2006-04-21 / Community

Holocaust Survivor To Speak At Ohab Zedek

Congregation Ohab Zedek willhost Holocaust survivor RenaWallach Bernsteinat 8:00 p.m. on Monday April 24at the Belle Harbor synagogue located at 134-41 Rockaway Beach Boulevard.

Bernstein, who recently brought her mother's manuscript of desperatesurvival inNazi occupied Poland during World War II, "Bitter Freedom " to the attention of the world, will describe the heroic efforts of a non-Jewish Pole, Jozef Zwonarz,to conceal her mother andfather, Jafa and Dr. Natan Wallach, along with two of her uncles and an aunt in a manmade cave Zwonarz had built for them beneath his cellar floor.

Confined to thathole in the groundfor 22 months, while the war raged above them and the Gestapo, headquartered next door, hunted forJews still in hiding to complete Hitler's "Final Solution."

The five adultssubsisted on the meager food and water their Polish protector could pilfer for them each day. When they emerged, their clothes had literally rotted off their backs, their muscles and flesh had atrophied, and their eyes could barely withstand the brightness of twilight.

While her family hid under the very noses of the Nazis, Bernstein, a child of four when these events began, was kept hidden away by others in atiny forest hideaway though her protectors wrestled more than once with the prospect of having to shoot herto save themselves from Nazi reprisal.

The book, which was edited by Wave columnist Stu Mirsky, was published this month by Hermitage Publishers and will be available for sale for the first time at Ohab Zedek on April 24.

It contains a detailed account of the events leading up to the flight to Zwonarz's cellar cave and includes recollections by Bernstein of her time in the forest among strangers.

The book also contains an account by one of Bernstein's aunts, Helena Ramer,who, with her husbandDr. Norbert Ramer,escaped from a work camp on a desperate winter morning just before dawn on the day they were scheduled to beeliminated. The Ramers fled through the Polish countryside, one step aheadof their Nazi pursuers, and ended up in Krakow where they lived a life of concealment in plain sight, pretending to be ordinary Poles by day and going to ground at night,with help from the Polish underground. Ramer, who was pregnant by this time, finally found sanctuary ina local monastery where she wasable to give birthtoher son.

Besides the stories of these courageous people, the book containsnearly forty original photographs, most from the period when the events took place taken by one ofthe men who risked his life to protect Bernstein, who, as a child, hadbeen a professional photographer before the war.Bernstein and her parents are old Rockawayites who livedin Arverne until1963. One aunt, who also survived the Holocaust with them,still resides in Far Rockaway to this day.

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