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Rosner's workshop in Bedzin

Witness: Ilza Kupfermuntz,
Born: 23 March 1922 in Chemnitz, Saksonia (Saxony).
Parents: Salomon and Rachela (maiden name: Zmigrod, from Bedzin)
Pre-war residence: Chemnitz.
Current residence (1945): Katowice, ul. Pawla 6.
Occupation: Shorthand typist.

The German man, Alfred Rosner, came to Bedzin in January 1940. The government "Treuhandstelle" Trustee Office (of confiscated Jewish properties) gave him several clothing firms to manage.

That summer a proposal from the Judenrat was put forward to create in Bedzin workshops which would save Jews from deportation to labor camps to Germany. Rosner learned of this and became interested in this project. Tailoring workshops were created under the aegis of the Judenrat in connection with the German concern, Grunther und Schwarz of the Litzmannstadt (Lodz) division.
Rosner became the head of this Bedzin affiliate. In this workshop were employed 300 persons, all Jewish men and women.

In November 1940, this workshop was taken over by Rosner under his name and he became its owner. Now he employed more people and gave professional management to Jews - specialists and persons familiar with the trade - namely to a Mr. Ferleger, Arie Kaminski, Moses Wolf and a certain Goldsztejn. Ferleger was a friend of Rosner from before the war, since he had lived and was brought up in Falkensztein, Germany from where Rosner also originated.

Rosner was not a party (NSDAP) member. On the contrary, he was an adherent of the communists. He became "Treuhandler" in Bedzin only because of efforts of Jews and of the main Treuhandler - the German Braune. Braune was a General Commissioner of Textile and Metal concerns.

This workshop produced solely for the Wehrmacht. The factory produced underwear and work clothes. The Jewish workers believed they were protected from deportation to camps in Germany because the output was important to the German war effort. Rosner wanted to be friendly to the Jews and this is why he developed the workshop.

Each month there were more employees, but orders still originated from the Wehrmacht through the agency of the Gunther und Schwarz, Litzmannstadt concern. In 1942, this concern stopped its orders and there was no work for the Jewish employees. Rosner, to continue protecting Jews, didn't liquidate the workshop, but instead gave it to the German concern "Held", headquartered in Sosnowiec. In this fashion, the workshop worked for two months as "Held", managed by Rosner.

During this time, the German authorities declined to permit Rosner to remain longer in Bedzin because of Rosner's political convictions. However, because the Special Emissary (of Himmler), SS General Albrecht Schmelt, in Sosnowiec derived great financial benefits from this workshop, as did the Chief Inspector of the Special Emissary Hentschel, they were favorable to Rosner. These persons wished to maintain the workshop and Rosner, so that an agreement was reached with Rosner. Now the workshop’s ownership was the Special Emissary and Rosner continued as manager.

In this manner, Rosner received permission to remain longer in Bedzin. After this (change in ownership), the workshop became very important and expanded greatly. Thanks to the Jew, Ferleger, pre-war relations were renewed with various German private concerns, which gave orders to the workshop for different kinds of clothing. A relationship also developed with the German concern Rüstungsbetriebe.
The Bedzin workshop in 1942 received so many orders that it was necessary to open a separate division on Kollataja Street #45 in Bedzin. In the meantime, more employees were needed. Many Jewish woman and men applied for work with Rosner’s firm. The employees in this workshop were considered to be in the category of Forced Laborers for the Special Emissary. The employees worked on piece-work system, paid for their output.

In May 1942 there began the first deportation Aktions against the Jews of Bedzin. Rosner’s firm protected his workers from this Aktion so that not one of them, male or female, was selected for deportation.

In the cellar of the tailoring workshop were the so-called Zuschneiderei (cutting room) where the patterns were produced by the "Bandmessermaschinen” (powered textile cutting tools). About 50-100 layers of textile were stacked one upon the other. On the top layer was drawn a rather complicated pattern and the entire stack of cloth was cut with the hand cutting machine. It was very difficult work because it was necessary to hold all this material and to move the cutting machine according to the pattern on the top layer until all the cloth was cut. The cutter was an electric machine.

Later, in the same cellar, the parts of the cut material were sorted, bound and packed for delivery to the sewing workshops. There was also much work concerning receipt and sending out of the production of the firm. It was all heavy work on which worked especially strong Jews. A great deal of dust in the factory also bothered the Jewish employees, many of whom developed lung diseases.
Some of the Jewish workers and the management created the concept of social care in the factory. They organized an out-patient department where first-aid concerning factory accidents was dispensed. Treatment of sick persons was also available there. There was a doctor, 3 to 4 nurses and a dentist available.
Later a kitchen was organized. A bitter black coffee was dispensed during rest breaks or interruptions caused by changes in machine settings. Bread and sometimes a piece of sausage and bit of margarine were also dispensed. It was given to hard-working people. There were also barbers who cut and shaved, supposedly for free at the expense of workshop, but each person treated paid a small sum.

There were two shifts - the day and the night shifts. It required an hour to travel to the factory from the ghetto and an hour to return. When the workers of the ghetto had assembled at the appointed time, the Jewish Industrial Police escorted them to the factory and later returned them to the ghetto. It was forbidden for any one to travel without a police escort. The Jewish managers had special passes which allowed them to go on the streets of the town and they had night passes which allowed them to go during the night so as to control work in the factoryu at different times. They controlled attendance of the workers and all affairs concerning them from the Germans’ offices.

The factory buildings were located in four places in Aryan districts plus one building on Fabrikstr. #37, opposite the railway station. In the ground floor of this building were located all bureaus, cash office and offices of chief Rosner and his vice chief. In the cellar under the office was the "Zuschneiderei" and warehouse of heavy material. On this street farther into the building in three big areas on the ground floor and second floor were located the sewing factory. Located there was Abteilung (Division) U and part of Z (K.W. Kleider, Wäsche) i.e., Clothing and Underwear.

Other sewing factories were located on Kollataja 45 in the whole building - with four floors and two annexes. The fifth floor, attic and cellar were alsoused there. There was also a "Ziwil" (civilian) section and there were also more workshops - mechanical, electrical, and a kitchen. However, in this kitchen there wasn’t time enough to prepare dinners.

Other workshops were on ul. Malobadzka at # 7 and # 9., though only sewing workshops. In the courtyards of these two buildings and nearby piled in square was a heap of old shoes formerly belonging to deported persons (once, forty wagonloads of such boots were brought at one time). There were men’s and women’s shoes, but mostly there were children’s shoes. The Germans told us that the shoes came from collections, but the Jewish managers knew from where they came because there were some transports from Oswiecim. From those used shoes the better parts were cut for production of new shoes.

The Jews worked hard in the workshops, usually quietly, because although the Germans told us that it’s not necessary to be afraid now of Germans, it is necessary to be afraid of the partisans. These could attack the factory and set fire to it. In such an instance, the Germans would take advantage of this and say that it was Jewish sabotage. As a punishment they would deport all Jews. So the manager ordered night tours of watch duty.

On the night in which the (Kamionka and Srodula) ghettos were surrounded by Gestapo and SS-men and the great deportation began, the older people usually hid in bunkers and the young people, mainly from Rosner, went quietly to the Assembly Point in the square. At that time almost all the young Jewish people of Bedzin were deported. On that day they were loaded into train freight cars and sent directly to the gas chambers at (Oswiecim) Auschwitz. At that time, there were sent about 7,000 Jews.

According to later information from people working in Oswiecim (Auschwitz) it is known that from this transport the Germans left only about 22 persons….. 14 boys 13 to14 years old and 8 young women for experiments. This deportation disturbed existence of the workshop, There still remained about 3,000 workers, but there were not coming to work the specialists who had been deported. None of us wanted to work. We were completely resigned. We felt that our end would soon come. We couldn’t sleep peaceably calmly even for a single night. During this deportation Rosner couldn't save a single person.

The work lasted until the end of July. Rosner however wanted to house several hundred persons in a single barrack. This was done by registration People couldn't decide anything. The Judenrat accepted volunteers to go to the labor camps in Germany. Everywhere, there was general chaos. Rosner slowed everything down.
Then, on the night of 31 July to 1 August 1943, the entire ghetto was surrounded at night and the general deportation of all Jews from Zaglebie began. In the first days of the following week several transports of trains to Oswiecim (Auschwitz) were dispatched. On some days people were even sent by passenger cars. At this time, Jews were still being caught in discovered bunkers or Jews surrendered because of lack of air, food, or water, mostly for lack of air. Some became ill in the bunkers.

Until the liquidation of Rosner's factory, there were left about 400 young persons. There were left also few hundred young people in Kamionka until the liquidation of that ghetto. The 400 people at Rosner worked on liquidating the workshop. First, they sent a few hundred of sewing machines to Birkenau. Later, there was sent by freight cars raw materials, textiles, semi-finished products, and finished clothes to military storehouses. Orders from various firms and goods were returned. Some orders were finished and the rest was sorted according to sequence of orders and were sent back by train.

At this time it was a closed camp. We weren’t permitted to go to the town. There were guards from the Schmelt Organization who watched us. It took quite long time. In the meantime there were selections from among the 400 persons and groups were sent to labor camps or to Oswiecim (Auschwitz).

On 19 January 1944 there were only 50 persons left and these remained until July 1944. The "Office of the Special Emissary” took them to Annaberg in Lower Silesia where the liquidation of entire Special Emissary’s Group took place. All forced labor camps under jurisdiction of the Special Emissary were ended and the camps changed to auxiliary camps of the main concentration camps, Auschwitz and Gross Rosen.

In September 1943 the police arrested Rosner. Rosner had often sent packages to his home in Falkensztejn. One such a package was confiscated and it appeared that it was a very valuable package. Immediately a search of his house was undertaken and many such valuable packages as well as valuable items were discovered. On this basis, he was immediately arrested. He was accused of acquiring those valuables from Jews. He was imprisoned in the Sosnowiec prison until December 1944. He died in the prison.