Photo on the left taken in Poland circa 1940. Photo on right taken in Seattle 2004.
Fanny W. was born in south-western Poland. When she was 14, the Nazis sent her to a labor camp - a factory in Czechoslovakia. Fanny managed to survive 5 1/2 years in the camp. Her father, step-mother, brother, and sister were all killed.
Fanny Wald was born Frania Tabaczkiewcz on September 8, 1924 in southwestern Poland. She and her family lived in Bedzin, Poland, when the Nazis invaded Poland in September 1939.
And a little bit later the Germans marched in, I can feel it. I could hear the footsteps. I can hear their marching, of their march marching in and we were locked up in our houses. They were burning our synagogue. I could see the flames in front of me.
On the second day of the Nazi occupation, the local synagogue was burned and all Jewish males in the village over the age of 13 were removed from their homes and shot to death. Fanny tried to claim the bodies of her father and uncle, but local Poles would not allow her into the cemetery.
Fanny stayed home as much as possible to avoid being assaulted by the Nazis. Later in 1939, Fanny’s sister Simcha, did not show up at home. Fanny went to search for her and found that Simcha was being held in jail by the Nazis for not carrying a work card. She gave Simcha her own work card and switched places with her. Fanny, at age 14, was sent to a work camp/factory in Czechoslovakia called Oberalstadt. Simcha stayed in Bedzin.
I wasn’t human there. I was called by a number. I didn’t have a name. You had to know your number.
The women at Oberalstadt were not tattooed with numbers. Instead, they received numbered dog tags. These prisoners wore striped dresses and their heads were shaven only as a punishment. At the factory in Oberalstadt, workers spun flax into cloth or rope.
I was beaten quite often because I stick up for the sick ones. Sometimes a Czechoslovakian woman would tell me in the factory that she hid an apple or a piece of cake or a slice of bread for me to take it home. If I can, I smuggle it through to save the people in the sick room. An apple I cut up, oh boy, how many pieces I made out of it, and I fed them so they can live an hour more.
Fanny was caught trying to bring in food to the sick people. She was so badly beaten by a female SS guard that her kidney was injured. Another guard who was sympathetic to Fanny’s condition, obtained permission to take Fanny to a hospital in Prague by claiming that Fanny was only half Jewish. That guard saved Fanny’s life because she would have died without treatment due to the severity of her injury.
So you only survived on soup and bread. You had to swim to find a potato. By the time five years went by, you could go in with one shoe, two feet. We had to fight for five and one-half years to survive.
The camp of Oberalstadt was liberated in 1945 by English prisoners of war who were held in a nearby camp. The English POW’s entered Oberalstadt after Alled bombing scared off all the guards. Fanny had been in that camp for 5 ½ years.
My dad, he died at 32. He was killed, I should say.
My sister. Simcha Tabaczkiewcz. She might have been 15 or something like that…they sent her to Auschwitz.
My stepmother and my brother were gone already then. They were sent to Auschwitz. [My brother] was around 10, 11. Joseph…And they sent them, he died with her, but my sister died of typhus. People who survived told me. They were with her in the same room when she passed away. They couldn’t save her.
After liberation, Fanny returned to Bedzin where a home was set up for those returning to the town. Not much time passed before it became very dangerous to be known as a Jewish person in Bedzin, as well as other areas in Poland. Pogroms occurred in which returning Jewish people were attacked or murdered by the non-Jewish Polish townspeople. Fanny located a cousin who smuggled her into the American zone. She went to Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp in Germany which the Americans used as a displaced persons camp. Then she met Ziegmund Wald. He was from Kielce, Poland, They married February 26, 1946 and immigrated to the United States in 1950. They have three children and many grandchildren.
Hatred has no room in our hearts or in our homes.
Fanny W. was a member of the Holocaust Center for Humanity’s Speakers Bureau.
Quotes in italics by Fanny W. are from “Never Again I Hope,” A video developed by The Surviving Generations of the Holocaust Oral History Project, Seattle, WA, 1993.
Suggested resources related to Fanny W.'s experiences:
(Books and videos are available to borrow from the Holocaust Center for Humanity – [email protected])
“Never Again I Hope.” 1993. 37 mins. (video)
9 local (Washington) Holocaust survivors share their experiences.
Women and the Holocaust - http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/
Different Voices: Women and the Holocaust. Ed. Carol Rittner and John K. Roth. St. Paul, Minn: Paragon House, 1993.
This book gathers together the latest insights of scholars, the powerful testimony of survivors, and the eloquent reflections of writers, theologians, and philosophers.