The Litman family poses in a boat in prewar Poland.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 48945
1933 August 27
- Photo Designation
LIFE BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST -- Poland -- Family/Friends/Portraits -- At Home/In Town
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Halina Peabody
The Litman family poses in a boat in prewar Poland.
From left to right are Grandmother, Luciek, Unknown, Grandfather, Olga Litman (middle), Klara Kautzr, and Isaac Litman (far right).
- Halina Peabody (born Halina Litman, later Halina Yasharoff) is the daughter of Ignacy (Isaac) and Olga (nee Schreiber Litman. Her parents were married in Krakow on December 25, 1928, and Halina was born on December 12, 1932. Olga was a championship swimmer and winner of the Polish swimming title three years in a row. Ignacy was a dentist. After Halina's parents were married they relocated to Zaleszczyki near the Romanian border, but Olga returned to Krakow to give birth to her children. Halina had one sister, Ewa (b. June 30, 1939). Before the war started, Halina attended a year of public school in Zalezczyki. When Soviet forces marched into Zaleszczyki, Halina's father, in a panic, crossed into Romania with many other refugees. However, since the family stayed behind he decided to cross back. By then the Russians were in control and had closed the borders. Ignacy was arrested as a spy and sentenced to twenty years hard labor in Siberia. Only the intervention of Communist friends prevented the arrest of the rest of the family. However, their property was confiscated, and Olga and the two girls had to move to the nearby village of Tluste. They remained there until 1941, when the Germans occupied the rest of Poland, and then returned to their old house in Zaleszczyki. Olga and her daughters survived two Actions. They narrowly survived being arrested during the second action when a former cook agreed to hide them in exchange for their silverware. After this action, the Germans evacuated all the remaining Jews, and Halina with her mother and sister again went to Tluste. Her mother made various attempts to get the children to safety but without success. During a third action, which took place in Tluste, Olga arranged for Halina to hide with a farmer in his loft. Olga paid another farmer to hide her and Eva, but half way through the day the farmer became fearful and threw them out. They spent the rest of the day hiding under a single bush in the middle of an empty field, with German planes flying overhead. After the terrors of that day, Olga vowed never to be separated from her daughters again. With the help of some friends at the Judenrat, she purchased false papers from a priest in the name of Litynska. With these papers, they left Tluste by train for Jaroslaw (near Krakow). Olga hoped to meet up with someone she knew prior to the war who had converted. But when they met, her friend was too scared to do anything except give her some money and ask not to be contacted again. The train ride to Jaroslaw took four days and four nights. A Polish man who was traveling on the same train befriended them and suspecting they were Jewish, offered to help out. Eventually Olga admitted that they were Jewish and asked what he could do for them. He said he was a Volksdeutsch, and he would have to turn them over to the Gestapo. Olga begged him to shoot them all together since she could not bear to be separated from her children. The Pole agreed to this request on condition that she relinquish her luggage tickets, money, and the coats they were wearing. Halina overheard their conversation and knew that when they reached Jaroslaw, they would all be killed. When they reached the town her mother pleaded with the man to let them all go, appealing to him as a father. Miraculously, he agreed and returned a little of the money, though not the luggage tickets. Olga then entered a café where she bought milk for the baby and enquired about lodgings. She was directed to a washerwoman who took in boarders. Halina's mother offered to work as a maid in the town and give her all of the money she earned. Halina helped with household chores. The three slept in one bed. Eva suffered from terrible boils on her skin and had to have her head shaved so that her curly hair would not give away her Jewish identity. They lived in constant dread of being discovered and eventually Olga decided that the safest place for her to hide was in plain sight, i.e. working for the Germans. With great trepidation, she applied for work in the German military camp. After checking her false papers, they hired her to work in the kitchen. At times she was able to steal small amounts of food to bring back for her children. On one occasion the Gestapo raided their house looking for one of the landlady's sons who was selling pork on the black market. Ironically, since Olga had a certificate saying she worked for the German army, she and her daughters were the only ones who escaped arrest. During this time, Halina attended school two hours a week and went to Church regularly with her mother and sister. They had no radio or newspapers so they had no news of the war. One unusually quiet morning, while her mother and sister were still in bed, Halina stood by the apartment window. She had suspected that the Germans were running from the oncoming Russians. Suddenly, there was a very loud explosion and Halina started crying: My hand, my hand. Her mother scrambled from the bed, grabbed her sister and took Halina by the hand and walked out into the street. Halina's hand was bleeding badly but there was nobody to help carry her so the three of them walked towards the hospital, which was at the end of the street. As soon as the orderly saw them they picked Halina up and took her into the emergency room. They saved her hand but couldn't save her thumb and half of the little finger. It took two months before she would look at her hand and got used to living with her handicap. Their landlady was killed by the same grenade which injured Halina. During the war, Olga received news from friends that her husband was alive and was living with his sister in Palestine. The Soviets released Ignacy to join the Anders Army. He went to Teheran and from there to Palestine. After the war Olga made contact with her husband through radio ads, and Ignacy sent his nephew from Palestine, who was serving in the Jewish Brigade, to find his family. Olga and the two girls spent a few months recuperating in the Trani camp in Ital. After they reunited with Ignancy, they relocated to London, England. In the 1953 and 1957 Maccabiah Games in Palestine Halina represented England in table tennis. Halina immigrated to the United States in 1968 and currently volunteers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Halina Peabody
Record last modified: 2009-05-26 00:00:00
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