Livia Bitton Jackson
The Jewish Press Magazine
April 25, 2003
There it stands, a dark massive granite shaft on a grassy knoll behind the Yad Vashem museum building, its top culminating in four faceless heads searching the Jerusalem horizon. The work of artist Joseph Salamon from Denmark, himself a survivor of the Holocaust, the sculpture is painfully anaonymous. The black polished pedestal lists their names in alphabetical order – Ala Gertner; Roza Robota, Regina Safirszlajn, Ester Wajcblum – and the brief stark inscription: “Martyred Heroines of the Jewish Resistence in Auschwitz. Executed On January 5, 1945.” Nothing more.
“In Spring 1943 a transport from Warsaw arrived, among them two sisters, 19-year-old Ester and 14 year-old Hana Wajcblum. They were later sent to work in Unionwerke, the munitions factory. The women working there were forbidden to meet other prisoners in the camp. Nevertheless, I was secretly in contact with them. One day Ester Wajcblum gave me a small, light parcel and asked me to keep it until she or somebody else would pick it up. She was very excited but did not want to tell what was in the parcel. It was very light and wrapped in rags. It weighed approximately 250 grams. After some days Roza Robota, who worked in the clothes depot, came to fetch the parcel. This procedure was repeated several times. Sometimes Ester came for the parcel, sometimes Roza Robota.
“Roza Robota had the possilbilty of getting in touch with the men of the Sonderkommando (the special unit who worked in the crematories). Roza gave them the parcels that Ester had left with me. As I learned later, the parcels contained gunpowder smuggled out of the factory. Ester never talked about it; only once she said to me: ‘We could free ourselves from this hell.’
“Gestapo found in the crematories a little gunpowder of the kind that was produced in Unionwerke. Ester Wajcblum was taken to the dreaded Bloc 11 for interrogation. Ester smuggled the gunpowder together with her friend Regina Safirsztaijn. Ester withstood the torture heroically and did not reveal anything. After a short time she was released from the Bloc, punished with 25 blows, and returned to the barracks.
“In the gunpowder section worked another woman, Ala Gertner, from Belgium. She succeeded in smugglingout gunpowder through male prisoners who worked at the factory. Ala Gertner could not stand the excruciating pain of the torture, and confessed. After that Ester Wajcblum was again taken away by the Gestapo, the Regina Safirsztain and Roza Robota.
“Shortly before the executions, the Kapo Jakub Kozelczik, accompanied by two SS guards, appeared in the Paketastelle where I worked. I was called before them and the Kapo handed me a note written by Ester: ‘I know what is in store for me but I go readily to the gallows. I only ask you to take care of my sister Hana. Please don’t leave her, so that I may die easier.’ Kapo Kozelczik asked me to write down an answer for Ester. S I wrote: ‘Ester, I promise you that I will never abandon Hana.’ And I kept my promise.