Europe, from whence most of them traveled to Israel after the establishment of the State. A large number of the children she rescued herself through a combination of disguises, ruses and bribes.

She was often in danger from recalcitrant Polish guardians, Jew-hating Polish police, non-Jewish orphanage staff and Communist officials. Nothing intimidated this single-minded woman who wanted to make good on her promise to show her gratitude to Hashem for having saved her family during the tragic Holocaust years.

In this article, we bring the stories and dilemmas of two of the children who passed through the Bytom orphanage under Mrs. Lederman's devoted hands on their way to rejoining the Jewish nation.

This article focuses on the story of the orphans. The full story of Mrs. Lederman will be told, iy"H, in the forthcoming book, These Children are Mine.

The Postman's Adopted Daughter

Masha Merkretz was a carefree five-year-old cherubic child with blonde hair and blue eyes, the only child of her doting parents. Her family lived in Pantolowice, a town in Galicia.

The child hadn't the slightest idea of the grim atmosphere that gripped the town since the Germans had moved in and instituted their sadistic decrees and random shootings. On a hot summer day in 1942, she was innocently playing on the floor with a toy, too occupied to notice the tear-streaked faces of her parents who were gazing with anguish at each other having heard that the city would imminently be made Judenrein. The two years of thumb-twisting torture and discriminatory decrees would finally culminate in a Pantolowice that would be completely bereft of Jewish faces. Masha's parents knew there was no hope for them, but they could not bear to accept that terrible decree for their beloved daughter.

A galloping horse approached. As it neared Masha's home, its pace slowed and then it stopped as its rider slung himself off the saddle. Masha's parents, stricken, stared at each other.

A weathered, sinewy peasant in his 30s knocked on the door, and then quietly entered. Masha's parents turned their gaze at him and then silently nodded. Masha's mother bent down and picked up Masha and then both her parents gave her a tight, tearful hug. Masha's father pulled out a small bag of items from somewhere and gave it to the stranger.

The bewildered girl looked from her mother to her father, unsure what was going to follow.

"Masha, you have to go now with this man," Masha heard her mother's unsteady words.

The uncomprehending child immediately broke out in piteous weeping. "Mama! No! No! I don't want to go with this man!" She dug her heels around her mother and refused to let go. Her parents broke into a new round of weeping and large tears fell as they tried in vain to gain control of their emotions.

The simple man was agitated at the heart-rending scene, but he waited for Masha's parents's decision. Masha's father pulled out of his pocket a paper with writing on it. "Drabic," he said the words chokingly. "Here are the addresses of our relatives in America. If this terrible war ever finishes and our daughter is still alive, please contact these relatives to come and take Masha."

The simple postman nodded his head and accepted the bag and paper. But Masha was still fighting, refusing to let go.

"Masha . . . " her mother tried to calm her.

"I don't want to go with this man!"

"Masha . . . "

"Why are you giving me away?"

"Masha . . . if we are going to die . . . at least we want you to live . . . "

The father firmly grasped Masha and forcefully carried her to the horse tethered outside. Drabic followed and slung himself on top. He accepted the writhing, screaming girl into his hands and galloped away as quickly as he could while holding her tightly. Masha's parents watched the disappearing figures until they were out of sight, and then they burst into heavy, wrenching sobs.

"Was this really the right thing to do?" Masha's mother cried out in anguish.

That night, a new little girl called Marisha joined the Drabic family. Some time later the Drabics moved to Jaworzyna Slonska, a village located not far from the old Polish-German border, quite a distance from Pantolowice. The little five-year-old girl, Mrs. Drabic explained to her neighbors, was the daughter of Mrs. Drabic's brother who had died young. Her mother could no longer take care of the little girl, and so the Drabics had decided to adopt her. The Drabics' daughters, Andzia, also five, and Zosia, eight years old, accepted their "cousin" with equanimity. They had their own suspicions about the strange girl but had the common sense not to say a word. The Drabics' local cousins and relatives thankfully kept their silence too. Marisha was thoroughly drilled in the story about her father dying and her coming to live with her aunt.

Marisha, who at heart was a happy 5-year-old, had no trouble adapting. She soon felt at home in the small, rickety hut which served as the Drabics' home, and they on their part willingly shared with her the little that they had. In no time she was calling them Wujciu (Uncle) and Cocia (Aunt) with all the enthusiasm a child feels for a blood relative.

A number of nosy villagers asked intrusive questions of Mrs. Drabic about Marisha. These questions were capably fended off, but just to be on the safe side, Cocia would not let her attend school. As Mrs. Drabic explained it, Marisha had a delicate constitution and was often laid up in bed with a plethora of viruses and illnesses. She could not afford to attend school and catch germs from the other children. However, she had to go daily with Zosia and Andzia to take the pigs to pasture because she needed fresh air.

On the first Sunday in the Drabic's home, Marisha was taken to a strange kind of public building that she had never seen before. The high ceiling, the spirited singing, and impressive decor made a favorable impression on the little girl who ogled the interesting icons on the walls. She was taught to recite the prayers that everyone else was saying, and she eagerly looked forward to going to church the following week. Whatever faint memories she had of Shabbos, kosher food and other Jewish practices vanished within weeks. Soon she was devouring with appetite the peasant bread, potatoes, onions and pork which comprised the standard fare in her new home as naturally as if she had been born a peasant.

On her third Sunday with the Drabics, she was walking out of church with Wiucui and Cocia when a strange woman sidled next to her.

"Don't worry!" the stranger whispered to her. "I know who you are, but I won't tell the Germans! Your parents were murdered, poor child!"

Marisha looked up, startled at the stranger's sudden words, but their significance didn't penetrate the happy child's inner world in which she was engrossed.

One day she was walking in the street in an adjoining town, and saw a German soldier shoot a Jew dead. Deep memories were traumatically propelled to her consciousness, and she burst out crying. Cocia quickly grabbed her hand and led her away.

"You must never cry if you see someone killing a Jew!" she warned her firmly.

When the townspeople's whispering became too obvious to ignore, Cocia sent Marisha to her sister in a distant village for a while, and after a while would bring her back. Once, Marisha was stuffed into a closet while a German soldier went snooping through the house. "No, I have no one with me," she heard Cocia answer indignantly. "Whoever accused me is just a malicious troublemaker!"

When the dust of the guns and tanks finally settled after three years, Marisha felt part of a close family circle. When the war had ended, Cocia dutifully pulled out the paper given to her by Marisha's father and wrote to her relatives in the United States. Months went by while the Drabics waited for a reply.

"I guess no one is alive or else they just aren't interested," Cocia told the relieved eight-year-old. "You'll stay with us and be our daughter for good."

Their tranquility was shaken when a letter arrived in 1947. The Drabics read in surprise that Marisha's relatives were alive and well, and they wanted to see Marisha.

One fall day in 1947, the Drabics opened their door to an unfamiliar knock. An elegant-looking tall lady exuding warmth and confidence appeared on the doorstep. The lady was obviously a well-bred city sophisticate who had come from afar. Marisha didn't pay attention when the strange woman sat down to speak with Cocia at length.

Finally, Cocia called her over and told her with a wisp of sadness in her voice, "Marisha, this lady wants to take you to your relatives."

Marisha's disinterest was immediately replaced with grave concern. Somewhere from the distant obscure past she recalled another scene that aroused the same unpleasant feelings in her.

The strange lady with chestnut hair and twinkling eyes gave a friendly smile. "Marisha, your relatives asked me to pick you up and bring you to them."

"No!" Marisha stubbornly refused to go, and sullenly turned away.

"Look what your relatives sent for you!" the strange lady temptingly offered her. She opened up a bag in her hand and dipped in her other hand. Out came all sorts of candies and chocolates that Marisha had never set eyes on before in her life. The stranger encouraged her to taste some of the delicacies.

"But I am not going with you!" Marisha preconditioned her acceptance of the lady's offer.

To Marisha's great relief, the strange lady finally left without again asking Marisha to come along.

But a month later the lady was back with a bigger selection of goodies. Still Marisha would not be persuaded to give up the only home and family that she remembered. The lady left again keenly disappointed.

Marisha wasn't surprised when the lady came back a third time.

"Marisha," she told her earnestly. "Your relatives in America are your mother's brother and his family. They care very much about you. Do you see all these candies and goodies? This is what they sent you because they love you so much. They want you to come to them and then they'll give you even more good things."

The years of simple peasant living made the little girl long for the tempting treats dangling in front of her. Marisha was wavering, but she wasn't ready to say yes yet.

The lady bent down to look at Marisha eye-to-eye. "Marisha, there are other children in the house with me. But I'll take you and you can sleep with me in my room until your uncle comes to get you." Marisha looked up at the lady, whose great interest and affection for her was obvious. Still Marisha hesitated.

"Is there anything you'd like, Marisha? Something special that I could get you? A doll, perhaps?"

Marisha brightened just at the mention of a doll. A real doll was a fantasy she had dreamed of, but which she knew was a wild impossibility.

"A real doll? A real, big doll?" Marisha spread her hands wide showing how large a doll she wanted. She was carried away by the very idea as if in a dream. The strange lady gave her a twinkling smile. "A real, big doll! It will be so big that it will almost be as big as you!"

Without wasting a minute's time, Mrs. Lederman (for that is who it was) traveled to Walbrzych, the closest large city, to purchase the doll. When she returned, doll in hand, Marisha finally agreed to come. Her few belongings were immediately packed and she was ready to go. The strange lady readily agreed to her stipulation that Cocia would come visit her every few weeks.

When Marisha was saying her rueful good-byes to Cocia and Andzia and Zosia, they surprised her with an expensive gift -- a beautiful silver cross to hang on her neck. Marisha was delighted with the gift and assured them she would treasure it always.

The long trip to Bytom began. After a bumpy ride in a wagon, Marisha and Mrs. Lederman arrived at a town with a train station and waited overnight for a train. Once on the train, they spent many hours until they reached Bytom. They walked out of the train station into the sunlight.

Marisha and the lady soon entered the doorway of a large building and walked up to the fourth floor. The buzz of young voices could be heard from the hallway, and within a minute two dozen girls jumped upon them, excitedly shouting that "Mother" had come back again. Marisha found twenty- four pairs of eyes staring at her.

At first she felt uncomfortable, but Marisha -- who they all called Masha now -- knew that Mrs. Lederman was there whenever she needed her. The many warm hugs and kisses that Mrs. Lederman bestowed on her were ample reassurance that she was in good hands.

Masha was duly given a private bed in Mrs. Lederman's room as she had been promised. She noticed that the other children didn't wear crucifixes, but it didn't bother her. She faithfully went on her knees every night, and recited her prayers while clasping her crucifix. When she realized that no one else in the orphanage prayed this way, she changed to reciting her nightly prayers quietly under the covers.

Masha easily adjusted to her new home in Bytom. She didn't like it when Mrs. Lederman would set out on a new journey, but Mrs. Lederman told her candidly, "Masha, I have to bring more children like you so they will have a good life and be able to go to their families."

One winter day, Masha became ill, and she tossed and turned in bed with a high fever for several days. On the day her fever broke, the first thing she noticed was that her silver crucifix was gone. In alarm, she cried out to Mrs. Lederman, "It's gone!" Every Pole wore one, she knew, and she felt positively sinful not to have hers.

Mrs. Lederman sat down next to her sympathetically. "Hmm . . . I bet it was the Polish maid who comes to clean the house every day. She probably saw that nice necklace and took it for herself. But don't worry. I'll buy you another one."

Masha missed it terribly. Every few days she approached Mrs. Lederman, "Did you buy another one already?"

"I went to the store -- but it had just closed." "They didn't have any in stock." "They said they would have it next week." Each time the little girl heard in frustration of another failed attempt. But as the months began to pass, she forgot all about it.

Masha studied Hebrew and learned how to recite Jewish prayers. She was taught Jewish studies by the older girls in the orphanage, and Polish and other school skills by Polish teachers who came to the home. Masha enjoyed the trips to vacation spots around Bytom that Mrs. Lederman took the children on. The camaraderie in the home between the girls made Masha's stay in Bytom pleasurable.

In 1949 Masha stole across the border to Czechoslovakia with another ten girls from Bytom. They continued on overnight to Bratislava and stayed in local Jews' homes for several days. The group traveled to Italy and spent several miserable sea- sick days on a freight ship headed for Haifa.

In Haifa, Masha was received by a member of Poalei Agudas Yisroel and sent to a children's home in Rishon Letzion. Her attachment to her friends from Bytom was so great that when her American relatives sent her a visa to come to the States, Masha preferred to stay in Israel. At 18, Masha married the son of a Romanian rov and settled in Yesodot where she lives until today.

"It was difficult for me to give up Christianity and to feel I really was a Jew," Masha recounted 50 years later. "Even after I was keeping a religious Jewish lifestyle, even after I was married and had my own children, I always wondered if perhaps a mistake hadn't been made, if perhaps I hadn't been switched with someone who was a Jew. After all, my blonde hair and blue eyes wasn't the typical Jewish complexion . . . "

When Masha's aunt from the United States came to visit her in 1967, after the Six Day War, she shared with Masha the many memories she possessed of Masha's parents and relatives. It was only then that Masha felt truly Jewish.

Snatched from the Vilna Ghetto

Life was comfortable and tranquil for the Minikes, a Jewish couple living in Vilna. Mr. Minikes dealt in leather, and Mrs. Minikes ran a grocery store. Their daughter, Chaviva, was born in May, 1935, and their son Gershon, in September, 1937.

Her involvement with her business brought Mrs. Minikes to hire a 35-year- old non-Jewish Russian woman called Hela Szemet to watch the children. Hela was a devoted nanny and she lovingly cared for the children who grew up happily under her expert care.

Gershon was only three when Vilna was bombed in June, 1941. The two young children fearfully hid under their blankets every time they heard the earsplitting bombs dropping over their city. After the Germans conquered Lithuania, the little children saw from the porch of their home how Russian soldiers were being taken into captivity by German soldiers.

Soon the family's happy life changed drastically. Their father had to close his store and try to eke out a living by selling cigarettes. One day, their mother sewed a yellow star onto their clothes. She explained that only if they wore this star could Jews walk in the streets.

Several months later, the Germans rounded up many Jewish men including their father and herded them into the Lukishky prison. These prisoners were then marched to the Ponary forest and never came back. Frightening, unbelievable rumors made the rounds in the ghetto. Some people said that the men had been taken to perform hard labor. Others said they were killed. Rumors began to circulate that the women and children would soon be "evacuated" to the Ponary forest too.

Hela loved Chaviva and Gershon as if they were her own children. She received permission from Mrs. Minikes to bring Chaviva to non-Jewish friends of hers, Nuta and Pavel, who lived in the suburbs of Vilna, until the situation settled down. Gershon remained with his mother and Hela at home.

One day, Lithuanians working for the Germans knocked on the Minikes door and asked if there were any children there. Gershon's mother became white. She asked them to wait and then went inside and begged Hela to hide Gershon so that he would be safe. Gershon was thrust into a closet and warned to remain silent. Realizing that his life depended on it, Gershon didn't make a move.

Mrs. Minikes went outside to the Lithuanians. They immediately arrested her and took her into custody, and then entered the flat to search for more family members.

They saw Hela and asked who she was. She explained that she was the Lithuanian maid, and showed them her identity papers. She claimed that she was alone in the house, but they brusquely ignored her and started to search the house. After searching a different room, they approached the closet, and threw all of its contents onto the floor. There was no one inside. Hela had at the last moment thrust Gershon under the bed. Gershon's mother was taken to the Ponary forest and killed with thousands of others Jews.

The fate of these two Jewish children was now in Hela's hands. Hela brought Gershon to his aunt who lived in a different district. Chaviva had been crying nonstop at Hela's friend's house, and the exasperated friend had insisted that Hela take her back. Hela returned with Chaviva to the empty Minikes house. The non-Jewish superintendent advised Hela to take Chaviva to the aunt too. "What will the child do here alone? There is no one from the family left," he said frankly.

The two children were reunited at their aunt's house. Seven days later, they were resettled with all the remaining Jews in the old ghetto in the homes of Jews who had already been killed. Chaviva lost a toy during the trek into the ghetto, and burst into tears. The unfortunate child wasn't aware that she had graver matters to cry about.

The ghetto was dangerously crowded. Ten Jews had to share a small room, and no one could procure food. Famine was setting in. The realization that it was a matter of time until these Jews would share the fate of their murdered brothers hung over everyone like a black cloud.

Hela realized that Chaviva and Gershon's fate was in her hands and she decided to act. She claimed for herself an empty apartment where Jews had previously lived before they were deported to the ghetto. She went to the aunt's house and discovered that the aunt's family with her two charges had been taken to the ghetto three days before. Undaunted, she contrived a plan.

She ran to the ghetto's gates, and pleaded with the German soldier. "My sister's children were playing with the neighbor's children three days ago, and we haven't been able to find them since! They must have been taken with the Jews and sent to the ghetto!"

The German soldier looked at her suspiciously. "Do you have proof that they're your sister's children?"

Hela sniveled at the very suggestion that she would be interested in Jewish children. "Of course I can prove that they're my sister's children! What do you think -- I would want some Zhids?! I can bring you proof right away."

The soldier was convinced. He gave her written confirmation that she could take a boy and girl out of the ghetto. Hela ran to the Minikes' grandparents and asked if she could save the children. Knowing what fate awaited the two children, the grandparents agreed. They entrusted Chaviva and Gershon to Hela's hands, and watched from afar as she passed through the ghetto gate with the two children in tow.

Amazingly, although the children had distinctly Jewish features, the guard didn't stop Hela from taking the children out. Hela right away brought Chaviva and Gershon to Nuta and Pavel, asking them to watch the two Jewish children until she could arrange papers for them. They agreed to do her this favor.

Although the two children shortly after received their new identity papers, Hela was afraid to let them out in public, even to just play with other children. Chaviva and Gershon spent their days confined in the house, but didn't utter a word of protest since they were well aware of the danger surrounding them. Only at night were they allowed to walk outside to get some fresh air.

When Hela's friends came to visit, the children hid in the closet. They learned how to remain motionless for hours on end.

Saving the two children was not just a heroic act; it was a serious responsibility. Hela had to find work or all three of them would die of hunger. Hela decided to sell seeds in the street. For hours every day she hawked her packets of seeds. The little profit she made was not enough to provide decent portions of food for all of them, but it kept them alive.

After a tense year in which she woke up every morning feeling fear in her heart, Hela confessed to her priest one Sunday morning that she had saved two Jewish children. The priest advised her to convert the children to Christianity. She brought them to the church and had holy water poured over them. Chaviva was called Lucia and Gershon became Grzesiek. They were listed in the church records as if they were Hela's brother's children.

"Lucia" and "Grzesiek" scrupulously attended church with Hela. They learned the Christian texts, and ate the "holy wafer." They decorated their home with crucifixes and other religious symbols. To tell the truth, Hela was more concerned that all three of them remain alive than in religious salvation.

Hela's cautious move in fact saved the children. A drunk accused her in a store of hiding Jews. She tried to flee, but the suspicious store owner called a policeman. The store owner and policemen accompanied by the drunk followed Hela to her apartment to investigate. She sent the children out of the house before they could enter. The policeman checked the house and asked where the children were.

"They are playing outside," she said simply. The policeman took stock of the hanging crucifixes, the devotional prayer books, and the icons, and then turned on the drunk and began to beat him. "How dare you accuse this pious woman!" he shouted at the drunk. (At the end of the war, they found out that the drunk was a Jew who turned in other Jews for pay.)

Hela feared that someone would suddenly knock on the door at night to search for Chaviva and Gershon. She always went to sleep fully dressed with her shoes on so she could call out that she's getting dressed, and in the few seconds at her disposal, she could push the two children into a hiding place.

Hela showered love on the two Jewish children, but they could not help but be fearful and nervous. Not only could they not know what the next day would bring, but they had to manage by themselves for most of the time, since Hela was on the street trying to provide food for them.

One year was replaced by another. Finally, the Russians chased the Germans out of Vilna. As soon as it was safe, Hela placed the children in school. In 1944, Chaviva finally entered first grade, and Gershon went to kindergarten. By that time, the two children seemed no different from their Christian classmates, although it didn't make a difference to Hela if they stayed Christians or became Jews again.

Their father's sister had escaped to Moscow. When she heard that her brother's children had survived the war, she came to Vilna to claim them. Hela nobly understood she would have to give the children up. She begged their aunt, "I don't mind that you take the children anywhere -- just not to the Bolsheviks!" The aunt saw how attached the children were to Hela, and decided to leave them with her.

A religious Jewish man called Avrohom Yitzchok Winkelstein who had survived the war decided to devote himself to locating as many Jewish orphans as he could and bring them back to their Jewish heritage. He heard about Hela and the two Jewish children she had saved. He approached her and asked for the two Minikes children. The Joint, she was told, would handsomely reward her for the kind deed she had done. But Hela wasn't interested in a reward. She was deeply in love with the children for whom she had risked her life and didn't want to leave them.

Chaviva and Gershon didn't want to leave Hela either. By now they felt as close to her as if she had been their real mother. They refused to part with their nanny to whom they owed their lives.

Taking account of the unusual situation, Rabbi Winkelstein suggested that Hela convert to Judaism and then she could accompany the children on their journey back to their people. Hela willingly undertook this step. Rabbi Winkelstein gave her the name Sara Rubinstein, claiming that the great deed she had done was as bright and lustrous as a ruby. He arranged a wedding on paper for Hela with a Polish Jew. Thus she was able to legally enter Poland, where Rabbi Winkelstein planned to bring the children to a better Jewish environment than was available in Communist Lithuania.

Hela and the children first arrived in Lodz and stayed at the Aguda quarters based there. Gershon, blessed with a superb memory, tasted gefilte fish for the first time in many years. "Don't these people know how to cook?" he said in disappointment. "Don't they know that you have to put pepper in the gefilte fish instead of sugar?"

Chaviva proudly wore outside the crucifix she had worn the past few years. When some Jews rebuked her for it and took it away, she felt guilty and confused. She assuaged her feelings by praying Christian prayers under her blanket for many months afterwards.

Soon after, Sara Rubinstein and the Minikes children joined the orphanage in Bytom. Sara worked as a cook in the orphanage. Chaviva and Gershon lived in a private room with her, and later Gershon switched to the boys' dormitory.

The children received a full religious Jewish education. Gershon wore tzitzis and had payos, and studied Chumash. Chaviva learned the Jewish prayers. Together they kept Shabbos and other Jewish practices that they had almost forgotten. It was a hard adjustment to pray Hebrew prayers they did not understand in the dining room after the singing and luxurious interior of the church they were used to.

Mrs. Lederman noticed how skinny the little Minikes boy was, and constantly pushed two servings of food on him at every meal. He suffered the agony of a spoon of castor oil a day because Mrs. Lederman wanted to invigorate his scrawny body.

Sara (Hela) and the two children joined a group from the orphanage which was traveling through Czechoslovakia and Austria on their way to Israel. While staying in the Bindelucher camp in Lunz run by the Joint, Sara became sick. While the rest of the group moved on to their next stop, Chaviva and Gershom remained behind until Sara recovered. They eventually traveled to Bari, Italy and shortly afterwards arrived in Haifa.

Due to the confusion and soul-snatching that took place in the early years of the State, Chaviva and Gershon ended up in Kibbutz Afikim where they live today as secular Jews. Sara joined them and spent the rest of her life in the pleasant company of her two "children." When she was an old lady, she was given an award by Yad Vashem for being one of the Righteous of the World who had saved Jews. She proudly displayed this award to anyone who visited her.

Sara had the satisfaction of seeing her two wards grow up, marry, raise children, and even saw their children marrying before she passed away at the ripe old age of 86 in 1986.


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