In 1944 the Germans decided to liquidate the Lodz ghetto, the last existing ghetto in Poland. In the summer, after a short lull in the deportations, transports were renewed from the ghetto to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Among the deportees were Tola Walach and her mother Bluma.
As the train arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau, a selection was carried out on the ramp and Tola was separated from her mother. She tried to join her mother's group, but she was forced back into her own line and told that she was young and able to work.
Bluma was sent directly from the ramp to the gas chambers.
"I don't remember which one of us put my mother's reading glasses in my coat pocket, Mother or me… I didn't even know that such an important item of my mother's was hidden in my pocket; that I possessed something from my former life to remember her by. I realized shortly afterwards, after the selection… In the barracks they forced us to undress, so I looked in my pockets first and I found the glasses and didn't let them go. I took a chance and claimed that they were mine and that I had to wear them. I tied them around my body with a strip of cloth that I tore from my dress and hid them."
After two weeks in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Tola was sent to the Neukoelln camp near Berlin and assigned to forced labor in a Krupp factory. In 1945 the camp was liquidated and the prisoners were transferred to the Ravensbrück camp. A few weeks before liberation she was sent to Sweden for rehabilitation as part of the rescue operation directed by Bernadotte and the Swedish Red Cross. In 1949 Tola immigrated to Israel and married Michael Melzer. The couple had two sons.
"In the early 1990s, the glasses started to crumble. They were not spared the aging process. Concerned, I brought the small pile of fragments to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, where I found them a good home. People who do this sacred work took the task upon themselves, and restored the glasses' former shape by assembling the individual shards. Now they are in an appropriate location, optimally preserved and under glass."
Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection
Donated by Tola (Walach) Melzer, Jerusalem, Israel