The Latymer School History Magazine - page 25

By Janelle Peralta - Year 12
“These heroic
girls… are a
theme that calls
for the pen of a
great writer.
Boldly they
travel back and
forth through
the cities and
towns of
are in mortal
danger every
day, [but]
nothing deters
them… for
these girls are
Sarah Ginaite- a member of
the underground resistance
The chronicle of the
in Nazi-occupied
Europe during World War II
remains to be a story largely
unheard of; even amongst
historians the significance of
this underground movement
during the Holocaust led by
and solely consisting of
young, Jewish women tends
to be overshadowed by the
more apparent, though
equally important and
closely linked armed
resistance against the
Germans. Despite the great
admiration they received at
the time, little attention and
recognition is given
nowadays. These fearless
heroines had travelled
mainly in and out of Poland,
Lithuania and parts of Russia,
on illegal missions with
forged papers to conceal
their Jewish identities, risking
their own lives for thousands
of others in order to supply
Jewish ghettos with
necessities. They faced and
barely escaped death under
constant trepidation of being
exposed – but it was not
their own lives these selfless
individuals were concerned
about – their only anguish
would have been their failure
to smuggle illegal
documents, information,
food, medical supplies,
money and weapons into the
isolated ghettos.
The name of the female
resistance group,
stems from the Hebrew word
’ which does
them more justice than their
acquired English name of
The Underground Couriers’,
as they were not only
conventional deliverers of
packages and messages, but
in fact they acted as a lifeline
for news and information, a
trusted contact for resources
and supplies, and a personal
inspiration for hope and
resilience. Couriers, which
previously consisted of men
and women, had existed
before the German invasion
of Poland, however their
importance grew once it was
decided in 1939 to establish
ghettos to closely monitor,
confine and segregate the
Jewish population of 3.5
million people. The Jewish
population was not only
separated from their
accustomed lives among
Christian neighbours, but
also were isolated by the
ghetto walls from their
extended families who had
been deported to other
ghettos, news and anything
else that connected them to
the external world. They
lacked food (the maximum
calorie intake per person was
around 200 kcal), medical
supplies and information, all
provided by the
Underground Couriers who
managed to outmanoeuvre
the rigorous security around
the settlement, to support
their survival in the dreadful
living conditions. In addition,
the introduction by the
German administration of
the death penalty for Jews
found outside these ghettos
– the exact date is not clear
as implementation varied
from zone to zone – made
this role even riskier
especially for male couriers
as they could have been
easily identified due to their
circumcised state;
consequently, the couriers
become predominantly
female but the weight of
their responsibility remained
the same.
During their first missions in
the early days of the German
occupation, the main aim of
was to sustain
a tolerable life in the ghettos
by acting as a community
link between different
settlements and by setting
up Social Welfare
programmes, including
underground schools, soup
kitchens, and educational
seminars about Jewish
history, for instance the
underground movement in
the Warsaw ghetto
organised secret classes to
give the children hope,
dignity and purpose. At that
point smuggled goods
included books, food and
current newspapers;
however, once news of the
(mobile killing units) spread
across the ghettos the
realised the
German occupation was no
longer something they
simply had to endure until it
came to an end. They
recognised the German
intention of a genocide so
they decided to change their
tactics of supporting their
fellow Jews to
their situation to a tactic of
the masses of
potential German attacks,
encouraging resistance and
providing the necessary
weapons to do so. Many key
events in the history of
Jewish resistance could not
have occurred without the
background activity of the
most notably the
Warsaw Uprising in January
to May in 1943 where
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