Shimshon Draenger

Shimshon Draenger

Shimshon Draenger was born in Krakow in 1917. At the age of thirteen he joined the Akiva movement and later became one of its main leaders. He also edited the movement's journal, Divrei Akiva and the weekly Tse'irim.

After the occupation of Poland by the German Army in September 1939, he helped establish the He-Haluts Ha-Lohem, and underground combat group in Krakow. He also edited the movement's journal, He-Haluts Ha-Lohem. The following year he married another member of the group, Justyna Draenger.

In January 1943 Shimshon was arrested. His wife now surrendered to the Gestapo, as both had pledged to do if either was seized. While in Montelupich Prison Shimshon's wife wrote about her experiences in the form of a diary. These were smuggled out of prison and were read by members of the underground.

Shimshon and Justyna escaped from prison on 29th April 1943. They immediately resumed their underground activities in the Wisnicz Forest. On 8th November, 1943, Shimshon was captured. The following day Justyna Draenger, as a result of her pact with her husband, surrendered. Shimshon Draenger and his wife were both executed soon afterwards.

Fifteen of the twenty chapters smuggled out by Justyna survived the war. The book, Justyna's Narrative was first published in Poland in 1946. An English language edition appeared in 1996.

Primary Sources

(1) Leaflet published by the Jewish Self-Defence Organization (December 1942)

Do not go willingly to your death! Fight for life to the last breath. Greet our murders with teeth and claws, with axe and knife, hydrochloric acid and iron crowbars. Make the enemy pay for blood with blood, for death with death?

Let us fall upon the enemy in time, kill and disarm him. Let us stand up against the criminals and if necessary die like heroes. If we die in this way we are not lost.

Make the enemy pay dearly for your lives! Take revenge for the Jewish centres that have been destroyed and for the Jewish lives that have been extinguished.