Miriam ‘Kasia’ Szancer

Miriam ‘Kasia’ Szancer was born in Sosnowiec, a city neighboring Będzin. Like other young people, Chajka Klinger among them, Kasia joined the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement and later became active in organizing the underground resistance in Będzin and Sosnowiec. She met with young people at the “farma,” the plot of land given to them in the Będzin ghetto by the Jewish leadership during the Nazi occupation.

Miriam ‘Kasia’ Szancer
(Yad Vashem Photo Archive/Israel)

In early 1943, Kasia was involved in activities directed against the Jewish Council because youth group members accused the Jewish leadership and the Jewish Ghetto Police of collaborating with the Nazi occupiers. During the final deportations in August of 1943, Kasi was hiding in a bunker with other underground youth leaders. She left the bunker before it was discovered and worked as a messenger among resistance groups in the region. In September of 1943, she was caught by the Germans and handed over to the Jewish Ghetto police in Sosnowiec for deportation to Auschwitz.

Hirsch Barenblat, the head of Będzin’s Jewish Police, managed to smuggle Kasia out of Sosnowiec and back to Będzin. Why the head of the Jewish Ghetto Police would rescue a member of the youth movement that was fiercely opposed to the official Jewish leadership might never be fully known, but the paths of the much younger Kasia and Barenblat had crossed earlier at the “farma.” Both Kasia and Barenblat were among the few remaining Jews forced by the Germans to collect the belongings left behind in the empty ghetto. Barenblat’s first wife did not survive. 

Eventually, Kasia and Barenblat managed to escape to Hungary with a small group of surviving resistance leaders and those who had worked for the Jewish Council and Police. Kasia and Barenblat fell in love, married, and moved to Israel. 

Barenblat would eventually be put on trial in Israeli courts in 1963 for collaborating with the Nazis. Though already divorced from him, Kasia would publicly speak in his defense at the trials.

[As more information about Kasia’s life becomes available, it will be added to this entry]

Read more about Kasia and Barenblat:

Avihu Ronen, Hadas Agmon, and Asaf Danziger, “Collaborator or Would-Be Rescuer? The Barenblat Trial and the Image of a Judenrat Member in 1960s Israel.” Yad Vashem Studies 39/1, 2011

Dan Porat, Bitter Reckoning: Israel Tries Holocaust Survivors as Nazi Collaborators (2019)