World War II
With the outbreak of World War II and the German invasion of
Poland, Rabbi Ziemba became the single most important force in the Warsaw
Ghetto. In the darkest days of despair, he was a source of hope, optimism and
inspiration. He set up secret locations for the study of Torah, and at great
personal risk, constantly visited these clandestine places to strengthen those
who studied there. His wife died in the ghetto.
Rabbi Ziemba was given two
opportunities to escape from the ghetto. Through the efforts of Chaim Israel and
the Sternbuch family of Switzerland, he was sent a Costa
Rican passport and citizenship papers. His last name, however, was
misspelled - Ziember instead of Ziemba. This was enough excuse for his papers to
be declared void.
In another incident, Rabbi Ziemba, along with the other two
surviving members of the Warsaw Rabbinate, Rabbi Shimshon Sztokhamer and Rabbi
David Shapiro, were suddenly summoned to the Judenrat. They were told that
the Catholic Church was
willing to rescue them. The three refused to go, saying that the existence of
the Rabbinate gave Jews strength to carry on, although such a formality was no
Rabbi Ziemba established a committee to provide Pesach supplies for the Ghetto
inhabitants. He was under constant surveillance by the authorities, and as such,
could not become personally involved with the Ghetto underground. However, when
money was needed to obtain ammunition, he was the first to donate, and added
personal blessings to this resistance
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began soon before Pesach. While the battle raged around him, Rabbi Ziemba prepared himself for the coming holiday as if nothing was happening. In the evening, the fighting stopped and Rabbi Ziemba conducted the Seder as though the times were normal.
The next few days were spent in hideouts watching the ghetto being burned. The Nazis were methodically destroying the ghetto, house by house, in order to break the resistance. Among those burning were the houses around Kupiecka 7, including the building where Rabbi Ziemba was holed up.
With the air thick with smoke and nearly impossible to breathe, Rabbi Ziemba and the people with him decided to try to run across the street, past SS men manning machine guns, to the building where the "Volia Rav", Rabbi Ber, was hiding.
During a momentary lull in the shooting, when it seemed safe, Rabbi Ziemba's daughter Rosa managed to run across first and then motioned to the others with her arm. Her signal was misunderstood. Believing it to be safe, Rabbi Ziemba, holding his five year old grandson Yankele Ber by the hand, tried to make a run for dear life. Wild screams and gunfire ensued. Rabbi Ziemba fell to the floor; the others retreated under the ferocious assault.
The news of the Rabbi's death quickly spread to all neighboring hideouts. In spite of the great danger, a number of minyanim gathered. A Beth Din was set up, which decided to bury the Rabbi temporarily in a grave in the courtyard of Kupiecka 4. When the ghetto was finally liquidated, his entire immediate family was taken to Treblinka where they all perished.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Menachem Ziemba 2 escape offers refused
He was a source of hope and could not abandon his fellow Jews and set up secret locations for the study of torah. There was a rescue offer from the Catholic church for him and two other mermbers of the rabbinate: R Shimshon Sztokhamer and R David Shapiro. They all refused saying the rabbinate gave their fellow Jews strength to carry on.He contributed money to buy ammunition for the underground and gave the underground his blessing.