Monday, July 12, 2010
It is 6 am in Berlin and we will be heading to Bergen Belsen soon. It is the site of the infamous death camp, and our journey has taken a turn. I feel that the artifacts and photographs we have seen certainly put faces on to both victims and perpetrators, however standing on track 17 made it very personal as the reality is literally under your feet, knowing that the deportees stood there, looking at those same trees that same sky; that may have been as blue as yesterday, as hot as yesterday, or as cold as the winter with the wind blowing relentlessly through the station. Now we travel to a location some, like Anne Frank, were sent to.
We leave for Poland tomorrow and I thought it would be fitting to add the story of Lee Baumwald Lench ;
who is my benefactor for this trip
Lee Baumwald Lench was born in Brody, Poland on November 22, 1933. Her parents Leon and Toby and her sister Frieda led a normal life until the Germans marched into Poland on September 1, 1939. Brody had a large Jewish population about eighty percent Jewish and the rest a mixture of Ukrainians and Poles before the war. After the German invasion, the Jews of Brody were evicted from their homes and put into a ghetto in December of 1942. The Germans regarded the establishment of ghettos in Poland as a provisional matter, and the destructions of those ghettos were started in late 1941 and by the summer of 1942, they were deporting Jews for slaughter to the camps.
The majority of the Brody ghetto Jews were gassed and shipped to concentration and death camps. A kind family employee named Pietro helped her family to escape and hide in a bunker which he dug for them. Hiding in that bunker were her parents, sister and her uncle Hersch. Living in the bunker became a terrible hardship, they could not go out and they suffered from constant hunger. Lee was eight and a half years old at the time of their hiding. Pietro, their savior was not able to help them with much food since he had his own family to feed and food was very scarce. The Gestapo (German police) raided Pietro’s farm because they suspected that he was hiding Jews.
In preparation for their hiding, the Baumwald family brought along anything of value which consisted of money and jewelry. Lee’s uncle Hersch sneaked at night from the bunker to barter for food supplies from the local town’s people on the black market. Twice, he was shot on different outings while trying to forage for food. After the war, he was drafted into the Russian army and never returned. Lee was grateful to her brave uncle Hersch, her mother’s brother who kept them alive while in the bunker.
After the war, Lee and her family spent the next four years in Displaced Person’s camps in Germany. Lee learned Hebrew in a Beis Yaakov School for girls while in Germany.
After the war, Lee’s family came to the United States on the “SS General Hershey” in 1949 to Boston, New York. Lee’s mother Toby died two years later. Lee met her husband Simon (Leczycki) Lench from Lask, Poland, a fellow survivor and they were married in Brooklyn, New York in 1953. Lee met her husband a number of years prior to her marriage. Simon was a builder by profession and he passed away in 1993.
Simon’s parent’s Shiya and Hinda, his sister Jentale, aunts, uncles and cousins were murdered during the Holocaust. Lee and Simon have two children, a son, a daughter and 13 grandchildren.
Lee feels strongly that students must learn about the Holocaust. She sponsored a teacher by the name John Schembari who attended a Seminar about the Holocaust during the summer, sponsored each year by the New Jersey Holocaust Commission. She hopes that John will teach his students about the terrible inhumanities that were perpetrated against the Jewish people during World War II.
Many close members of her family perished, her uncle Mechel and his entire family, her aunt Chaya, her grandmother Malka Blima Apfel Baumwald and many more relatives whose names she can not recall because of her young age during the war.