Thursday, March 28, 2013

ROZA ROBATA, 1921-1945

Rosa Robata in the Hashomer Hatzair Zionist youth movement in Ciechanow. 1930
In honor of women's history month we are profiling women in the Holocaust:

By early fall of 1944, Auschwitz was the only killing center still in operation and Soviet troops had moved deep into German-occupied Poland. On the one hand, this was good news for the prisoners of Auschwitz because it meant that they might soon be liberated. On the other hand, it put their lives at even greater peril; they knew it was unlikely that the Nazis would leave them alive to be liberated.

During late summer and fall, young Jewish women, such as Ester Wajcblum, Ella Gärtner, and Regina Safirsztain, began smuggling small amounts of gunpowder out of the munitions plant where they worked within the Auschwitz complex. The women hid the gunpowder inside their clothes until they had it out of the factory and could pass it along the smuggling chain. Eventually the gunpowder was transferred to Roza Robota who then gave it to co-conspirators in the men’s camp at Auschwitz. The Sonderkommando, the special squad of prisoners forced to work in the crematoria, planned to use the gunpowder to blow-up the gas chambers and crematoria and launch an uprising.

On 7 October 1944 the Sonderkommando at Crematorium IV rose in revolt; they attacked the SS guards with hammers, axes, and stones. Then the men demolished the crematorium with the smuggled explosives. When they saw the smoke, the Sonderkommando at Crematorium II went into action, killing a Kapo and several SS guards. Several hundred prisoners escaped from Birkenau; however, almost all were caught and captured. Later that day, a couple hundred other prisoners who took part in the revolt were also executed.

Of course the Nazis investigated the incident. On 9 October 1944, they arrested Ester Wajcblum, Ella Gärtner, and Regina Safirsztain. The next day they arrested Roza Robota. All of the women were brutally tortured, but none of the four betrayed their associates. In an effort to quell further resistance, the women were publicly hanged. The Nazis’ efforts backfired, however. Just as the trapdoor opened, Robota yelled “Nekama!” (“Revenge!”) to the crowd.
Rosa Robata the Hashomer Hatzair Zionist youth movement in Ciechanow, Poland. 1937

“Auschwitz Revolt.” The Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, n.d. Web. 10 march 2013.

The Holocaust Chronicle: A History in Words and Pictures. Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International, Ltd., 2000. Print.

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