Plan To Escape From Poland – December 1939
Grandma Szyfra decided that under these dire circumstances, they had to plan their escape from Poland. No Jewish men were allowed to remain in Poland at that time. She witnessed in Krakow the horrors that the Germans would soon unleash on the Jews of Tomazow. She told everyone who would listen about witnessing the killing in the German camps and the blatant murder of Jews.
The plan was to escape to the Russian side of the border with her brother Izec and other family members. In the town of Baranovichi, she had a cousin who was married and had his own family. In addition, she had a brother in-law Josec Jurkiewicz who married Szayna her older sister, who was currently living in Baranovichi.
Her two brother’s in-law, ran away during the bombardment of Tomazow on September 6, 1939 and attempted to make the trip by bicycle to Russia, but they were unsuccessful. They got stuck in Warsaw, the “White Russian” side of the dynamic border. On October 1, 1939 the Wehrmacht entered Warsaw. Her brother’s in-law then successfully escaped to Baranovichi. Eventually, they returned to Tomazow to get their respective wives. Each one had a child.
The German army entered Tomazow on September 13, 1939, but withdrew within two weeks, and the Soviet army entered. A few days later the Germans took it over again. Many Jews seized the opportunity of leaving the town with the withdrawing Soviet army. Eventually, her brother’s in-law Yakov Biderman and Josec Jurkiewicz showed up at her home joined with their wives Rivka and Szayna, grandma Szyfra’s sisters.
The plan was to leave on New Year’s Eve December 31, 1939. Szyfra was to escape, in the snow, with a large group of people to the Russian side of the border. She was to be accompanied with her fiancé Leon Pelta and his brother Izek Pelta. Szyfra managed to take a few family pix with her when she ran away from Poland to Russia.
Her sister, Rivka Rachel, who was recently married months prior to Yankele Yakov Biderman – refused to go. They had time to escape, but they refused to leave.
Her brother in law from Russia was a Lubvitcher Chassid. His name was Nesanyil Gerbicz, originally from the town of Konstantynow. He initially arrived with the Chabad Yeshiva to Tomashov at the age of 29 and married her sister, Livsha Laya. He was a Rabbi. Her mother had a lot of pride in the shiurim that he gave to the community. They had a baby age one year old in 1939. She was named was Hirla after her great-grandmother and she had very curly hair.
When Rabbi Nesanyil Gerbicz refused to escape from Poland he stated to my grandmother,
“I ran away once from Russia [at the age of 18 with the Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1928] and I do not want to go back!”
He was scared because his wife was pregnant with their second child. He was concerned that since it was war time, he was not sure he would ever see her again if he would leave her. Szyfra promised Nesanyil, that if he runs away with them, that she would bring his wife to him. Understandably, he did not trust her. He responded,
“I do not want to go back to Russia.”
At one point, Rav Nesanel (Nesanajl) Gerbicz escaped Tomazow and went to Warsaw with Grandpa Lejbus Pelta and was caught by the Nazi’s. He place in a forced labor detail on the railroad. They both eventually escaped and returned to Tomazow. The Gerbicz family was eventually murdered by the Germans or the Poles.
Szyfra was engaged to Lejbush Pelta from Konskie (my Grandpa Leon). Since they were not married yet, Lejbush (Yehuda Leib) did not feel comfortable running away at that time. She told my grandfather the following,
“I am not going to marry you, if you will not go to Baranovichi.”
She saw that it was not possible for any Jewish men to survive in German controlled Poland. Thank G-d Grandpa Leon listened to her. Eventually, he decided to escape together with his brother Izek Pelta to Baranovichi.
Szyfra left her mother in Tomaszow. When Grandma Szyfra left her mother, she left her engagement ring on her mother’s necklace, in order to reassure her that she will return home. The plan was to find an apartment for her mother to stay in Baranovichi and then come back and get her in three days.