Eta Wrobel, who lived in Fort Lee, NJ, for more than a decade toward the end of her life, was the commander of a partisan group in Lukow, Poland, wife to Henry, mother of four (Hal, Shain, Anna, and Liza), and grandmother of 11. She died on Memorial Day 2008, soon after her twin great-grandchildren were born. Her life was filled with the love of giving and of fighting for truth, justice, and the Jewish people. "We fought to survive," she would say. "We fought so that some of us would get out of there and make new families, to spit in the Nazi’s eyes. Our babies are our revenge."
Eta grew up with nine siblings — and she was the sole survivor of her family. She escaped from a Nazi prison in Lublin and from two deportations. She smuggled guns she’d stolen from Germans in Lodz to her hometown, and fled to the woods, where the Jewish partisans made her their commander.
Determined to make a difference, she became the mayor of Lukow right after the war, and then fled the Communists. Settled in Brooklyn, she was a grocery lady extraordinaire in East New York, where she would canvass her neighbors for money for the American Cancer Society while still wearing her store apron.
When her husband became a successful real estate developer on Staten Island, the family moved to the Bronx, to a new grocery store and neighborhood, where Eta began to develop the Holocaust survivors’ division of Hadassah. In time, the family moved to Kew Gardens, where Eta used her home to rally survivors to support Yad Vashem, Hadassah, the Rivkah Laufer Bikur Cholim Society, and Israel Bonds. One of her favorite charities was Akim, an Israeli organization that cares for developmentally disabled children. Eta was also an active and vocal member of the National Council of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants.
In the last year of her life, she was honored by YIVO and the National Yiddish Theatre/Folksbiene for her efforts to keep the Yiddish language alive. Her legacy is clearly stated in her memoirs, written when she was 90. The book is called My Life, My Way, and Eta did it her way until the very end.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Eta Chait Wrobel, 1916 - 2008." (Viewed on May 30, 2023) <https://jwa.org/weremember/wrobel-eta>.
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My mother. How we miss this mountain of a woman that her ascendant children and theirs are still climbing. She loved Dr. MLK Jr. because he represented what her father always referred to as a ‘mensch.’ And so we were raised to love peace, accept all peoples and to understand that the antisemites were very sick people whose weakness made them act out with brutality. She loved life times 12, for all her family lost, made a life of helping others as her parents had taught and danced joyously at every wedding and bar mitzvah until she was 90. Because of her, I am a poet. Because of my father, I am a historian. Because of both, I am a teacher.
Shalom / salaam / peace
I am a Dutch artist based in Amsterdam where as a young man I met Eta Wrobel’s daughter Anuschka. Over the years we stayed in touch with one another. Only recently I found out on the internet that Eta Wrobel had written her memoires, and I managed to buy a used copy via internet. By a curiois coincidence , there is a note on the title page of ‘My Life My Way’ hand written by Shain Fishman dated 2006. Shain is Anuschka’s elder sister. Yes, what coincidence! But now I distract from the content of Eta’s life story, her happy childhood in Lukow, Poland, followed by the horror of the Holocaust. It is now in the middle of the night when I am rereading her story and writing this note which I doubt anyone will ever read. It does perhaps not matter, more important that what happened to Eta’s family will not be forgotten. Good night. Frans Horbach
In reply to I am a Dutch artist based in by Frans Horbach
I read and appreciated your comment.