The Latymer School History Magazine - page 26

countless
Kashariyot
, such as
Vladka Meed (born as Feigel
Peltel) supplied the Jewish
resistance with guns,
ammunition and hand
grenades obtained carefully
over months in advance on
black markets. They
transported the supplies in
clever, but unconventional
ways always supplemented
with by incredible luck:
Bronka Klibanski, a
Dror
courier in Bialstok, hid a
revolver and two hand
grenades in a loaf of country
bread and when prompted
for inspection at the train
station, she readily
‘confessed’ smuggling food
for her starving family,
gaining sympathy of the
police officer who did not
insist on opening her
suitcase and even
commanded the train
instructor to take good care
of her and prevent others
from bothering her about
her suitcase. By the same
token, Hela Schupper, an
Akiva courier, sent to Warsaw
to obtain weapons for the
Cracow resistance, taped five
pistols to her body while
storing explosives and
bullets in her bag went
completely undiscovered on
her 20-hour train journey
due to her dyed blonde hair
and chic clothing obtained
from the mother of her non-
Jewish friend.
Due to the great
responsibility of the role and
the dangerous risks it came
with, the acceptance into the
Kashariyot
was very
exclusive: a
kasharit
had to
be a young woman in her
late teens or 20s, be a
devoted and active member
of the resistance movement
against the Nazis, have an
Aryan appearance (claimed
to be the perfect race by the
Nazis) which meant she
could not possess any
distinctly Jewish features,
and finally and most
importantly she had to have
perfected the Polish
demeanour – from gestures
to inflection to style of
speech. The chosen women
would have to be
meticulous, quick-witted and
have the necessary audacity
to complete their missions
successfully. Fortunately
most who volunteered to
become a kasharit had
already previously proven
their commitment and skills
due to their leadership roles
in in Jewish organisations,
such as Zionist youth groups
(
Hashomer Hatzair, Dror,
Akiva
etc.) or major political
organisations (
Jewish-
Socialist Bund, Zydowska
Organizacja Bojowa
a.k.a the
Jewish Fighting Resistance).
The resistance became
almost like a surrogate family
to these young girls as they
had lost their own to the
Holocaust at concentration
camps or because of
starvation at the ghettos,
hence their selfless devotion
which demanded the
potential sacrifice of their
lives. Their age and gender
also played a crucial role in
the selection as social norms
encouraged chivalry from
gentlemen who unknowingly
carried suitcases filled with
guns, ammunition or bombs
for these seemingly
‘innocent-looking
girls’ (therefore avoiding
inspection), and also
dictated that wandering
young women during the
day would raise less
suspicion than wandering
men who were expected to
be at work. Furthermore,
unlike Jewish boys whose
Jewish education was highly
important, girls tended to be
sent to ‘inferior’ Polish school
where they got accustomed
to their language, manners,
daily rhythm of their Catholic
peers and even non-Jewish
friends and acquaintances
who could have later proven
to be useful. This acquisition
of the Polish demeanour was
especially important as the
girls’ acts had to be
convincing and concise
enough to deceive the Polish
themselves to perceive them
‘as one of them’ in order to
live amidst them without
raising any suspicion while
gathering information for the
ghettos.
The
Kashariyot
were not only
seen as the supplier of food
and weapons, in fact they
became a symbol of Jewish
resilience, living heroes
which acted as a reminder
for hope and sometimes
even perceived somewhat as
guardian angels. Each arrival
was an emotional account as
they were all aware of the
risks and dangers the young
girl had to pass in order to
come to them. Rozka
Korczak, a leader of the
Jewish underground in Vilna,
recalls an arrival of Tosia
Altman in December 1941
as: “Tosia came. It was like a
blessing of freedom. Just the
information that she came. It
spread among the people.
…As if there were no ghetto.
…As if there was no death
around. As if we were not in
this terrible war. A beam of
love. A beam of light.” Their
holy-like perception most
likely stems from the extent
to which the
Kashariyot
improved their lives; they
established a communication
link between split up
families, they set up safe
houses for hiding, they
smuggled people out of
ghettos to shelter them in
the houses of co-operative
non-Jews, and they provided
financial support for those
unable to work for fear of
being recognised as Jewish
they could no longer show
their Jewish faces. This
required meticulous
planning and constant
assessment of the
trustworthiness of the non-
Jews: a landlord may
become anxious for illegally
hiding Jews, neighbours
could become suspicious
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