Studio portrait of Nechama Bawnik taken in the Lublin ghetto.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 43988
- Variant Locale
- Photo Designation
GHETTOS (MAJOR) -- LUBLIN (Poland) -- Daily Life/Portraits/Street Scenes
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Nechama Bawnik Tec
Studio portrait of Nechama Bawnik taken in the Lublin ghetto.
- Event History
- On the eve of World War II, 40,000 Jews lived in Lublin, which constituted about 35% of the population. During the early months of the occupation, the Germans had plans to create a Lublin reservation, where all the Jews from the General Government and other parts of Poland annexed to the Reich, as well as those from the Reich itself, were to be concentrated. By February 1940, 6,300 Jews had been brought to Lublin under this program. But the plan was implemented in a haphazard fashion, and in April 1940 was dropped. Lublin, however, remained a center of mass deportation and extermination, serving as the headquarters of Odilo Globocnik, the head of Aktion Reinhard, who was responsible for the operation of the death camps in the eastern part of the General Government. The prewar Jewish community council officially became a Judenrat (Jewish council) on January 25, 1940, with Henryk Bekker as the chairman and Mark Alten as his deputy. In 1940 the Germans stepped up their demands for forced labor, and many Jews were seized on the streets for this purpose. In response, the Jewish council tried to insert Jews into German factories. In the spring of 1941, in preparation for the establishment of a ghetto in Lublin, about 10,000 Jews were expelled to other towns in the area. The Lublin ghetto was formally established at the end of March 1941. Mass deportations from the ghetto started on March 17, 1942. One thousand four hundred Jews were deported daily to the Belzec death camp. By the time the action ended on April 20, thirty thousand Jews had been deported or killed in nearby forests. Following this action, the remaining four thousand Jews were moved to a "small ghetto" in the Lublin suburb of Majdan Tatarski. During the months of September and October 1942, almost all of them were deported to their death at the Majdanek death camp. The last remaining Jews who had been held in the Lublin Fortress, where they worked in small workshops, were killed in July 1944, shortly before the Germans retreated from Lublin.
See Also "Lublin Main Camp" in Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, Volume 1 Part A.
- Nechama Tec (born Nechama Bawnik) is the daughter of Roman and Estera (Finkelstein) Bawnik. She was born in 1931 in Lublin, where her father owned a candle-making business and a chemical factory. Nechama had one sibling, an older sister named Giza. Soon after the German invasion of Poland, Roman went to Kowel to see if life was better in the Soviet sector. Estera stayed behind and ran the chemical factory in his absence. One day she arrived at work to find a German sign forbidding entry and announcing the confiscation of the factory. She entered anyway to release a trapped worker. German police caught her as she was leaving and beat her. Soon afterwards, the Germans reversed themselves and permitted the reopening of the factory. They also allowed Estera to resume its operation. In the meantime, Roman returned to Lublin. Though the Bawniks had to move to a less desirable part of town and share an apartment with two other families, they enjoyed more privileges than other Jews. After the Germans took over the chemical factory, Roman established a relationship with the new commissar, who gave him work and protection. Estera found work as the housekeeper of the wife of a high-ranking Nazi official who shielded her from danger and gave her extra food for the family. When Estera's employer warned her of an imminent deportation action in March 1942, Roman approached the German factory commissar for help. The commissar not only agreed to legalize Roman's status, but also allowed his immediate family to move into the factory. Estera's brother Josef was not so fortunate. He was put onto a deportation train for Belzec. He managed to jump off, however, and after pretending to be dead, returned to the Bawnik's apartment. When German police came to look for him, Roman at first denied he knew anything, but after they threatened to kill Estera in his place, Roman gave away his hiding place. Estera was devastated and furious, but Roman explained that she needed to stay alive to care for the girls, and he promised to rescue Josef. After the spring deportations, a new ghetto was established in the Lublin suburb of Majdan Tatarski, which for a few months enjoyed a period of relative calm. Bored at home, Nechama began visiting the ghetto so she could play with other children. Eventually, she convinced her mother to let her stay there with her former tutor, Hela (Czuczka) Trachtenberg. At the end of the summer, Estera heard rumors of another deportation and came to fetch Nechama. Nechama wanted to stay one more night to say goodbye to her friends, and Estera relented. The deportation action, however, began that very night, and Estera and Nechama only barely escaped (while her tutor, Hela, was killed). After Lublin was declared Judenrein in November 1942, the German commissar warned the Bawniks that he could not shield them much longer. Their cousin, Bolek, who had connections to the Germans, agreed to help them get Aryan papers and find them a hiding place. (Bolek was later arrested for his rescue work and hanged himself in his cell to avoid accidentally revealing the names of those he helped.) Nechama and Giza obtained false papers under the names of Krysia and Danuta Bloch. They hid briefly in Otwock and later joined their parents in Kielce, who were hiding in the home of Tadek and Ziutka Homar. While Nechama and Giza were able to move around freely using their false papers, their parents had to remain hidden in the apartment. Giza obtained work at a German club, which allowed her to bring back extra food to the family. The family later moved out of the apartment into a nearby shack, which was also owned by the Homars. Roman built a special hiding place beneath the floor for emergencies. He also acquired a dog so that the barking would alert them if strangers approached. The Bawniks supported themselves with the help of the German factory commissar in Lublin, who sent them their valuables through a Polish messenger. When their money ran low, the Bawniks started a black-market bakery. Estera baked at night, while Nechama peddled the goods during the day. The liberation in 1944 did not bring an immediate end to the family's hardship. At wars end the Homars asked the Bawniks to leave Kielce so that their neighbors would not learn they had been hiding Jews. Nechama and her family returned to Lublin, where they discovered that their apartment had been demolished in the Allied air raids. For a time they lived with the former janitor of Roman's factory who has taken possession of all of their belongings. However, after their lives were threatened by members of the Polish Home Army, Nechama and Giza departed quickly for Lodz, once again resuming their Polish identities. Eventually, Nechama fled to Germany, where she stayed briefly at the Schlachtensee and Eschwege displaced persons camps. After a few months she moved to Munich, and in 1949 she immigrated to Israel, where she met her future husband, Leon Tec.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Nechama Bawnik Tec
Record last modified: 2004-12-17 00:00:00
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