World War II has its share of heroic stories of “ordinary” people with extraordinary bravery. One of these was teenager Zofia Yamaika, a Hasidic Jew who found her own way to resist the horrors sweeping through Europe.
Raised in Warsaw, Poland, young Zofia joined the Spartacus communist student club, a group that actively opposed the spread of fascism She was 14 when Warsaw was taken by Germany on September 28, 1939. She stopped going to school, and after the Nazis banned Spartacus she helped secretly revive the club. Covertly, the group distributed antifascist leaflets and posters right under the noses of the German soldiers occupying the city.
In 1940, Zofia and her family were relocated to a Warsaw ghetto for Jews, which was then sealed later that year. Through Spartacus, Zofia was able to acquire a pistol and receive training with it. She wanted to escape and help, but doing so would endager her parents and possibly ensure their deaths. So she bided her time in the ghetto, training and waiting to be useful to the resistance effort.
In July of 1942, the Jews in the Warsaw section were deported. During the bustle of everyone moving, Zofia was able to escape at last. She joined a group of 50 or so communist partisans near the city of Radom. A force of 300 Nazis discovered the group and attacked. Brave Zofia, now 18 years old and armed with a machine gun, stood with two other Poles to cover the retreat of her unit. Her position was overtaken, and Zofia was killed. But thanks to the efforts of the three, the rest of the unit was able to escape.
Zofia’s story is one of thousands. You can find her individual story here, or you can take a look at Fold3′s Holocaust Collection for the pictures and stories of so many people who lived through that time.