New Jersey Jewish News
Survivor describes escape route through Christianity and back again
There were 10,000 Jews in Czortkow, Poland, before World War II; less than 100 survived. Marta Goren was among them.
Goren, who now lives in Israel with her husband, Amos, told an audience at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft the story of her return to her hometown 56 years later. The Oct. 5 event was sponsored by Brookdale’s Center for Holocaust Studies and the Red Bank chapter of Hadassah.
Marta’s Story, a book written by Naomi Morgenstern, will soon be used as a text in middle schools throughout Israel.
Goren was born in 1935 in Czortkow, which was in the Galicia region of eastern Poland (the area is now part of Ukraine). After the Germans captured the town, Goren’s family was forced to move into a ghetto within Czortkow. Her father, Israel Winter, an attorney, was killed in one of the early “actions” that took place in the town.
Goren’s mother, Netti Winter, a pharmacist, sensed that more danger lay ahead and hid her daughter in the pharmacy basement for several months. When it became too dangerous for Marta to stay there, her mother contacted the Schultzes, a Polish-Christian family in Warsaw who had once had a professional relationship with Israel Winter. The family offered to shelter the eight-year-old child.
Lydka Schultz, the family’s 17-year-old daughter, came to Czortkow and took Marta to Warsaw. She was introduced to the neighbors as Christina Grinievich, the Schultz family’s cousin from the country.
Meanwhile, Marta’s mother went into hiding; not long afterward, she was betrayed by some of the townspeople and was killed by the Nazi occupation forces.
After the failed Polish uprising in Warsaw, the civilian population was expelled from the city. Marta remained with Pani Czaplinska, the Schultz family’s housekeeper, who had been sent to a transit camp in Proszkow. The two escaped from the camp and hid with acquaintances in several small villages. By this time, “Christina Grinievich” had assumed a Christian identity and was living as a devout Catholic girl.
After liberation, they returned to Warsaw, where Goren learned that her mother had been killed and that the town’s Jewish population had been decimated. By now, several organizations were combing the region looking for Jewish children who had been living as Christians during the war. Goren’s grandfather, who had survived, was looking for his granddaughter. Czaplinska, who had been encouraged by her priest to return Goren to her Jewish roots, agreed to surrender her to one of the searching organizations.
What followed was Goren’s anguished separation from Czaplinska, who represented the only family and security the girl had known through the war years. Along with other Jewish children, Goren was taken through the devastated landscape of Europe to an orphanage in Marseilles, France. In May 1946, she sailed to Israel and was placed in Magdiel, a youth aliya village that served as a home and school for children who had survived the Holocaust.
As Goren became immersed in the Jewish culture and the Hebrew language, her Jewish roots began to take hold once again. It was a difficult process, but eventually Marta reemerged from Christina Grinievich. During the 1950s, she met and married Amos Goren; the couple now lives in Rehovot.
Along the way, Goren received a nursing degree from Sheba Tel Hashomer Hospital and became a registered nurse and nursing instructor (she retired in 1996). She also has a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science and a master’s degree in Holocaust studies and recently completed her doctoral dissertation, which is based on the effect of the Holocaust on her hometown.
And in 1989, 56 years after leaving, Goren traveled back to Czortkow to talk to survivors, priests, and other town residents who told her about the murderous actions against the Jewish population.
“I went in 1989 to find out and understand what happened there,” Goren said. “I had to know. My parents had been steeped in Polish culture and had many non-Jewish friends and neighbors. But I learned that my mother couldn’t find one family or one person who was ready and willing to hide her so she could stay alive.”
Goren told how she walked along a river that ran through the area.
“It was such a pastoral setting,” she said. “I kept thinking how such horrific murders could take place here. It was hard to comprehend.”
She met with an elderly woman who had watched as Jews were taken away on trains bound for the death camps and saw long lines of Jewish men, women, and children herded along by Nazi soldiers. Many were beaten as they walked, the woman told Goren.
Goren was also reunited with the surviving members of the Schultz family. Although Czaplinska had died several years earlier, she left instructions with Lydka Schultz.
“She told Lydka that I would be back some day, and she was right,” Goren said. “She told Lydka to give me my fourth-grade report card, which she had managed to save; a ring that she had owned; two photos; and a religious pendant that I had worn during my time with her. I put that pendant on and have never taken it off.”
In 2005, Marta and Amos Goren organized a trip to Czortkow; 45 people traveled with them, all with connections to the town. Some had survived the war, some were the children and grandchildren of survivors, and others were the descendants of residents who left the town in the 1920s and 1930s to settle in Israel.
The mission had another purpose. The group watched as a memorial to Czortkow’s Jewish community was unveiled in an area of mass graves in the Black Forrest on the outskirts of the town.
In 1990, the Schultz family and Czaplinska were recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations; Lydka Schultz traveled to Israel to accept the citation on behalf of her family.
“They risked their lives for me,” Goren said. “I can’t think of anyone who deserved this honor more than this family. And now, I feel that my experiences in Czortkow have come to a close.”
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