Women of Valor: Partisans and Resistance Fighters
Zenia Malecki - Part III
There were some people who had some military experience with the Polish army; they knew how to train us. We had our meetings and we were indoctrinated. We knew what we have to do. We had our plan in case it would come to resistance. Everyone had a position. My position was next to the library.
Once, on Straszuna 12 there was an incident. Two Germans were killed. A Jewish girl shot even though she didn't receive the order to shoot so the gun was taken away from her. After that, as a result we had an Aktion.17 I was standing there; I'll never forget it. It was about three o'clock in the morning. It was my shift. I saw cars with German military insignia; the SS came. We gave the signal and soon everybody knew what was going on. It didn't take long; you could hear crying and screaming and you could see groups of people being gathered together and you knew these people are going to die. That's all. Some Jews were against the resistance, and some joined. It was hard to make decisions. You only knew that today you are here and tomorrow you didn't know where you'd be. You really couldn't think clearly.
The policy of the Jewish commandant Gens, was to save any number he could. He took the old people first. He felt this was the right thing to do. Did he have a choice? The partisans said, "No, whoever has to go will go. The selection shouldn't come from the Judenrat. That was our position. The Judenrat shouldn't decide who had to die first, the old people or the sick people from the hospital. Who was I to say that a sick person in the hospital had to die first? That was our misunderstanding with the Judenrat. This was something I will never forget.
I was also prepared to go to the forest. I was ready and had prepared whatever I had to take along with me, but I developed the flu. I had 104 degree temperature and I couldn't make it. We were organized in groups of five, called finftlach. Boyfriends and girlfriends were not allowed to be in the same finft'l because if they got caught they might be more concerned for each other. We were planning to escape through the sewer. We also planned future actions, like sabotage or putting bombs under trains. We had some very brave people, and many perished.
We had emissaries from Bialystok, and from Vilna we sent emissaries to Bialystok and to Grodno and to Warsaw. We were constantly in contact. We had a choice; either we would resist, put up resistance in the ghetto, or we would try to got with as many as possible to the forest. In the beginning, we preferred resistance, of course. But then we realized that it was very difficult because the people in the ghetto weren't on our side. It was then, I remember, that we decided that as many as possible should go to the forest. At least we would be "safe" there, if possible, and work in the forest.
After my group left for the forest, when I was sick with the flu and couldn't go with them, the liquidation of the ghetto started. I was hidden with my parents. We were sitting there and we heard the steps, the German steps. When we were caught the men were ssent to Estonia and I was sent with my mother to Riga.
In Kaiserwald Concentration Camp, Riga, Latvia, Zenia and her mother were "processed": hair shaved, personal belongings taken away, given striped dresses to wear. From there they were sent to Dunawerke, where they dredged canals. Zenia's mother became too sick to work and was sent back to Kaiserwald, where she perished. Her father was sent to Klooga Concentration Camp in Estonia, and from there to Freiburg in Breisgau, Germany, where he perished with 1000 men who were burned to death. Zenia's group was sent to Ghetto Shavli (Siauliai), Lithuania and then to Freudendorf Concentration Camp near Danzig, where she worked at hard manual labour. She describes beatings and primitive means of trying to cope with illness and injury. By the time she was liberated by the Russians she was unconscious with typhus. After a series of encounters and coincidences, Zenia was reunited with an uncle in Bolivia, South America. She married and came to the U.S. in 1953.
Interviewed by: Aviva Segall, 3/14/86