Typed letter on onion skin paper from Bratislava, 2.XII.1943
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash:
A leading member of the underground Working Group in Bratislava, Gisi Fleischmann maintained a secret underground correspondence - written in code - with several Jewish organizations in the free world. She would give updates on the condition of the European Jews in Slovakia, and attempt to secure aid for refugees and locals in need. The major recipients of this coded correspondence were Richard Lichtheim of the Jewish Agency in Istanbul and Nathan Schwalb of HeChalutz in Switzerland, but she would as well be in contact with Saly Mayer of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, also in Switzerland. As of the date of this correspondence - December 2, 1943 - Gisi and the Working Group members would have already been in discussions about both the Europa Plan and the Children’s Rescue Plan, both efforts to save Jewish lives from mass murder through bribery and negotiations with the Nazis.
“We are looking for any way to bring the children to Naomi [Slovakia],” Gisi had written in the past to Schwalb. Her pervasive use of the name “Naomi” in this and other correspondence is a coded reference to the situation of Jews in Slovakia. The identities of “Michael,” “Dr. Artzi,” “Dr. Zorer,” “Vanya,” “Judith,” “Mendel,” “Gordon” and others mentioned are less obvious, but in all probability refer to members of the Working Group. “Uncle Sally” may be Saly Mayer, and “Michael” may be Rabbi Michael dov Weissmandel, Gisi’s cousin and co-leader of the Working Group.
The background of this document is as follows:
After transports from Slovakia to concentration camps in Poland were halted in October 1942, the Working Group members tried to bribe Heinrich Himmler through Dieter Wisliceny - SS captain and deputy of Adolf Eichmann - into stopping the deportation of European Jews to extermination camps in Poland (the Europa Plan). Wisliceny demanded a bribe of three million dollars, which far exceeded the Working Group's ability to pay, and negotiations appeared to end. Wisliceny would propose a plan to exchange 5,000 Jewish children for German prisoners in September 1943. However, when Gisi Fleischmann was caught attempting to bribe the wife of a Slovak government official in what was known as the “Koso affair,” her arrest resulted in the severing of communications with Jewish organizations in Switzerland and thus the inability of the Working Group to raise the necessary money to fulfill its mission. Gisi was forced to go into and out of hiding to avoid further arrest. However, she would be arrested again in January 1944. Wisliceny left for Berlin, thus ending negotiations, and in October 1944 Gisi herself would be deported to Auschwitz, murdered upon arrival, unable to bring the children to “Naomi.”
11 3/4 x 8 1/4"
Gisi Fleischmann, Nathan Schwalb, Bratislava Working Group
"Letter by Gisi Fleischmann, Leader of the Bratislava Working Group" (1943). Bulmash Family Holocaust Collection. 2022.1.21.