Raszka (Roza) Galek
Born: November 24, 1920
Roza was born to a Jewish family in a predominately Catholic village near Warsaw. Her father owned a prosperous pearl button factory that employed some 100 people. They shared a large home with Roza's grandmother who ran a general store and bakery in the village. Roza and her three sisters attended Polish schools and took Hebrew lessons at the towns' synagogue.
1933-39: Roza's father frequently did business in Warsaw so the family moved there in 1934. They loved the city, and often went to concerts and the theater. Her older sister, Hinda, immigrated to Palestine [the Yishuv] in early 1939. Roza had just begun language studies at the University of Warsaw when the city fell to the Germans. Father knew the war would be terrible for the Jews. He divided the gold and jewelry between them, and said, "Whoever can save himself, should."
1940-44: The gold bought Roza a new identity as a Catholic, Maria Kowalczyk, and with it, a new status by the Nazis: slave to the Reich. She was deported by cattle car to Germany; the Germans appointed her "leader" of her car because she could speak German and relay their orders to the Polish prisoners. Roza panicked--the appointment drew too much attention to her. They could have found out that she was a Jew, but she was rewarded for interpreting by being permitted to select her forced-labor assignment. She chose the seclusion of a farm.
Roza spent two years working on a farm near Stuttgart, Germany, before being liberated by American troops in April 1945. She eventually immigrated to the United States.