Zdunskawola (Poland), Auschwitz, Ravensbrück
Eva Wimmer was born in 1926 in Zdunskawola, Poland. She was the youngest of nine children. Her father was a shoemaker of modest means. Her family was active in their faith and attended one of the three synagogues in the city. She recalls prevalent Anti-Semitism in the town, but they did succeed in living a normal life until 1939 when the Germans invaded Poland.
By the second day of the invasion, the Germans marched into her city. She was thirteen years old. Within two months a small ghetto in the center of town was established and the whole family was forced there into a single room. Food rations were very small and to secure order ten random people in the ghetto were chosen off the streets and shot or hung. All had to watch. A military shoe factory was created and everyone was involved in the work. During this time, three of her four brothers were sent off to other camps. One was killed early on trying to escape to find food. The Wimmer family stayed her from late 1939 until 1942.
In 1942 the ghetto was liquidated. The orders came at 4am and everyone was marched to the train station near the Jewish cemetery. Anyone who could not walk were killed. The patients in the hospitals were shot. The men were forced to dig a mass grave where all the recently killed were placed. Some small children were even buried alive. Before the trains arrived, two lines were formed. Healthy and young to the right. Others to the left. Eva’s parents were sent to the left. All five sisters went to the right.
Cattle cars took them to the Lodz ghetto. The usually one hour trip took many hours and many died inside the crowded cars. In the Lodz ghetto they again worked in factories to support the Nazi war effort. In 1944, this larger ghetto was also liquidated and trains arrived to transport them to Auschwitz.
At Auschwitz, Eva and her sisters were slated for immediate execution in the gas chambers and hence did not receive numbers. They were stripped off all positions, heads were shaved, and they were rounded up into a large field where the physicals took place under the instruction of Dr. Josef Mengele. Within one week 1,000 women were sent to the gas chambers. As they waited in the room before the gas chambers a guard arrived and announced that 500 women were needed at an ammunition factory seven miles outside Berlin. Eva and her sisters were all selected and immediately went to the trains. As they left numb, from being so close to death and could not believe the miracle. However, they could see the black smoke rise from the chimneys—the remains of the women not selected—as their train pulled away towards the west.
For the rest of the war, she and her sisters worked at the large ammunition factory. They labored twelve hours a night. She mentioned the assistance they received there from the commander of the facility, which she said had feelings and did little things to ensure the survivor of his workers, even so far as demanding that 250 workers were essential to operations when they were scheduled to be sent back to the death camps. The five sisters had been among the chosen. They were saved again and they also survived numerous Allied bombing attacks who had targeted the munitions factory.
By 1945, the workers were sent to Ravensbrück were they remained until April when they were liberated by the Swedish Red Cross and were given transport to Sweden via Denmark. She was in Sweden when the war was officially over. In 1946, the sisters were reunited with their one surviving brother. After eight years, Eva and her new husband (also a survivor) immigrated to the United States.
Format: Video recording