Barbara "Basia" Beatus

Barbara "Basia" Beatus, age 96, passed away on October 7, 2002 in Warsaw, Poland. Born in 1906 in Poland, Basia dedicated her life to helping people and improving the human condition in ways small and large. As an activist factory worker in inter-war Poland, she was often held as a political prisoner by the authorities. During World War II, she was a greatly respected leader of the resistance in the Lodz Ghetto, as well as a caretaker for a number of youths in the Ghetto and in concentration camps.

Her father Hilel passed away in 1919, her mother Cyrla in 1926, and were buried in the Jewish Cementery of Lodz. She had five siblings. Her three brothers perished during World War II. Her sister Tola survived the war in the USSR, and died in Israel in 1987. Her sister Dorcia, brother-in-law, and their baby, as well as sister-in-law, perished at Auschwitz.

Following the end of the war, she returned to Poland, on foot, from the Magdeburg concentration camp. She took in five orphaned girls and cared for them as her own. She worked as a journalist in Lodz until 1950, when she was transferred to a position in Warsaw. During the government's anti-semitic purges of 1956, she was forced into early retirement, but soon found another job and continued to work until 1965 when she was forced out again in similar circumstances. She remained professionally retired for the next 37 years, but continued to be active in helping and enriching the lives of those around her. She had a great curiosity and was a voracious reader and a relentless source of correspondence to her wide circle of friends and family. Her home was the heart of an extended community of friends, and friends of friends, members of the Jewish community, Solidarity activists, visitors to Poland, and anybody else who needed her.

She leaves behind her five "girls" : Ewa Zysman of Warsaw, Poland, Basia Wilner nee Tenenbaum of Jerusalem, Israel, Nadzia Olsztajn nee Jozefowicz of Hanerem, Israel, Hanula Kershner nee Szewelew of Ramat Hasharon, Israel, and Nina Zachariasz nee Tyberg of Cambridge, Massachusetts; her nephew Wlodek of Sweden and his family, her niece Celina of Haifa, Israel and her family; Maryla Orzechowska (with whom she was at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps); Sala Borowiak and Sara Sznek-Bosak (Auschwitz, Bergen-Belzen and Magdeburg camps); Sarka Diamant-Boruchowska (Magdeburg camp); and the memory of Renia Glad (Magdeburg camp) who died on Basia's knee on April 21, 1945, hit by German shrapnel in the Magdeburg Stadium; and the many people whose lives she touched.

She was our beloved mother, best friend and our best role model. The funeral took place on Sunday, October 13, 2002, in Warsaw, Poland, attended by friends and family from all over the world. At her request, she was buried in the Jewish Cemetary of Warsaw. She will be greatly missed by everybody lucky enough to have been touched by her.

A condensed version of this article was published in the Boston Globe on October 16th, 2002.