Birth and Early Activism of Tosia Altman
Marking an eventful day in Jewish history, Tosia Altman was born on August 24, 1919, in Lipno, Poland. Altman played a crucial role in the HaShomer Hatzair Zionist movement during her formative years, establishing her as an enthusiastic youth group leader.
World War II: A Turning Point
With the onset of World War II and the subsequent invasion of Poland, Altman, like her fellow HaShomer youth movement leaders, sought refuge in Vilna, Lithuania. The group was deeply troubled by their compatriots who were left to face Nazi occupation, motivating them to send back leaders for organizational support. Tosia Altman, recognized for her leadership, was entrusted with this perilous mission.
Altman’s Journey in Nazi-Occupied Poland
Braving the dangers, Altman embarked on her journey through various cities, revitalizing the movement’s branches. Despite the risks involved, as Jews were prohibited from train travel, she managed to communicate with leadership in Vienna and British Mandated Palestine. With the sealing off of the Warsaw Ghetto, she risked her life to deliver food packages into the Ghetto.
Altman and the Jewish Resistance
During a meeting with Abba Kovner in Vilna in December 1941, Altman adopted his belief that the Nazis aimed for the complete extermination of the Jewish People. Upon returning to the Warsaw Ghetto, she joined other leftist resistance groups to establish an anti-fascist self-defense organization. Despite initial setbacks, the establishment of the Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB) marked a turning point. Altman became instrumental in smuggling grenades, explosives, and securing hiding places for Jews, alongside strengthening ties with the Polish Home Army.
Warsaw Uprising and Altman’s Ultimate Sacrifice
During the second wave of deportations in January 1943, the Warsaw Jews put up an armed resistance. After an intense battle, the resistance partially succeeded, reducing the intended deportations from 8,000 to 5,000. When the liquidation of the Ghetto began in April, Altman acted as a lifeline between command bunkers, rescuing Jews from burning buildings. In a tragic turn of events, Altman, along with others, was found hiding in a bunker by the Germans. Suffering from severe burns due to a fire, Altman was handed over to the Germans by the Polish police and tragically died two days later.
In recognition of her bravery and heroism in fighting the Nazis, Tosia Altman was posthumously awarded the Silver Cross of the Military Order of Virtuti Militari, Poland’s highest military decoration.Resources:Jewish Women’s Archive