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HOLOCAUST TESTIMONIES


Deponent: Izrael Rozen
Birth date and place: 9 March 1913, Dabrowa Gornicza
Education: High School
Pre-war occupation: Worked in father's wholesale tobacco business
War-time occupation: "Bantrup" - A construction company
Pre-war residence: Dabrowa Gornicza
War-time residences: Dabrowa Gornicza, Sosnowiec, Oswiecim


Dabrowa Gornicza 1939-1943

Before
efore the deportations began we lived more or less quietly. Later the forced labor requirements (Arbeitseinsatz) began in the autumn 1941. The Germans began to send young people to labor camps.

On May 2, 1942 the Germans began the program of sending people away from our city by "deportation" Aktions. The procedure by which this was done was that the Judenrat (Jewish Community Council) sent summonses to persons deemed to be a burden upon the Community's social welfare program. Those summoned had to report to a specific place from where they were sent to an unknown destination. On May 2, 1942, 650 persons were deported.

There here had been 4,500 Jews in Dabrowa when the Germans invaded. For various trivial offenses, such as an incorrect blackout or for buying bread from a private person without ration stamps, the Gestapo arrested and held the victims in the building of the Orphanage in Bedzin. This was the Umschlagplatz (the Gathering Point) for Jewish victims for the entire Zaglebie region. The people were held there and then transported to an unknown location. The third deportation took place on August 12, 1942. In the various communities of Zaglembie, 60,000 Jews were gathered on that day and at the same hour, at 7 in the morning. This Aktion, too, took place in Dabrowa.

A representative of the Special Emissary (SS General Albrecht Schmelt) whose name was Kuczynski arrived and began a "selection" of the persons gathered. He divided the people into three categories. The first category designated those persons capable of working. The second category were persons called "indefinite". The third category was for those persons selected for "deportation". However, in the end, those of the second category were joined to the third group. They were all deported to an unknown destination. After that, until the middle of 1943 there was quiet.

On
n June 6, 1943 another Aktion occurred. On that day, 6,000 persons were deported from Bedzin and 2,000 others from Sosnowiec. There was no Aktion in Dabrowa on that day. On June 22, 1943 another deportation Aktion began in Bedzin and Sosnowiec. During this Aktion old people and children hid in bunkers. Because of this, the Germans seized 8,000 healthy people, persons who were usually left to continue working. In the meantime the "Bantrup" company sent me and 20 other workers to the city of Oswiecim (Auschwitz) to perform construction and general carpentry work. As a result, we learned what the Germans were doing in the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Our knowledge happened because, since we had no place to stay for the night, we reported to the Gendarmerie (Shutzpolizei) jail to find accommodations. When we went to wash, we saw there torn Jewish prayer shawls ("taleses"), instead of towels, with which to wipe.

Later, in Oswiecim, I met civilians who worked with häftlinge (prisoners) in the near-by camp. They told us that in the concentration camp there they didn't see old people and children in the camp, only young persons.

About this time, from the three ghettos in Dabrowa, Bedzin and Sosnowiec - and several other towns in Zaglebie - there was created a single ghetto in Srodula, a district of Sosnowiec. There, 50,000 Jews were concentrated.

On n August 1, 1943, after concentrating all these people, the Gestapo with German police and SS, at 4 o'clock in the morning surrounded us. No one could escape. Then the deportation Aktion began. People were taken from the streets and houses, at first 2,000 to 2,500 persons, and loaded in cattle cars. A large number of trains were sent.

The Aktion lasted eight days during which time 45,000 persons were deported. Some people hid in bunkers, some were permitted to remain with the Liquidation Committee of the Judenrat. Many Judenrat officials and members of the Jewish police were most evil. They collaborated with the German authorities and Gestapo.

Merin was the head of the Central Office of all the Judenräte in East Upper Silesia. The office was located in Sosnowiec. During the final deportation members of the Judenrat and Jewish police were also deported.

There here was present, during the first deportation, a certain Gestapo police officer, Peikert by name. I worked for him and, because he was pleased with my work, he promised that nothing bad would happen to me. He promised me that he would look for me in the camp. I went with the transport and we arrived in Auschwitz on August 1, 1943. When we arrived there and left the train, we heard shouts: "Put down your belongings, put them down… you won't need them any more". The shouts came from the so-called "Kanada Kommando" - a group of prisoners who helped with unloading of wagons. Infants of 3 to 4 weeks were taken from their mothers pulled from their baby carriages and all were thrown into prepared bags. The bags were loaded onto trucks waiting there. Then, on the unloading platform nearest the camp, "selection" begun. To the left and to the right, women where separated from man. Later, from among them were selected those deemed capable of work generally those 20-30 years of age. The portion of those selected for work amounted to 18 to 20 percent of the persons who had arrived. Those selected as being incapable of work were loaded onto trucks and taken to a place then unknown to us. People capable of work, such as I, were taken to a so-called "Sauna" for bathing, disinfection and photographing. We were undressed and all our personal belongings taken from us: jewelry, money, even bread. Other prisoners cut our hair, tattooed an identifying number on our arm, registered us into files of the Political Department of the camp. We took a bath and were given a pair of pants and a jacket. Tall persons got a small size and short persons received a big size so to make us look funny. Barefoot and without hats, we were driven to Block "A" where the quarantine was located.

Wee came to a barrack. The person in charge, the Blockältester - a Jew - told us of regulations which were impossible to endure. Among them were the requirement that all the persons within a barrack (500-600 prisoners) had to move silently, they must lie without moving on beds made out of cement and boards. The punishment for spitting was 25 strokes with a club, for failing to hear one's called number 25 strokes plus breast-stroke exercises. After 5 minutes of breast-stroke exercise a person would be exhausted for several days. There were also other exercises held in mud. After two days in quarantine, we received our first food; bread, though not the 300 grams which we should have received, but only 150-160 grams. Margarine and jam we didn't get, because the block-guards and kapos stole this. At 4 in the morning, a gong sounded from assembly square. Within 3 minutes all prisoners had to be ready and lined up. Then an SS-man named Perszel arrived. If someone weren't standing exactly in the line, then Perszel shot the person. People stood 4 to 5 hours on the rollcall square ("Apelplatz"), barefoot in the mud. Prisoners caught a cold, they were exhausted. Many people had cut on their legs and heads. It wasn't possible to heal injuries as there was no medical help. For an entire day, regardless of the weather, all prisoners had to walk and lie on the Apelplatz. There was no water in the camp. More than 50% of people had swollen heads because of the heat. Some people use their pulled-out pockets to soak them in the dirty, clay-filled water to soak their heads. Because of that their heads swelled so that their eyes were hard to see.

Onn the third day we were taken to the unloading ramp to carry stones. We had to carry the stones 30-35 km each day. A vicious dog was set upon anyone who didn't keep in line. After three weeks of work in the quarantine a camp official named Fischer and the Camp Commander ("Lagerfuhrer") Schwartzhuter appeared. They shouted: "All blocks assemble at the Apelplatz". Again, a selection began. They noted the prisoner numbers of those persons who appeared incapable of work, the rest were left for the time being. Of the 9,000 prisoners who had arrived, 700 were left who were capable of working.

After two days camp-guard Dr. Fischer appeared again to make a selection. Weak and injured prisoners were selected, in all up to 3,000 persons. We were convinced that they were selected to be gassed because in the quarantine we had received information from old prisoners about gas chambers and crematoria. Moreover, we saw smoke from chimneys day and night; we were aware of the stench of burning hair and bodies.

After fter the fourth week in quarantine, we were to be deloused. When we were marched between the men's and women's camps, we saw through the barbed wire about 10,000 women standing on the apelplatz, all naked. The camp's chief doctor (Standarzt) and Lagerfuhrer Schwartzhuter were selecting for gassing from among the women prisoners. Before evening we saw about 4,000 women in shirts being transported in trucks. Terrible screams came from the vehicles. Having been some long time in quarantine I began to be sent out to another area to work, passing every day near the crematoria and thereby coming into contact with prisoners who had been in the camp earlier. I learned unbelievable things. There existed a Special Work Group called the ("Sonderkommando"), consisting only of Jews and only they worked in the crematoria. Their task was to gas and burn their fellow Jews. The Sonderkommando was completely isolated from all other commandos and was guarded specially by SS-men. Every member of the Sonderkommando, after three to four weeks of work, was gassed and cremated. In their stead, another group of Jewish men were selected.

In n order that the victims would go calmly into the gas chambers, the ante-rooms of the gas chambers were prepared to look like shower-baths. The SS ordered the victims to undress there. There were separate ante-rooms for men and women. From the undressing ante-rooms the victims were driven downwards, to dimmed cellars. These were, in reality, the gas chambers. In these chambers the nude men and women came together. When chambers were filled, an SS-man poured through a little opening in the roof a powder which produced the gas. After ten minutes, adults were already dead, but small children were still half alive. I learned this from Sonder-kommando members who, despite their isolation, were in contact with us prisoners.

I saw through a window of a bath, which was situated a distance of 100 meters away, how the victims were driven to their deaths. Once, I witnessed a group of Italian Jews being driven.

From rom time to time, selections took place in the main camp ("Stammlager") at the point from which people left for work. Prisoners with a high temperature were sent to "Krankenban" (hospital), supposedly to be cured. In practice, during selections these persons were added to the group to be gassed. To deceive persons being sent to their deaths, Doctor Fischer would order those who were poorly dressed to be given a coat, "so that they wouldn't catch cold". However, this ruse by now didn't mislead the victims. Several times I witnessed the farewells of selected fathers or sons.

One person so selected had been (the father of) the Director of the hospital in Sosnowiec, Doctor Liberman. He took leave of his own father, who was then led away. Also a man named Miodownik from Dabrowa took leave of his own two sons. From our transports after three of four months I had to look carefully and long to meet familiar faces from Zaglembie. I personally, succeeded in being saved thanks to this following event: the police officer of the Gestapo, Peikert, arrived and used his influence to have me sent to construction work in the camp.

I was in Auschwitz 1 year and 3 months; that is, from 1 August 1943 to 9 November 1944. At the beginning of summer 1944 there arrived in Auschwitz gigantic transports of Hungarian Jews. From these transports about 35% were selected as capable of working. The remainder was gassed. Even so, the Germans couldn't burn the huge number of the bodies in the crematoria ovens alone so they burnt many bodies in three pits in a wooded area. These fires in the wooded areas were visible for tens of kilometers away. To save time, the Germans threw little children alive into these flaming pits. One of these killers was SS Hauptscharfuhrer Moll, a sadist, who seized little children by the hair and, with his pistol, shot the child. During this time, I came by chance into the "Gypsy Camp", which was situated nearest to the crematoria. From there, I saw with my own eyes the incineration of Hungarian Jews in the open air.

I left Auschwitz in November 1944 and was sent to Gintergrub - a camp in the vicinity of Ledzin, not far from Auschwitz. Here conditions were not as bad as in Auschwitz. This was a labor camp. We had better rations, even underwear. We heard that that the gassing in Auschwitz had in general (November 1944) stopped. I was in this camp until January 18, 1945. The Germans began to evacuate us deep into Germany, near the border with Czechoslovakia. We were rushed on without bread and or any food for 6 to 7 days, without suitable places to sleep. The temperature was minus 25 Celsius (13 below zero F.). Daily, we were pressed to march 40 to 45 kilometers. Anyone who fell behind was shot. We left Gintergrub in a column of 1,200. Only 650 of us arrived in Landeshut. At Landeshut, there were no barracks. We were pushed into a mine, from which minerals were taken from mineral waters. After an hour of being in this mine, the conditions became unbearably humid. Each of us experienced a rapid beating of our hearts. We had to escape from there, but we were beaten by back by SS men with clubs. We were threatened by mass executions if anyone would approach the nearest exit. Paying no attention to these threats and realizing that death awaited us in either direction, so as to end the torment we began to break the chain of SS-men so as to escape outside.

The stronger among us trampled the weaker and reached the nearest exit, where they could have a breath of fresh air. In this stampede, 69 persons were killed and more than 300 were badly injured. We tried to rescue these victims since among us prisoners were several doctors.

After fter several days, 150 persons of those died. Next day we were rushed on farther until on May 8, 1945 we arrived in the community of Raspinau in the Sudetenland. Those who arrived in Raspinau were only 150 of the 1,200 who left Gintergrube. The largest number of those murdered had been shot by the SS on the way. Among those who died was Doctor Kobacz from Slovakia. He had been a doctor in Auschwitz and had saved many people from selection. He was trampled under foot in the mine. On the 9th day of May, at 4:30 o'clock in the morning, the SS woke us up. One of them shouted that we must be ready to march. We went out, convinced that we would be further rushed away, but when we saw that there was great confusion among the SS-men, we began to try to escape. The SS-men killed another 10 persons. The rest of us escaped.

In this manner, I was saved.




 
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