Born: March 11, 1917
Gitla was the second-youngest of four girls born to observant Jewish parents. They made their home in Sandomierz, a predominantly Catholic town on the Vistula River. Her father owned a small bookstore across from the town hall, selling school texts and novels. Gitla attended public school before enrolling in a Catholic girls' high school. In the winter, Gitla enjoyed skating on the Vistula.
1933-39: In 1937 Gitla moved to Katowice, a large town on the Polish-German border. There, she enrolled in a business college and lived with her sister, Hana, who worked as a pharmacist. In August 1939 they heard that the Germans would invade Poland. Hana and Gitla decided to return to Sandomierz, where they thought they would be safer. On September 1, 1939, the Germans invaded Poland. They occupied Sandomierz two weeks later.
1940-44: After one year in the Pionki labor camp, Gitla and her father escaped to Warsaw. Her sister Irene, whose Aryan features and good Polish let her pass as a Christian, arranged their way to the city, aided by a Polish man she'd hired. In Warsaw, Gitla stayed locked in Irene's apartment while she worked. After Gitla dyed her dark hair blonde, she got a job as a dishwasher. Gitla had a false ID and wore a cross. Her disguise failed. A boy on the streetcar pointed at her and yelled "Kike," an insult for Jews. She never left the apartment again.