By R’Yosef Koelner
Several weeks ago, my wife and I were visiting her mother who lives in a warm and wonderful re-tirement community west of Chicago, Illinois. One day at lunchtime, one of the residents named Anna sat down to chat with me. Knowing that I am Jewish prompted her to do so. We spoke about many things, especially her childhood. Here are a few snippets from our conversation about her life as a young girl.
Under German Occupation
Anna was born just prior to the 1939 German invasion of Poland in the city of Plock which was a city with a substantial German population.
In 1939, Plock had a Jewish population of 9,000, an estimated 26% of the city's total. It had one of the highest proportional Jewish populations in Poland. After Nazi persecution began, about 2,000 Jews fled the city, with half going to Soviet-controlled territory. They were assigned to locations far from the front.
In 1940, the Nazis established a ghetto in Plock. They started taking actions against the Jews, killing those in an old people's home and sick children, and transporting others to be killed at Brwilski Forest. Ultimately, they transported the Jews to 20 camps and sites in the Radom district, where most died.
During German Occupation, Nazi’s seized control of the education system, revamping the curriculum which included cleverly planting the seeds of Antisemitism in the minds and hearts of vulnerable children.
Anna told me that she and all the other children were required to wear a brown school uniform with a handsome handkerchief tied around their necks. Just before school began, the children would line up in pairs "with typical German efficiency” (Anna’s words) and sing:
“Wir sind die braune kucken von der herr uns liebbt der Fuhrer sehr!” (Anna’s spelling) “We are the little brown Chicks [of the German people] and our Fuhrer [Hitler] loves us very much!”
Anna said that singing such a song was exciting and stirred her heart. She often thought, “Imagine, the great Fuhrer even loves me!” The purpose of these songs was to transfer the love of unsuspecting children from their parents and God to Hitler.
However, though Anna’s mother’s family had its roots in Germany, Anna’s mother was a friend and supporter of the Jewish people. Her mother taught Anna and her siblings that no true Bible believing Christian could hate and persecute God’s “Chosen People.”
Consequently, Anna was not swayed by the song that she sang each morning.
Anna’s mother showed her disdain for Hitler in the following way: She would never leave her home without a baby in her arms. By doing so, she was not obligated to salute when people said “Heil Hitler” to her.
The Germans took control of the family farm so Anna’s mother was assigned the task of feeding the Gestapo their daily meals. Her mother would eavesdrop on the Gestapo’s conversations subsequently passing on vital information to the “underground” by placing notes in flowerpots, which were then delivered by her children to the resistance as well as to her Jewish friends. The Nazis never suspected what she was doing!
One night, a German truck was parked under the balcony of Anna’s home. The truck was filled with Jewish prisoners waiting to be transported to the Nazi death camps. Anna’s mother took her children out onto the balcony where they began to toss provision filled pillowcases to the prisoners below. Among the provisions was the scarce commodity of “writing materials.”
With a sigh Anna said sadly, “We hoped that they would write to us but they never did.” As the Truck rumbled off into the distance, Anna’s mother said, “The Nazis are doomed to failure and will never win the war because it is written in the Bible."
“For Adonai-Tzva’ot has sent me on a glorious mission to the nations that plundered you, and this is what he says: ‘Anyone who injures you injures the very pupil of my eye.’” Zechariah 2:8 CJB
From Generation to Generation
By speaking with Anna, it is clear that her mother’s love for Bnai Yisrael (the children of Israel) was passed down “L’Dor V’Dor,” or from generation to generation, from her children to her great grandchildren.
Once again, antisemitism is raising its ugly head on a global level resulting in the nations of this world seeking to injure the “apple of God’s eye.” As Anna’s mother said, “They are doomed to failure!”
A Modern-Day Esther
Speaking to Anna reaffirmed to me that as a Jewish person I can be confident that HaShem will never forsake His People. Like Esther, God raised up Anna’s mother to protect and defend the Jewish people of her community. Esther 4:9-16
Perhaps one day like Esther and Anna, God will ask you to protect and defend His “chosen people.” When He does, I pray you will say,
“I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.”
Esther 3:16 CJB