Genya Rotenberg

Genya Rotenberg

Born: August 1, 1930

Lodz, Poland

Genya and her brother, Nahum, were raised by Jewish parents in Lodz, Poland's second-largest city and an industrial center. Before the war, one-third of Lodz's inhabitants were Jewish. Genya's parents placed emphasis on their children's education.

1933-39: In 1939, when I was 9, the Germans occupied Lodz. After that, it was forbidden for "Jews, Gypsies and dogs" to be in public places. Since Jews weren't allowed to go to school, my parents arranged to tutor me secretly at home, but I couldn't keep my mind on my books. One day, the Germans took my grandfather outside and ordered him to do exercises. He couldn't do them, so the Germans took a match and burned off his beard.

1940-45: We fled to Warsaw. Later, I escaped through the ghetto's sewage pipes to a family who hid me. But they were abusive, so I returned to my parents. In 1941 my father was sent to a labor camp for men. Since Mother had disappeared, I dressed as a boy and went with him. In the camp, while the men worked, I'd hide in the bed, holding my breath as officers searched for stragglers. Under the covers, I'd break up my bread ration into meals. I hid this way for weeks until women were brought to the camp.

In 1946, when she was 16, Genya immigrated to Palestine with a group of orphans from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Her father joined her a year later.