Mrs. Michla Dewick was a mere teen when most of her family was killed by the Nazis in the small Polish town where she was born and grew up. Yet, at the time of her sudden passing Monday morning she had rebuilt a life of four generations of Torah-true descendants, full of chessed and vibrancy. She was 88.
From her house in Boro Park, Mrs. Dewick and her late husband, Reb Avraham, ran a disciplined home devoted to her family, a myriad schedule of chessed and strict adherence to halachah.
Dovid Eizek Rosenberg, a grandson, said on Tuesday that his grandmother was an integral part of all the einiklach’s lives, even as they married and moved to Eretz Yisrael, Lakewood or Cleveland.
“There was no such thing as an einikel coming to Brooklyn and not visiting her,” said Rabbi Rosenberg, a rebbi at Ohr Shraga Veretzky yeshivah in Flatbush. “She was so welcoming, serving ice cream to the kids and other things for the adults. It was just a very warm and welcoming home.”
Mrs. Dewick loved helping others — she was very involved in the Rivka Laufer Bikur Cholim, among other chessed organizations — but did whatever she could to avoid inconveniencing others, he added. “She never bothered anybody to do anything for her,” Rabbi Rosenberg said. “An interesting fact — one of the sons noted this at the levayah — that even to her levayah she didn’t bother [people to travel]. Hashgachah arranged that her son from Eretz Yisrael was in town … and her son from Cleveland was in the tri-state area for Shabbos. They came right in.”
Born in 1926 in the town of Stopnica, the middle child of five children, Michla was raised in a home without electricity or running water, but one that was rich in values. Her parents, Avraham Yissachar and Chana Ptashnik, Hy”d, chassidim of the Modzhitzer Rebbe, fit right into the “very frum Chassidishe town,” she said in an interview in 2012 for Project Witness, a Holocaust resource center.
“People would say,” she said, “that when Shabbos arrived, our town was the Beis Hamikdash.”
Michla was 16 when the Nazis invaded. The Germans ordered everyone to gather in the square. It was the last time she saw her father, who was 42, and mother, who was 40.
Michla’s sister Rivka, who was 18, were sent to a work camp. At the suggestion of her mother, Michla and her brother Mendel, 13, also sneaked onto the truck. Together with other girls from the town, they were taken to an ammunition factory.
For awhile, the trio received letters from their mother. When the letters stopped coming, they realized that her family must have been killed. It was a traumatic experience for the children.
“I can still see the scene, girls huddled together, crying for their murdered parents,” she said.
Michla and her siblings worked in Skarzysko for two years. During that time, they kept track of Shabbos and Yamim Tovim. Despite the meager diet, they even fasted on Yom Kippur.
In 1944, with the Russians bombing overhead, the Germans gathered the inmates and took them to Chenstachov to work in another ammunition factory. It was from there that she was liberated, in January of 1945.
“Each year,” she said, “my brother wishes us ‘happy birthday’ then — it’s like we were born again.”
After the war’s end, the three siblings went back to Stopnica, where they found an empty house. When pogroms started across Poland, they escaped to Lodz and ended up in the D.P. camp in Feldafing. Michla eventually joined an Agudah kibbutz in Bergen Belsen, where she met her husband, a Sosnowitz native.
The young couple moved to the United States, where they raised a Torah-true family. Mrs. Dewick had a rich repertoire of Yiddishe vertlach which she reveled in repeating.
“She was always seen with a smile; when people hurt her she made nothing of it,” Rabbi Rosenberg said. “She was very sensitive to the feelings of others in an extraordinary way.”
Mr. Dewick was niftar about ten years ago. Mrs. Dewick collapsed on Shabbos and was niftar on Monday morning. She is survived by her sons, Reb Emanuel, Reb Shloime, Reb Yisroel, Reb Shmuel and Reb Dovid, and daughter Mrs. Chany Shapiro.
The levayah took place Monday at Shomrei Hadas chapels in Boro Park and kevurah was on Har Hamenuchos.
Shivah will be observed at 1510 56th Street until Sunday morning.
Yehi zichrah baruch.