March 15, 1928,
October 6, 2011
Yona (Wygocka) Dickmann was born March 15, 1928 in Pabianice, Poland. Her father, Natan, sold merchandise to the Polish stores and her mother, Ryfka, took care of Yona, her younger brother, Zizkin, and two younger sisters, Bluma and Ester. The Wygockas were a very close-knit family and many relatives lived nearby. They resided in the Jewish section of Pabianice and the children attended a Jewish school.
When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939 the Nazis established a ghetto in Pabianice. Yona’s family was forced to move into the ghetto and each week the Gestapo came and confiscated whatever valuables the family still possessed. Conditions were difficult in the ghetto and there was very little food to go around. Round-ups were a daily occurrence and the Nazi soldiers would seize people off the street to conscript them for labor or send them to concentration camps.
In May 1942 the ghetto in Pabianice was liquidated. Yona’s mother, brother, and youngest sister were sent to Chelmno where they were murdered. Natan, Yona, and Bluma were deported to the nearby Lodz ghetto, along with Yona’s aunt and uncle. Twelve year-old Yona and ten year-old Bluma were sent to work at a factory where, for two years, they sewed uniforms for the German soldiers. When deportations began from Lodz the girls went into hiding, eventually seeking refuge in an attic. In August 1944 notices were posted that everyone still in the ghetto was to be sent to work on a farm. The girls eventually came out of hiding but instead of a farm, they, along with their aunt, Hela, were sent to Auschwitz.
During a selection at Auschwitz, Bluma was sent to the gas chamber. Yona and Hela were selected for forced labor and sent to Freiburg, where they worked at the Arado factory assembling airplane parts. After about six months the Allies began bombing the factory so the women were marched to another camp and then put on cattle trains and sent to Mauthausen. The journey to Mauthausen lasted for two weeks, during which time there was no food and only sparse rainwater to drink. They were liberated in Mauthausen on May 5, 1945 by the 11th Armored Division of the U.S. Army.
After the war, members of the Jewish Brigade helped bring Yona and Hela to Italy, where they stayed for six months in preparation for making their Aliyah. In late 1945, Yona and Hela left Italy on a ship bound for Palestine, where they were to be reunited with Yona’s uncles, Chaim, Tal, and Avram. It was in Tel Aviv that Yona met a fellow Polish survivor named Isaac Dickmann. Yona and Isaac were married in 1948. They immigrated to the United States in 1959 and settled in the Washington, D.C. area.
Members of the extended Rosenthal Vigotska family at a Purim celebration. Among those pictured is Yona Wygocka Dickmann. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Yona Dickman