Selma Rich

" It is important to be kind to one another.  She was an automatically kind person.  Even cruelty didn’t change her ability to be kind, to do mitzvahs, for others.  She embraced people who showed kindness to her.  Isn’t this what we are all about?   "

Name at birth
Shulamit Rudnik
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Krevo, Lithuania (Poland)
Name of father, occupation
Hessel, Baker
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Shayna Levin, Homemaker and helped in the Bakery
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents, one older brother Dovid Hillel, me and three younger sisters: Dina, Breina and Basha
How many in entire extended family?
Large extended family
Who survived the Holocaust?
Me and ten cousins
I was in the Vilna Ghetto with my parents and family.  My brother was the first of my family to be called up to work in a labor camp.  At that time, the Germans weren’t apparently particular about the names of who was called up, just that people showed up for the labor camp from the families.  I considered myself to be strong and resourceful.  I admired my brother very much and decided that I would go in his place.  As it turned out I was the only one from the immediate family who survived.  I had hoped that someone from our large family would survive.
I later learned from eyewitnesses that my sisters were lined up in the ghetto and shot in front of my mother’s eyes.  
In Stutthof concentration camp, the Germans knew that the end of the war was coming.  I learned from one of my cousins who survived that the Germans burned down the barracks where my mother lived with the other prisoners.  It is not clear what happened to my father.  
I ran away from the labor camp and later wound up in the Kovno Ghetto.  It was there that I met and married my first husband.  After six months, we were separated.  I was sent to a labor camp where the women crushed stones and built roads.  It was described as heavy, heavy work.  
My parents found out where I was and sent me a ring, wrapped with a message, “We are alive” in Hebrew.   I kept that ring with me always.  Once in a labor camp, the Germans had everyone take off their shoes prior to a Selection.  My ring was in the shoes.  Later, those who survived the Selection went back and got shoes, typically people looked for the best pair of shoes they could find.  I found the old ratty pair of shoes that had my ring in it. 
Toward the end of the war, I witnessed a horrifying Kinderaktion that has haunted me the rest of my life.  The Germans were extremely cruel in the way they got rid of people.  I remember how they took babies and young children and actually fed them to their German shepherd dogs.  I always say that this is the one memory that I wished I could get rid of, seeing what happened that day.  It has been hard for me to look at German shepherds since then.   
At the end of the war, I was with 500 women and we were put into a barn with the doors locked with guards.  We had no food or water, and the women were dying.  That was when we were liberated by the Russians. The Germans ran away or were killed by the Russians.  That is when I was liberated.  
People need to know that it was that bad, that people were capable of behaving so inhumanely in so-called civilized society.
To learn more about this survivor, please visit:
Oral History available in Holocaust Memorial Center Library Archive.

Name of Ghetto(s)
Name of Concentration / Labor Camp(s)
When did you come to the United States?
1946 with the first ship that carried refugees, My husband worked for UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration). An American soldier from Detroit sponsored us.
Occupation after the war
Hebrew Teacher, worked in a Bakery and at Dexter Davison Market
When and where were you married?
After the war, I knew Henry for only two weeks. We met in Warsaw, Poland
Henry Reich; Aron Bud Henry Reich, also a survivor, was in the Jewish Partisans, he lost a wife and a child. He was an accountant, bookkeeper, had health issues. Third husband: Aron Bud, Accounting, Bookkeeper
Shirley Jarcaig and Herbert (deceased 2008). My first child, Hyman, died at the age of 2
Three and sixteen Great grandchildren
What do you think helped you to survive?
The will to survive. Selma always hoped that other family members would have survived. She had a fierce determination to live. “We have to continue the Jewish people and the Jewish religion. We have to be strong.” She had great satisfaction seeing her family grow after the Holocaust.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
 It is important to be kind to one another.  She was an automatically kind person.  Even cruelty didn’t change her ability to be kind, to do mitzvahs, for others.  She embraced people who showed kindness to her.  Isn’t this what we are all about? 
History given by Selma Rich’s daughter, Shirley Jarcaig
Interview date:

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