Zygmunt and Zuzia Fischhab survived under assumed identities in Poland

Zygmunt Fischhab was born in Krakow to Aleksander and Regina.  Aleksander owned a successful stamp workshop and a paper goods business, and the family was financially comfortable.   Zygmunt had a sister, Jadzia (b. 1900) and two brothers, Iziu-Izidor (b. 1906) and Salek-Solomon (b. 1909).  Zygmunt studied pharmacology at university, and then enlisted in the Polish Army, where he completed a paramedics course.  He served in the military hospital in Krakow, and left the army with the rank of officer.  Iziu was a doctor, and Salek worked with his father in the family business.  Jadzia got married and had a daughter, Helenka.

In 1934, Zygmunt Fishhab married Zuzia Finder from Krakow.  Zygmunt worked as a pharmacist, and Zuzia worked in her family's cosmetics business. In 1936, they had a son, Jerzy-Joreczek.  Iziu married Rysia Finder, Zuzia's sister.  Salek married Masha Greenspan, and they had a daughter, Olga.

In July 1939, Zygmunt was recruited to the Polish Army and stationed in Przemyśl as the manager of the military field hospital's pharmacy.  When the war broke out, the hospital was moved eastward, to Jaroslaw.  The Germans reached Jaroslaw shortly afterwards, and in late October, Zygmunt organized false papers for himself and other officers, and returned to Krakow.

The German Army occupied Krakow on 6 September 1939, and persecution of the Jews commenced immediately.  A ghetto was established in Krakow in March 1941, and the Fischhabs were amongst those confined there.  Zygmunt found work at a garage for military vehicles, and sought ways to get out of the ghetto.  He recalled:

It was possible to obtain a forged ID card (Kennkarte) and a Catholic birth certificate, with which to escape from the ghetto and live on Aryan papers.  Jews and Poles would provide these false papers for a fee.  Anyone with a "good" appearance, that is, who didn't look Jewish… had a chance of survival.  In general, self confidence was required in order not to arouse suspicion in neighborhoods where Aryans lived.  Poles known as "Schmalzovnikim" roamed the streets.  They had a nose for sniffing out Jews…. When they discovered a Jew, he would have to pay them a lot of money, otherwise they would hand him over to the police, and then all was lost.  They would seize the men, drag them to the entrance of houses and order them to drop their trousers to check if they were circumcised.

Zygmunt obtained forged ID papers in the name of Kaminski.  "We looked 'good'," related Zygmunt. "And we made the decision to escape from the ghetto."  In October 1942, rumors about an impending Aktion were rife.  Zygmunt, Zuzia and Joreczek stole out of the ghetto and reached the resort town of Piwniczna, where they stayed at a pension run by a Polish couple.  Fearing the German raids on pensions in their hunt for Jews, the couple decided to close up shortly afterwards.  Zuzia and Joreczek fled to Warsaw, where they were assisted by the Jewish Committee, which was working in cooperation with the Polish rescue organization "Zegota".  They moved apartments frequently, and lived in perpetual terror of being given away.  Zygmunt found work as a clerk at a building supplies company in the town of Domb, and travelled there.  He recalls:

One day, it was a Sunday, I went for a walk after my meal… I saw a group of people being marched on foot… they were Jews. They were walking towards the German camp in Domb… It looked as though they'd been walking for a long time… they could barely move.  They went to work, exhausted.  I stood and watched… I was a Jew like them, but I was free, and I couldn't help them.  It was very sad.  I felt terribly alone. Far, but so close to them.

Zygmunt was transferred from Domb to the company's head office in Sandomierz.   After a while, he received a permit from his superiors to bring his wife and son, and they joined him.  As the result of a tip-off, Zygmunt, Zuzia and Joreczek were arrested and taken to the police station on suspicion of being Jewish.  Zygmunt's repeated claims of being a Polish Catholic fell on deaf ears.  They were less sure about Zuzia, but as far as they were concerned, her marriage to a Jew erased all her rights.  Their papers were confiscated, and after a few weeks in jail, the three of them were sent to the Sandomierz ghetto, where they lived in a cellar.  Zygmunt worked cleaning outside the ghetto, and planned their escape.  On the day set for the escape, the Germans prevented all departures from the ghetto.  The ghetto was surrounded by policemen and gestapo men, and two trucks waited outside.  In the ensuing selection, Zygmunt and Zuzia were not allowed to see their son, and were sent to a labor camp in Pionki.  The police commander promised Zygmunt that no harm would befall Joreczek, and that he would bring the child to the Krakow address that Zygmunt handed him.  Zygmunt relates:

It was a horrific day.  We didn't see our little boy, Joreczek, after that day in May 1943.  On the way to the labor camp, we were guarded by Ukrainians.  I gave one of them the gold watch on my wrist, and begged him to let us return to our child, but he didn't agree.  Only then did we realize the enormity of the disaster that had befallen us.

In Pionki, Zygmunt and Zuzia worked in a gunpowder factory. Zygmunt started planning their escape from the moment of their arrival.  After about two weeks, he managed to escape via a tear in the camp fence, and reached the hiding place of Zuzia's parents, Emil and Salomea Finder in Kielce.  Zygmunt's brother Iziu and his wife Rysia were also living there.  Zuzia reached Kielce a few days later.  The six of them lived in one room.  Whenever a neighbor came by, Zygmunt and Zuzia would hide behind the bed and cover themselves with blankets.  The danger of their being found out escalated daily.  Zygmunt contacted the man who had supplied him with the Kaminski papers, and obtained new forged papers from him in the name of Zygmunt and Roza Grabowski.  Their money ran out, and Zygmunt decided to leave and look for work, eventually finding a job forging documents.  He would travel by train between Krakow and Warsaw, and bring empty ID cards to Krakow.  The trains were packed with policemen, and there were numerous inspection points along the route. "They usually spoke about the Jews on the trains," says Zygmunt. "I had to join in those conversations… and express enthusiasm."  His liaison in Krakow was caught by the Germans, and Zygmunt had to find other work.  He wandered from place to place until he settled in the town of Wierchomla, where he worked in a factory that supplied building materials.  In order to obtain a permit for Zuzia to leave Kielce, Zygmunt forged a letter stating that she had been accepted for work at the same factory. 

In late 1943, Zuzia reached Wierchomla.  Zygmunt tried to get his brother and Rysia out of Kielce too, but was unsuccessful.  They were caught, together with Rysia's parents, after being betrayed by a Polish neighbor.  The parents and Iziu were murdered. Rysia was deported to Auschwitz and survived.  Zygmunt's father Aleksander was murdered, as were his sister Jadzia, her daughter Helenka, his younger brother Salek, his wife and their daughter.

Zygmunt and Zuzia remained in Wierchomla until their liberation by the Red Army, when they returned to Krakow.  They searched for their son at the address where the policeman had promised to send him, but in vain.  From there, they travelled to Sandomierz, clinging to the hope that perhaps they would find their son.  There, they heard from eye-witnesses that all the Jews remaining after they themselves had been loaded onto the trucks, were taken to an unknown destination from which no one returned.  Devastated and broken-hearted, Zygmunt and Zuzia went back to Krakow.  After a while, they retrieved the family businesses.  Zygmunt reopened his father's stamp workshop, and Zuzia and her sister Rysia opened the cosmetics store.  The difficulties surrounding managing private businesses in Communist Poland forced Zygmunt to leave the workshop and find work as a pharmacist, a highly sought-after profession at that time.  They adopted their assumed family name, Kaminski.  In 1947, Zygmunt and Zuzia had a daughter, Zosia-Sofia, and in 1964, the three of them immigrated to Israel.

In 1999, Sofia Diamant submitted Pages of Testimony to Yad Vashem in memory of the brother she never met, Jerzy, and other relatives.  In 2019 and 2021 dozens of family photographs and documents were donated to Yad Vashem as part of the " Gathering the Fragments" project as well as an enamel plaque with the names of all the Fischhab family members murdered in the Holocaust.  This plaque was originally affixed to the gravestone of Regina Fischhab, who passed away in 1940, and was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Krakow.