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May 12: Frania Beatus, Ghetto Courier

May 11, 2016

51d5342f4ef5b99eb076d6ef1dad1e90Frania Beatus, 17, a Warsaw Ghetto partisan who served as a fighter and a courier between the ghetto and the rest of the city, conveying messages, bribes, and armaments, committed suicide on this date in 1943, three weeks after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising had begun, prompted by the knowledge that much of the Jewish Fighting Organization’s leadership had been wiped out on May 8. Beatus, whom Dan Kurzman describes (in The Bravest Battle, his 1993 book about the Uprising) as “one of the most courageous ghetto fighters” whose “smile was too bright for the enemy to guess that she was Jewish but too sad for her fellow Jews to doubt that her every breath of life was an agony” had already lost her entire family to the Holocaust and “carried the burden of every massacred Jew on her slim shoulders.” Yitzhak Zuckerman offered testimony about her role at the trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961.

“The word ‘courier’ does not do these women justice. They were much more than messengers.... they were also the first to smuggle guns, grenades, ammunition and other weapons into many of the ghettos. And in addition to the strictly “messenger” part of their job, these girls who risked their lives to move from ghetto to ghetto also served a very human purpose — they inspired and brought hope, along with information, to Jews who would otherwise have been cut off from the entire world, as if to reassure them that they had not been forgotten. In the dark days of Europe during the holocaust, they were lifelines that connected Jewish communities and isolated ghettos to each other and to the outside world. As such, we will refer to these intrepid girls as ‘kashariyot,’ from the Hebrew word ‘kesher,’ which means connection.”—Sheryl Ochayon