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Video interview with Esfira Maiman
Robert Hans Olschwanger - Esfira's cousin

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Her father, Leon Rappaport, was a textile industrialist. Her only brother, Michel was a lawyer while Esfira studied to become a dental technician. She also helped her father in his textile business.

When the war broke out, the Rappaports were vacationing in a town nearby Lodz.
Since the latter was declared a German city by the Nazis, they decided to temporarily move to Warsaw, hoping that the war would come to an end soon.
There, they hired a small room, without windows, and Esfira married her first husband, Roman Domb.
Her brother Michel, escaped to Bialistok and Esfira never saw him again. He perished in the Holocaust.
Esfira worked as a seamstress in a small factory of Nazi uniforms. The foreman, a German citizen, was good to his workers and even let them know in advance of any Nazi actions.
Roman Domb worked in a laboratory.

One day, the Nazis ordered all the Jews to gather at Mila Street.  Roman Domb procured cyanide pills and gave them to Esfira's parents and to his mother, with the recommendation to stay at home and commit suicide if the Nazis caught them. Roman's sister (Lilka) and little nephew preferred to go with Roman and Esfira to Mila Street.
Lilka and her baby daughter were taken to Treblinka never to be seen again. Esfira and Domb were ordered to go back to the Ghetto and to their works.

Esfira's parents and Roman's mother survived at that point. The Germans did not go for them.
On another occasion, Esfira was taken to a concentration point where the Nazis carried out their selection process. There was an old German physician, with what Esfira characterizes as the "face of an angel", and an arrogant Nazi officer who smoke one cigar after the other. Esfira's intuition told her to avoid the old man. She went past the young officer, who was busy with his cigar, and that's how she spared her life.

Roman went looking for Esfira, fearing the worst. But she made it back home. Her father was gravely ill and eventually he passed away in the Ghetto, from a heart condition. Dr. Plocker, a Jewish physician who managed to live at the Aryan part of the city, in disguise, was next to her father when he died and said that this was a blessing in disguise, for Leon would not have been able to endure any further plight.

After Leon's death, Roman started working at an iron plant, in the Aryan part of the city, and he managed to convince the Jewish manager to take up Esfira as well. There, Roman got to know a Jewish woman, Ms. Krotozinski, who said she could help them escape and so they did.

Roman and Esfira went to Grodzisk Mazowiekci, a small town some 30 Km from Warsaw, while Esfira's mother stayed in Warsaw.
In Grodzisk, Krotozinski brought them to the house of Stanislawa (Stacha) Slawinska. The year was 1943. Stacha was the daughter of a Volk-Deutsche who fought against the Nazis, but she barely knew Jews. She immediately took up Esfira, while Roman returned to Warsaw and continued working there. From time to time, he came to see his wife and brought some money and some food to support Stacha's effort.

Stacha and Esfira became like two loving sisters. Stacha took care of her while knowing the risk she was getting into. In Poland, the Nazis did not hesitate to execute any gentile who was found guilty of helping Jews. But Stacha did not flinch.
One of her neighbours was a Nazi sympathizer and he started blackmailing Stacha, asking for money in exchange of his silence. Stacha paid him large amounts to avoid being denounced.

As time went by, Stacha started giving shelter to a total of 10 Jews, including Dr. Leon Plocker (a physician), Mr. Henryk Kroupnik (a plumber), Ms. Wlodaska, Esfira's mother and her husband Roman, Roman's brother and his wife, Maria Malczer and Irena Dymikiewicz. Stacha's small house was crowded and the danger of being denounced by her neighbors became extremely real.

Stacha's husband Tadeusz, was a railroad worker, who fought with the resistance and eventually was sent to a concentration camp.

Stanislawa and her husband Tadeusz – date of photo – some time in the 50's.
Stanislawa and her husband Tadeusz date of photo some time in the 50's.

The couple didn't have children but Esfira remembers Stacha's little nephew Romek (Roman Slawinski). At that time he was about 10 years old but with a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. He ran errands for the anti-Nazi Polish underground and even knew his aunt's secret, without revealing it to anyone.

When the Warsaw Ghetto was destroyed by the Nazis, after the heroic uprising, two of the leaders of the revolt, Marek Edelman and Simcha Rotem (Kazik) found shelter at the 3 Maja Street building.

Roman Domb (Esfira's first husband) was killed by the Nazis when he tried to get a good friend of his out of the Ghetto.

Esfira stayed a bit longer with Stacha but eventually she moved to Germany to a refugee camp, where she got to know Israel Maiman, who was to become her second husband.

Esfira and Israel Maiman - photo taken in the 50's
Esfira and Israel Maiman - photo taken in the 50's

 

Esfira and Israel Maiman in Israel
Esfira and Israel Maiman in Israel

While in Germany, Esfira was still in contact with Stacha and sent her money and food.
In Germany, Esfira and Israel had their first son – Yossi.
In 1948, the whole family moved to Peru, where Michele was born.

Esfira with son Yossi and daughter Michele
Esfira with son Yossi and daughter Michele

Esfira continued sending letters with money to Stacha, but she never got a reply. Only a few months ago, when Esfira was finally on the phone with Romek, after we have located him, he explained to her that the communist regime must have stopped the letters. He also told Esfira that Stacha passed away in 1971.

Stacha and Tadeusz common grave – Romek and his son Jacek, visiting the tomb (June 2008)
Stacha and Tadeusz common grave Romek and his son Jacek, visiting the tomb (June 2008)

 

Plaque on Stacha's tombstone
Plaque on Stacha's tombstone

In 1972, the Maiman's moved to Israel, where they live till now.

With all these materials in our hands, the Foundation started to move swiftly, knowing that time was of the essence.

Researching the records of Yad Vashem, we were astounded to find Stacha's own written testimony which was originally filed by her in 1961 in the Jewish Museum of Warsaw. In her testimony, Stacha relates her feats and hardships and even attaches the signed affidavits from three of the people who were saved by her (Esfira, Dr. Plocker and Mr. Kroupnik).

On the one hand, we launched an international campaign, in search for Roman (Romek) Slawinski. With the valuable help of Polish officials, among whom we should mention Ms. Izabel Matusz, from the Polish Embassy in Buenos Aires, and Ms. Agnieszka Krawczykowska, from the Municipality of Grodzisk Mazowiecki.
In a matter of three weeks, we managed to locate Romek, who was deeply moved when we learned about Esfira's efforts to find him.

 

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© 2008 The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation & Casa Argentina en Israel- Tierra Santa.
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