Judith Rosenzweig

* unknown  

  • “Late in April, I don’t know what date it was, the English came to Bergen-Belsen to liberate us. I must say that when they saw us - those of us who’d survived - they got a fright. They kept their distance. We looked terrible - neglected, dirty, lean, sick. They didn’t come near us at all. They gave us things to eat from a distance. I remember that the first thing they gave us to eat was some kind of chicken soup. The soup caused a different reaction in each of us. I immediately felt better, and I told my mum and sister that I’d go beg for some semolina to cook Mum some semolina porridge. My sister fell ill and was in hospital for four months. My mum died a week after eating the soup. When I came back with the semolina, my mum was gone. I couldn’t even look at the semolina. I threw it out, I didn’t want it.”

  • “Two and a half years later, in the autumn of ’44, they sent us to Auschwitz. Back then Mum really said that she wanted to see her son again. The train left directly from Terezín at the time - but it wasn’t really a train, those were enclosed cattle wagons. When I saw the wagons and the way they were shoving us into them, without even the room to sit, with no toilet, no windows, just a tiny slit up by the roof with bars across it. They shoved us into the wagon - I don’t know how many, some eighty or a hundred people, all togethere - I knew we weren’t going anywhere pretty. Everyone understood that by then, but there was nothing we could do. The Germans were there, so no one could leave, and as soon as we were inside the wagon, they closed the door from the outside and locked it so that no one could get out. Those were cattle wagons, enclosed cattle wagons, so no one could so much as turn around.”

  • “I always knew since when I was a girl that I was Jewish. I even remember that I was at some Christian instructions one time, where the priest spoke to the children. I usually left the classroom [for the Christian instructions - trans.], but it was raining that day, and so I stayed inside. The priest told the children that Jews kill their first-born son to use his blood to bake matzot for Pesach. Pesach is a feast in the spring, a Jewish feast, when you’re not allowed to eat [leavened] bread, and so you bake these thin wafers, called matzot. Back then, when the priest said we killed our first-born sons to have blood for matzot, I simply stood up and told him: ‘Excuse me, but we have matzot for Pesach every year. They’re white, and if they were baked with blood, they’d have to be pink.’ From then on the priest didn’t let me stay in the class even when it rained.”

  • “So we waited to see where they’d send us to work. But they just sent us to another one of those buildings again, where we had to undress again, and this time, naked as we were, they either sent us to work or to our death. This time they sent Mum away. My sister and I stayed for labour. But Mum wasn’t scared, she spoke good German, so she talked with every SS man she saw and told them all: ‘You’re mistaken, I can work.’ She said that to so many SS men and so often that they sent her back to us. So the three of us stayed together. They really did send us to work. We dug deep pits against tanks.”

  • “We had the room, and we had a governess who was a music teacher in normal life. She was amazing, she really devoted so much of her time to us. She provided us with various stimuli, songs, music; she would also invite teachers and professors to visit us - they were all in Terezín, the whole of Bohemia was in Terezín; professors from both Brno and Prague, teachers, they were all there - so she would always find some teacher, one who was still in Terezín, to teach us something. Of course, we didn’t have any text books, jotters, pens or pencils, but we listened to what the teachers told us. So I can say that although we spent two and a half years in Terezín, we learnt something there. We also learnt to be together, so many girls in one room, without squabbling all the time. Our governess had one assistant, another governess - they were both very, very decent to us - in my opinion - and they really gave us - or me at least - a lot.”

  • “Then they put us in another house, where there were no beds or anything. They gave each of us a slice of bread, that was all that we got to eat. Someone stole mine because I wasn’t careful enough. We waited, and we didn’t know what would happen. Back then we already knew that we had come to Auschwitz. So we sat, and those of us who could, slept, and the rest sat on the floor, and we waited I don’t know how long. Then they called us away again, we had to stand in a row in front of that Doctor Mengele. We had to strip down, and this time he could tell for certain who of us could work and who couldn’t. So he sent me and my sister for labour, but he declared that our mum couldn’t work. But Mum didn’t give up, and she told all of the Germans in the other row, which they’d sent away: ‘You’re mistaken, I can work.’ She said that for so long and to so many Germans that they sent her back and brought her to us. So the three of us were together. Some time later they loaded us into a lorry and took us to a place called Kurzbach, where we dug big, deep holes against tanks.”

  • “It wasn’t pretty. I came there on 15 May, and it wasn’t just our ship, there was another one there as well, but I can’t remember its name. When we approached the port, we came to Jaffa. The ship can’t go all the way up to the port, so little boats are sent out from the ship to the port. It took some time. When we were in the port, some Egyptian planes flew up - each with a pilot and a soldier next to him, who started shooting into us, into the people who were gathered there. So they quickly sent us away, to various hotels in the vicinity, and they told us to come for our luggage the next day.”

  • “Mum, my sister, and I were among the women, and we went to the front where there was one man standing at the head of the line, waving his arms left and right. We didn’t know at the time, but it meant either work, or death. If they chose you for work, if they reckoned you were still able to do labour, they sent you there, and the rest went to the [gas] chamber. The three of us were chosen for work. We carried on to a house of some kind, where they ordered us to strip down, hand in all our jewellery - the women weren’t allowed to keep even their wedding ring, nothing. Earrings that couldn’t be opened were ripped out - they weren’t allowed to keep anything. We had to hand in all their clothes, shoes, everything. Then they shaved our hair off, we had completely bare scalps, and they shoved us into a cold shower and gave each of us a rag of some kind, usually summer clothing, for us to wear.”

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The whole of Bohemia was in Terezín

Judith Rosenzweig, 1948
Judith Rosenzweig, 1948
photo: archiv pamětníka

Judith Rosenzweig, née Judita Schwarzbartová, was born on 2 March 1930 in Brno. She grew up as the youngest of three children in a Jewish family; her father worked in construction, her mother was a housewife. Judita was a member of Sokol (the Czech sports movement - trans.) and attended Czech schools until she was expelled for reasons of her race. On 30 March 1942 the whole family was deported to the ghetto in Terezín. Judita lived in the girls’ house, her father and siblings worked as farmhands. Her brother was placed in a transport to Auschwitz in August 1944, the rest of the family followed him on 19 October 1944. After several days in Auschwitz, Judita and her mother and sister were chosen for labour in Kurzbach Camp, where they dug anti-tank trenches. In late January 1945 they were sent on a several-week death march to Gross-Rosen Camp; from there they were taken by train to Bergen-Belsen, where they arrived in late February 1945. In April 1945 they were liberated in Bergen-Belsen, but her mother died the following week. Judita and her sister returned to Brno in August 1945, where they were reunited with their brother - their father had died during the war. Judita completed her final year of primary school, and in 1946 she began a preparatory course for emigrants to Palestine, which lasted two years. On 15 May 1948 she arrived in the newly established State of Israel. She lived in a kibbutz at first, then she completed a medical school and worked as a nurse for 35 years. She raised three children with her husband Menachem Rosenzweig. Judith Rosenzweig lives in Haifa.