Syma Najberg (Sabina Korn)

Syma (Sabina) Korn nee Najberg (during the war also Krystyna Sierpińska) was born in 1933, most likely in Łęczna near Lublin, from where the rest of her family came. She was the youngest child of Fryda and Abram-Mosze Najberg; she had three older brothers: Zalman, Israel, and Lejb.

The Najbergs were a religious Jewish family; they lived in Łęczna. Fryda took care of the house, and Abram-Mosze worked as a carpenter in Warsaw. One of their sons, Israel, died as a young man shortly before the outbreak of the war. Together with their three children, the Najbergs moved in the area of the town of Łochów near Treblinka.

After the creation of a ghetto for Jews from the Łochów area (which was probably located there), the Najberg family had to move there. They left the house of the Króls, where they had lived until then. In the ghetto, the Najbergs were crammed into a narrow room. During the day, Syma remained there alone. Her brothers and her father were taken to perform forced labor, and her mother spent all day outside of the house, trying to acquire food for the family.

Her father, Abram Mosze, died soon. He managed to escape from a forced labor camp, but German soldiers caught him in the forest and killed him. Her mother, Fryda, seeing no chances for surviving in the ghetto, took the children and escaped to a forest near Łochów. The boys, Zelman and Lejb, had hidden there for some time, but soon the Germans murdered them, too. Syma was placed with the peasant Siwek, who was an acquaintance. The girl had the so-called “good look” – she was blond, and could pass as a Polish child.  After a few days, however, Siwek, fearing the threats, sent the girl to the forest and forbade her to return. Syma found her mom at a nearby household of a village elder, and from that time on they wandered in the forests searching for a safe shelter.

Syma’s mother made another attempt to place her child with a Polish family. She took her to her acquaintances, who agreed to help the girl. Syma said goodbye to her mom – it was then that she saw her for the last time. Shortly after the that, the new caretakers brought Syma to Warsaw. There, Syma was transferred to Bronia Chmielińska, who, after a few days, refused further care out of fear. She gave Syma a chain with a cross, expecting that this would help Syma on the road. At that moment, Syma’s lonely wandering has begun. 

Not knowing what to do, the girl returned to Łochów, but her mother’s acquaintance immediately turned her back to Warsaw. It was summer 1943; 10-year-old Syma wandered in the streets. First, she ended up at the St. Alexander Church on Three Crosses Square, but she did not find shelter there. She decided to go to Saska Kępa, thinking that it would be easier to hide on the other side of the Vistula. A girl selling bread, Sabina, provided ad-hoc help to the girl. She fed Syma and pointed her in the direction of Saska Kępa. 

Upon reaching the place, Syma hid in a sunflower field. After a few days, however, she was chased away. Maundering in the neighborhood in the search for food and shelter, she met helpful people. No one, however, was able to or wanted to accept the girl on a permanent basis. She passed from hands to hands, often changing places. First, a male stranger provided help to her, and later – female employees of a grocery store on Saska Street.  The women placed the girl with the Tomaszewski family, who lived in Wawer at 62 Błękitna Street. When a murder on a Jewish woman took place nearby, the Tomaszewskis became afraid and refused Syma further aid. The girl once again went to Saska Kępa. The women from the store once again found her a place – with the Guzińskis in Bernerów near Warsaw. The writer and his wife hid Syma, and she helped them around the house.

In summer 1944, shortly before the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising, she was transferred to Wanda and Alfred Rachalski on Wolska Street. After the fall of the uprising, the Rachalski family, together with Syma, was expelled from their home and herded to the Saski Garden. German soldiers conducted a selection among the assembled Varsovians – young men were separated, and the rest was crammed into a train heading to a transit camp in Pruszków.

In those dramatic moments, Syma was not alone – Wanda Rachalska continued to take care of her. Moreover, when Rachalska decided to escape from the camp after three days, she took the girl with her. Together they left Pruszków and got to Milanówek, to the house of a befriended Orłowski  family. Wanda Rachalska left Syma under the care of Marta Orłowska and her daughter Halina. Syma lived with them under the name Krystyna Sierpińska. She helped in housework, and led a life of a Catholic – she attended church, and received the sacrament of Communion at age 13.

She lived with the Orłowskis until liberation. In 1946, when Marta Orłowska’s husband returned home (he was imprisoned for his activity in the Home Army), he took Syma to the Jewish Committee, where Jewish child survivors were collected. He was offered money for providing help to Syma, but he declined it.

Thirteen-year-old Syma ended up in the “Dror” kibbutz in Bytom. She was in severe mental state at that time; she felt out of place among other Jewish children. Many of them did not speak Polish. Soon, she was taken to Łódź, and from there, together with a group of survivors – to Palestine, to the Gan Shmuel kibbutz. The road was long – the group made stops in Germany and France. Escorted by British soldiers, they reached Haifa on the “Theodor Herzl” ship. Upon arrival in port, the ship was deported to Cyprus. Passengers were placed in a field camp on the sea shore. After a few months, the immigrants received permission to enter Palestine, where they came in 1947.

The youth in the Gan Shmuel kibbutz was occupied mainly with labor, usually in the fields. They also received education – lessons about the history of Jews and philosophy. Syma spent 10 years there, established friendships, and developed artistically as a member of the local choir, and by attending art classes. Till this day she is involved in art, mainly painting. Sunflowers, amidst which she had hidden for a few days in Saska Kępa, are often her art motif.

In the kibbutz, Syma adopted the name Sabina in memory of the Warsaw girl who helped her.

In Israel, she married a Jew from Łęczna, Mosze Korn. They have two sons. In 1997 she visited Poland, the people and the places known from her childhood.

Thanks to Syma’s efforts, Halina Orłowska was awarded the title “Righteous among the Nations.”


Edited by Klara Jackl, based on the recollections of Syma Najberg titled “Witness,” and an interview with Syma Najberg conducted by Jadwiga Rytlowa and Janina Goldhar in March 2012 in Israel.

Translated by Joanna Sliwa.