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Sabina Zimering was 16 when the Second World War broke out September 1, 1939. Within a short time the Germans marched into her hometown in Piotrkow, Poland confiscated her father’s coal business, stopped her education, and forced her family into the ghetto where fear, hunger, and the typhus epidemic threatened the population. Three years later, in October 1942, hours before the Gestapo began the mass deportation of the Jews to the gas chambers of Treblinka, she and her sister escaped from the ghetto with the help of a Catholic grade school teacher and her daughters, who risked their own lives, to hide Sabina and her sister and secure them Aryan papers.
The two sisters fled to Germany and worked in a hotel where the only guests were high-ranking German military and the Gestapo. One of Zimering’s most frightening moments came on a day when a German officer said, “I am an anthropologist and the shape of your head, your ears and profile fit the Semitic description. Are there any Jews in your family?” Zimering frightened, yet alert replied tersely “Jews in my family, what nonsense.” And walked away. Against all odds, the two sisters passed as Catholic Poles and survived.
After the war, Zimering repaid the kindness of her Catholic friends in Poland, by testifying to their heroism during the war. The Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem in Jerusalem declared the two sisters Righteous Amongst the Nations. Plaques with their names and two growing trees remain witnesses to their acts of kindness. Their names are also inscribed in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.
In 1950 Zimering, finished Medical School in Munich, immigrated to Minneapolis, married, raised a family and practiced medicine for 42 years. Her memoir Hiding in the Open received an honorary mention in the Jerome/SASE literary contest. In 2004 Hiding in the Open was adapted for the stage by Kira Obolensky and premeired at the Minnesota History Theater. The production was recently revised and presented by the theater in March of 2010.
Letter by Sabina Zimering honoring Polish Rescuers
Listen to Sabina Zimering in an interview from 2002 on Minnesota Public Raidio.
Students at Minneapolis facinated by Sabina Zimering's tale of survival.
Hiding in the Open by Peg Meier, Star Tribune Staff Writer. Story of Dr. Sabina Zimering during her visit with the eight-graders at the Minneapolis Catholic School.
War Stories (originally published in Star Tribune)
Students write song about Dr. Sabrina Zimering by Erin Elliott. Reprinted with permission of the American Jewish World newspaper, Minneapolis. February 16, 2007. (PDF)