Skip to Main Content

Female Leadership during the Holocaust: Female Rescuers

This LibGuide showcases women as central figures in the Jewish resistance movement during World War II.

Jewish orphans in the Dossin Barracks Belgium 1942

Jewish orphans in the Dossin Barracks, Belgium, 1942. 

Picture courtesy of Mary Albert-Blum family

Survival in German controlled Europe

A smaller number of Jews survived inside German-controlled Europe. They often did so with the help of rescuers. Rescue efforts ranged from the isolated actions of individuals to organized networks, both small and large. Throughout Europe, there were non-Jews who took grave risks to help their Jewish neighbors, friends, and strangers survive.

Irena Sendler (Poland)

Irena Sendler rescued Jewish children during the Holocaust

Born in 1910, Irena Sendler was a Catholic employee of the Warsaw Social Welfare Department when the Nazis herded hundreds of thousands of Jews into the 16-block ghetto. Joining Zegota, the Council for Aid to Jews led by the Polish underground resistance movement, Sendler enlisted workers in each of the ten centers of the Welfare Department to issue hundreds of forged documents to create new identities for Jewish children.

Some children were smuggled out in gunnysacks and bodybags, others in a mechanic’s toolbox, in ambulances, and even coffins.

For more information, please see Irena Sendler

Brosnislava Kristopaviciene (Lithuania)

Bronislava Kristopaviciene

Brosnislava was approached by a pre-war acquaintance, a young Jewish woman named Zinaida Levina née Sneider in the spring of 1944.  In August 1941, Zinaida, her husband Grigoriy Levin, and her parents were sent to the Kovno Ghetto.  Zinaida had given birth to a baby daughter, Anita, in September 1941.   She was looking for someone to shelter her daughter outside of the ghetto.  Brosnislava agreed to help.  One evening, she entered the ghetto with a Jewish labor brigade. She left in the morning carrying a potato sack containing the toddler who was put to sleep by soporific medicine. They stayed for a while with Brosnislava's friends while Anita got used to her rescuer and learned Lithuanian. When they returned to Brosnislava's apartment in the city,  Anita was introduced as Brosnislava's orphaned relative.  Anita and her mother survived the Holocaust.   Brosnislava passed away in Kovno in 1969, at the age of 81.

For more information, please see Bronislava Kristopaviciene

Klara Baic (Serbia)

Klara Baic

Dr. Stevan Deneberg, a dentist, his wife, Hilda, a physician, and their two sons, Mirko and Paul, lived in Subotica in North Serbia, in the region of Vojvodina near the Hungarian border, which was under Hungarian rule from April 1941 until March 1944.

Mr. Deneberg was sent to forced labor, never to return. Mrs. Deneberg and her two sons were sent to the Subotica ghetto.  Mrs. Deneberg’s brother, exempt from deportation as he was married to a Serbian woman and carrying a false baptismal certificate, went into the ghetto and with the help of his mother’s maid smuggled out Mirko, 11, and Paul, 8. He encountered great difficulty in his search for a place to hide them.  Klara Baić was a  pious Christian and a single mother to Margica, 12.  She agreed to take the boys into her home.  Klara prepared a hiding place in the yard of her next-door neighbor in the event of a sudden house search or raid. Later she moved, along with her daughter and the boys, to the home of a relative, where they remained until the liberation of the area in October 1944.  She took the decision to shelter the boys despite the warning of severe punishment for those found to be sheltering Jews.

For more information, please see Klara Baic

Sofia Kritikou (Greece)

Sofia Kritikou (Greece)

Sofia Kritikou, a single mother, worked as a house cleaner in Athens while residing in Peristeri, near Athens with her daughter Agapi. In September 1943, with the German occupation of Athens, the persecution of the Jews in the capital began.  David Kazansky took his family which included 18-year-old Tsvi, 16-year-old Liana, and 8-year-old Jeny into hiding after his wife was deported to Auschwitz.  They had false identity cards bearing Greek Orthodox names that had been issued by the police commander of their residential quarter.  Sofia did not hesitate to extend her help to the family.  At first, she did not know that the family under her roof was Jewish, but even when she discovered their true identity, she did not expel them from her home, despite the death punishment for sheltering Jews. The Kazanskys found shelter in Sofia’s home until the end of the war. 

For more information, please see Sofia Kritikou