Maids and Mothers Both: The Heroic Kashariyot

There were many different resistance-related organizations active during World War II, and many were only tenuously connected (if connected at all). It was often safer to limit contacts whenever possible–the less people you knew in the resistance, the less people knew you. That worked as a sort of insurance: if a resistance member was taken in for interrogation they could only give up so many people under torture (which the Nazis were fond of employing).

The kashariyot played a very dangerous role for the Jewish resistance (maybe you didn’t even realize there was a Jewish resistance because of the inaccurate portrayal of the Jews as “lambs being led to the slaughter”). They were Jewish girls, some as young as fifteen, who used what were viewed as their “Aryan” features (light colored eyes, “fine” facial features, light colored hair, etc.) and traditional women’s head coverings to “pass” as women with no ties to the Jews. In this way they could move in and out of the restricted ghettoes and maneuver through major cities and tinier towns looking like any other woman shopping or going to visit friends, and, most importantly, without raising suspicion. Because women often didn’t have the same religious training via private school that many men did, they were much more likely to know the local language and speak it without a telltale accent or improper word usage. Besides, determining the Jewish upbringing of a male was far easier than determining a female was Jewish: all a collaborator need do was order a man or boy to drop his pants and circumcision (very uncommon for non-Jews at the time) told the story when words would not.

So girls and women acted as couriers and passeurs, transporting ┬ácontraband of many varieties (money, food, illegal newsletters, medicine), and, perhaps most importantly, a bit of hope that there was action taking place on the Jews’ behalf, that they were still connected with people who cared, that they were not yet forgotten, abandoned, lost.

To my mind, these girls and women walk the line between maid and mother depending on the individual–some were more focused on making sure they themselves survived, but the vast majority were involved in the kashariyot organizations for the good of others.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: