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The Nazis established five killing centers in occupied Poland. Listen to survivors describe the process of selection, the gas chambers, and gassing operations in the killing centers.
The Germans invaded Poland in September 1939. Leo and his family were confined to a ghetto in Lodz. Leo was forced to work as a tailor in a uniform factory. The Lodz ghetto was liquidated in 1944, and Leo was deported to Auschwitz. He was then sent to the Gross-Rosen camp system for forced labor. As the Soviet army advanced, the prisoners were transferred to the Ebensee camp in Austria. The Ebensee camp was liberated in 1945.
Fritzie's father immigrated to the United States, but by the time he could bring his family over, war had begun and Fritzie's mother feared attacks on transatlantic shipping. Fritzie, her mother, and two brothers were eventually sent to Auschwitz. Her mother and brothers died. Fritzie survived by pretending to be older than her age and thus a stronger worker. On a death march from Auschwitz, Fritzie ran into a forest, where she was later liberated.
The Germans invaded Poland in September 1939. When Makow was occupied, Sam fled to Soviet territory. He returned to Makow for provisions, but was forced to remain in the ghetto. In 1942, he was deported to Auschwitz. As the Soviet army advanced in 1944, Sam and other prisoners were sent to camps in Germany. The inmates were put on a death march early in 1945. American forces liberated Sam after he escaped during a bombing raid.
Abraham was raised in Czestochowa, Poland, and became a barber. He and his family were deported to the Treblinka killing center from the Czestochowa ghetto in 1942. At Treblinka, Abraham was selected for forced labor. He was forced to cut women's hair before they were gassed, and he sorted clothing from arriving transports. Abraham escaped from the camp in 1943 and made his way back to Czestochowa. He worked in a labor camp from June 1943 until liberation by Soviet troops in 1945.
Abraham Bomba was imprisoned at Treblinka, the killing center overseen by commandant Franz Stangl. Abraham was raised in Czestochowa, Poland, and became a barber. He and his family were deported to the Treblinka killing center from the Czestochowa ghetto in 1942. At Treblinka, Abraham was selected for forced labor. He was forced to cut women's hair before they were gassed, and he sorted clothing from arriving transports. Abraham escaped from the camp in 1943 and made his way back to Czestochowa. He worked in a labor camp from June 1943 until liberation by Soviet troops in 1945.
Selma was the youngest of four children born to Jewish parents. When she was 7, Selma and her family moved to the town of Zwolle where her parents ran a small hotel. When the Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940, they confiscated the hotel. The family had to live in a poor Jewish section of the town. Selma went into hiding but was betrayed and then sent to the Westerbork camp. In April 1943 she was deported to Sobibor, where she worked in the clothes sorting area. There, the prisoners tried to pocket food and valuables and ruin the clothes so the Germans could not use them. Selma met her future husband, Chaim, who was helping to plan a prisoner uprising. When the revolt began, they escaped and used some money taken from the clothing to buy shelter in a barn. They left Poland after the war because of violent antisemitism, moving first to the Netherlands in 1945, then to Israel in 1951, and finally to the United States in 1957.
Browse Selma Engel's diary and other papers
Tomasz was born to a Jewish family in Izbica. After the war began in September 1939, the Germans established a ghetto in Izbica. Tomasz's work in a garage initially protected him from roundups in the ghetto. In 1942 he tried to escape to Hungary, using false papers. He was caught but managed to return to Izbica. In April 1943 he and his family were deported to Sobibor. Tomasz escaped during the Sobibor uprising. He went into hiding and worked as a courier in the Polish underground.
Ruth was four years old when the Germans invaded Poland and occupied Ostrowiec. Her family was forced into a ghetto. Germans took over her father's photography business, although he was allowed to continue working outside the ghetto. Before the ghetto was liquidated, Ruth's parents sent her sister into hiding, and managed to get work at a labor camp outside the ghetto. Ruth also went into hiding, either in nearby woods or within the camp itself. When the camp was liquidated, Ruth's parents were split up. Ruth was sent to several concentration camps before eventually being deported to Auschwitz. When Ruth became sick, she was sent to the camp infirmary, managing to escape just before a selection. After the war, Ruth lived in an orphanage in Krakow until she was reunited with her mother.
In Frankfurt, Ruth's family faced intensifying anti-Jewish measures; her father's business was taken over and Ruth's Jewish school was closed. In April 1943, Ruth and her family were deported to Auschwitz. Ruth was selected for forced labor and assigned to work on road repairs. She also worked in the "Kanada" unit, sorting possessions brought into the camp. In November 1944, Ruth was transferred to the Ravensbrueck camp system, in Germany. She was liberated in May 1945, during a death march from the Malchow camp.
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