Portrait of Israel and Rivka Rybak Miedzyrzecki in Busko Zroj.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 78314
- Photo Designation
LIFE BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST -- Poland -- Family/Friends/Portraits
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Genia Reznic
Portrait of Israel and Rivka Rybak Miedzyrzecki in Busko Zroj.
- Genia Miedzyrzecka (later Reznic) is the daughter of Israel and Rivka (Rybak) Miedzyrzecki. She was born in 1934 in Warsaw, where his father worked a tannery. She had three older siblings: Stella (b. 1916), Benjamin (b. 1918) and Mordecai (b. 1922). The family was religiously observant home, and her father belonged to the orthodox, Agudat Yisrael party and the religious Zionist Mizrahi movement. On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. The ghetto was established on October 12, 1940, and sealed in November. Their apartment was already located in the ghetto and several people moved in with them. The ghetto was overcrowded and they had very little food.
Late in 1940, Benjamin was pressed into a forced labor battalion consisting of some 100 Jewish men, whose job it was to remove bricks from bombed out buildings in Warsaw and prepare them for shipment to the Reich. After working in the same battalion for several months, he developed a relationship with one of his German overseers which allowed him to smuggle saleable goods out of the ghetto and food back in. Soon Benjamin became known among the leaders of the ghetto underground as the person to turn to when one needed to arrange passage into or out of the ghetto. In that capacity he met his future wife, Feigele Peltel, for the first time in the late fall of 1942. She was instructed by the underground to seek his help in crossing over to the "Aryan side," where she was to start work as a courier.
While in the ghetto, Stela married Yitzhak Blachowicz in a traditional Jewish wedding. In September 1942 Benjamin's father was rounded-up during a deportation action and taken to the Umschlagplatz. Immediately, Benjamin contacted his older sister, Stella, who had important connections due to her position as the secretary of a leading Jewish businessman in the ghetto. Stella and her husband Yitzhak Blachowicz returned at once to the Miedzyrzecki apartment only to be apprehended by the Germans. The couple was presumably deported to their death in Treblinka, though their fate was never confirmed. In the meantime, Benjamin's father returned home after bribing a policeman at the Umschlagplatz.
A few months later, Benjamin, who could pass as a Pole, left the ghetto and went into hiding in "Aryan" Warsaw. With the help of a Polish woman, Juliana Larisz, he found shelter in an attic above her family's sausage factory. Benjamin returned to the ghetto to bring out his parents and Genia. Mordecai stayed behind, working for the Tobbens factory in the ghetto. Initially after crossing to the "Aryan side," the Miedzyrzeckis lived together with another Jewish family behind a false wall in the room above the sausage factory. When this became too dangerous, they found shelter in a shack on the grounds of a small Russian orthodox cemetery in the Praga district. The cemetery was run by a sympathetic Polish caretaker named Jakub Kartaszew. The hiding place was tiny and uncomfortable but relatively safe.
On April 19, 1943, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began. Armed Jews in the ghetto resisted deportations, but the Germans crushed the resistance and killed and deported thousands of Jews. Israel and his family could see the ghetto burning. The uprising ended on May 16 and the ghetto was left in ruins. During the uprising Benjamin posted notices printed by the Polish underground proclaiming solidarity with the Warsaw ghetto fighters. In reality, though, there was no overt support, and Benjamin as a hidden Jew had to remain idle and feign indifference as the ghetto burned before his eyes. About seven to ten days into the uprising, Benjamin received a call from the burning ghetto from his brother Mordecai. He had returned to the ghetto a few days before Passover in order to obtain matzah for his religiously observant father. Mordecai placed his call to the home of Juliana Larisz, where Benjamin was living in hiding. The telephone was in Juliana's living room, where she was then entertaining a group of German officers. When the phone rang, she deftly excused herself to get Benjamin, whom she identified as a neighbor, and he talked to his brother for a few minutes in the presence of the Germans. Mordecai called to tell Benjamin that he was alive and trying to evade capture, but a few weeks later Benjamin learned that his brother had been deported to the Poniatowa labor camp. With the help of an acquaintance of Juliana, Mordecai was able to escape (in the uniform of a Polish policeman) and return to Warsaw.
In the summer of 1943 Benjamin received a South American visas that became available for purchase in Poland from the Gestapo. Although he was deeply suspicious that the sale of these visas was a ruse by the Germans to lure Jews from their hiding places, Benjamin accepted the favor extended to him by David Guzik, former head of the Polish branch of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, who was a friend of his father. After receiving the coveted document at the Hotel Polski, Benjamin was asked by his brother Mordecai if he might take the visa instead. Benjamin agreed. Tragically, Mordecai fell victim to the Germans when they sprang the trap at the Hotel Polski. Instead of being transported to France or Switzerland, he was shot along with several hundred other Jews at the nearby Pawiak prison.
On August 1, 1944, the Warsaw Uprising began. The Polish Home Army saw Soviet troops across the Vistula and rose against the Germans. Benjamin was afraid that his family would be killed if they remained in Praga, because the cemetery was located between 2 factories that he believed would be bombed. He moved them across the river to a new hiding place in Warsaw and left to be with Feigele. The Soviets advanced to the Vistula and liberated Praga, but did not cross the river into Warsaw, so the Uprising was crushed and Israel and his family were not liberated. They lost contact with Benjamin. They left Warsaw and went to Opoczno, where they stayed with a Polish family who did not know they were Jewish. Israel did not speak Polish well and would have been discovered as a Jew, so his daughter Genia went to the marketplace and found a woman who Genia thought was Jewish. In mid-January 1945, the woman sent word through the resistance that the Miedzyrzecki family was looking for Benjamin. After Benjamin was liberated on January 16, he went to Opoczno and found them. A few days after their reunion, at his father's instigation, Benjamin and Feigele were married in a Jewish ceremony attended by eleven people in Warsaw. They remained in the deserted capital only a short time before moving to Lodz; Israel went to Lublin and found one of his brothers, who told him many of their relatives were still alive.
The war ended when Germany surrendered on May 7. After hearing of renewed pogroms on Jews, they decided to leave Poland. In summer 1945, Benjamin and Feigele left for Belgium. In fall 1945, Israel, Rivka, and Genia met Benjamin and Feigele in Munich. Benjamin and Feigele immigrated to the United States in May 1946. Israel and Rivka decided not to go with them. Genia immigrated to Israel in 1946. Israel and Rivka joined her in approximately 1947. They settled in Tel Aviv and changed their last name to Nahari. Israel died in approximately 1980.
In 1988 Jakob and Anna Kartaszew were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Genia Reznic
Record last modified: 2018-08-15 00:00:00
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