- Janina Zimnowodski (born Janina Nebel) is the daughter of Arthur (b. Jan 9, 1904) and Elfrieda (Frieda, b. 1909) Nebel. Janina was born on June 20, 1937; she and her parents were all born in Katowice, Poland. Until 1933 the city was German and the family spoke both German and Polish. Arthur Nebel was a prosperous butcher and had his own store; Frieda worked the cash register and helped out with accounts. Janina's parents were conservative Jews and kept a kosher home but the butcher shop was not kosher. When the war began, Janina's parents found someone to run the store. The Polish Government ordered men of army age to organize themselves on the Eastern front with the intention to fight the Germans. At the front the Russians took over the area and Arthur, age 34 was expelled to Siberia along with Alfred, his brother. Prior to his departure to Russia, Frieda took Janina to Eastern Poland to meet him, but they arrived too late. Therefore Frieda returned with Janina to Katowice.
In 1941 they were sent to the Chrzanow ghetto approx 70 kilometers from Katowice. They lived there with some of their cousins. Polish women began to arrive to barter goods for food. One of the women was Leokadia Nawrocka, the mother of a Christian friend of Janina's 17 year-old cousin, Irma Nebel. She was surprised to find her daughter's friend in the ghetto. A young boy in the ghetto was supposed to go into hiding with the Navrodska family, but Leokadia Navrodska decided taking a male child was too dangerous. Soon afterwards Janina's mother asked her if she would take Janina out of the ghetto and care for her in exchange for the transfer one of their two houses after the war. In 1942 Janina went to visit the family and meet Mrs. Nawrowcka for a few days in order to adjust to her future situation. She then returned to the ghetto. It was arranged that she would leave the ghetto three days later. However, one day before the appointed date the inhabitants of the street were rounded up. Janina, her mother and Irma's mother Fanny Nebel were sent to a former school in preparation for deportation to Auschwitz. Irma was not there since she was not at home during the round-up. Suddenly the name F. Nebel was called. Frieda and Fanny had the same first initial of their name, but Fanny responded. When Frieda saw that Fanny was leaving, she asked her to take Janina with her. Frieda later perished in Auschwitz.
The next day Leokadia Navrodska came to pick up the child and saw that the street was empty. Janina did not want to go with her and hid under the bed. Leokadia told Janina that her mother was waiting for her in her house and finally convinced her to leave the ghetto with her without any problems. A day or two after she arrived at their home, Leokadia's daughter Marisia arrived, and Janina quickly attached herself to her as she was young, blonde and pretty. Janina also had a dog as a companion and spent many hours with him. Janina soon realized that her mother was not coming back. Leokadia Navrodska was an accounting director of in a bank; she was divorced and besides Marisia also had an older son who did not live at home and a 14 year old daughter Regina. They were practicing Catholics and attended church on Sundays. Janina learned catechism and became religious; she attended church and found comfort in the rituals.
Janina had false papers using the name Hana Navrau (a German sounding name). In 1942 she needed an immunization certificate. She was brought to a doctor who lived across the street from the Navrodska family. He recognized Janina as the daughter of Elfrieda who used to work in the butcher shop and told her that he would not disclose her secret but that they needed to leave town. The next day she and Marisia left by train. Janina recalls that many Germans were on the train searching for Jews and hanged those who were caught in the train stations for all to see. For the next three years, Marisia and Janina lived with at least six families in northern Poland. Marisia went first to her grandparents, who allowed them to stay only a few days, and then to other relatives. They eventually came to the home of Marisia's uncle Martin. He had lost his only daughter and quickly adopted Janina. The girl developed a real rapport with him and for the first time felt at ease. Janina lived there about half a year. Two months before the end of the war, they returned to Katowice. Janina attended to church on her own and claimed she was a war orphan whose parents were killed in the bombing.
In 1946 Janina's father returned from Russia and discovered her whereabouts from Fanny who had survived. The Navrodskas had become very attached to Janina and were sure that no one survived from her family. Janina was baptized on May 30, 1946. She did not want to leave the family and go with her father. He was Jewish and was covered with boils. The Navrodska family asked a bishop what to do, and he replied that a Christian is forever a Christian. He suggested that her father convert. In the end Janina's father had to sue the family in a civil court in order to get her back. It took a few months. Janina was called into court; Marisia was on one side, and her father was on the other. Janina was asked who she wanted to live with, but she felt paralyzed and didn't reply. Her father received custody of Janina. After the verdict was pronounced he took Janina by force into a waiting taxi and escaped with her. In the beginning Janina left her father's house to visit Marisia. In the end Marisia left Katowice so Janina would no longer try and run away from her father. Not long after she was reunited with her father, Janina was diagnosed with TB and was sent to a sanitarium in Yelana Gura, Poland for a year and one half. She was happier there as there were other children and caring counselors. Her father and uncle visited her on occasion, but the home was very far from Katowice. Her uncle Alfred would put on tefillin which embarrassed Janina. She returned to her father in 1949, but he did not know what to do with her. He had returned to work as a butcher. He sent her to an orphanage run by the Orthodox Agudat Israel with the intention of sending her to Palestine. She stood by herself for three days and escaped back to the sanitarium which until her father came and picked her up. During those years Janina was able to visit with Marisia who had returned to live in Katowice while Janina was in the sanitarium. Meanwhile, under the influence of Polish communism, Janina abandoned Christianity and became an atheist. Janina and her father remained in Poland until 1955 when they immigrated to Israel.
Janina's father had had a liaison in Russia with Hana and had a son. In 1948 Hana immigrated to Israel and she and Arthur reunited and married not long after Arthur arrived in 1955. Janina married a fellow survivor from Poland at the age of 19 whom she met at the Ulpan studying Hebrew. He had survived in Russia. She became a social worker and is studying trauma. She has three daughters and eight grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Frieda had come from a family of five girls; all had families and no one survived except for one cousin Janina Gavronska who remained in Poland after the war. Alfred was one of ten children; only three survived: Arthur, Alfred and a sister who managed to emigrate to the U.S. in 1939 before the war broke out.