Portrait of Sara Kirschenbaum wearing a yellow star.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 97794
- Bedzin, [Zaglebie; Katowice] Poland
- Variant Locale
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Sara Kirshenbaum Bronner
Portrait of Sara Kirschenbaum wearing a yellow star.
- Event History
- Bedzin, Sosnowiec, and Dabrowa Gornicza are three neighboring towns located in the Zaglebie district in southwest Poland. On the eve of World War II, Bedzin and Sosnowiec supported Jewish communities of approximately 28,000 each, while Dabrowa had 5,000. The Germans occupied the towns on September 4, 1939. Five days later they set fire to the Great Synagogue in Bedzin. The flames quickly spread and engulfed fifty adjacent houses. Physical attacks were accompanied by repressive economic legislation which forced the Jewish population to relinquish their businesses and personal property. In the first days of the occupation, separate Jewish Councils were appointed in Bedzin and Sosnowiec, but early in 1940 the Bedzin council was subordinated to the Zentrale der Juedischen Aeltestenraete (Central Office of the Jewish Councils of Elders in Upper Silesia), established in Sosnowiec and headed by the increasingly autocratic Moshe Merin. This council represented some forty-five communities in the area and operated its own Jewish police force.
During 1940-41 the situation in Bedzin, Sosnowiec and Dabrowa was considered somewhat better than elsewhere in occupied Poland. There, the Jews resided in open ghettos and their lives retained a semblance of normalcy. As a result, thousands of Jews from central Poland sought refuge there. In addition to this influx, several thousand Jews from the district were forcibly resettled in Bedzin and Sosnowiec at this time, among them the Jews from Oswiecim, who arrived in the spring of 1941 prior to the opening of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Sosnowiec Jewish Council was responsible for drawing up lists of local Jews to be sent to forced labor camps in Germany and Eastern Upper Silesia established under the Organisation Schmelt program. Jews selected for forced labor had to report to the local transit camp, known as the "Dulag." Failure to comply resulted in their arrest and the withdrawal of their family's ration cards. Transports to labor camps began in 1940 but were greatly expanded in the spring of 1941, after Himmler decided to use labor from the Organisation Schmelt camps for constructing large factories to support German war production. The Jewish Council was also involved in establishing German-owned workshops which employed Jews. The largest of these was the Rosner Fabrik, a network of workshops which produced military uniforms and other goods and services for the German army. From a workshop employing a few dozen people, it grew into a factory complex with three thousand workers. Those fortunate enough to get positions in these enterprises were exempt (for the time being) from deportation to labor camps. Unlike the typical German overseer, Rosner treated his employees with respect and fought to protect them. He even warned them of impending actions. The Rosner Fabrik remained in operation until Rosner's arrest and execution in January 1944. When the schools were closed the local Zionist youth organizations took over the task of instructing the children. They also engaged in agricultural training on small plots on the outskirts of town. In Bedzin the local Zionist youth were allocated a hundred acre plot which was known as the "Farma" and became a focus of youth activity. The first round of deportations to death camps occurred in May 1942, when 1500 Jews were sent to Auschwitz. The following month another 2,000 were deported. Then, on August 12, all the remaining Jews in the three towns were ordered to report to the soccer field in Sosnowiec, ostensibly to have their papers revalidated. Instead, a large selection ensued resulting in the deportation of 8,000 to Auschwitz. The youth movements under the leadership of Hashomer Hatzair activist Zvi Dunski, conducted a campaign urging their fellow Jews not to report for the deportations. They also began to organize underground resistance units. The "Farma" became the headquarters of the Jewish underground and was the site of clandestine meetings with Mordechai Anielewicz, Arie Wilner and other leaders of the Jewish Fighting Organization in the Warsaw Ghetto. The underground concentrated its efforts on acquiring weapons and constructing bunkers in preparation for a revolt. But opinions were divided between those who favored resistance in the ghetto and those who stressed the search for escape routes out of the ghetto. In the spring of 1943, the remaining Jews in Bedzin were confined to a ghetto set up in Kamionka, while those remaining in Dabrowa and Sosnowiec were concentrated in Srodula. The two sites bordered on one another and operated as a single ghetto. On August 1, 1943 the final liquidation of the ghetto began. Zionist youth offered armed resistance in several bunkers which hampered the Germans and forced them to spend almost two weeks clearing the ghetto. Some one thousand Jews remained after the liquidation. Most were settled in the Sosnowiec labor camp, established on the site of the Srodula ghetto. These Jews labored in workshops as tailors, cobblers and carpenters. The camp was finally liquidated on January 13, 1944 and its prisoners sent to Auschwitz.
- Sara Bronner (born Kirszenbaum) and Moniek Broner are the parents of the donor. Sara was born on October 5, 1921 in Bedzin Poland where her father Shmuel Kirszenbaum, worked as a saddler. Her mother died when Sara was six years old. She had two younger sisters, Fela (later Kaligstein) and Devorah (later Blank). After her mother's death, her father remarried and he and his second wife Temze had three more daughters Sheindel, Sima and Rywka. The family was religious. Sara attended public school and also briefly attended an afternoon Bais Yaakov. German troops occupied Bedzin only days after the start of World War II and immediately instituted curfews and food rationing. Sara saw troops forcibly shave the beards of Jewish men and shoot people in the streets. Since Sara did not look visibly Jewish, she bought food for her family thereby circumventing the reduced rations for Jews. For the first year of the war, her father still worked at his saddlery until he was deported and sent to labor camp. For a time, he continued to relay messages to the family, but then this indirect contact ended. About half a year later, Sara's stepmother and two half-sisters were deported to an unknown camp (a third half-sister died before the war from natural causes). Then, Sara's remaining sisters Fela and Devorah were rounded up and sent to work camps. Sara had no more contact with her immediate family for the duration of the war. Sara was not deported since she was working at the Rosner Fabrik, a uniform factory run by Rosner, a sympathetic German who did his best to protect his workers. After the establishment of a formal ghetto, Sara had to leave her home but continued to work for Rosner until August 1943, when the Germans began the final liquidation of the ghetto. Sara had to board a train and traveled for almost a full day before arriving at Auschwitz, even though normally the trip would have taken only two hours. Sara's belongings were confiscated and she was tattooed with the number 50892. After about two weeks, she was snet to work in potato fields, fix streets and later in the laundry. She developed typhus and was told to go to the camp infirmary. Fearing she might be killed, she returned to her barrack. A female SS realizing that she had left the infirmary illegally, hit her on her head with her gun but allowed her to remain. The next day all the patients in the infirmary were taken to the gas chambers. After some time after returning from work, Sara and fifty other women were brought to the area outside the gas chambers. They were tasked with sorting the belongings of new prisoners and searching for valuables. This job allowed her to get more food and clothing and more comfortable living conditions. The women also took advantage of their position to smuggle jewelry to the men's camp and hide others in a jar outside their barrack. One day a man from her city called out to her and told her that he had seen her father still alive Markstadt. Sara continued to work sorting valuables until the Germans decided to evacuate the camp in January, 1945 in advance of its liberation. On January 17, Sara left Auschwitz on a three day forced march after which the prisoners were boarded onto open train cars. The hidden jewelry remained behind in Auschwitz. After four days, the train arrived in Ravensbrueck where Sara reunited with her aunt and cousin. After a few days, the women were brought to the Neustadt-Glewe labor camp. Sara remained there performing various jobs for the remainder of the war. On May 8, the prisoners noticed that the German guards had left and soon after, both American and Russian troops arrived. A few days later Sara returned to Bedzin with her aunt and cousin and a couple other girls. It took the women about three weeks to get home. Nothing remained of her family's possessions, but Sara learned that her youngest sister had survived. Sara returned to Germany and settled in Bayreuth where other survivors from Bedzin had gathered. She learned that her father did not survive, but her sister Devorah had survived and moved to Palestine on Yourh Aliya. Fela survived Bergen-Belsen and been evacuated to Sweden. Sara also met another survivor from Bedzin, Moniek Bronner (born November 10, 1918). The two married on November 3, 1946. Sara was in Bayreuth. Sara and Moniek immigrated to Israel in 1949, and their two daughters Shoshana and Adina were both born there. In 1962, the family immigrated to the United States.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Sara Kirshenbaum Bronner
Record last modified: 2003-11-18 00:00:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa1118947