Katherine "Kathy" Sattler

"Religion shouldn't make any difference. We are all the same. G-d created you and me. You have to be grateful to be in such a beautiful country."

Name at birth
Katerina Rosenbaum
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Uzhgorod, Czechoslovakia
Name of father, occupation
Kalman Rosenbaum, Wholesale/retail grocery
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Julia Schimmel, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
My parents, my brother Andrew born in 1921; my sister, Gabriella born in 1922, and me, Katerina born in 1927
How many in entire extended family?
My grandmother on my mother’s side, four paternal uncles – one was a lawyer in Berlin, one was businessman, one lived in the United States
Who survived the Holocaust?
My mother, sister, brother, one cousin, and me
Before the war, my life was very comfortable, fun, and safe.  I had lots of girlfriends, lots of Gentile people.  Most of my girlfriends were Christian and we all got along beautifully.  
I went to church with them and they went to synagogue with me.  I went to Hillel (a Hebrew day school) for the first two years to learn Hebrew and to learn how to pray.  
Later, I went to public school and was with my non-Jewish friends.  I had a very happy childhood.  Because of my dad’s business, I was able to get bananas and chocolate from Switzerland, which I gave to my friends who couldn’t afford these things.
At home we spoke Hungarian; the part of Czechoslovakia we lived in was Hungary.  My school was in Czechoslovakia so in school, we spoke Czech.  I learned German, French, and Russian in school as well.
We kept a kosher home.  My mother came from a very religious family.  My dad also was religious but not as religious as my mom was.  My mother’s father wore a Shtreimel (in Yiddish, a fur hat worn by many Hasidic men on the Sabbath and Jewish Holidays.)
My mom was a very beautiful woman.
Things started to change in 1939 when Hungary took over Czechoslovakia.  Hungarians didn’t like Jews.  Jews could still go to places and my dad could still run his business but things were uncomfortable.  Gentiles had priority to things in the city that Jews didn’t.
I was twelve years old in 1939, I still had my friends, but things started to change for the worse in 1942.  Newspapers couldn’t print and radio stations were not allowed to say anything bad about what was happening so you didn’t really know what was happening.  I started to feel anti-Semitism.  Kids were throwing stones and books at Jewish boys who had Pais (sidecurls worn by religious boys).
My family didn’t say anything to gentiles.  People came from different villages to buy from my dad, but he said nothing.
In 1943, we woke up and saw German soldiers in our city.  A Gestapo came to our house and said they were going to occupy our house and leave one bedroom for all of us to sleep.  
We had to wear a Jewish star on the front and the back of our clothes.  Then my non-Jewish girlfriends disappeared.  Overnight I had no girlfriends at all.  I was not welcome in their house anymore.  They stayed away from me.  They crossed the street so they didn’t have to talk to me.
One day my mom was making stuffed cabbage and the soldier in charge said that it smelled really good.  My mother welcomed him to dinner.  He ate with us.  He said to us, “No matter what’s going to happen make sure you volunteer.” 
He also said to me, “I would like to take you and your sister to Budapest.”  I said, “I’ll go if I can take my mom and dad.”  He said no, so I said no.  He was going to save me.  This was 1944 or 1945.
Now that I look back on it, it was good thing that I said no because I don’t think my mom would have survived by herself.  Never, never.  I did everything in my power to take care of my mom and my sister in the camps.  
One of soldiers said to my mom that she should take extra food and to tell her daughters and husband to pack clothes.  I packed my favorite things and mom took as much food as was able to.  One morning, a German came to our door and said you have to get out of here.  We didn’t know where we were going.
We went out into the street and I saw all these people waiting for us to come out.  They took us to a lumber yard which was the ghetto.  I remember seeing a very religious man who was with a German and a Hungarian soldier; they were cutting off chunks of his beard.
There were hundreds of people in the lumber yard.  There was no place to sleep or sit.  We were there maybe about a week.  There were no facilities, absolutely nothing!  
Then they came and said you better line up, we’re taking you some place.  They then took us to brick factory which was under bad conditions.  Again there was no place to sleep or sit.  We were there for about a week.  
My dad was getting weak.  They lined us up one day and took us to the train station.  We saw all of these boxcars.  One German soldier told us we were going in there.  My aunts, my grandma, my neighbors were all there and we were pushed in, at least 80 people.   
We were given one bucket of water and one empty bucket on that boxcar for three or four days.  There was nowhere to sit or sleep, we couldn’t see if it was day or night.  That was the beginning of our misery.  That’s when everything started to fall apart.
My dad said it can’t get any worse.  They will take us somewhere to work.  This was May, 1944.   
They took us to Auschwitz.   We saw people in striped clothes.  People looked crazy; I thought they were from an insane asylum.  A soldier pulled us down and I held on to mom and my sister. 
My dad and grandma were taken to the right.  My Mom, sister, and I were taken to the left. 
Mengele was there.  They took us to a building.  We didn’t know what was happening.  A German SS woman told us to undress.  They cut our hair, all of our body hair.  They told us to go take shower. 
We walked into this big place that had sprinkling system on the ceiling.  They pushed us into ice cold water.  There were no towels.  We were wet.  Someone threw us a dress that was like a rag. We took whatever shoes that were available.  
They took us into the barrack.  Everyone was crying.  I couldn’t find my mom or my sister because everyone was shaven bald.  A German SS said that they needed twenty-four people to help bring in food.  I remembered what the German soldier said, to volunteer.  I was the first to raise my hand.  I got my sister and mom to volunteer.  But they lied and took us to another camp, 
A– Lager – another complex in Auschwitz.
They took us to another building.  The Kapo (a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp assigned by SS guards to supervise forced labor)  had their own bed, we had three shelves that were like beds; they were just wood with no blankets.  They told us this is where you will sleep.  We still didn’t know what was going on. 
We went outside and saw smokestacks and thought about working there.  I told the Kapo we would work there.  She said don’t tell anyone you are with your mom and sister, you will be separated.  I told her that my dad went to the right.  She said that is where your dad is and pointed to smokestacks.  I didn’t tell my mom, I figured she would find out on own.
The next morning was roll call – they gave us cup of coffee that was more like dirty water, it was horrible.  I took a sip and put it down.  This went on with lunch too.  I saw people walking around but I didn’t talk to anyone.  The Kapo said the less you know, the better off you are.
Lunch was a bowl of something.  I made sure that I was in front of my mom and my middle sister was in back. Then we would rotate.  We always had mom in middle to protect her.
They took us into a barn and gave us our tattoos.  My mom, sister and I had consecutive numbers.  The following day Mengele came.  He was standing at the roll call with a whip.  He touched me and my sister and told us to step aside.  He didn’t touch my mom but I pulled her with us.  That’s when we got the tattoos.
We were taken to another part of camp, it was triple fenced and electrified.  It smelled horrible. We were in Birkenau.  I smelled the burning flesh from the crematoriums.  We were told we would be staying and working there.  
The next morning they lined us up again.  They took us into a barn with clothing up to the ceiling.  We told to separate men, women, and children’s clothing.  They told to take the hems apart to look for jewelry.  They also told us to cut open the covered buttons to find gold coins. We had to cut open handbags to look for jewelry.  The guard was standing next to us to make sure we were doing what we were supposed to.  We found lots of loose diamonds.  We also had to break open heels of shoes to look for jewelry.  This went on for days.  Sometimes we found food.  If it was spoiled, we ate it anyways.  We had it better than in the other parts of camp because we were working.  I found my father’s jacket and I pushed it aside because I knew for sure he had died.
I had a high fever one day.  My sister found a potato and was going to make it for me.  She was discovered and was beaten up and her hair cut again.  She had to kneel on sharp stones for twenty-four hours.  They beat her every half hour.  When she came back, she was in bad shape.
A little girl I made friends with was all alone.  One day I couldn’t find her.  She had thrown herself at the electrified fence and killed herself.  Also met a nun in Auschwitz who was there because other nuns turned her in because she didn’t agree with what was going on.
August and September - We heard transports going in to gas chambers all the time.  One night people there were people from Terezin, one night gay people, and one night gypsies.  I would hear yelling and singing, but then silence.  And that’s when I would cry.  Flames were constantly shooting up.  Mom looked up at sky and asked, “Where is God?”
End of October – Standing in a roll call.  An SS officer stood in front of me.  He looked at me and said, “Mother and two daughters?”  My mom said, “Yes.”  He had every reason to shoot us.  Instead he said, “I have two daughters.”  I told my mom we were born again.  He must have known that we were going to be liberated because the Russians were pretty close by then.  We were very, very, lucky.  I am here partly because of him.
October - Sonderkommando – working in gas chambers.  Our job was to take out dead people from the gas chambers and put them in the oven.   Some of us had to take out gold from dead adults mouths.  They had a riot and killed some German soldiers and blew up a crematorium. Then the Sonderkommando were killed.
We saw that the Germans were burning papers.  We heard bombs. 
On January 18, 1945, they said we are getting out of here.  We couldn’t believe it!  We were told to start walking.  We had thin clothes, barely any shoes, no food, nothing to drink.  I was hanging on to my mom and sister.  We were so hungry.  We pushed away snow and ate green grass. 
We saw dead bodies - people who couldn’t go on walking anymore were everywhere in ditches. Only when their dogs got tired, would they let us rest in a barn.  After three or so days, we were taken to Ravensbruck where there were mostly women, Russian political prisoners.  We were there about five days. 
Then we were put on a regular passenger train to Neustadt.  We were there to build trenches.  My sister was very sick.  The regular German army was watching us.  
A soldier starting talking to me every day.  I asked him for favor to char a potato and gave to my sister when she was ill.  I remember my grandmother taking a charcoal pill when she was ill.  I felt my grandmother was there to make me do something like that.
I was able to survive on one piece of bread a day and saved rest for mom or sister.  I told them I found it.
I knew that we would be liberated when I saw German soldiers in civilian clothes, this was on May 3rd.
When we were liberated, I didn’t feel anything.  We were numb.  We were lost.  What are you going to do?  They said,” Go.”  We said, “Where?” 
My mom wanted chicken soup.  I was able to gather things to make soup, and it was the best soup I ever had!
Name of Ghetto(s)
Name of Concentration / Labor Camp(s)
Where did you go after being liberated?
We wanted to go south to Czechoslovakia. We were with twelve women. We started to walk from village to village. If we saw a Red Cross kitchen, we went in to eat. If we saw a truck, I would ask for a ride. I was a very brave girl! We came upon a school with Red Cross sign and they fed us and let us sleep there. We took to a shower and were given clothes. We started to feel more human. We eventually reached Prague. We were asked if there was a Jewish community. We found HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society). They sent us to a school where they had cots and food. My sister and mom went to a hospital because they were sick. My mom wanted to look for her brother and father, but I had to tell her that I knew my father had died. My sister and I went to Budapest thinking that is where I’d find my brother. We went to Slovakia, I saw a boy who asked me if I was Andy’s sister. He said he had been with my brother in a hospital in Prague. We went back to Prague to find my brother. I went from street to street looking for him. I walked by a window and saw two baldheads. I walked away, but something made me go back. It was my brother! He was afraid to ask about our mom and sister, I told him they were alive! He had been taken away to a labor camp, separated from my dad. He ended up in Mauthausen. Finding my brother was the most beautiful day of my life! When my mom and brother were reunited, it was a beautiful thing to see. My mom saw an American soldier from Los Angeles who tried to locate my mom’s brothers who lived in Los Angeles. Her brothers later gave word to go to the American embassy to register and go to Los Angeles.
When did you come to the United States?
We arrived in New York on July 22, 1946. We took a train and went to Los Angeles. My uncle was well to do and gave us a furnished apartment. I lived there until I got married.
Where did you settle?
Los Angeles, California
How is it that you came to Michigan?
When and where were you married?
Married in Los Angeles, California
Carl Sattler
Three– Howard, Psychologist; Janice Fried, Speech Pathologist; Ronald, Heating and Air Conditioning Business (took over from Carl)
Aaron, David, Joshua, Ashley, Courtney
What do you think helped you to survive?
If I was by myself I would not have survived. But I had to make sure my mom and my sister survived. I did everything in my power to keep them alive. It was very hard.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
Religion shouldn't make any difference. We are all the same. G-d created you and me. You have to be grateful to be in such a beautiful country.
Charles Silow
Interview place:
Holocaust Memorial Center, Farmington Hills, Michigan
Interview date:

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