Weiss (Rusinek), Regina
Dabrowa-Gornicza (Poland), Grünberg, Volary
Mrs. Weiss was the youngest of six children born to Shlomo and Pearl Rusinek. Her father was a kosher butcher, using half of his shop to sell non-kosher meat to Gentile Poles. She remembers family life as being extremely close-knit with the whole family helping out in the shop. Mrs. Weiss attended school for seven years and had planned to continue her education when the war broke out.
Mrs. Weiss describes Dabrowa as an industrial town with a large steel mill and many coal mines. She does not remember much friction between her family and their Gentile neighbors and customers until after 1937 when many Volksdeutsche came across the border into Poland and frequently incited anti-Semitic incidents. From this time on, she and her family were afraid to use public parks and other facilities.
The Germans entered Dabrowa in September 1939 and Mrs. Weiss recalls that there were neither shots fired nor resistance of any kind. Life changed drastically after the German invasion. Mrs. Weiss stated what within a few days all Jews were required to register at the Jewish Council, armbands had to be worn and a curfew were instituted. She remembers the confiscation of fur coats, gold, and furniture. The family kept up with war news on a radio for a short time, but when this, too, was confiscated they used crystal radio sets. Mrs. Weiss’ father built a false wall in a closet and when they heard word of Aktionen her father, brother, and three or four male neighbors would hide there until the danger passed. She remembers living in constant fear.
On February 7, 1942 Mrs. Weiss answered a notice at the Jewish Council ordering all single females to report for work. She was transported with 250 other women to an abandoned school where they were kept for one week with no bedding or toilet facilities and only meager food. They were then taken by cattle car to a labor camp in Grünberg, Germany and upon arrival were forced to walk for several miles in the cold before reaching the camp.
They were housed in large barracks and walked through town each day to work in a factory which produced blankets for the war effort. A work week consisted of twelve hour days, seven days a week. They received bread, one cup of black coffee, and one bowl of soup daily. Mrs. Weiss recalls the evenings in their barracks when the women would sit on their bunks and reminisce about home, food, and especially Friday nights. She feels that these talks gave her the will to live.
Mrs. Weiss especially remembered one winter day when the camp came under S. S. control and the women were forced to strip and stand outside for 24 hours, allegedly because they were to be transferred. Other abuse included frequent beatings of inmates in the camp and factory.
In January, 1945 the camp was evacuated and the inmates were taken on a death march throughout Eastern Germany near the Czechoslovakian border. They slept in barns along the road and received only the food that could be gathered from towns and villages. Mrs. Weiss described wrapping blanket strips around her feet and shoes to keep them from freezing and said that anyone who stopped walking was shot.
On May 3, 1945 the German guards left and the women entered Volary, Czechoslovakia where they were cared for by American forces. Out of 1,000 women who began the march, approximately 300 survived.
Mrs. Weiss spent several months in a hospital in Feldafing, Germany where she met and married her husband. They lived in Munich from 1946 until 1949 and their first son was born there. In 1949 they came to the United States.
Interviewer: Rabbi Rosenzveig
Format: Video recording