As told to Mrs. Chaya Feigy Grossman
Please tell me where you were born.
I, Renee Rimpler nee Gruber, was born in Czechoslovakia. I was six years old when the war began.
What memories can you share with us about your family?
I am the oldest of three children. I had one sister who was three and a half and one brother who was two and a half at the start of the war.
My father was a Rav of a small shul, and then of a larger shul in the town of Nikalage. Nikalage was a beautiful city with mountains and lakes.
My father was very involved with Hatzalah. Before the war came to our town, my father felt the need and desire to help Yidden affected by the war, being that the war began in Poland first and then Hungary and Czechoslovakia. I can say that my father was involved in saving more than one thousand people.
My paternal grandfather was killed in cold blood when someone massered — tattled — on him. The rest of my father’s siblings were murdered in Auschwitz.
Please tell us how your father got involved and helped save so many people during the war.
My father sent handwritten letters with a gentile whom he paid, informing all those Jews in Poland that he, the Nikalage Rav, was trying to help them. He let everyone know that they could come to his city. He was going to prepare a kitchen for them and help them with as much as he could.
There were two brothers by the name of Haas who were shomer Shabbos and quite wealthy. They owned a leather factory. The leather was used to manufacture boots for the Germans during the war. They funded the kitchen and all the necessities. These two brothers did not survive the war.
My mother was very involved too. My mother’s personality was friendly and lively. Many people came, and my mother arranged for all of them to have a place to stay. There were those people who were already on trains, being deported to Auschwitz, who jumped off and ran through the woods to my father’s haven. They came with swollen feet, bloodied and scratched up. I recall some of those people — Mr. Abraham Roth, two brothers by the name of Kain, and others. My mother took care of them and nursed their wounds. One of the people who showed up at our door was the Nitra Rav, Rabbi Unger. Rabbi Unger, who happened to have been my uncle, had lost his wife and three children in the war and was on his way to Auschwitz when he escaped into the woods. He heard about my father’s kitchen and ran to our house. He arrived all bruised and in bad shape. My mother took such good care of him and healed his wounds completely.
There was a young man, by the name of Avraham Feldman who showed up at our house and explained to my mother that he was in trouble. He told her that he was trying to do business (this was during the war) in the shoe industry, and now the Germans were looking for him. My mother fed him and gave him a place to sleep. That night the police arrived at our door with guns, looking for Avraham. My mother saw the terrible danger that he was in. She pushed him into a bedroom and said, “Jump out and disappear.” Through this Avraham was saved. After the war he returned to our house, married. He always acknowledged that my mother saved his life.
My father was also very involved with Rabbi Weissmandl. (Just to note, the Nitra Rav was a brother-in-law of Rabbi Weissmandl as well.) My father had a student who informed him that there were many Jews being deported over a bridge, and that once they went over the bridge they were met by German soldiers who killed them. This student wanted to bomb the bridge so that the Germans would no longer be able to carry out this scheme. My father called Rabbi Weissmandl for his advice and he told my father not to do it. He felt that it would not have a good outcome.
My father’s relationship with Rabbi Weissmandl lasted even once we were in America. My father respected Rav Weissmandl tremendously and always spoke of him as a very great person.
to be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.