The Museum of Family History

HOME          SITE MAP          ABOUT THE MUSEUM          FEEDBACK          OPPORTUNITIES          LINKS


 Postcards from Home 



Above: Bala with her friends from Shomer Hazair
Right: Bala and Mojtek Zylberberg

Wielun, Poland
cir mid 1930s


Bala’s mother Sarah (Sura) (née Shiejevicz) died at the age of thirty-eight, leaving eight young children.  When Sarah’s husband Joine met her, he was smitten by her and went back to her town Działoszyn and married her.  She spoke Polish and was well-educated in Jewish subjects.  Sarah’s father had been a rabbi, and her brother as well (also a shochet and teacher, as was common in small cities at that time).  Miriam, Bala's sister, is the family member who remembers most of the family history, even though she was sixteen years old when she left Wielun to live in Palestine, in 1936.


In her youth, Miriam joined the Zionist organization, Shomer Hatzair, which according to American thinking was socialist.  Meetings were often held in Miriam’s house.  Later the group collected money and was able to rent a meeting place. 


When her sister Bala was fourteen or fifteen, she went to Łódź and started to work, later went to Hach Shara.  There she met her husband.  Miriam had already met this man at a summer camp for the organization Shomer Hatzair, where he visited.  Miriam had been sent to the camp from her own district, as had another young girl. 


Mojtek Zylberberg, born in Kalisz, Poland, was the head of a different district.  He was sent to the Warsaw ghetto by the Jewish underground to help organize the planned uprising. Prior to this, he had been in the Polish Army and so had valuable experience.  He was very well-liked and the young Miriam was very pleased that he signed her autograph book.  When Bala met Mojtek, she wrote to Miriam telling her of this, not knowing that Miriam already knew and liked him.  Bala and Mojtek were married in the Częstochowa ghetto.  Bala, didn’t want to leave Mojtek behind in Poland, insisting on staying with him.


Mojtek was an underground commander in the Częstochowa ghetto.  When the Germans came close to where they were positioned, he sent the Jews to one side of the area, while he shot at the Nazis from another.  He had a high price on his head because of his work and was later hanged by the Nazis, after first having saved an estimated one thousand people.


During the war, Bala, who spoke fluent Polish, dyed her hair blonde in order to completely fade into the Polish background outside the ghetto.  She was able to import food into the Częstochowa ghetto in order to help those inside.  One day, returning to the ghetto, she was caught by the Germans as she scaled the wall and was pulled down by her legs. She was deported to Treblinka, where she perished in 1943.


Miriam and Joe, living in Palestine, had already purchased passage to bring her to Palestine.  They went to meet the ship and she didn’t appear among the passengers disembarking.  Later, they heard what had happened to Bala.


After Bala was taken to Treblinka, Mojtek became despondent.  This was not his first loss of a loved one - his brother, Zora Zylberberg, was the first one the Germans killed in Vilno (Vilnius, Lithuania) – a hero. A friend, Yosef Kaplan, was also one of the first killed in the Warsaw ghetto. 





Copyright © 2007 Museum of  Family History

All rights reserved.  Image Use Policy