Rose Bernbaum

"I hope and pray that there should be peace in the world, people should be kind to each other and not fight with each other."

Name at birth
Rose Lewkowicz
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Zdunska Wola, Poland
Name of father, occupation
Peretz, Shoemaker
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Sara Klein, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents, Hirsh Moishe, Meyer, and Chaim Itzik, Bela, Eva, Brenda, Bendet, Helen and myself
How many in entire extended family?
Who survived the Holocaust?
Six Children; Bendet (Lewkowitz), Bajla (Bienenstock), Bronka (Marczak) Rose (Bernbaum), Helen (Kozuch), and Eva (Wimmer)
In September, 1942, our family was moved from the Zdunska Wola Ghetto to the Lodz Ghetto.  The Germans had a Selection in the Jewish cemetery.  The older people were separated and taken away from the younger ones, the younger ones were to be workers.  It was horrible.  We were separated from our parents, our mother was 48 and our father was 52.     

In September, 1944, we were taken to Auschwitz.  All five sisters stuck together: Bajla (Bienenstock), Rose (Bernbaum), Brenda (Marczak), Helen (Kozuch), Eva (Wimmer).  The Germans did not know that we were sisters; if they did they would have separated us or killed us. 

It’s difficult to start to describe what it was like, because there’s no end to it.  In the Lodz Ghetto, we lived five girls in one room.  We had two beds, two girls in each bed and one on the floor.  We had no couch, we didn’t have much of anything, and everything was old and broken.  The food was rationed; we had very, very little to eat.  

The lines to pick up the food, sometimes we could stay and hour and a half in line and towards the end they would run short and we wouldn’t get anything.  We went home, hungry with nothing to eat.  The following day we had to go to work in the straw factory.  We made boots from straw for the soldiers.  We were always so hungry.  And then, they liquidated the whole ghetto to Auschwitz.  

When we arrived at Auschwitz, there was a body on the electric barbed wires.  When we saw this, we talked to each other, oh my G-d, where have they taken us.  Then we marched a little further, we saw people beyond the barbed wires, there were maybe hundreds of people like us who were on their knees on concrete or sand, they had to look down, they were torturing them.  All of us started crying, oh my G-d they’re torturing people, where have they taken us.   

Then we walked a little bit further, they told us to go into a big room to get undressed.  We had heard in Zdunska Wola that they were gassing people.  We thought we were going to die.  We were naked; we had to walk through that big room.  We were young, we were embarrassed, and we were covering ourselves.  The male Jewish prisoners who were there already said to us, don’t worry; there’s nothing that can be done, just keep going. 

Then we passed by where they had showers, we just kept going.  We thought that this was going to be the end of us.  Then we walked out and we saw the gas chamber right there.  They told us to sit down; there were thousands of people naked.   

We were at Auschwitz for eight days, we had very little food and water, we saw the gas chambers, they had taken our parents, our brothers, our large family, we had nothing to live for.  We thought it’s only a matter of time before they take us to the gas chamber.  We thought let them take us already.  We were completely naked and we were talking to each other, let them kill us already because we knew we could not escape.  Then two German officers came up to us and said they needed 500 young girls to work in an ammunition factory, Krups, Neukolln outside of Berlin).  We were picked to be among the 500.  

We went back to that big room.  They threw clothes at us, different size clothes that didn’t fit us.  We exchanged the clothes between us.  Then we walked to the train and they had built three barracks for us, this was 7 kilometers from Berlin, Neukolln, from 1944-1945, Krups ammunition factory. 

In 1945, they took us to Ravensbrück.  We were liberated by the Swedish Red Cross.  They sent 26 buses for us.  We came to Denmark and then to Sweden in a little boat.  We, the five sisters, lived in Sweden for nine years.  In 1946, we found out that our youngest brother, Bendet survived.  We needed our brother to come to Sweden.  

In Neukolln, we “adopted” a woman, Esther, who we knew from the Lodz Ghetto who became our “sixth sister” because she had nobody who had survived.   We asked Bendet who was in Germany to come to Sweden.   Esther wrote a letter saying that Bendet was her husband and asked for him to come to Sweden.   He was able to get a visa and came to Sweden to meet us all.  Later, Bendet and Esther actually did get married.

After the Holocaust, we came to Sweden and were there for nine years.  We came form the concentration camps.  They emptied a college; we were 500 girls from the concentration camps.  They burned our clothes and gave us brand new clothes, new shoes, everything.  We were five sisters, we were undernourished, skinny, we didn’t look like human beings.
HIAS, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society gave each one of us 500, a chance to immigrate either to the USA or to Israel.  Quite a few went to Israel.
They wanted to separate us, but we wanted to be together.  Hitler didn’t separate us and we wanted to stay together.  We all wound up in Detroit.  It was a struggle in the beginning.
Name of Ghetto(s)
Name of Concentration / Labor Camp(s)
Occupation after the war
Homemaker and food service
Bolek Bernbaum, Machine operator
Paul and Danny
What do you think helped you to survive?
We survived all five sisters together, one helped the other
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
I hope and pray that there should be peace in the world, people should be kind to each other and not fight with each other.
Rose’s son, Danny and her sister, Eva Wimmer
Interview date:

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