Regina Wolbrom papers
2 book enclosures
- Credit Line
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Regina Wolbrom
The Regina Wolbrom papers contains Rotenberg family documents, a photocopy of one of the four letters written by Regina Rotenberg (age 19) while in prison awaiting transport to Auschwitz concentration camp, dated May 19, 1944, two Poesie books kept by Regina, 1935-1955, as well as personal photographs and studio portraits of the Rotenberg, Frankel, and Wolbrom families prior to World War II. The photographs also include images of the Rotenberg siblings (Regina, Wolfgang, Siegmund, and Sonja) before the war and while in hiding, and group photographs of Bnei Akiva events, 1940-1942. The photographs in this collection contain images of both survivors and victims of the Holocaust taken in Germany, Belgium, and Poland.
- Document Creator
- Regina Wolbrom
Regina Rotenberg was born on October 13, 1925 in Gera, Germany to Max (Moshek) Rotenberg (born in Łódź, Poland, October 30, 1896-1942) and Tema (Toni) Frankel (born in Busk, Poland, February 3, 1900-1942). They had four children Regina (born in Gera, Germany, October 13, 1925), Wolfgang (born in Berlin, Germany, June 4, 1929), Siegmund (born in Berlin, August 4, 1934), and Sonja (born in Brussels, Belgium, September 11, 1940). In October 1938, Max Rotenberg, a Jewish Polish citizen, was deported to Poland. He was eventually released, likely from Zbąszyń, and lived with one of his sisters in Łódź. While Max was deported, Tema and her three oldest children remained in Berlin, Germany. In February 1939, the children were sent on a Red Cross Kindertransport to Brussels, Belgium. The family was reunited in Brussels sometime in the summer of 1939. The youngest of the Rotenberg siblings, Sonja, was born on September 11, 1940. While in Brussels, Max worked illegally selling leather in order to support the family. Regina briefly attended school but she was eventually sent to work alongside a dressmaker, so that she could learn a trade. After the Nazis began deporting young girls, Regina stayed with the dressmaker for a month. Soon the dressmaker became concerned that they would be caught. She sent Regina to live with a cousin in Halmael, Belgium. After paying the woman that would sheltered them, the rest of the Rotenberg family joined Regina in Halmael.
While in Halmael, the family became friendly with the parish priest, Father Hubert Celis. In October 1942, Tema asked Father Celis to help hide the children. Regina (age 17) and Sonja (age 2) were sent to stay with Celis’ father, Joseph Celis. Wolfgang (age 13) and Siegmund
(age 8) were sent to live with Hubert’s brother, Father Louis Celis, also a priest, and his housekeeper, Marie-Louise Tabruyn. The last time Regina saw her mother was on her birthday, October 13, 1942. Her mother had brought her a birthday cake to celebrate her birthday while in hiding. On October 29, 1942, Max and Tema were denounced, deported to the Malines transit camp, and then sent to Auschwitz concentration camp where they perished in October or November 1942.
Fearing that the Nazis would search for the Rotenberg children, their rescuers temporarily moved them from their hiding places with the Celis family. Regina and Sonja were sent to stay with a family who owned a flourmill, while Wolfgang and Siegmund were sent to stay with another priest in the region. The family was unable to shelter the two year old Sonja for long. Father Hubert, who also worked for the underground resistance, found a hiding place for Sonja with Alfons and Clementina Maris who were farmers along the Dutch border. Regina brought her sister by bike to the train station and gave her to an anonymous woman dressed in brown. Sonja was passed between three more people before arriving with the Maris family who cared for her throughout the war. Only Father Hubert knew exactly where Sonja Rotenberg was hidden. A few weeks later, the three other Rotenberg children returned to their original hiding locations among the Celis family.
Around Christmas in 1942, Father Hubert issued Regina false identification papers and took her to visit her sister. After the visit, the farmers requested that Regina not visit for several months because Sonja had screamed excessively after her sister left. Regina would later visit her siblings once a month, always with her false identification card. On May 3, 1944, the same Nazis who deported Max and Tema came looking for their children. Despite Joseph Celis claiming that Regina was his niece the Nazis demanded to see her identification papers. Regina claimed she could not find them. The Nazis searcher her room, found the document, and arrested her. She was interrogated in a cellar but refused to tell them the locations of her siblings. Instead, she lied and told her interrogators she had not seen them in two years. She also lied about her identification paperwork, claiming that her father Max, not Father Hubert had issued the document. While she was imprisoned, Father Hubert’s sister-in-law brought Regina food. Regina told her in Flemish the lies she had told to protect Father Hubert. The sister-in-law was able to inform Father Hubert of the false claims. During his detention and questioning Father Hubert collaborated Regina’s story and was released.
Regina was sent to the Malines transit camp where she stayed for about two weeks before being transported to the Birkenau concentration camp in Poland. While in the cattle car on her way to Birkenau, Regina was able to slip five letters through the floor of the train. Two of them were found by a farmer, Van Hoof, who mailed them to the Celis family. Regina was selected for forced labor twice while in Birkenau. Regina also contracted rabies and jaundice. During a third selection she hid in the toilets to avoid selection and detection of her illnesses. Eventually Regina was sent to the camp hospital. After her recovery, she remained at the hospital assisting with the removal of the dead. In January 1944, Regina was sent on a death march to several concentration camps, first to Ravensbrück in Germany, then to Malchow, and Leipzig. While marching near Leipzig, Regina was able to escape with her friend, Frieda Midzinsky. They found shelter in a home in Risa, Germany, and two days later, the town was liberated by the Russians.
Wanting to be among the Americans, Regina and Frieda left the liberated town and walked 150 kilometers over five days to the American zone. Upon arrival, they were placed in a temporary camp and then sent to Belgium. While on the way to Brussels, they passed through the town where Joseph Celis lived. Regina left and made her way to Joseph Celis’ house. The family was surprised and delighted to see her. Her siblings came to visit her the following day.
Regina immediately began searching for surviving relatives and discovered two aVunts living in Brussels. Wolfgang and Siegmund were initially sent to live with them. However, the arrangement did not work. Regina was able to arrange for her brothers to be on the last children’s transport to Palestine. Unfortunately, Regina was too old and Sonja was too young to travel with them. Regina promised that one day the family would be reunited there. Sonja continued to live with the family that rescued her until 1947 when Regina married Izak (born Jitzchak) Wolbrom, a fellow survivor. The Wolbroms became Sonja’s legal guardians and she stayed with them until her own marriage in 1961. In 1949, the family joined Wolfgang and Siegmund in Israel. Regina and Izak had two children, Nechemia (Norman, b. 1952) and Tamar (b. 1953). The Wolbrom family immigrated to the United States in 1956, and Wolfgang and Siegmund Rotenberg followed in 1957.
- System of Arrangement
- The Regina Wolbrom papers is arranged in three series:
Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1921-1944
Series 2: Photographs, circa 1920-1942
Series 3: Poesie books, 1935-1955
- Topical Term
Belgium--History--German occupation, 1940-1945.
Hidden children (Holocaust)
Hidden children (Holocaust)--Belgium.
Jewish children in the Holocaust.
World War, 1939-1945.
- Geographic Name
Bad Kissingen (Germany)
Buenos Aires (Argentina)
- Personal Name
Kaner, Sonja, 1940-
Rotenberg, Moshek, 1896-1942.
Rotenberg, Siegmund, 1934-2018.
Rotenberg, Tema, 1900-1942.
Rotenberg, Wolfgang, 1929-
Wolbrom, Chaim, 1913-1944.
Wolbrom, Chana, 1909-1944.
Wolbrom, Nechamia, 1885-1943.
Wolbrom, Regina, 1925-
- Legal Status
- Permanent Collection
- Regina Wolbrom donated the Regina Wolbrom papers to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1995 and 2002. The collections accessioned as 1995.A.484.1 and 2002.415.1 have been incorporated into this collection.
- Additional Accession Number
- Conditions on Access
- No restrictions on access
- Conditions on Use
- No restrictions on use
Record last modified: 2019-03-19 12:22:07
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn671690