Oral History: Hiding

Name: Helen Zimm

Date of Birth: March 8, 1924

Place of Birth: Lodz, Poland

Subject: Hiding

Helen was born in 1924 in Lodz, Poland. After the German's invaded, Helen's parents secured fake birth certificates for Helen and her youngest sister Halina. Here Helen talks about what life was like "hiding in plain sight": 


H: I was there five, six days staying with the lady. And then she came in, knocked at the door. And she told us what happened with my parents, was so sad. She told them that my father was the most honest and brave person. All his life, as long as he lived, he always defied the Germans. He never want to do exactly what they told him. When they told all the Jewish should come, all the get on the market should, how you say? Should come on the market. You don’t say come…

I: To gather at the market?

H: To gather on the market! And bring with you just the necessities, nothing else. Lousy suitcase, maybe a piece of bread, something just necessity. They told them we going to send you to another city to work. You’re going to go to camps, it’s going to be a wonderful, much better than you have it here. You’re going to love it, they told them all these things. They all loaded them up on the market. But my father never went at the market. My father, mother, and my sister went hiding on the barn, they went on the barn until they are going to be evacuated. They wouldn’t go like everyone else went, they were hiding out in this barn for four or five days. And one day, somebody either heard them, opened the barn wide open and he said, and you know who it was, very young boys, farm boys, maybe ten years old, eleven. They gave them up, they opened the doors and said here are dirty Jews. [Speaks Polish] dirty, filthy Jews. He got the police, he was suspicious of the police, the police comes in, opens the door [speaks German], get up, what’s happening? You were hiding. You don’t belong here. Everybody was evacuated, they put away, everyone’s going to work, to go to heaven. And you are here, you don’t belong here. My father, my father was very well known because, they knew him, the police knew him and respected him very well, and my father just told them like that, he says, I don’t care for my life and my wife is okay, we lived our life, but I beg of you, don’t touch my daughter. I beg of you. And it was like another miracle, the police never touched her, turned away their faces. He said go, they tell them to go, it was like unbelievable miracle. My sister always told her that the Germans were so cold, when they were looking out when they were looking at what was happening with the rest of the Jewish people, they are so horrible to all the people, they’re beating them to death. And she said she has seen, I knew that woman very well, she had a business, and she just had a baby, was a baby maybe a few days old and they Germans screamed at it, you dirty Jew, he shot the baby in front of her. You go, he said, he shot the baby, and you go. And my sister told me all these terrible things. Awful, but it was like a miracle that my sister came. Then we stayed together for a few more days. And I told my sister.

I: And how did you manage to get there safely?

H: When they were in the barn, then my father said, where are we going now? He said, you know what we’re going to do [unintelligible] he said, you know, I think we going to go to a, we going to go to a forest. Because we heard that many, you know, there was a lot of partisans, people who already were fighting against the Germans, they were very active in the woods. And my father said, you know what, I have an idea. He said, let’s go into the woods. And they walked into the woods. They walked and walked for a few days, nothing to eat, starving to death. My mother was very sick, very sick. She doesn’t want to walk, he had to drag her. She said, I can’t walk, I’m hungry, I give up, I don’t want to live no more. And he has to drag her and drag her. And there was another God’s will. Somebody went, while he was walking in that forest, he seen a woman, I know her very well. She had a bakery, a very smart girl. And he says, oh God, like a miracle. She was in the woods and my father approached her and said, I beg of you take my daughter with you. But don’t you harm her. I want you to take, don’t do nothing just for her, I know exactly where my children are. I give you address, don’t harm her please, just take her there, that’s all. The rest of it s, God is going to help you help them. It was like a tremendous miracle. That’s why the woman took my sister Nana, and that’s why she came, she came all of us were together. And all of us together, I told my sisters, being the oldest I had the greatest responsibility. I said, now we have to be very strong. I said, I have something very sad to tell you. We have to separate now. We were always with our parents, now we can’t be by our parents. Everybody has to find their own destiny, and fine their own life because we can never survive together. Everybody has to separate. We have to find a way to survive and got help, we probably going to survive.

I: How did your parents and sister get to the forest after the police had found them in the barn?

H: No, they went away. They went away in, they wait until at night, at night away. At night. Hiding there, they let them go. Until they crawled around, they went to the woods. But later on, when I talked to my sisters, I told the lady, the old lady, Mrs. Kasousik, the old mother. I said, Mrs. Kasousik, do you know anybody, I was worrying mostly about my sisters, anybody who needs some help, you know, a maid or something? And my younger sister, this one who lives here, she says, a matter of fact I know somebody, she has a small grocery store, maybe she can help her. I was so grateful. She took her, she went to, she was working for that woman. Then I said, I asked for my other sister, Nana. I have another job, you know, I said, I have another job to work for a policeman. He has three children and a wife, and he is going to take care of us, she is going to, you know wash some clothes, and take care of the children. And I was so very thankful to God that my children, that my sisters were secure, when you have a place of work and you have the birth certificate, you, you always in fear, but you still, you know, you hope that things are going to be okay. I was okay, but then I said, what, what do I do now? What, where do I go myself? What I do? What do I do? I was thinking and thinking, something came like God gives you ideas, I was thinking, you know what I’m going to do, I’m going to go on the, on the, on the train station. I went on the train station. Didn’t have too much on me, hardly any clothes, anything. That was after moth October, like October, end of October, October, November. Anyway, I went to the, and I was looking around, looking around for somebody. I was looking for somebody, maybe who’s going to take me in. I was looking for miracles. I walked to a lady, a lady, she was bundled up with bundles, she, you know, came from the city. I chose a day when they came to the, you know, city to buy, to sell the bread. I approached her, and she had a very good, I mean, a good face. I thought she had a good face, who knows. I came to her and I said, you know what my name is Usha Kasousik, that was my name, I said, you know, I don’t want to work… The story I made up, I don’t want to work for the Poles, I want to work for the Germans, I’d rather work for the Poles, you know, I know how to make soap. I teach you how to make soap. That’s the way we helped ourselves. This was our way of living and I think it’s going to benefit, that you’re going to, you know, come here and bring this thing to exchange. It’s going to, you’re going to make a much better living. She was looking at me, looking at me, she, I thought that she was very interested in my suggestion. And then I asked her, I said to her, where are you going? She says I’m going to Mszcznow, I knew I can’t live in Warsaw, because the girl who gave me the birth certificate, she was working in Warsaw. We couldn’t both live in Warsaw.