Wall of Memories
May their memories be for a blessing
In Honour of Naomi Blake (Zissi Düm), The Düm Family and Grandchildren
Dedicated by Anita Peleg and Jonathan Blake
Naomi Blake, née Zissi Düm, was a survivor of Auschwitz and a known sculptor. She was born the youngest of 10 children, in 1924, in the former Czechoslovakian town, Mukačevo. The first 14 years of her life were happy: she loved school, she played in the streets with her friends, picking fruit from the trees, riding horses bareback, walking in the nearby mountains and playing basketball. Most of all she loved being with her family, waking up to her sisters fighting over stockings, helping in the family fabric store and laughing with the family at the dinner table.
In 1938 this all changed. Firstly, when the German backed Hungarian regime took over and restrictions against the Jews were put in place and then, in 1944, when the German army entered the town and soon after the whole of the Jewish community were deported to Auschwitz.
Zissi’s mother, Chaya Adele, was a kind, generous and industrious woman, who founded the family fabric business whilst managing 10 children: Shloime, Gittel, Ruchtu, Fishel, Miryam, Eti, Sari, Malchi, Moishe – and Zissi. Whilst deeply religious, she was particularly forward thinking and against tradition, encouraged her daughters to learn languages and study music. She was known in Mukačevo for her generosity when, every Friday before the Sabbath, she would send Zissi with parcels of food and money to help people in need. Zissi’s father, Elazar was a learned, deeply religious man, who managed the family store and, spent much of his time learning and praying. Zissi’s last image of him was when the men and women were separated at Auschwitz.
Her oldest brothers, Shloime and Fishel, were no longer living at home when she was born but they would visit from time to time. In 1938 Fishel left to go to the United States while Shloime stayed and married Sarchu. They lived in Kosice, approximately 150km from Mukačevo, where they had two children, Shulem and Berele. In 1941, Shloime was taken to a forced labour camp and so Zissi would travel to Kosice to help Sarchu with the children. In 1944, Sarchu and both her children were deported to Auschwitz and sent to the gas chambers.
Zissi’s sister, Gittel, was also married by the time she was born and she lived in Mukačevo with her husband, Shoni. They had had three children: Yehudit, Miriam Rivka and Hava. Living nearby, they would often spend time together and Zissi became very close with Gittel’s three girls. She was with them when they were forced to move to the ghetto, on the infamous cattle trucks, and on arrival at Auschwitz where Gittlel and the three girls were selected for the gas chambers.
Zissi’s sister, Ruchtu, had also left home when she married Mayer. They lived in Szatmar, Hungary, with their two sons Asher and Fishel. Mayer was also sent to forced labour camp during which time Ruchtu returned to Mukačevo, with her sons, to help look after their mother, Chaya, who was unwell. Zissi was still at home and they all lived together for some time, with Zissi becoming increasingly fond of her nephews. In January 1944, Chaya died of pneumonia and so she was spared the fate of the rest of her family.
After the death of their mother, Ruchtu returned to Szatmar with one of her sons Asher and left Fishel in Zissi’s care. In Spring of 1944 Ruchtu and Asher were deported to Auschwitz. Ruchtu survived but her son Asher did not. Eleven-year-old Fishel remained with Zissi and her father, Elazar, and when they were marched out of the ghetto to the train station and Zissi was beaten by the soldiers, she remembered clearly how he kissed her hands to make them better. When waiting at the station he and Zissi both tried to deliver water to people crying out for help from the cattle trucks. They remained together until they arrived at Auschwitz, where Fishel and Zissi ’s father, Elazar, were selected for the gas chambers.
Zissi’s oldest sister living at home was Ester, who she called Eti. After Zissi’s birth, her mother was unwell and Eti was like a mother: she was the one who took her to school when she was small and spoke to her teachers about how she was doing. In 1936, Eti married Yossi Klein and went to live in Topolchany, in the Slovak part of Czechoslavakia. They had two children, Miriam Rivka and Shulem. Suddenly, in 1942, with no warning, all contact from Eti stopped and the family never heard from her again: Eti, her husband and two children had been deported to Auschwitz.
Also, living at home in the early years were Zissi’s sisters, Shari and Malchi, and her brother Moishe. They all survived the war and were eventually reunited in Mukačevo. In 1942 Shari married a man called Erno and moved to Kosice, approximately 150 km from Mukačevo. In late 1943 she gave birth to a baby girl, Miryam Rivka. However, in 1944, knowing that they were in danger, they moved to another part of town, spending the final months of the war under a false identity, leaving their baby daughter the care of a friend, a non-Jewish doctor.
After the war they returned to be reunited with their daughter but they were told that the Nazis had suspected her Jewish identity and taken her away. Shari never accepted that her daughter had been murdered and always believed that the doctor did not want to give Miryam Rivka back to her parents.
Our mum, Naomi Blake née Zissi Düm, passed away at the age of 94. She was, a known sculptor, and a wonderful caring mother and grandmother. She constantly felt the loss of her 10 nieces and nephews and always talked about them. At her request we laid a stone on her grave to remember them. More than anything, as well as remembering them, she wanted us to remember all the children that were lost under Nazi rule.