One Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, I got a phone call from my mother’s cousin, Tzippi, who lives in South Florida and is in her late seventies. “Sha’ron,” she asked, “I know you were close with Doda [Hebrew for ‘auntie’]. Did she ever tell you what she did during the War?”
Doda Anutza, whose real name was Hanna Druckman, was born in Romania in 1915. She had three brothers, one of whom was my grandfather, Isaac. At the age 15, she was sent to live with her aunt in Paris. “Well, Tzippi,” I said, “I know that Doda was part of the Resistance in France and that her lover was captured and murdered by the Gestapo. Beyond that, my Doda and grandfather refused to share anything else with me and Ima [Hebrew for ‘mom’].”
“I got a call recently from an old friend,” said Tzippi. “He found an interesting book in the library.”* The book, Tzippi explained, was written 20 years ago, and detailed the life of a Polish woman named Zosha. She came to Israel as a pioneer, joined the Palestine communist party, and then from 1930 onwards lived in France and Belgium. Zosha was recruited by a Soviet anti-Nazi resistance organization called the Red Orchestra. One third of their members were Jewish. Zosha was an unsung Jewish heroine of the War, one of the many women whose stories we are only now learning about.
“In this book,” Tzippi told me excitedly, “our Doda is mentioned!” The author interviewed Doda when she learned that some of the people who fought with the Resistance and survived the war had moved to Israel. And so, many years after her passing, Ima, Tzippi, and the rest of my extended family have had the opportunity to learn more info about Doda Anutza.
A Humble Auntie
Doda was a petite woman and as cute as they come. I remember her hair, her lipstick, her pink nails, and, of course, her high heels. I used to spend few days with her every summer in her tiny apartment on the Carmel in Haifa. I loved spending time with Doda. We would walk together to her hairdresser and to her friends’ houses for tea and cookies. I would pour over the books of art she had from France and Italy, and very carefully dust her porcelain dolls. She was my grandfather’s younger sister, my family, my Doda.
She never married. The love of her life was murdered by the Gestapo and that was the end of the story. Her nieces and nephews were like her children and their kids, my second cousins and I, were like her grandchildren.
I learned not to ask too many questions of her or her siblings. My grandfather never answered my question of “Where were you during that time?” I told him that I didn’t need details, just the name of a place, but he wouldn’t talk. My mother couldn’t get him to speak either. Doda would simply say she was fighting with the Resistance and that was it.
Now, through this author’s interview with Hanna Druckman, we have learned so much. On top of being a spy, my Doda saved Jewish children. She smuggled them out of Drancy, an assembly and detention camp for confining Jews who were later deported to the extermination camps. After the War, she took those same kids to an orphanage in Israel, and many of them were later adopted.
WOW! My Doda, a hero! A humble hero. She belonged to the generation who kept quiet because it was too hard to talk about what they’d lived through, and who did what they could to help out of a sense of responsibility to this world. It would have been brave enough to fight with the Resistance! To my mind, there is nothing more sacred than saving the lives of children. I could not be prouder to call her Doda!
My grandfather passed away when I was 14 years old. I am still searching for information to find where he was during the War. My Doda lived until her early nineties and was blessed to see her great nieces’ and nephews’ children. She lived in Israel for six months of the year and Paris for the rest. All of us would wait anxiously for her return to Israel, to see her smiling face and to savor the special treats she always brought us from France.
Rest in peace, brave hero. I think I can humbly say that your memory is for a blessing.
* “Codename Zosha: from the Jezreel Valley to the Red Orchestra” by Yehudit Kafri.
Sha’ron Wolfin Eden is the Director of Advancement at Tucson Hebrew Academy.