Woman fought for Jewish resistance in WW II

| Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, 9:39 p.m.

Vladka Meed, a courier and weapons smuggler for the Jewish resistance in Poland during World War II who published a harrowing early chronicle of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, died Nov. 21 in her daughter's home in Paradise Valley, Ariz. She was 90.

The cause was Alzheimer's disease.

Meed was born Feigel Peltel in Warsaw on Dec. 29, 1921. After Germany invaded Poland in 1939, she and hundreds of thousands of other Jews were systematically rounded up and forced into a squalid Warsaw ghetto of one-square mile.

Thousands starved to death, others fought and died for scraps, and others were beaten and killed by the Germans in mass executions. Rooms in the ghetto were crammed, food allotments amounted to less than 200 calories a day and corpses decayed on the streets.

Meed was largely on her own after 1942. Her father, a garment worker, died of pneumonia in the ghetto, and her mother and two siblings perished at the Treblinka death camp after a period of mass deportations from the ghetto.

Meed joined the Jewish Fighting Organization, known by its Polish initials ZOB. With her Aryan looks and fluency in Polish, she passed as a gentile, using forged identification papers, and lived for extended periods amid the ethnic Polish population. Her code name was Vladka, a name she kept for the rest of her life.

She worked on both sides of the ghetto walls to obtain weapons and ammunition on the black market and find hiding places for children and adults. She also acted as a courier for the Jewish underground, hiding documents in her shoe.

One bulletin confirmed reports that Jews reportedly being “resettled” from the Russian front were in fact being gassed to death in showers at Treblinka. Once, she recalled, she was nearly found out by a guard who ordered her to remove her shoes. She was saved only after another guard suddenly shouted that a Jew had escaped from the ghetto.

The Treblinka message conveyed the urgency of what likely awaited the remaining ghetto dwellers. By the end of 1942, the Germans allowed only 35,000 Jews permission to remain in the ghetto, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Several thousand more remained there in hiding, rather than risk certain death.

Meed smuggled weapons and ammunition in preparation for the uprising that began on April 19, 1943. Fighting lasted 27 days and ended with the ghetto annihilated.

Afterward, she helped arrange for hiding places for the survivors.

She remained in Poland until the Russians liberated the country toward the end of the war. In 1945, she married Benjamin Miedzyrzeck, another resistance member, and they made their way to American lines.

The next year, they came to the United States on a boat of displaced persons through the aid of the Jewish Labor Committee. They officially changed their names to Benjamin and Vladka Meed in the 1950s.

Ben Meed died in 2006 at 88. Survivors include two children, Dr. Anna Scherzer of Paradise Valley and Dr. Steven Meed of Manhattan; and five grandchildren.

The Meeds landed in New York in 1946 with $8 between them. He eventually started an import-export business and served on a board that helped establish the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

In 1981, her husband co-founded the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and helped compile a national registry of Jewish Holocaust survivors that is maintained by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

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