Aza’s Story: Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Aza (left) and her friends, as teenagers, 1940s.

Aza (left) and her friends, as teenagers, 1940s.

On September 1, 1939 Nazi Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. Some of the facts about the progress of the war were known to Aza and her friends. They learned that the Nazis enacted new laws against the Polish Jews, forcing them to wear armbands with the Star of David for identification, dismissing Jewish children from public schools, and relocating entire communities into ghettos. But much of the information they had was vague and unreliable, based on rumors. Everyone on the kibbutz worried for their family and friends living in Poland. No word came from Dr. Korczak or any of their other contacts.

In 1940, Aza turned 12 years old. Though she did not have a traditional bat mitzvah, she certainly already had responsibilities and concerns far beyond her years.

Testimony: “Coming Of Age”

“They taught us how to hold a weapon.”

—Aza Cohen

The members of the kibbutz, both adults and children, strongly identified with the Jews of Europe suffering under Nazi persecution. In order to help, some kibbutz members joined the Allies by enlisting in the British army, while others joined the Palmach, an elite military group which was part of the Haganah, which focused on training youth for leadership in battle.

The kibbutz members were even worried that the Axis powers might invade the Mandate for Palestine. There were Nazi collaborators and Axis forces in Northern Africa on their southern border, as well as in Syria at their northern border.

While Aza and the other children were too young to go to war, they also participated in the war effort. She and the other children conducted fundraisers to send food or money to the children in Europe.

Testimony: “Trying To Help”

“We decided twice a week not to eat an egg.”

—Aza Cohen

Aza at work in the vegetable garden, 1940s.

Aza at work in the vegetable garden, 1940s.

Chapter 3



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