Julia Grossberg was born in the small Polish town of Milatycze, and lived there with her sister Rose and her parents Moshe Leib and Bena (Berta). Her father ran the brewery for the Count, and the 4 members of the Grossberg family were the only Jews in the village. One day when Julia was 16 years old, she left home to run an errand, and upon returning found her that her mother had been killed and her father and sister deported to Belzec. She was all alone in the world, and stunned that Hilter’s army had come all the way to her small distant village to destroy the only Jewish family living there.
Initially, Julia hid with a neighboring farmer but soon was asked to leave and was forced to travel from farm to farm seeking refuge in exchange for making payments to the farmers. Eventually, she was caught and taken to the ghetto at Bóbrka. It was there that she met Jewish partisan Isidore (Izzy) Karten on one of his many dangerous missions sneaking into the ghetto to rescue Jews. He asked her to escape with him to the forest but she was initially wary – unsure whether she could trust him. To prove his credibility, Isidore gave her the name of a gentile who was assisting the partisans and told her to make contact if she decided to join him.
Julia asked around about Isidore Karten and his brothers, and upon learning that they could be trusted, she wrote a note to them in Yiddish and gave it to the gentile who in turn pinned it to a tree that he used to communicate with the partisans. Arrangements were then made for Julia to escape into the woods where she was met by the partisans. Julia joined the Swirza Valt partisan group and lived with them in the woods through 3 challenging winters.
In 1943, Julia and Izzy were married in the woods under the supervision of two witnesses, and later by a rabbi who joined their partisan brigade.
By the end of the war, several other groups had joined the Karten brothers’ brigade which ended up saving more than 400 Jews by the end of the war. Members of the brigade became “landsmen”. They all started new lives and went on to have children to replace those Jewish lives lost during the war.
Julia and Izzy came to New York in early 1946 with their first child Bernice. Later Marcia and Harry joined the family. The couple rebuilt their lives and vowed to never forget the atrocities brought upon the Jews of Eastern Europe. They became benefactors of Yad VaShem in Jerusalem, and together with their children erected the Partisan Panorama memorial in 2002.