When Light Pierced the Darkness: Christian Rescue of Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland

By Nechama Tec | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Defying the Final Solution:
Moving to the Christian Side

Large, wondering, dreamy yet penetrating eyes dominated her face. A well-shaped mouth with a playful smile offered a glimpse, a promise of straight white teeth. The rest too, the nose, the chin and cheeks, seemed in perfect harmony as if chiseled out of marble by skillful hands. All those well-fitting features were framed by soft, wavy, golden hair. Wondering whose photograph this was, I heard Rina Ratner's voice: Yes, I was beautiful. In a way, my looks saved me.

Rina Ratner came from my hometown, Lublin. During the war she passed as a Christian and then settled in Israel. When I met Rina she was in her sixties. Soft-spoken, with an air of resigned sadness, she did not resemble the spirited and confident young woman in the photograph. During the war, like most Polish Jews, Rina was forced into a ghetto along with her husband, a physician. But because she was employed in a factory located outside the ghetto, she was given a special permit to leave the ghetto at specified times. On her way to and from work she would visit a Polish working class family, the Lasows. Eventually a friendship developed. When Edna Lasow was eager to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, Dr. Ratner sneaked out of the ghetto to perform the abortion. In turn, the Lasows, although poor, shared with their Jewish friends their meager food supplies.

By 1942, it was hard to deny that the Nazis were bent on destroying the Jews. Edna and Tadek Lasow were worried about the safety of their Jewish friends and suggested that the Ratners save themselves with the Lasows' help by passing as Christians. The Lasows pointed to the advantages of their friends' Polish looks and their command of the Polish language. They even offered to arrange false papers and temporary shelter for them. But the Ratners were not yet ready to make such a move and agreed only that at the appropriate time, they would slip out of the ghetto and accept their friends' offer.

As it turned out, it was the Nazis who decided when that time would

-27-

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