Book of Life Stories

Testimony of a Hero of Resistance – Regina Zielinski

Presented at Yom Hashoah, the B’Nai B’Rith South Australia Communal Commemoration of the Day of Remembrance, Adelaide 8 April 2002.

Regina, January 2003

I was 14 when the war broke out. I lived in Poland with my parents, my sister and three brothers. I am the only survivor of what the Nazis did to my family.

Do children today understand the true horror of the ghettos and camps in which we spent our childhood?

In order to make my town in Poland Judenrein – free of Jews – the Nazis liquidated the ghetto in October 1942. About 700 Jewish people who were able to work were transported to a camp called Staw. The old, the sick, the young children didn’t come with us. No, we never saw them again.

Do today’s young people even begin to comprehend what the Nazis did to become the world’s master-race? So many Jewish young were slaughtered. I was Dani’s age when I was taken ?..

Read by 14 year old Dani as if she were Regina
The living conditions in Staw were hideous. Many of us died of Typhoid; we worked in merciless circumstances, digging trenches for irrigation in the frozen ground, doing things that would have been hard, even for pack animals – but we were promised by our guards that as soon as the work was finished, we could go home.

Instead we were sent to Sobibor. It was in December, 1942; it was a bitterly cold morning. We were skimpily dressed and yet we were transported by horse-drawn wagons. On the way, the SS guards warned us not to try to escape, for that was punishable by death.

Quite a few young men tried to escape into the nearby forests. They were shot!

At Sobibor, I did all kinds of jobs, from sorting out the clothing which belonged to the dead, to laundry for the SS guards. I worked in the forest where ammunition bunkers were hidden; I cleaned weapons which had been captured from the Russians; I cleared forests; In the freezing cold, I unloaded iron bars with my bare hands.

The smoke and the stench from the crematorium hung over us every day.

All the while, among us prisoners, we never stopped planning an uprising and an escape from this hell on earth.

In September 1943, a new transport of Russian Prisoners of War arrived. They advised us on the methods we could use to escape.

As the sun set on the 14th October 1943, instead of assembling for roll call, we stormed the main gate to avoid the explosions of the mines.

But something went horribly wrong!
I heard shooting!
The main gate had been re-taken by the Germans.
We ran to the barbed wire.
A lot of the boys were desperate and tried to climb it!
They were electrocuted!

There were three fences which surrounded the camp.
I was one of those who made an opening in the wire of the first of the fences.
The ground was mined!
We had to explode the mines.
Many died!
But some of us made it into the forest which was about a kilometer away from Sobibor.
The SS were shooting at us. Everyone was pushing forward – but we were free!

Somehow I made my way into Germany, for I thought that I could pretend to be a Polish girl and Germany would be the safest place to hide.

Before crossing into Germany I managed to get a false birth certificate from a school friend. I made it all the way to Frankfurt, and managed to works as a housekeeper for a good German family. I was not revealed as a Jew.

When the Allies started to bomb around Frankfurt, I wasn’t afraid of being killed, because every day, as the bombs rained down, I thanked G-d that the Germans were being paid back for what they’d done to us.

Remembering The Holocaust and Resolution

Regina Zielinski was also a guest speaker at the Yom Hashoa remembrance in NSW in 2001, where tribute was paid to hero’s of resistance who had survived the darkest moment of human history.

We are all survivors of the Holocaust.
Whether we were there or not.
We are dedicated to respond to the tragic uniqueness of the Holocaust and committed never to forget.
We pay tribute to the courage of the ghetto fighters in Warsaw, other ghettos and concentration camps, Sobibor, Treblinka, Belzec, Majdanek, Chelmo, Auschwitz.
We pay tribute to the partisans, the underground fighters, to the heroism of the Jewish Servicemen and women.
And to the Righteous amongst the nations.
It is now resolved that this Jewish community of New South Wales each year reaffirms that, the 27th Day of Nissan, a day of remembrance and observance to be commemorated in memory of the heroic deeds of our people.

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