"Meanwhile, I am holding fast. What will be afterwards – God only knows. Whatever happens – don't be sorry. I am no more worthy than so many [fellow Jewish] brothers and sisters."
Moshe Ekhajzer wrote these words in his letter from the Warsaw ghetto, on the eve of the uprising in the ghetto and its liquidation, to his daughters Ola and Nehama, who were living under false identities in the "Aryan" side of Warsaw. Moshe was murdered during the uprising. Ola and Nehama survived.
Moshe Ekhajzer and Miriam Friedman married in Wołczyn, Poland, and in 1912 moved to Warsaw. In Warsaw they were less stringent in their religious lifestyle, but remained in contact with the Jewish community. They were Zionist: in the 1920s, Miriam donated her wedding ring to support Jewish settlement in Eretz Israel.
Moshe and Miriam had five daughters: Fela-Zipora, Shoshana, Ola-Rachel, Nehama and Debora-Dorka. The parents conversed in Yiddish, but the daughters spoke Polish. The girls studied in the Hebrew "Tarbut" school and the "Yehudiyah" high school. Moshe owned a thread and rope factory, which later was also operational in the ghetto.
The parents of the family invested greatly in their daughters' education. Fela went to study dentistry in France, followed by Ola. Shoshana studied in the Jewish teachers' seminar in Vilna. In 1938, she registered to study Biology at the University of Warsaw. As a Jewish student, she had to stand at the edges of the classroom during lessons. Antisemitism in the university eventually led her to immigrate to Eretz Israel. She immigrated on a special certificate (immigration visa) allotted by the British to students registered at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Fela married Grisha Herman, who had Eretz Israeli (Mandatory Palestinian) citizenship. He was an actor in the "Habima" Theater in Eretz Israel, and married Fela when he came to Warsaw to visit his parents. They were incarcerated in the Warsaw ghetto. In the summer of 1942, the Germans announced that those with foreign passports could leave Poland. Fela and Grisha prepared to depart, but were sent to Treblinka and murdered there. Fela was pregnant at the time.
Nehama and Ola hid in the "Aryan" side of the city using forged documents. Their little sister Dorka died in the Christian hospital in Warsaw on 9 September 1942, aged 12. Ola made sure to bury Dorka in the Christian cemetery. Their mother Miriam, who was in hiding outside of the ghetto, heard about Dorka's death only six months later. Nehama would wash Miriam's clothes and Ola would bring them back to Miriam's hiding place. Nehama only visited the hiding place once.
Moshe Ekhajzer was murdered on 7 May 1943 during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Miriam knew her husband had been killed, but didn't tell her daughters so that they would not be too despondent. On 9 March 1944, Miriam's hiding place, where she was taking refuge with the historian Emanuel Ringelblum and his family, was discovered. All of the people hiding there were murdered.
Nehama and Ola survived the war and went to France. Nehama immigrated to Eretz Israel in 1945. Ola returned to her dentistry studies, completing her education in Nancy, France. She married, and in 1949 moved to London. Nehama later brought Dorka's remains for burial in the Har Hemenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem.
In 1955, Nehama Fahan-Ekhajzer submitted to Yad Vashem Pages of Testimony in memory of her parents, Moshe and Miriam Ekhajzer, and her sisters Fela and Debora-Dorka. After the passing of Shoshana Hadani-Ekhajzer, her children found an old suitcase containing dozens of letters that their mother had never shown them, including the last letter from their grandfather Moshe. In 2010, the family published Michtavim Mehabayit (Letters from Home) – telling the story of the Ekhajzer family. A copy of the book may be found in the Yad Vashem Library. In 2015, in the framework of Yad Vashem's "Gathering the Fragments" campaign, Michal Hadani-Barkai, Shoshana's daughter, gave the letters and postcards of the family to Yad Vashem for eternal safekeeping.
Meanwhile I am holding fast. What will be afterwards – God only knows. Whatever happens – don't be sorry. I am no more worthy than so many [fellow Jewish] brothers and sisters. Either way, I hope to get to safe haven. I only think about and worry for your fate. You, my darling Ola, on your shoulders rest the responsibility to take care of your mother and sisters. I tried to be brave and arrange everything calmly and wisely. That was the only thing that could save you. Of course, I am writing this with the responsibility of a father and husband. I have not for one moment lost hope that I will be saved and return to you. It is very bad for me that I was left penniless. It makes it very hard to get food. And if you have a chance to escape, it is impossible without money. Try to get money from Zusia, or maybe Zusia's mother, because Zusia is not always home.
Rysz owes me 600 zloty, but that is nothing, I need thousands. I want to remind you that in the grounds of our factory there are silver items that could help you. Please call Arthur via Vitold. He is the only one who can save me. I can meet him in the evening. He should signal me using a flashlight, and then I can get to him via the wall [of the ghetto]. I see no other salvation at the moment. Tell him that I am here alone. Korobak and his wife are no longer here. They are on Prosta [a street in the ghetto]. Put pressure on him to do this, maybe he will agree, because I am left alone. For now, that is all. I am here every day at number 7. If he agrees, you have to tell me, so I will know when to come out to Arthur.
I am pointing out the goods and packages that are at number 7, in the factory below. Three packages with cotton wool, a bag with cotton and spools of thread, half a bag with embroidery thread and a brown, wide bag with tallitot [ritual fringes]. One bag with dirty laundry, and in the same factory, on the shelf, next to the engine, there is a bag with cotton and two bags. In the office, there is a bag with [underwear] for men and women. Mrs. Tusia, who also used to live at Milna 7, has two bags and fur, as well as five cuts of carcass leather and 120 combs. In the Kamionka house, there is one large suitcase and one small one tied with white rope and clothes, two coats and a cotton bag.
As for Arthur, he can do this. I don't even have to climb over the wall. I can pass through a sewer pipe. He knows that. The passageway to the radiators just need to be open and he should wait for me. I can't be in our courtyard during the day while he [the German] sits there. When he is not there, it is possible to do anything. You need to talk to Arthur. I will try to be in our courtyard every evening from 10pm until 10am. If one evening I cannot be there, I will be there the next evening and wait for a sign. Write a letter and leave it with Zusia. I can be in the radiator room for a few days. If you don't receive any news from me for a few days don't be worried, because I am considering entering a good bunker for a few days. The factory has other things that have a certain value.