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.
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.
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
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.