Israeli Family of Girl Killed in Holocaust Tries to Block Auction of Her Letters

'When we go outside the goyim beat us and throw stones at us (...) I would very much like to go to Eretz Israel [where] I could respond to the attackers, not like here where I am afraid,' one of the letters says

Rachel Mintz, an 11-year-old girl from the town of Zarki in Poland who was killed in the Holocaust.
Courtesy of the family

A resident of Mevasseret Zion is trying to block the auction of a moving letter written by her aunt, who was killed as a child in the Holocaust.

The material to be auctioned, on Tuesday, includes five letters written by Jewish children from Poland before the outbreak of World War II, to children in Palestine. One of them was written in 1937 by Rachel Mintz, an 11-year-old girl from the town of Zarki in Poland, who was a student at the Tarbut School. “You must have heard about events in Poland, that bad people are beating Jews and there is no one to help us. All the Jews in Poland want to come quickly to Eretz Israel,” she wrote.

The letter survived, but Rachel was later murdered. “She wrote beautifully, with beautiful penmanship in perfect Hebrew, which is so suited to the home in which she grew up. When I read the letter I got the chills, as if I could really hear the girl who wrote the letter in 1937, two years before it was all over,” her niece, Adva Lotan, wrote on Facebook.

“We are trying to stop the auction of the letter, so it doesn’t fall into private hands. We want to preserve and respect the memory of my aunt. The place of this letter is in an archive like Yad Vashem or The Beit Hatfutsot Museum.”

The letters sent by by Rachel Mintz, an 11-year-old girl from the town of Zarki in Poland, in 1937.
Dynasty auction house

Mintz was the youngest of five sisters and brothers: Naomi, Sa’adia, Ezra, Yosef (Adva’s father). Rachel was born in 1926 in the small town of Zarki in southern Poland. “A sweet girl loved by the whole family, she was called Lala, that is, doll,” Adva wrote.

When Rachel was about a year old her father died and she was raised by her mother and the family in the neighboring town of Zawiercie. At the end of 1937, the students of the Tarbut school in the city were asked to write letters to children in Palestine. In the letters they described the hostile atmosphere in Poland at the time, and expressed their wish to go to Palestine.  

The letters reveal the rising anti-Semitism in Poland, and almost all of them mention harassment of Jews by non-Jews and the fear of what was to come, the auction house, Dynasty, wrote.

Another student, Henya Yechston, wrote: “In school we hear only Hebrew but when we go outside the goyim beat us and throw stones at us…you see even small children suffering  but the big ones much more. I would very much like to go to Eretz Israel. I could respond to the attackers, not like here where I am afraid.”

A student by the name of Moshe Fruman wrote: “The situation of the Jews in Poland is bad, the Endecja (members of the National Democratic Party) want the Jewish students to sit on the left side of the university but the Jews don’t agree. I end the letter now. Shalom to you. Moshe Fruman.”

On September 4, 1939, Zawiercie was occupied by the Germans. In September 1941 all the Jews of the town were taken to the ghetto that was built there. In mid-1942, some 2,000 Jews were sent from the ghetto to Auschwitz.

When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, Rachel’s mother encouraged her brothers to flee to the east, and that is what they did. They all survived the war. Only Rachel’s mother and little Rachel “who was not strong enough to bear the hardships of the fight,” remained in Poland, and hid. 

Adva’s father, who joined the Russian army, fought against the Nazis until the victory. At the end of the war he returned to Zawiercie and said that he found his mother and his sister Rachel had been murdered, after a Jew from the town informed the authorities of their hiding place. The family does not know whether they were murdered in Auschwitz or somewhere else.

It is unclear how the letter Rachel wrote found its way to the auction house. Adva is asking the auction house not to sell it. “There should be a difference between an ordinary collector’s item or letter written by a public figure and a letter written by a girl who is gone and her family wants to remember something of her,” Adva said.

The Dynasty auction house said in response to a request for comment by Haaretz: "Dynasty is fully sympathetic with the concerns expressed by the family (…) and it will do everything in its power to convey the letters to the Mintz family." However, the auction house also noted, "We are not the owners of the letters but only intermediaries between sellers (depositors) and buyers." The starting bid for this letter and the four others had been set at $400.