Typhus – even the sound of the word is scary. Typhus killed thousands during the War, including young Anne Frank in Bergen-Belsen.
In 1941, Esther Wisznia lived with her family in the crowded town of Slonim. In May, she became ill with Typhus. She went to the Slonim hospital and was cared for by kind doctors and nurses. See blog post: http://bit.ly/2gEEClj
Esther recovered. The doctor told her to remain in the hospital, even though she was well. She could help with the patients. The doctor knew that if she went home, she would have little or no food.
When the Nazis stormed into Slonim in late June, 1941, they shot thousands of Jews into a pit just outside of town. Esther was not killed. She was in hospital. The hospital was a haven.
Or so I thought.
Until yesterday, when I read the biography of Herschel Rosenblat on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website. Herschel was born in 1916. In 1940, Herschel fled to Slonim, like so many others, crowding into this already overstuffed city. He found work as a house painter and one day in June of 1941, Herschel fell from a scaffold and broke his leg. He was taken to the Slonim hospital.
Perhaps Esther was helping to care for him as he lay in his bed.
In late June, the Nazis added another victory in their war against the Jews. Thousands, including Esther’s parents and siblings, were shot dead and buried in a mass grave outside of Slonim. Herschel, like Esther, was in the hospital and thus escaped the mass shooting.
BUT, the last line of Herschel’s biography reads:
“Along with other hospital patients in Slonim, Herschel was shot and killed as he lay in his hospital bed. He was 25 years old.”
WHAT? The Nazis came into the Slonim hospital and shot the patients in their beds? I thought this was a haven. Where was Esther?
Esther must have left the hospital between the time of the massacre outside of town and the hospital killings. Did Esther know that her fellow hospital patients, many of whom she cared for over the previous month, had been shot in their beds ? There is no way to know.
This added piece of information makes Esther’s survival in Slonim in June of 1941, even more miraculous.