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April 24, 1987 - Image 26

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-04-24

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BOOKS

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A Simple Narrative
Of Jewish Resistance

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Special to The Jewish News

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26

Friday, April 24, 1987

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

up

Y

om Hashoah and the
44th anniversary of
the Warsaw Ghetto
Uprising during Passover
make it particularly timely to
review the recently published
Hebrew book In the Midst of
Jewish Resistance by Simcha
Rotem. The author was per-
suaded to record his leading
role in the Jewish Resistance
after four decades of silence.
Simcha Rotem lived with
his parents, brother and two
sisters in Chernikof, a shtetl
near Warsaw. His father was
religious, but the family lived
among Polish peasants with
whom they were on very
friendly terms. Simcha
played with the neighboring
boys. He was similar to them
in appearance and behavior
and spoke their idiomatic
Polish.
Once the Nazis arrived in
1939, Simcha, then 15, saw
how the Germans humiliated
the Jews. He watched a Ges-
tapo soldier shoot a Jew in
the face because the man was
urinating behind a shed (as
was customary in the vil-
lage).
It was then that Simcha
determined to pass as a Pole
with the name "Kazik." He
adopted the tough stance,
cocky stride, and even wore
the typical leather jacket of a
Gestapo agent.
In his new identity, he
helped many Jews find a hid-
ing place among his friends
and acted as a link between
the Jewish partisans and the
ghetto. At one point he was
challenged by a woman who
claimed he was Jewish. He
proceeded to "prove" his
non-Jewish identity in
bravado fashion. When he got
to his underpants the woman
turned her glance away.
Another more serious
episode occurred when a
Polish woman wanted
blackmail money as she was
certain he was hiding Jews
from the ghetto. He did not
hesitate to shoot her dead. He
was the only one in his group
who insisted on carrying not
one, but two guns, for
"greater safety." He was al-
ways ready to use his
weapon, frequently fingering
the trigger.

He did not hesitate to use
his revolver to obtain "con-
tributions" from some rich
ghetto Jews for the purchase
of weapons. In one instance
he took the pretty daughter
of a wealthy Jew as a hos-
tage. After fierce threats and
acting as an important offi-

cial, he did succeed, though
he admits he would have pre-
ferred to socialize with the
pretty girl under other cir-
cumstances.
As the author describes the
desperate fighting during the
Passover uprising he records
"stumbling" across the body
of Michael Klepfish. This bit
of information stunned me as
Klepfish was a childhood
friend of mine whose where-
abouts I had sought to no
avail.
Kazik escaped the ghetto
through the sewers and then,
undaunted, even returned to
save others who were
stranded. As is well known,
after a rather prolonged
struggle the Nazis were
forced to call in heavy armor

When a Polish
woman wanted
blackmail money,
he did not hesitate
to shoot her dead.

to crush the Jewish revolt,
which continued until con-
sumed by gunfire and torched
buildings.
Curiously, Kazik's most
dangerous ordeal followed
upon his joining the Polish
partisans in the uprising of
August 1944. The outcome in
this rebellion also was
doomed from the start, as the
Russian offensive was not
forthcoming.
When the partisans were
trapped in a building set
afire, the Germans
dramatized the need to sur-
render by playing military
music. Some of the fighters
considered suicide. However,
the group managed to survive
for many days, finding stored
food and rainwater in the cel-
lar. When they were forced to
give up, Kazik was the last
one to march out. His forged
Polish identity papers passed
inspection and he was as-
signed to a labor camp in
Germany. However, typical of
his nimble approach, he
sneaked into a group of civi-
lians to be set free and was
helped by some of the women
who took him to be a Polish
partisan.
His parents survived by
living and working on a farm
with a Polish family. Only
one sister survived; his other
sister and brother perished.
Rotem reached Israel through
Breicha June 1946; his par-
ents arrived one year later.
This simple personal narra-
tive carries a greater
psychological impact than
many statistics of the
Holocaust.

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