Hella (Batsheva) Rufeisen-Schupper, a courier for the Jewish Fighting Organization in the Warsaw Ghetto who testified at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, died Sunday, the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, at the age of 95.
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Rufeisen-Schupper was born in Krakow in June 1921. In her youth she was a member of the Akiva youth movement and after the German invasion joined the Jewish underground in the city. In 1921, when she was 20, she snuck into the Warsaw ghetto, where she was one of the founders of the Jewish Fighting Organization, headed by Mordechai Anielewicz.
“We spoke of how we could not remain silent. I voted in favor of founding the Jewish Fighting Organization,” she once recalled. “We spoke of how we had to rise up and fight the Germans. A decision was made to do everything possible to fight.
“Did we get combat training? We were kids who wanted everything good in the world, educated to love humanity, to work, beautiful songs, toward our goal to reach Palestine no one spoke about killing people, even if they were Germans,” she said. “It was something that sprang up and we weren’t quite ready for it.”
She served the Jewish Fighting Organization as a courier between the ghettos of Warsaw and Krakow. She also helped prepare forged identity papers for the fighters in the forests, obtain weapons and documents and transmitted messages and coordinated between the groups of fighters.
In January 1943, when she set out on one of her missions outside the ghetto, she was arrested but managed to escape and return to the ghetto. After the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising broke out on April 19, 1943, she was sent to the command bunker at 18 Mila Street in Warsaw. According to Rufeisen-Schupper, “We were 100 people there, fighters. There were no weapons and there was no hope, but people did what they could, they fought the Germans as best they could.”
On May 7 Anielewicz sent her on a mission to the Aryan side of the city, and a few days later she got word that the bunker and its inhabitants had fallen. In July 1943 she was caught and sent to the Bergen Belsen concentration camp in Germany. She immigrated to Palestine in 1945, settling in Beit Yehoshua, where she met her husband, Aryeh Rufeisen. She was later one of the founders of Bustan Hagalil, a moshav in the Western Galilee, where she lived until the end of her life.
In 1961 Rufeisen-Schupper testified at the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem and continually worked to commemorate the Holocaust. She published a book about her Warsaw ghetto experiences in 1990, and she lit a beacon in 2003 at the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem.
Her daughter-in-law, Ahuva Dotan, said, “It’s very symbolic that she died today, the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, and joined her friends from the Jewish Fighting Organization. She had told Anielewicz that she wanted to stay and die with them in the ghetto.” Rufeisen-Schupper leaves three sons, nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.