Sunday, February 13, 2011


"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by each experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” You must do the thing you think you cannot do. "
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) American Columnist, lecturer and humanitarian.

The Dziedzik family became known amongst the Jews as a "friendly" family.  They helped many Jews over those formidable years, including Sarah and the children.  They were the family that you would go to as an "in between" house.  You would stay a few days while looking for other shelter, but if you were in a bind, you knew you could come here for help.  Their reputation spread amongst the people, and of course the Germans caught wind.  This is how they came to the house looking for the Schonwetter's that day in the attic.  They knew that the Dziedzik family had been rumored to be Jewish helpers, and they were eager to catch them in the act.  Because of this, no one could hide at this home for very long.  After the incident in the attic, Sarah and the children knew they had to leave. 
Just prior to coming to the Dziedzik's, Sarah had hid at another family's house attic for just a little while.  They had left that hiding place because one night, a few days after they had arrived, someone had tried to steal some chicken's from the man's home.  He did not know who it was and got scared and told Sarah she had to leave.  Ironically enough, it had been Romek who had gone to steal the chickens that night, but of course there was no way of knowing at the time who it was, it could just have easily been someone who may have seen something.  When Sarah had to leave the Dziedzik family she went back to this house and begged him to take her and the children back.  He finally agreed, but refused to put them back in the attic.  He told Sarah to give him a few days and to return.  And so she did.
When she arrived back a few days later, he took her and the children to the stables.  He had dug a hole in the ground under the floor boards, and told Sarah and her children that this was their new hiding place.  And so they crawled in. The space allowed them only to lie on their backs, they could lift their heads up only slightly, just about enough to prop yourself up on an elbow.  He placed hay over the floor boards and left.  This man made tomb became their new home.  They could not leave this hiding place.  Sanitary conditions were nonexistent.  "Luckily" since they were in the stables, the smell was masked by all the other animals that also just did their business where ever they so chose.  At least the horses were lucky, they did not have to live and sleep in their own excrement.
Once a day the man would come and give them some bread and soup.  Other than that they were left on their own.  One day however, they heard some commotion.  Sarah could only peak out of a small hole in the boards above her.   You would think that living with fear as your constant companion would lessen the fright, but it did not.  German soldiers were entering the stable with their horses.  Sarah was frozen with fear.  The Germans needed a stable to hold their horses for a few days.  The next day they took their horses and went out for little bit.  The kind owner came to Sarah, peaked through the hole and told her to stay hidden, don't let the kids make a peep, there was not much else he could do, they should be gone in a few days.  Sure enough a few days later the Germans did leave, and Sarah and the children stayed hidden in the floorboards for the rest of the winter until the Spring of 1943.
I don't think anyone can truly understand what fear tastes like, unless they are in a life and death situation.  I often look at my children, and think how many times I beg them to be quiet.  How many times have we all been to a movie, restaurant, at a house of worship, or any of the countless other times that we have just asked, no begged our kids "Please quiet down" or "Be Quiet!", and how many times do they listen? and if they do, how long does it last?  Imagine having to make sure your children did not make even the slightest noise for days on end?  Could they do it?  Intrinsically Manek and Zosia must have known their life truly depended on it.  My grandmother used to say it was not easy, after all my father was a little boy.  I have girls, so maybe it is harder for me to relate, but I have plenty of nephews, and boy, do boys like to jump around a lot and cause a commotion.  I could not imagine them staying still for more than a couple of minutes, unless of course you have some good candy or a good show on TV!  But what if there was no TV? No reward for staying quiet?  Would they understand that the reward was the greatest gift of all? Life.

No comments:

Post a Comment