Ephraim (Frank) Blaichman was the young Jewish leader of an armed Polish resistance group fighting the Nazi invaders.
Born in Kamionka, Poland in 1922, Frank was 16 when Germany invaded the country. Immediately, German officials issued decrees forbidding Jews to travel outside of the town, and required Jews to identify themselves with armbands. Determined to help his parents and six siblings, Frank ignored the rules and took daring risks.
He refused to wear the armband, and rode his bike to neighboring villages where his fluent Polish enabled him to pass as a Pole. He engaged in a brisk business buying and selling food and household goods. The Germans assigned Frank to work on a farm, but he paid someone to fill in for him so he could continue his underground trading.
In October 1942 Kamionka residents were informed that they were being moved to a ghetto. Instead Frank escaped into the forest, where he found a gentile farm couple to help him - Aleksander and Stanislawa Glos, who were later recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.
Soon after, Frank learned that the Jews of Kamionka, including his entire family and everybody he knew, were not taken to a ghetto but rather directly to a death camp, where they perished.
Frank heard that a group of Jews were hiding in the forest, in constant danger. He formed a defense unit to guard the camp. At first they had no firearms, then they got some from a Polish farmer. Refugees joined the group and it expanded to sixty fighters.
The group grew more when Frank joined forces with Samuel Gruber, who led a group of Jewish veterans of the Polish Army who had escaped from a German POW camp. These experienced military men taught Ephraim’s men how to use explosives and mines. They were responsible for ensuring the safety of 200 Jews living in a forest encampment.
Later, they they joined with an even larger group, the Polish People’s Army, who fought the Germans with supplies parachuted in by the Soviets.
Just 21 years old, in 1944 Frank became the expanded unit's platoon commander. He turned a ragtag militia into a powerful fighting force. They killed spies and collaborators, destroyed train and telephone lines, bombed factories, and fought German patrol troops.
Hundreds of the Jews protected by Frank Blaichman survived the war. They, and all of their descendants, owe their lives to the brave young fighter. Frank himself was the only one of his family of nine to survive.
After the war, Frank married fellow resistance fighter Cesia Pomeranc, and they immigrated to New York City, where he had a successful career in construction. He spearheaded the design and construction of the Memorial to All Jewish Fighters at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
Frank later said, “I’m very proud of what I did all those years. The reality was we had nothing to lose, and our way to survive was to fight.”
Frank Blaichman passed away in New York City on December 29, 2018.
For fighting valiantly to protect his people, we honor Ephraim “Frank” Blaichman as this week’s Thursday Hero.
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