When did your liberation begin?
After a few months, we heard that the Russians were coming. Everything was chaos. At this point they sent us to Theresienstadt. We stayed there for six weeks, until the war was over. We actually had nothing to do there. We just stood around waiting to die. We never imagined that we could be saved. We prayed that we would hear war planes overhead but we heard nothing. We figured we would die either today or tomorrow.
At this point we got very little to eat. Basically, we were given some bread and black coffee in the early morning and some watery soup later in the day. We didn’t know what day it was or anything of that sort.
This was the end of the war. The Russians arrived and ripped out all the fences and barbed wire. People began to run from the camp, looking for food, clothing and shelter.
How did you keep your emunah through the horrors of the Holocaust?
We grew up knowing that we are Jewish people and Jewish people believe. We knew that Hashem would never desert his nation. We knew, we trusted, and we strongly believed.
I always say that the fact that I survived is just a miracle. There is no question about it. Wherever I was, there was always someone who helped me, someone who gave me a good idea. There was obviously some angel watching over me.
Even though they took away our dignity and morale, we survived. Jews have a pride that is hidden that keeps us going.
Did you return home after the war?
I promised myself that Poland would never see me again and I would never see Poland. However, I changed my mind. In 2005, my granddaughter begged us to guide her through Cracow. I went with her.
The deepest shock that hit me was when we arrived in Belzec. The stones were all blackened like coals. There were signs that read Cracow October and Cracow June — those were the two transports. My mother’s and sisters’ bones are among the 6 million that were killed.
We went back to my home. The building was dilapidated. I went up to our apartment and I stood in front of the door, but I couldn’t bring myself to knock and go inside.
You had mentioned that you clearly saw Yad Hashem in everything. Can you share some stories with us?
I always felt that there was Someone standing over me and watching me. Sometimes when I returned home after a day of work, I found that someone had put food under my pillow; sometimes a potato, and sometimes a piece of bread. I always felt that an angel was taking care of me.
What motivated you to continue on?
Many times I thought about my family. I had nothing left. My parents and sisters were murdered.
When the war was over and we were liberated, we had nowhere to go. We sat in the barracks without any reason to leave. There were three other girls from Cracow together with me in the barracks of Theresienstadt, and we debated what to do. We were all girls of 18, 19 and 20 years old, left without any guidance. Palestine was an option, but we really weren’t sure what to do.
Before the war, I had met a man whom I liked; we were not engaged, but we were considering it. One day I had a passing thought; just for a moment, I wondered if he had survived the war. As I said before, there was definitely someone watching over me because suddenly, someone called me, “Rega, Rega, come to the door, someone is looking for you, someone wants to see you.” Me! Me! I couldn’t believe it. Who would be looking for me? As far as I knew, no one from my family was alive! Well, Victor, [who would become] my husband, was waiting for me. I could not believe it!
What can you tell the children today?
Children should know and learn about the Holocaust. Nothing should be hidden from them. When my daughter was 10 years old and she wanted to know what happened, we told her. Children should know how hatred leads to disaster.
to be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.