My Aunty Madzia
I loved Madzia as much as my own parents. She and her husband Rafael lived in Tel Aviv, Israel. Whenever I travelled to Israel, I would usually stay with them. They were always so good to me and I felt so happy in their company.
Rafael passed away in 2014, Madzia, in December 2021. It was very sad that I hadn’t managed to see her before she died due to Covid.
Here is a very brief summary of Madzia’s life:
Madja was four years younger than my father, and a year younger than my mother. During the war, Madzia - a young teenager - had spent time in Auschwitz before she was sent to a women’s concentration camp in Halbstadt. The story goes that she managed to hide a diamond in her mouth till nearly the end of the war. In the camp, she became exhausted and lost her will to live, so she handed over her diamond to a Kapo (inmate guard) called Pola. Fortunately, Pola had a heart and cared for Madzia, giving her extra food and clothes, and helped her survive.
Madzia and mum met each other at Halbstadt labour camp and befriended each other. When the Russian Army liberated the camp on 8 May 1945, the two young women walked through the gates to taste the freedom. Simultaneously, the Russian army liberated the men’s labour camp in Friedland, where dad was an inmate. Dad discovered that the women’s camp was close by, only 9 miles away, so he borrowed a bicycle and headed there to search for his only sister. On the way, he noticed two girls with shaved heads who looked like boys. One looked very familiar. It was his sister Madzia whom he hadn’t seen for nearly two years. The other girl was mum, who soon became his wife. That is another story.
The three of them planned to leave Poland and migrate to Palestine, together with Madzia and dad's half brother, Staziek, his wife, Franka and baby son, Dovi. At the last moment, however, mum changed her mind. She decided she didn’t want to migrate to Palestine. Her reasoning was that she needed to get as far away as possible from 'Dead Europe' and the history and hatred that seemed to follow the Jewish people. So, after receiving permits from an uncle in Shanghai, mum and dad sailed to Australia in 1949. Madja, together, with Staziek and family, had sailed to Palestine on The Exodus two years earlier, in 1947. That is a big story too.
In a nutshell, The Exodus was a worn-out passenger ship, carrying over 4,500 Jewish refugees from displaced persons (DP) camps in Germany. The ship attempted to sail to Palestine (without permission to land). Palestine was under British mandate at the time. The British stopped the ship from landing and sent the refugees back to DP camps in Germany. This was a horrific ordeal for the survivors, fresh out of the concentration camps.
Madzia eventually landed in Palestine on the brink of the 1948 War of Independence. She was conscripted into the army, but was injured soon after. That’s when she met Rafael - in a hospital in Tel Aviv. They married and had two children (my first cousins), Igal and Anat.
Dad, mum and Madja finally reunited in Tel Aviv in 1960 after not seeing each other for 12 years.
Since then they have kept in constant contact and written hundreds of letters (in Polish) to each other, which I still have today.
The only photo Madzia has of herself as a little girl
Madzia, in Munich, after The War
Madzia, mum and dad, soon after liberation, 1945
Madzia and mum, shaking on an oath of everlasting friendship, 1946
Madzia & Rafael, Tel Aviv, Israel, 1948
Dad & Madja, together again after 12 years. Tel Aviv, 1960
Mum and dad’s first trip to Israel to reunite with Madja, Staziek and the rest of the family. They last saw each other 12 years earlier in Munich, Germany, soon after the war ended.
Top row: left to right: Madja Ahouvi, baby Anat Ahouvi, Adolek Kohn, Rachel Chomski, Yulek/Yehuda Chomski.
Front row: Marysia Kohn, Sabina Faitlowitz, Yanek Faitlowitz, Hani Chomski, Igal Ahouvi
Tel Aviv 1960.
Sexy poses: Madja & me, on her first visit to Australia, 1966
Dad & Madzia, 2012
With her grand niece Sunny (Korman-Inbal), 2015
With Justine (Peleg), Madzia's grand niece, and me. Tel Aviv 2014
Me, Madzia and Madzia's daughter, Anat (Ringel), (my first cousin) 2018
A new generation that love Madzia
Sunny's daughters, Mia and Evie with Madzia, 2018
With her youngest great, great nephew, Eitan (Korman-Inbal), 2019
'The Day after The War'
by Madja Ahouvi
5th May, 1945
The end of 1944. Auschwitz was working powerfully. The Germans knew that their end was near. They wanted to burn as many Jews in their crematoriums as possible. We went five by five, in ranks to the showers.
I didn't believe that we would be left alive. I told the girls: I want to die quickly (we had heard about the gas). But then a miracle happened. It was water, real water.
It was hard to believe, but they sent us to work. After a whole night in a goods train we came to a factory. We didn't know where we were, but it was in Sudetenland, Halbstadt.
We worked there for half a year. We slept on beds of boards in a big hall in another factory. Every morning we went, hungry and barefoot, to the weapon factory. SS women were our inspectors. The Frenchmen were prisoners of war. They examined our work. They whispered words, consoling us. They very quietly told us the news. They were afraid of the S.S. women. Sometimes we found some raw potatoes or a carrot. It was the most beautiful present. Once I found a comb and a little mirror in my drawer. I noticed that I had some hair growing on my head.
5th May, 1945. In the morning the S.S. women didn't come. We were locked from outside in the big hall. It was impossible to open the iron door. Suddenly we heard crashing and breaking. The French prisoners came to open the door. They told us that the war had finished. The Germans ran away. Our joy was great, so great, we wept and laughed. After that we were told that the Germans had put a bomb in the cellar before they left and that the French had diffused it.
Again luck was with me. We were alive. We were free. We went out to freedom, to the sun, to the free world. We wanted to cry: Youth, lend me wings to fly!!
It was a wonderful nice day. The sun was shining, the trees were blooming, the air was clear. The whole world was ours. We were so young. We were full of hope. I walked with my girlfriend, Marysia, along the street for the first time – free -- without the S.S. women. I wore my only black dress, absurdly long with an open neck. On my feet, wooden sandals. Under the dress, nothing. But who cares (I thought) how I look like. We carried the freedom, the youth, the happiness, and hope in our hearts.
My lean body on my thin legs moved slowly along the street. Suddenly we heard the noise of motorcycles. Then we saw hundreds of Russian soldiers on motorcycles. They ran after the Germans. And then, after the whole convoy - it was unbelievable – appeared three Jewish boys on bicycles. I said to my friend, look, one of them looks like my brother. At that moment, he jumped across to me and hugged and kissed me. My dear brother, he recognised me at once. We all were looking terribly thin.
My brother had been looking for me from early that morning, driving from one camp to another. He was sure in his heart that I was in one of them. At once he took me with him. After that, he and his friends looked for some (more) relatives or friends in the camp. My friend, Marysia, became my brother's wife.
My brother found me on the first day after the war. Half a year earlier I had been separated from my family at the Auschwitz gate. My second brother escaped from Treblinka. That's all. From the whole family only the three of us won our lives.
To Jane with love,
by Madja Ahouvi
There were different birthdays in my life. There were noisy ones and there were quiet ones. There were sad ones and there were happy ones, rich and poor ones. But only one of them is unforgotten.
It happened in 1945, near the end of the war. It didn't stop the Germans from working hard and being cruel. At that time I lay on my bunk bed of boards, very sick. In the morning my girlfriends covered me with a blanket. They went to work. I stayed alone. I pressed myself into the straw mattress, because I was afraid of the ‘Kapo’.
I was losing my senses. I was dreaming: I was at home lying on my white bed. Opening my sleepy eyes I saw the sun through the windows. The balcony was wide open, and I smelt the fresh lilac’s odour of May. I hear from far away: ‘Madziunia, wake up!’ Today is your birthday. Everybody is kissing me and I’m carrying lots of chocolate in my pockets. I'm going delighted to school. How wonderful is the taste!
But… the reality was different. No chocolate, no PARENTS, no kisses, no happiness. I lay on the wooden bed till the evening, hungry, thirsty and sick. In the evening the girls came from work, tired, hungry but happy. They saw the black flags outside, Hitler was dead on the first of May. We hoped that the end of war was very year. The girls brought me some wildflowers.
My best girlfriend brought me the most wonderful present in my life, because it was given from her heart, from her hungry lips. She was so hungry – but she gave it to me. It was fresh and sweet like nothing in the world. It was a big CARROT!
Miriam Ahouvi, 1 May 1996
To Jane with love, M
Note: Madja wrote her memoirs in English during her years in English class in the 1990s.
Madja and family at her place, Ramat Aviv, 2017 Top row, L–R: Yasmin (Korman/Vinkler), Jane (Kohn/Korman), Guy (Ahouvi) Middle row, L–R: Madja (Ahouvi), Coby (Korman), Bee (Nyugen), Rami (Ringel), Anat (Ahouvi/Ringel), Yoav (Ahouvi) Bottom row, L–R: Evie and Sunny (Korman-Inbal), Ben (Korman-Inbal), Mia (Korman-Inbal), Justine (Peleg), Amir (Inbal)
Part 1. Happy birthday Madzia!, 2012. Dad and mum (fooling around)
Mum is saying:
Our beloved Madzunya!
Thank God, after so many years, our bodies and minds are still healthy!
We wish you good health. We are lucky, that is, you are lucky to have children that wrap you with love as if you're a child yourself. And I am lucky that I have my beloved Adolek, who I also look after like a child :-)