Testimony of Rosa Isaacs
Testimony of Rosa Isaacs
By Michal Udler
The testimony before you was given by Rosa, my mother, to her granddaughter, Michal, my daughter in 1993 when Michal was 15 years old. It has taken me another 15 years to translate it despite requests from family and friends. This past December, I summoned up what it takes to go to Auschwitz and am now attempting the translation. Having heard so much of my mother's experiences over the years and having received Michal's permission, I will take the liberty of adding to the original text.
Rosa Isaacs nee´ Besso was born in Ioannina (Janina), Greece, on December 17, 1918 to Annetta and Michael Besso. She was the fourth child of six siblings (the eldest dying as an infant) third child of the five living to adulthood as follows Isaiah (Jesse), Matathia, Rosa, Davidjohn (John) and Matilda.
Along with the entire Jewish community of Ioannina, numbering at the time under 2000 people, Rosa was taken by the Nazis from her home in Ioannina at 5:30 am on the Saturday morning of March 25th, 1944 at the age of 25 along with her mother Annetta, father Michael and aunt Reveka. She labored 14 months in Auschwitz and other death camps until the liberation. Her parents and aunt did not survive. Her siblings had escaped before the terrible 25th of March and did survive. Of the 2000 Jews, 170 were to return Ioannina, some from hiding some from the camps.
The text before you is a short description of Rosa's experiences, a woman who during her life was a figure to be admired, and a symbol of strength, stubbornness and power alongside sensitivity, kind-heartedness, giving and love.
Before the war: Family and Community
The text before you is a short description of Rosa's experiences, a woman who during her life was a figure to be admired, a symbol of strength, stubbornness and power alongside sensitivity, kind heartedness, generosity and love.
Before the war, family and community
We were five children; my mother was a wonderful woman, very special. My father was educated and a man of the world, having traveled to Europe, Africa, Brazil and the United States for his import business of rice, coffee, sugar, beans, etc. My father had even attended part of the Dreyfus trial in France. And this at a time when most people never left our village, from birth to death.
Our house had seven rooms, 2 basements, and many flowers in the yard, an area to raise chickens in the yard (chickens were raised in most of the Jewish homes). We had servants in the house and at the store and lacked for nothing. The scenic views in Ioannina were incredible and we enjoyed the beautiful lake Pamvotis surrounded by mountains.
The Jewish community of Ioannina had two large synagogues, each of which had a small synagogue within it for daily prayers and the large synagogue for the High Holidays. They were very ornate and housed some of the most beautiful and valuable Torah scrolls in the world with gold letters on the outside and silver inside and on them hung beautiful Stars of David. A few years ago my daughter tried to bring some of these Torah scrolls to Israel but the Greek authorities have deemed these scrolls as "National Antiquities" and antiquities cannot be removed from Greece, so this attempt was unsuccessful.
At its good period in our history, there were three thousand Jews in Ioannina. Prior to the war there were two thousand and there were many rabbis and mohelim and after the war there was not a single rabbi or mohel and we had to bring them from other cities. After the war, my husband Yaacov Isaacs was appointed "Hacham Beit HaKnesset" as a rabbi, despite the fact that he was not certified, since he knew the prayers well and was the closest figure to a rabbi.
Anti-Semitism – The first time
In 1933, the year that Hitler rose to power, the infamous Greek Nationalist Party Ethniki Enosis Ellas (E.E.E) became active and graffiti Exondosti Evreos meaning "Kill the Jews" appeared on the walls of the shops in Ioannina. This was shocking. My father had many Christian friends from his business dealings and one of them came to my father and told him that his own son was one of the writers of these anti-Semitic slogans and that he (his father) didn't know what to do with him. He only knew that this group was virulently anti-Jewish and did intend to kill Jews. This was the beginning of a new era, as this was unknown before.
In 1940, the war began for us – the Italians against the Greeks. By 1941 the Italians won and controlled Greece. They weren't so bad and tried to help the Jews and even gave food to the hungry. For money, the Italians gave the Jews falsified certificates as Christians. In 1942, the Germans entered Greece (the Italians and Germans were on the same side). When the Germans entered everyone was very frightened, especially the Jews as the Germans were very harsh, frightening and cruel. We trembled when hearing the step of their heavy boots. The fear they generated made everyone panic and give them whatever they wanted – the stores, the houses…Many people never left their homes so as not to chance an encounter with the Germans. In 1943, the Germans started taking Jews from Thessaloniki (Saloniki). The Germans said that they were taking only the men and that no one would harm the rest of the family. This, of course, was a lie. We had family in Saloniki and they wrote us letters telling us to leave Greece because the Germans were taking them. In our family's sitting room the walls were covered with maps and my father, having traveled the world, traced the Germans' movements on the maps and was convinced they wouldn't take the Jews from Ioannina. He was certain they would lose the war first. Nevertheless, false certificates for a great deal of money were purchased for my brother John and sister Matilda and they were able to leave Ioannina under the guise of Christians and eventually go to Cyprus and British Mandate Palestine (prior to the birth of the Jewish State in 1948).
As time passed, the Germans became crueler and crueler and people were not permitted out at night. At the end of 1943, Saloniki's Jews were taken to camps but no one knew what a camp was. Some rumors said it was a hard-labor camp but others said it was an extermination camp. The Greek government knew but said nothing and everyday got worse. I had friends that served in the Greek army and every time they saw me they said the situation was critical. I tried to get certificates for my parents, my aunt and myself but by this time it was too late – people were too afraid to forge papers. In March of 1944, a hydroplane landed on Lake Pamvotis and everyone was terrified to hear that bad news had arrived. Out stepped an officer* whose name I did not know at the time.
*The officer landing was most probably Kurt Waldheim although there is no definitive proof.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Waldheim#Military_service, later to become the President of Austria and The Secretary-General of the United Nations who denied war crimes and claimed he was an interpreter during the war although all facts dispute this.
On Friday night, the 24th of March 1944, while it was snowing, I went to a Christian friend's house. She implored me to stay by them because the next day would be very dangerous. I refused for fear that my parents and aunt were at home. On the way home, I met Jewish friends and warned them regarding what I had heard.
At 5:30 the next morning, the Germans came to the Jewish homes and woke them by banging their rifles on the doors and shouting at them to get out. They were all ordered to immediately assemble at the lake. It was two weeks before Pessach and all the families had prepared for the holiday and even had matzot. They gathered a few belongs, took some bread and matzot and rushed to leave their homes in tears and in terrible fear, all the while the Germans beating them from behind. No one knew where they were going or what their destiny would be. It was freezing cold and everyone stood for hours in this weather by the lake waiting for everyone to assemble. The Germans went from house to house to make sure no Jew remained and warned the Greeks that if they hid any Jews, they would be killed. There were some Greeks that did want to help but because they feared for the lives, the Jews were on their own.
I took two blankets and a few loaves of bread and went to the lake to see what they were going to do with us. After a few hours the trucks arrived and the Germans started to beat us on our backs with their rifle butts to hurry us into the trucks. Everyone scrambled to stay with their family members; no one knew what would be done with them. After we all entered the trucks, they began to move but we had no idea in which direction. Later we were to find out, that on this same day, March 25th 1944 the Jews of Preveza, Arta, Patra, Athens and other communities were take away as well.
After stopping shortly so all the trucks would travel together, we proceeded to travel again as snow and darkness fell on the open trucks. It was freezing cold and these 2000 frightened Jews didn't utter a word so as not to anger the Germans. A few Jewish youths jumped out of the trucks – a few escaped and others were shot and killed on the spot. In the middle of the night or perhaps it was morning, we arrived at a place no one recognized. The place was Larissa. In the morning, the Germans began to shout and shoot their rifles in the air so we would get out of the trucks. There was an empty school with big rooms and they threw us in there with shouts and beatings. Later they threw bunches of muddy orange things at us – carrots – we had never seen carrots before. They apparently didn't grow in Ioannina. They were to be our nutrition. Afterwards, I recognized the officer as the one that got out of the hydroplane that landed on the lake in Ioannina.
A few of the Jews understood German and told us that we were all to stand in line and remove all our gold and put it in the tins that were scattered around. We all stood in line and threw in our gold. I didn't have any gold on me but my friends gave me some of theirs so the Germans wouldn't beat me. This process was repeated everyday and if anyone was suspected of hiding gold, he or she was stripped naked by force in order to ascertain if any gold was left. We slept on the floor and those that had brought blankets from home could cover up with them; the others just froze. A few days later, they allowed us out of the school rooms and we saw a large fire in which they were cooking a soup. Two young men tried to escape and were caught after a few hours. Since we didn't see them, we were sure that the Germans had shot them. Before they escaped, they had offered for me to come with them since they knew me but despite my strong desire to join them I couldn't leave my mother alone. I was sure they had been shot but many years later I met one of them at a wedding in Israel and the second one at a relative's funeral. One day, my mother and I went down to the nearby body of water (I am not sure if it was a river or a lake) to wash as my mother was menstruating. The officer, who in the 1960's I was able to identify as Waldheim (his presence in Larissa is documented), whipped my mother and we had to quickly go back up. We were in Larissa for about 10 days, I would estimate, hungry and freezing in terrible fear of what would come next. One day, they put us in a line again to throw in any gold that was left and then made us go on a long walk at the end of which we saw trains. We were thrown into the railcars and again everyone tried to hold onto his family. And again we were beaten all over our bodies to climb up quickly. They squeezed so many people into the cars as if we were animals, no place to sit or stand – one on top of the other. In one corner there was a tin can and above it a tiny barred window. The can was the train's toilet. The next day the train door opened and the Germans threw in bread and carrots. They closed and locked the doors and the cattle cars continued on their journey. After a few days the doors opened again to let in some air and the Germans watched like hawks so that no one would get away. At each stop, as impossible as it was, more people were stuffed into the trains. At this point there were many dead bodies in the train as it was so difficult to sustain life in these squalid conditions. There was a woman who gave birth on the train and the Germans took her and the baby and neither was seen again. One day the train stopped and I saw people beautifully dressed; I even remember a woman in a broad brimmed canary yellow hat and I thought, — my God, there is still civilization; the world has not come to an end. This was Budapest. And we continued on getting to the next place during daylight (I had no idea as to the time or date). They took us out of the trains and we had a very hard time walking because we had become so stiff from not moving and being packed like sardines. Everyone was searching for their family members. The Germans yelled and beat us so that we would be quiet. This place was huge and looked like a desert. All we could see were the trains. The Germans separated the people – to one side they put the men and youngsters and to the other side the sick, the old, the women and the children. Trucks came and took away my father, my mother and my aunt. They yelled and my father yelled I should come with them; I tried but a German threw me in a different place. I ran towards them again and was shouted at by another German. I didn't know what to do; I had a loaf and a half of bread and I tried to give it to them and a German yelled again but I managed to give the bread to my father. The truck was open and my father placed his hand on my head and said a blessing in Hebrew that I didn't understand. Then he spoke in Greek and said, "Se pera sto limo". He said, "You are so young" and he apologized for keeping me back with him, my mother and my aunt and not letting me escape when there was still time. He explained that he didn't believe the Germans would take them. Now he sees how wrong he was. He asked that I promise to stay alive and see my brothers and sister again. I said, "Father, it is not up to me. Whatever I did up till now was within my control but from here on in, it is the Germans that decide." My father said, "Just promise me and I know you will live up to it. You are a good girl". Mother cried, "What will you do? You gave us your bread." And I said, "Don't worry, I'll manage." Their truck moved away. We didn't know where to.
At this same time, I, along with a large group of young people, was taken to a huge room filled with German clerks. We were told to stand in line, push up our sleeves and we had a number tattooed on our arms with an electric pen. On my arm they tattooed a small triangle and the number 77133.
We were then taken to another large room and the Germans told us to take off our clothes. They shaved our heads. I had pretty long brown hair and they shaved it off. We were naked and we tried to shield ourselves but they beat us. Later they took us to large rooms with showers and showered us with freezing cold water and then with burning hot water and then again with cold water.
In the morning we were made to go outside without our clothes and line up like soldiers. We had to hold three bricks in our hands, with our hands extended above our heads with our naked bodies completely exposed, while the Germans beat us. We didn't understand why. Afterwards we found out that this was a test to see who was fit to work.
We were then taken to a room with piles of clothes and told to get dressed. We grabbed whatever we could sometimes wearing two left shoes of the wrong size just not to be barefoot in the cold. The next day we went out doors and discovered young women speaking Greek. They were from Saloniki and had managed to survive so far. The Germans sent them to speak to us. We asked where our parents were. Where were the children? The girls didn't want to tell us and said we'd see them tomorrow. We all became very happy in the hope that we'd see our families the next day. For the next ten days each morning we would hold the bricks as a fitness exercise. On one of those days when we saw the girls from Saloniki we asked them again about our parents. They told us to lift our heads. We lifted our heads and saw smoke and didn't understand what it was. They said that in that fire and smoke were the souls of our families. We still didn't understand what they were saying. And then they told us that the Germans had burnt them – they had been cremated. Everyone that had gone on those trucks had been killed. We didn't believe them. We stood there stunned not moving, like stone. No one cried. Everyone was screaming that they didn't believe this crazy story. The Germans got angry at all the yelling and started beating us again. We couldn't hug each other and comfort each other because we had these bricks in our hands and were not allowed to let them down. This was on the 13th or 14th of April 1944. The fire continued to burn and the smoke continued to billow out of the chimney. Awhile afterwards, we were divided into work groups and each of us was sent to a different place to work, some to a pickle factory, some to pave roads and some, such as me, to clean the toilets. Cleaning the toilets was called "sheiss" commando. The Germans were very particular about cleanliness but how could someone be clean when cleaning the toilets of a concentration camp? All night we were without clothes so we could launder and dry them and be clean for the morning inspection. Our group did this for a month and then was transferred to "Haus" Commando to build houses. They woke us every morning- we didn't know what time because none of us had a watch – but it was before sunrise and still dark outside. We ran to the toilets and drank some watery coffee that we used to wash our faces and then went to work building and laying railroad tracks. Towards the afternoon, we received some soup with a bit of carrot, sometimes potato and spinach but mostly water.
I tried to help people all the time. On the other side of where I worked there were men and I recognized one from Greece. He said he didn't have clothes and he especially needed socks. We sold a piece of bread for a pair of socks and tried to throw them over the fence but the throw wasn't good enough and the socks were caught on the fence. Then we discovered that the fence was electrified and the sirens started ringing. The Germans wanted to know who did it and no one wanted to say. I said I did it to save the whole group from the punishment. They hit me with the butts of their rifles and kicked me with their boots. The other girls were forced to continue working so the dogs wouldn't bite them. I couldn't get up because of the severity of the beating and the girls thought I was dead and couldn't even come over to check me. Only on their way back to the camp were they able to approach me and gently kick me and say, "Rosa, get up, Rosa, get up!" I awoke and started to realize what had happened and started to get up. When we got back to camp and received a slice of bread with a bit of margarine. All the girls came to me and wanted to give me their bread because they said that my bravery had saved the whole group. I refused because in Auschwitz a slice of bread was life.
And so we continued to work until they changed our job. We moved from one place to another and some of the women were able to find their husbands or brothers. Many of the Greek men worked in the crematoria and on Sundays (for some reason) they had to climb the chimneys to clean where all the smoke came out. They would sing in Greek, "Girls, soon the liberation will come, soon we will be free" in order to lift our spirits. Sometimes the men were able to send sugar to their wives and sisters. My friends gave me some of what they received. In such a place giving food was giving life.
One day, I asked the girls from Saloniki, "What is this place?" They said, "This is Auschwitz." Every time the Germans caught someone slovenly dressed or with a ripped garment, they selected a few for the crematoria, so we often were forced to sell a slice of bread for a needle and thread. So you see, a slice of bread was life in more ways than one.
One night, I went to steal bread. The truck arrived with the loaves and the soldiers were up on top and down below were the kitchen workers. I was with my friends and I pinched one of the German workers and her loaf of bread fell and I grabbed it and ran. The soldiers started shooting after me. I ran with all my might and suddenly fell into a deep hole. At dawn's first light I realized what a deep hole I had fallen into and it took tremendous efforts to get out of it. I saw a rip in the fence so I realized it was not electrified and on the other side another camp in which there were four men from Greece. They looked like skeletons but they were alive and I told them that Greek women were also alive. We had not seen Greek men since the beginning of the war. When I ran back, I was able to tell the women that I had seen four Greek men and that others were alive too.
In the showers we were given soap which rumors said was made out of the fat of the bodies that were burnt and that combs were made from the bones and purses from the skin.
Some of the women had friends that were Capos. They walked alongside of them as if to hug and the Capo passed food to them. I stood watch to make sure the Germans didn't see the exchange of food and in return I received some of the food. I had a friend who knew how to sew and the Capo used to bring her cooked potatoes and radishes for her having mended a blouse or other garment. She was such a good friend that each time she received a potato she gave me some. I cannot overemphasize what I said before – she/he who gave food in Auschwitz saved a life. During the entire month there was a selektzia each day. We stood outside and waited to see who would be sent to work and who would be sent to die. Those selected for death would be murdered that very day. Once three French girls got into a panic before the selection and they tried to escape. They were hung to death right then and there. I didn't know who the hangman was but during the Eichmann trial I recognized him and wanted to testify but my brother wouldn't allow it for fear of my health. Kurt Waldheim was the Secretary-General of the United Nations for ten years when I identified him on television but I was afraid to say anything incase I was mistaken. But afterwards when he was accused and I saw his photos once again I was sure that he was the Nazi officer that hit my mother in Larissa!
In the extermination camp, every noon we received a watered-down soup and in the evening half a slice of bread with margarine or sometimes with liverwurst or a piece of cheese. In the frozen nights it was so cold that people sometimes sold their food for a pair of socks or garment to keep warm. In the morning, if we weren't selected to die, we had to walk many kilometers in the cold. People died of hunger, of disease and of cold. The conditions were harder than one can describe here in words. There were rumors – no one knew if there was any truth to them – rumors that if you wanted to live better – to sleep, to have sheets on the bed, to have decent food you could transfer to the hospital and have tests done on you. Two friends of mine, sisters, said, "We are going to die anyway, so at least while we are alive why not live in better conditions". I never really found out what experiments they underwent; they were eventually saved by the Russian liberation. But these two sisters were apparently sterile and neither ever gave birth to a child.
We often heard planes and hot air balloons overhead and thought they might be photographing. We didn't know if the end was near or not. The entire time we were in the camp, we completely lacked any information as to what was going on outside. One night, they woke us up in the middle of the night and made us stand up in a line outside. I was very scared because I had a large wound on my calf tied with a kerchief. If they were to see it, it would mean instant death as they had no use for anyone that was injured. My friends told me not to worry, that I was strong and would get though it. I took off the kerchief and walked in line and my wound was not discovered. That night we continued to walk, it was freezing cold and it snowed so hard that we could hardly see. In the morning we discovered that some people were taken by train and those who stopped, even for just a moment, were shot on-the-spot. It is quite amazing that people could survive walking in such freezing temperature, lacking clothing, lacking food for days and nights without knowing what day it is or what date it is. After a few days and nights we arrived at a placed call Bibra and there we worked at making braids out of cellophane. We later understood that there were thick ropes for tying sheep. Some time later I met up with some of the people that I had lost during the march. Those of us that remained alive were so happy to be reunited. After a few days, the sun finally came out and we saw many Germans and officers so we understood something was going on but did not know what. We saw some Germans grabbing men by their throats and dragging them on the floor. We didn't know why. Later we found out that our Greek men who had worked in the crematoria and had blown it up were killed themselves but that these men had survived. The crematoria workers were periodically (usually every 3 months) killed so that no one would remain to tell the horrors of what happened there. These young men from Greece decided that they would blow themselves up to stop the burning of the bodies and the cruelty that went on. After this incident the Germans had a real problem disposing of the dead bodies. So they dug a huge hole and had the dead bodies thrown in there for burning with fuel. Then they forced me and others to go into the pit and turn the bodies so that they would fit and burn evenly. I cannot believe that I am still alive after all that I went through. Worse than the physical hardship is the emotional pain endured every day and every night. To this day, these horrors won't disappear from in front of my eyes. I sit before you and tremble.
Everyday a new transport arrived; we didn't even know from where. At night after we returned from work, we would go over and try to find out where they came from and what news they could tell us. I had left my brothers in Greece and always worried if they had been captured by the Nazis and if G-d forbid had been sent to Auschwitz. There was the constant fear and dread that something bad had happened to them. And with time the camp became more organized; there was a black market and an area to hear news and rumors. I always tried to go there and listen. As long as I heard nothing I hoped they had survived but actually did not know that as a fact until after the war ended.
During the night, we used to go to the garbage to search for something to eat. What we usually found were muddy potato peels and I have never been able to figure out how we didn't get sick. It was miraculous indeed that we survived. My clothes were so dirty because I rummaged around the various cans and I didn't care because I was so hungry. G-d must have wanted me to survive because there is no logical explanation for making it through such hell.
I think I mentioned before that after each time we had a shower, piles of clothes were thrown down and we had to scramble for clothes. Somehow I never managed to get all that I needed so I had to sell my bread. Half the time I had one wooden shoe and one leather shoe – not necessarily of the same size – and till this day I have terrible problems with my feet from this period of time.
The Germans discovered that they were losing the war and as a result gave us even less to eat, if that is imaginable. Most of the Germans were so scared that they ran away leaving us with Austrian soldiers. People continued to die and we heard rumors that since the Germans were losing they would just let us die of starvation. At the same time, they moved camp – some of us by train, some by foot- to a place called Tze Lager.
This Tze Lager was the death camp – no food, no help, no showers, no water – and everything was dirty and full of typhoid fever. People were dying all around. About a month later the Russians came and saved anyone who was still alive. In the Tze Lager people were dying and they weren't allowed out so the soldiers said that anyone who wants to get a small cup of soup has to work and their job is to keep guard at the doors and beat anyone who tries to get out. I took the soup and stood at the door but couldn't hit anyone so I just stood there. At night when I went to sleep I lay with the dying and the dead because there was no where else. One night, I lay near a dying Hungarian woman and I fought with her for what I thought was a piece of bread wrapped in a green handkerchief, because it was clear to me she wasn't going to make it till the morning. But as it turned out inside the green handkerchief were a pair of socks, a tablespoon and a teaspoon. The next morning I couldn't get up because the Hungarian woman had died on top of me and was already stiff.
There were rumors that the Americans and the Russians were coming and there was tremendous excitement in the air. The Austrian soldiers were nervous and started shooting girls. The ceilings were covered with their blood and brains. I was told by friends to quickly go to sleep because the Austrian soldiers were tense and they were shooting indiscriminately; I went to sleep. That very night was the liberation but we didn't even know it. The Americans arrived and the Austrians ran away. Now that the Austrians were gone, we didn't know what would happen but we understood that there were no more guards, so we all ran to the kitchens to steal food. The next morning I saw a lot of people wearing striped pajamas – they had managed to steal them from the clothing warehouses. I was hungry but couldn't find anything to eat. I found a sack and thought it was an empty sack of flour so I mixed the remains with some well water thinking I would make some cereal but the sack had had naphtolene (from which they make moth balls) in it. During the one – two days in which I had previously gone to steal bread my good friend Ana died. She was the sister of Yaacov who was to become my husband. Ana survived all the hardships and horrors and died a day before the liberation. I went to find the bodies of my friends but couldn't find them – the bodies were already piled high.
When the Americans entered they brought water and took us to a place not too far away, to horse stables with clean hay which was really good for us. There were no showers so they put us into a large room and sprayed us against lice. We found a large bolt of canvas and strung it up between the stalls providing us with some much needed privacy.
The Americans gave us bread, cereals, soup, canned beets and tuna, salami, milk, cheeses. I ate only cereal and bread and sold the rest. I later discovered that this was the best thing to do. People who over ate all the things they had hungered for died in some cases because their bodies could not handle the richness and needing time to readjust gradually.
After the War
In 1945, I returned to Ioannina and met my brothers and sister except for (David) John who was in Israel. I found Greek Gentiles living in my house, I walked the streets and saw a woman wearing my spring coat – it was too terrible. In 1947, I married Yaacov who had been with Gentiles in the mountains during the war. In 1949, our only daughter Emily was born and in 1951 we emigrated to the U.S. We were invited to come by Irving Isaacs, Yaacov's eldest brother and his only living relative since his mother, father, sister Ana and brother Avramaiki all perished in Auschwitz. We lived with Anne and Irving Isaacs in their one-bedroom apartment for 7 months until we found an apartment of our own. During the years 1951-1960 I worked very hard with one goal in mind. I had promised my father as we were separated that I would do all I could to survive and see my brothers and sister. I now had to earn enough to go see John and that I did in 1960. I took Emily on a 13-week trip (2 weeks by boat each way and 9 weeks in Israel by which time both John and Matathia were living in Israel). It was a very emotional trip as it was the first time I was to see John in 16 years – since we separated in 1944. I was to repeat to him and many others all that had happened to our parents and to us and how some of us had survived. In 1976, Yaacov and I made Aliya to be near Emily and our grandchildren.
All of us survivors are getting on in years and will soon be going to our last resting place. My only hope is that you will pass this on to your friends, your children and your grandchildren.
Rosa died on the 28th of Iyar 5759 at the age of 80. Blessed be her memory.
Kurt Josef Waldheim (German: [ˈkʊɐ̯t ˈvaldhaɪm] (About this sound listen); 21 December 1918 – 14 June 2007) was an Austrian diplomat and politician. Waldheim was the fourth Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1972 to 1981, and the ninth President of Austria from 1986 to 1992. While he was running for president in Austria in 1985, the revelation of his service in Thessaloniki, Greece as an intelligence officer in the Wehrmacht during World War II raised international controversy
קורט ולדהיים (בגרמנית: Kurt Waldheim; 21 בדצמבר 1918 - 14 ביוני 2007), היה דיפלומט ופוליטיקאי אוסטרי, מזכ"ל האו"ם (1972–1981) ונשיא אוסטריה (1986–1992). בעת התמודדותו על תפקיד נשיא אוסטריה נחשף כי במלחמת העולם השנייה שירת כקצין ביחידות ורמאכט שביצעו פשעי מלחמה, ועובדה זו גרמה להחרמתו על ידי מנהיגי המערב.
מחנה הריכוז וההשמדה אַוּשְׁוִויץ שבדרום פולין היה הגדול במחנות ההשמדה שהקימה גרמניה הנאצית במלחמת העולם השנייה, ובו נרצחו כמיליון ומאתיים אלף נפשות, בהם כמיליון ומאה אלף יהודים (91%), יותר מבכל אתר אחר במהלך המלחמה. היה זה מחנה ההשמדה שפעל במשך הזמן הרב ביותר (מיוני 1940 עד ינואר 1945 מכל מחנות ההשמדה, ובו הגיע לשיאו תיעושו של רצח ההמונים. בשיאו היה אושוויץ "אימפריה עצומה", שכללה 45 מחנות שהשתרעו על 40 קמ"ר.