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Rachela Rottenberg

Sandomierz, Poland

The younger of two children born to Jewish parents, Rachela grew up in Radom, an industrial town located some 60 miles south of Warsaw. One-quarter of the city's 100,000 prewar population was Jewish. Rachela's father was a Zionist and was active in municipal affairs. Her mother did volunteer work.

l933-39: Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. On September 5, with the Germans rapidly advancing, our family sought temporary safety with relatives in Warsaw. We got separated along the way. My mother and I made it to Warsaw just before the city was surrounded. After Warsaw surrendered on September 28, my mother and I returned to German-occupied Radom. My father and brother ended up in Soviet-occupied eastern Poland.

1940-44: In 1941 the Germans locked Radom's Jews into two ghettos. Most of the Jews were deported to the Treblinka extermination camp in 1942, but my mother and I were selected to be slave laborers. When our camp in Radom was moved in 1943, we managed to escape. We went to Warsaw, where my cousin had assumed a non-Jewish identity. He had sent me the ID of a Catholic girl who looked like me. My mother and I lived there as "Catholics." In 1944, during the Polish uprising, my mother and I became separated. I never saw her again.

After the war, Rachela was reunited with her father and brother, who returned from Soviet Asia where they had spent most of the war. In 1947 Rachela emigrated to the United States.

 

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