Jewish Survivor of World II and Author
Continue to be tolerant and understand other people. First of all, study very seriously in order to end up as adults that know a lot and are humane and understand other people. We all hoped and expected the holocaust would be the last inhumane treatment of one person to another. Unfortunately, people are still killing each other. We hope, sooner or later, it will stop.
Jewish Survivor of World II and Author
My name is Sabina Zimering. I grew up in Piotrkow, Poland. I was born February 24, 1923. I am the oldest of three children. My youngest sister [is] Helka and little brother, Natek. My father was a businessman and my mother was a teacher. I had all kinds of uncles and aunts and cousins to observe holidays with.
I didn’t know then, but knowledge of the Catholic religion and being excellent in Polish helped me survive the Holocaust. I never will forget September 1st, 1939, coming home from the farmers’ market and a loud siren went off. I knew what it was. It was not another exercise.
I was 16 and boredom was my worst enemy. As mother and I were crossing the street, we detected a noise in the sky. Hardly time to look up and we heard a loud explosion, one after another. The ground shook and real bombs began to fall. I later heard that Romek, the 18 year old neighbor I hoped would eventually notice me, had died in the bombing attack, struck by shrapnel as he stood on a balcony—our town’s first victim.
The whole family quickly gathered at our grandparents’ apartment [in] the old part of town. We decided to flee and walk towards the Soviet border 100 kilometers away. We slept in the forests. German planes were dropping bombs. In exchange for clothes from our bundles, a farmer provided us a good, hot meal.
I rebelled. I didn’t want to move and didn’t want to leave friends Danka and Mala, who were Catholics. I loved our home. It was the only home I knew. Mother had been quietly getting ready to move into the ghetto. She sold or gave away most of our possessions. The one thing I wish she had kept was her green shawl. I loved that shawl. She used to wear the shawl for special occasions. It made her look elegant.
If our friends, Danka and Mala, gave us an ID we might have a chance. I got in touch with them and they came to the ghetto to visit, even though Polish people weren’t allowed to come into the ghetto and Jews couldn’t leave.
[Of] our extended family of 50 to 60 people, the cousins Felix, Arthur, Uncle Sam, Sara, and the three of us—Helka, Natek, and I—a total of seven, were all who had survived. Out of my mother’s even larger family, I knew only of our cousin Paul and his sister Pola who remained.
We did come back, and shortly after that the University in Munich reopened. I went to medical school and met my husband who was studying electrical engineering. In 1950 I got my degree and came to Minneapolis because my sister and brother were here. Ever since then life had come back to normal except for the losses I had.
I practiced medicine for 42 years. We have six children and six grandchildren. When the children were young it was kind of hard to decide what we should tell them. Most mothers who were survivors of the Holocaust wonder, “Do we talk to the children about it or not? What do we tell them, or not tell them?”
Honoring Sabina Zimering
Hitler Kaput! Hitler Kaput!
No more, “Heil Hitler.” Nor click of their boots
Without the Righteous where would we be?
It’s time to dance. It’s time to sing
I grew up in Poland the oldest of three
The youngest Helka, Natek, and me
A loud siren blew, a noise in the sky
In my neighborhood the first to die
Was Romek, the war had begun
When Germany invaded Poland
Before the war I would play
With Danka, Mala, on warm summer days
Out in the woods picking berries
And wild mushrooms for the family
Sometimes we would sneak into the park
To spy on young lovers,
who kissed in the dark
And when they did we would shout
“They are kissing!”
While they screamed, “Get Out!”
Within two weeks the Germans began
To persecute Jewish women and men
Making them wear Star of David armbands
Then confiscating all that we had
Into the ghetto all Jews forced there
“We know what’s waiting,”
a young man declared
“Time to do something. It’s time to fight!”
That young man vanished that very night
The German Shepherds
were trained to attack
Pity the child who could not run fast
Danka and Mala helped us to flee
Out of the ghetto with fake IDs
Mother arrested forever gone
Sister and I had to move on
To hide in the attic of our friends’ home
When detected we had to go
Father told us to volunteer
To hide in the open through those war years
In Germany with a work crew
Of women suspecting that we were Jews
Where would we go? Where could we run?
South towards the border of Switzerland
Into the heart of the enemy
In Regensburg without money
The Gestapo kept asking, ”Why have
come here alone and not with your crew?”
We said,”We are lost!”
They screamed, “Stop lying!
Tell me the truth!” Then they hit me
When someone came in and said,
“You must go.”
Then out of the room went the Gestapo
Then out through the door we said farewell
To find work at the Maximilian Hotel!
They gave us a room on the top floor
For scrubbing and cleaning
the windows and doors
Into the heart of the feared enemy
Until their collapse in Germany
First came the sirens, the eerie sounds
Squadrons of planes, bombs falling down
Flooding the streets all the GIs
From America I stood there and cried
What can I do? What can I say?
To those who fought. To those who gave
Like Mala and Danka and their mother who
Was sent to the camp with courage to
Fight against Hitler to keep alive
The spirit of those who did not survive
To answer the questions, so hard to ask
I pray that we all may learn from the past
Music by LARRY LONG
Words by LARRY LONG with Mr. Ikola’s & Ms. Bailey’s 6th grade class of Cedar Manor Elementary
(St. Louis Park, Minnesota)
© Larry Long 2007/BMI