Tamara Bromberg

BROMBERG, Tamara

Like many who lived in Nazi-occupied Odessa, Tamara Maximenok-Bromberg has vivid memories of being locked in the Jewish ghetto with her mother and being refused permission to leave.
But unlike the Jews of Odessa, who were sent to the ghetto against their will, Maximenok-Bromberg and her mother were non-Jews who empathized strongly with the suffering of their neighbors and snuck into the ghetto as often as possible to bring food and warm clothes for their Jewish friends, bribing the guards at the gate if necessary.

On one occasion, they nearly didn’t make it back.

“We managed to talk one of the guards into letting us in,” Maximenok-Bromberg recalled recently from her modest apartment in Haifa, which she shares with her Jewish husband, Shimon. “But when we finished and went to the gate to leave, the guards had changed and the new guard didn’t know us and wouldn’t let us out.”

The two spent a terror-filled week in the ghetto before her mother convinced the guards they weren’t Jews and didn’t belong there. The key to their survival was Maximenok-Bromberg’s mother’s ability to speak Greek, which the Nazi guards accepted as proof that she was of Greek – and not Jewish – descent.
The hardship, however, failed to weaken their sense of purpose. The two continued to make the long trek to the ghetto and even a prison camp whenever conditions allowed, relying on Maximenok-Bromberg’s small, thin frame to slip in and out of restricted areas to drop off regular deliveries of food and clothing.

“My mother always insisted, ‘We have to do this,'” Maximenok-Bromberg says about her life-saving efforts, which also included finding a hiding place for a Jewish family of four and providing for their needs despite food shortages for themselves and other local residents.

“It was simply something we felt in our souls we had to do,” she says. “We knew about the risks – there were signs posted everywhere warning against helping Jews – but we just let ourselves forget what could happen to us and focused on what we felt we had to do.”

(Excerpt from “Hidden Heroes” by Alex Margolin, Jerusalem Post, April 13, 2007)