We Remember Itka Zygmuntowicz

Mon, 10/12/2020 - 3:58pm

We are very saddened at the USC Shoah Foundation to learn that our friend and Holocaust survivor Itka Zygmuntowicz passed away October 9, 2020, at the age of 94.

Born Ito Frajman in 1926 in Ciechanów, Poland, during Passover, Itka grew up in a poor but loving, tight-knit orthodox family. At the age of 15 on October 1941, she and her family were forced into the Warsaw Ghetto. In 1942, Itka was deported by cattle car to Birkenau, where she was separated from her family never to see them again. Later she was forced on a death march towards Ravensbrück concentration camp. Eventually Itka was liberated by the Swedish Red Cross from Malchow concentration camp during Passover in April 1945. After the war, Itka met her husband, Rachmil Zygmuntowicz, while in Sweden and the couple with their two sons migrated to the United States in 1953, settling in Philadelphia, PA. They went on to have two more sons. The Institute recorded her testimony at her home on March 3, 1996.

Throughout her life, before and after the war, Itka had a deep love for literature, which she expressed through poetry. The title of her first book of poems, You Only Have What You Give Away, is inspired by one of her mother’s sayings she remembered hearing as a girl but would not come to fully understand and draw strength from until the Holocaust shattered her world. In 2016, she published her memoir Remember, My Child.

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Because of Itka’s gift with language and her perspective as a teenager who survived the Holocaust, her testimony has been an important resource for educators and students. She is featured in several USC Shoah Foundation online educational activities. A strong supporter of the Institute’s educational mission, Itka loved opportunities that involved her meeting with students.

“We are grateful for her friendship and for her courage in sharing her story with the world,” said Stephen Smith, executive director of USC Shoah Foundation. “Her commitment to education and tolerance, as well as her unflagging joy in meeting young people, is an inspiration for us at the Institute.”

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USC Shoah Foundation