Women of Valor: Partisans and Resistance Fighters
RoseGrunapfel Meth - Part I
We arrived in Auschwitz late in the afternoon of August 10, 1943. It was Tisha B'Av. My sisters and I were fasting. There was a selection on the platform by SS man Tauber.3 He was in charge next to Mengele.4 We dressed up my little sisters to make them look older and we all passed the selection. Then we were brought to Birkenau. I can't begin to describe the shock and the humiliation. We were sheltered children. They made us undress completely, naked in front of the Nazi soldiers. We wanted to die. They shaved our heads. They shaved all our hair, everywhere. We were given numbers. Mine was Vier und funfzig, drei seiben achtzig (54387). I'm alive because of confusion with these numbers, 54387. 3,8,7 adds up to 18. You know what that is in "gimatria"? There was a selection in October 1943. My number was taken down. As you read the number in Polish it's 54387. In German, the seven is read before the eight. We had to dictate our numbers to the kapo, and I translated from the Polish: 54387, but in German the kapo wrote down the seven before the eight. When they were calling the numbers, I knew my number was written down, and I wanted to step forward, but my friend Estusia5 grabbed me by my arm and said, "That's not your number". I asked, "What if somebody else goes?" She said, "You'll have time to go then". The correct number never came up.
First we were carrying rocks from one place to another and back. Just cruel, busy work. Nothing constructive was being done with the rocks. I was in a state of shock because my sisters were taken away. I had typhus. I swelled up with what we called the "elephant sickness", and I also developed some sort of joint ailment but I continued going to work. Finally, I was taken on a litter to the Revier. I was so very sick that I couldn't walk.
In the Revier there was a lady, Mrs. Oleander, from Cracow. She said to me, "Quickly, get off that bed and go back where you came from." I cried. I said, "I can't walk." She said, "I don't care what you say. You'd better go." She chased me out of the Revier and I came back into the camp. The entire Revier was sent to the gas chamber. I don't know why she did it. I don't know why she picked me.
In the late fall of 1943, just before Hannukah, I was taken to work in the Union factory6 and in the fall of 1944 I was transferred from Birkenau to Auschwitz. In the Union factory I was working in the Pulverraum. It was an enclosed room about 10 ft. by 6 or 7. On one side were tables with six or seven press machines. We were making the part that ignited a bomb, called a Verzogerung. The Verzogerung itself was a little smaller than a checker and there was a hole in it, 1/8" in diameter. This hole had to be filled with gunpowder. We used a certain measure, a tiny spoon, to pour the gunpowder into that hole and then press it down in the machine. That was our job. The Meister, Von Ende, brought us allotments of powder. Each girl got a certain allotment and she had to produce. I don't remember how many hundreds of Verzogerung with her allotment. After we finished our allotment, it was put on a tray the size of a cookie sheet and it was tested to see whether the caps exploded. Meister Von Ende pulled out a few at random. We were not punished if there were five or ten that did not pass the test, but if there were more, then we had to do it all over or we had our rations taken away. Most of the time we were careful not to be caught with poor work. We were extremely careful.
Regina Saperstein7 had to stand next to Meister Von Ende, and watch when he pulled caps out of the tray at random for testing. He had a habit of doing it in a certain pattern. Since we were allowed some defective pieces, Regina tried to put them on the tray in such a pattern that she more or less felt sure the defective caps would not be pulled out. When we pressed down the handle on the machine, some of the powder had to overflow because we had to put enough in the hole to pack it down. The overflow was a little mangled. It was not powerful enough. It was called Abfall. We saved this Abfall and sometimes we mixed it with the good powder even though we were supposed to discard it. Von Ende collected the Abfall but we made sure that there was always enough so that they couldn't catch on that we were stealing some of it.
We were in an enclosure. No one was permitted to come in, only der Meister who collected the finished product and one more person, I don't remember who. We didn't know where the part we made belonged, or how they assembled it. This part ignited something in a bomb. I didn't know what exactly. In the part of the Union factory that I saw, they were producing all sorts of pieces of metal and tubes. We were so isolated that I don't know what they were. I only knew my function, what I did and what I heard. A lot of things were heard. Hearsay. We found out that they were producing rockets from people who were talking about it when we started in the Underground. When we started working in the Underground, we were told what was being done. We didn't know what the rockets were like. We only knew it was called "Faltung", which refers to the VII.
© Copyright Judy Cohen, 2001.