Judy Batalion: ...that strength and courage can be passed down through generations
Support for this podcast comes from paypal. Small business owner pay pal. Qr codes safe and easy payment option. It's all the security pay pal is known for online in person cash. Only qr codes. Allow you to accept credit or debit with everyday. Low fees no additional hardware or software needed. Use the app to generate your unique. Qr code customer scan your code with their pay pal app to pay you learn more at paypal dot com slash. Us slash get qr code. Welcome to nobody. Told me. I'm laura owens and i'm jan black and we'd love to learn about the lives of remarkable people and find out how they cope during difficult times on the show on this episode will learn about some of the unsung heroines of world. War two the brave young jewish women in the ghettos of the nazi occupation in poland. They saw an acknowledged the truth of their time and risk their lives in the fight for justice and freedom and joining us is author. judy battalion. Who did painstaking research. And writing the new book the light of days the untold story of women resistance fighters in hitler's ghettos. It's a story that is so inspirational fascinating important. That steven spielberg has optioned it for a major motion picture. Judy thank you so much for joining us. I'll thank you so much for having me. i'm. I'm really excited to be here. Paint the picture for us if you will of the ghettos in nazi occupation in poland during world war two and the female resistance fighters in those ghettos. Sure so just. For some context there were over. Four hundred ghettos in poland in world war two set up ghettos To imprison jews. These were usually in. What were the formerly who are areas of cities towns and. They threw out all christians who were living there and forced all jews. The local jews to move in they were usually extremely crowded. The ghettos were very small. You could have several families sharing room. They were suffered from tremendous hunger. There was disease. There was thirst And people were were truly terrified. They didn't know what was going on. They were being tortured. There was you know they. They lived in your desk constantly People felt fully occupied both physically and mentally psychically to now. You asked about the women in in these conditions. So the women that i write about in my book or young jewish women who are in these ghettos and and came together or work together to resist into defy the nazis and they did many different things that i try to to show a wide range of their organized resistance activity in some cases it was organizing soup kitchens and secret underground schools secret cultural programs Bulletin they wrote underground bulletins. They edited newspapers Some women were They they left the ghettos. And i can get into that later They pretended to be christian. They would go out and blow up. Nazi supply trains assassinate gestapo man. They were also ghetto fighters in in ghetto uprisings they were guerrilla fighters and many of the women that i talked about at the risk to their lives. They were courier girls. They slipped in and out ghettos all the time. Connecting ghettos bringing jews information Bringing them these bulletin sometimes breeding them in in their hair and eventually they were they were actually helping to arm the underground smuggling in weapons ammunition explosives and also rescuing other jews helping take jews out of the ghettos and finding them safe spaces either in cities or in the forests. It seems like these are women that we should have known about for years and years. Now i mean there's so many different heroes that we've been fortunate enough to learn from during the holocaust world war two but these womens seem so special and unique. Why is it that we are just now learning about them. And how did you even find out about them because that was by mistake as well. Yes this was completely accident. Let me let me start by answering their this This whole project began serendipitous. We i i. It began fourteen years ago. It's been quite an odyssey. I was living in london at the time. And i i was thinking and exploring my jewish thinking a lot about jewish identity I myself am the granddaughter of holocaust survivors. And i was thinking a lot about What i call the emotional legacy of the holocaust the generational transmission of trauma in my own life. I was thinking a lot. About how i how. I responded to danger. In how my holocaust heritage had sort of shaped by my understanding of risk and danger and i decided to write a piece about this this kind of psychological. And i happen to be doing some research at the british library. An end accidentally came across a book. it was an old unusual book in a blue fabric cover with gold lettering. And you know dusty. Old book was also in yiddish. It was called coin into ghettos. Women in the ghettos and i started flipping through the book. But this was a story of women in the ghettos like i had never heard. This was a collection of sort of dozens and dozens of names and photographs. Bios obituaries excerpts. From testimonies of young jewish women who fought the nazis from the ghettos with chapter titles like weapons and ammunition and a partisan combat So i immediately. I was stunned by this. I had to you know. I thought my yiddish was a bit rusty. I reread it a few times trying to make sure i was getting this right But i i knew that i knew right away that this was a a really remarkable story that i needed to work on. You know the one question that comes to my mind is how much surveillance did the nazis have over these women. I mean how is it that they were able to mount this kind of resistance there many reasons for so women in particular took on this rule in the resistance where they left the ghettos they did work on the outside and yes there was tremendous surveillance the every step they took crossing the ghetto gate or or or border every step outside i mean after risk to their lives and many of them were killed But women women were. It was easier for women to pass than for men to pass as christians and and that's partially why women took on a lot of this work on the outside Women were not circumcised. So they they didn't have the physical marker of their jewishness on their body. They also in the nineteen thirties in poland. Boys and girls were were subject to mandatory education but often in jewish families. They would send their sons to jewish schools but their daughters to polish public. This was to save on tuition But ultimately this meant that the girls. The girls who i write about who ended up becoming underground operatives it. They were accustomed to polish. Moore's to their habits to christian prayers even and mannerisms and you want they also learnt to speak polish like poll. They always say without their creaky. Yiddish accent in. So yes this was you know were. They were performing. This was a life and death acting job. They were performing at every second of of the day. Every second of their missions they were living these false identities but several of them managed and they did it. We're so glad to have you. As part of our nobody told me family and we love sharing information with you about our sponsors. We've tried a lot of different omega three supplements and have to say e we is the best one we've ever used. Their secret is algae it's a whole nother level than plane fish oil. Here's why we love you. 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Is that the different. People resisted and revolted in different ways Everyone everyone's different. Everyone has different personalities in and conditions in their lives and as i mentioned earlier some women they were take they were taking care of orphans and helping to rescue them in finding children hiding spots whereas others were combat fighters and throwing explosives and they you know people people can resist in in different ways that that sort of suit sued them and their personalities and their in their life situations also something. That's really interesting to me in. This story is that these weren't just random groups of men and women who got together to resist. These were organized resistance efforts that i write about and many of these groups were groups before the war Jewish youth in poland in the thirties was organized in two youth movements. Most i mean. A huge number of young jewish poles were members of the youth movement to build like the scouts but more so these were intellectual spiritual emotional and social training grounds for young people and they weren't to value truth and self awareness and self sufficiency and cried in their heritage pride in their identity. They also learnt how to work together. They valued collaboration. Connectivity egalitarian is inequality And many of them had it'd be even before the war. These young people had left their homes to to live together in commune's So i think that what i'm getting at my long winded answer is that these were were. These were organized efforts among people who had bonds who trusted each other. And i think we can learn about that going forward to about about how to how to organize and how to seek through acts of rebellion and resistance in the conditions. That we have. How were they able to organize during this particular time. Well as i was saying they were already part of these groups so they had a structure to them they They already had leadership. Sort of hierarchies and groups knew each other. They trusted each other. They often live together even in the ghettos as well. so they they. They organized the same way that they organize themselves before the war. And tell us more about what their lives had been like before the war and then once they got into these ghettos very interesting nineteen thirties. Poland was a time of great cultural flourishing for the jewish community. There were a hundred eighty jewish newspapers in warsaw in the nineteen thirties. Art cedar professorships abounded museums culture was really thriving cultural community. But there was also anti-semitism there was also a a sense of Second class citizenry that jews experienced in that they they had different juice had different political parties and different values for how to handle that But in general the people i wrote about many of these women. As i said they're not only educated up to grade. They went university Often i came across a story about a young woman who shot gestapo man in the head and had a history degree from warsaw university. they women were educated. They were leaders. Both in the youth movements women had the vote. Actually m- poland quite early nineteen eighteen before many western countries. In general the bay lived. You know modern european lives so the transition to ghettoisation was brutal and horrific our. Nobody told me conversation continues in just a minute after we tell you about our sponsor air medicare network if a medical emergency arises. Are you prepared. 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Nobody who's story really stuck out to you as somebody who is a real role model in a heroine that we don't know about but we really should. Oh my goodness you can't have a favorite child. Don't make me do that surprising. I need they were also surprising. You know i. I mean i can tell you a few. I don't even know who to pick you know. Let me tell you about one woman from cops. Let nigga who i. I've certainly never heard of. She was a leader in the youth movements before the war and when war hit in in thirty nine she was twenty five years old And like many of the movement and including lie grandparents to she fled east and she made it across the border she was in belorussia and territory so she was actually safe but she couldn't take it. Fleeing crisis didn't suit her. She felt so responsible to her people that she smuggled herself back into nazi occupied poland. She went to warsaw. She became a leader in the warsaw. Ghetto again. She chose to be there he. She ran soup. Kitchens and cultural programs and negotiated with jewish and polish and german leaders. She put a kerchief over her face. She had very jewish features but she tried to hide them and travelled through the country connecting groups in all these ghettos she all illegal. She gave lectures in these circumstances bringing hope and spirit talk to people. She then brought them new she she went around telling the news of the nazi extermination plan the genocide she told many of the jewish communities about this. She was the first person to bring weapons into the warsaw ghetto. She hid them in a sack of potatoes. Two guns under the potatoes. She was stationed in in this town. Southwest poland called gene where she led the underground and help them prepare for revolt and and was killed shooting nazis from a bunker in fact after the war she she was given a military recognition by was answered polish leadership but and yet her stories completely forgotten she was known as de moment. In addition the mother among so many of the jews in poland. That story fascinating. What what else. What other stories to count to you. So for instance. I mean i. I'm really really I was really taken by the story of this. One woman bella hussan. She was with the underground from the get go and they stationed her in this town of greg. No and she was going to live on the outside because she was going to do a lot of career and mission work between the ghettos and she was pretending twenty four hours a day to be catholic to be a christian girl and so she got her a room in house and she needed to get a job because otherwise it would look suspect so she went to the local employment agency and they fell. We have the perfect job for you. And she got a job. Working his secretary for the gestapo. She worked in their office You know she's serving them tea and she did some translation work for them and they all knew her. She was one of their great employees. What she did. She ended up stealing their documents and she would bring them to jewish underground to had you know. These makeshift forgery. Labs where they could Copy documents aaron documents fake. You know they made fake passports. Fake visas fake travel papers fake id. Jews could pretend not to be jewish She amateur ended up smuggling guns in materials across the country. But one great stories that she one of the men in the analogous stop office developed a romantic like a crush on her in. He invited her to the christmas party and again she couldn't say no because that would seem suspect or unusual so that night to other careers on their own missions transporting weapons across the country. Were staying with her. So all three of these jewish women dressed up as young christian girls in went to stop. Oh christmas party. And there's a photograph in the book of taken of them at this christmas party. Risks just seem unreal. Do you think that they were for the most part trying to help. The greater good or was there a desire within them to also leave a legacy for themselves. What was it. I think this was entirely a about rescue. And in the cases where they knew they you know they had no chance. There was a word. We're a bunch of starving jews with two guns. We're not gonna talk all the nazis but for them it was about about friday about slide for future generations and and just about the fight for as we said for freedom for justice for what was right. They couldn't just stand by. How did they handle the fear. It's a good question. And don't know that i i. It's not something that they wrote about. I think they they didn't they. They performed. i think it was. They were so first of all. They were so filled. Fury and passion. I think fear was a almost a secondary feeling. They many of them. They assumed they would be killed. They were going on suicide missions. They didn't think sade live. They were surprised when they did live now. So i think that they. They were very driven on their missions. The you know they do talk about in in some diaries of the time about needing to fully enrolled Conce themselves in this resistance work because it actually helped them not feel grief not feel the horrible feelings around the deaths of their families in the things that they'd witnessed so they they were just performing this. I mean you Twenty four hours a day. Our nobody told me conversation continues after we tell you why. We're so excited about our sponsor care of the wellness brand. That makes it easy to maintain your health goals with a customized vitamin plan. That helps you feel your best today and support you long term. You can get a personally tailored approach to your unique health. Needs like weeded by taking care of in-depth five minute online quiz. Which ask you questions about your diet. Lifestyle and health concerns care. Holistic on line quiz is like getting a one on one consultation with a nutritionist. 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A lotta this by using humor at a time when we never really think about coming out of this situation and you talk about the story of lily rickman and she actually seems like such such a brave and funny young woman who so many of us should try to emulate. What was her story. She was an example of someone who told jokes who told jokes during transports to alleviate fear to tell jokes at the camps for to alleviate fear and create solidarity for herself. Enter the others around her. I think one of the lines. I recall was she hit arrived at a camp at. Perhaps it was aushwitz in. They shaved the women's hair and she says i'm like hey great free haircuts and that was that was created a sense of control and camaraderie and you know humor. Is the weapon for people. That don't have weapons. That's two excellent way of putting it. What was your reaction when you found that steven spielberg wanted to option the book for a major motion picture. I was extremely excited. When might that come out while the very early stages so starting to work on the screenplay now so i. I don't know fingers crossed when you look at the stories of these remarkable women you look at how their lives were. And i'm wondering. Do you think you could have done what they did. No i don't And of course. I thought about that all the time reading about them writing about them. When done this. Could i have done this. I don't think so. i think that's why. I became so fascinated by them so obsessed by these figures. They felt like they could do something that i couldn't. They were so different from me. And that's part of what drew me to them. As you know the name of our show is nobody told me so. We ask our guest at the end of each show. What is your nobody told me lesson. So what's it nobody tell you about having courage and honor bravery that you didn't learn until you learned about the ghetto girls. That's a question. I think just as i said earlier when i i went into this. I was thinking so much about how trauma passes through generations. How difficulties pass through generations in Come out of this. I'm coming out of this thing. Keep how at the same time. Strength passes through generations bravery and courage and positive traits attributes as well. I feel like nobody told me that. I could think about the positive elements that have passed on in my heritage. Did you feel in some sense that these women were sort of sitting on your shoulder helping you write the stories now. I thought they were sitting on my shoulder. But i i always feel like more like make sure you're telling the story correctly. I felt a duty to tell their stories and to do so in as fair and complex and nuance to way as i could I i did feel like if. I don't tell the story of from couple of knits that found in some yiddish documents from the nineteen forties. I mean who will. Yeah yeah yeah. So there's a great responsibility there. How could people connect with you on social media and the internet if they'd like to find out more about your work short. My website is a judy battalion. Dot com and. I'm on instagram. Twitter and facebook at judy battalion super and the book is also available in a version for young people. Isn't it yes. There's a young readers edition geared at children ages ten to fourteen. Oh that's great. that's wonderful. Well judy thank you so much for joining us. Thank you so much for having me again. Our thanks judy battalion. Book is called the light of days. The untold story of women resistance fighters in hitler's ghettos and again her website is judy battalion. Dot com. We wish you the best of luck. Judy with the book and we can't wait to see the movie. Thank you so much. I'm jan black. And i'm laura you're listening to. Nobody told me. Thank you so much for joining us.