Tobet (Torbeczka), Henry

Tobet (Torbeczka), Henry

Szczecin (Poland), Sosnowitz (ghetto), Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau

Tobet, whose previous name was Torbeczka, was born in Szczecin, Poland, but lived most of his pre-war life in Sosnowitz, a town with a population of about 80,000 of which approximately 25 percent were Jewish. Sosnowitz is located about 25 miles northwest of Auschwitz. Tobet had two brothers and three sisters and after seven grades of public school, he entered his father’s textile business. While at school he experienced a considerable amount of anti-Semitism.

At the beginning of World War II, Tobet fled from his hometown because the Nazis started to place all Jews into a ghetto. For a while he hid and then worked in a textile factory. Eventually towards the end of 1943, all the workers were picked up and transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. During the selection process conducted by Dr. Mengele, the camp’s physician, Tobet stated that he was a tailor and as such, he was assigned to work in a tailor shop in Birkenau. His job was to convert the clothing taken from those brought to Auschwitz and Birkenau into hats and leggings for the German army.

Tobet stated that he was aware of the rebellion in Birkenau in October, 1944, when inmates of the camp blew up a crematorium. He claims that the gassing and cremations stopped after that incident, and that his future father-in-law was, therefore, saved from execution. Around November 1994 Tobet was shipped by train to Berlin and from there to a satellite camp of Dachau whose name he cannot remember.

At the labor camp near Dachau, prisoners worked to construct fortified aircraft hangars, but Tobet was given the job of tending the heater in the guards office. Just prior to liberation, the camp’s inmates were taken on a march which Tobet believes was to a killing site. Due to the intervention of a German general, the march was diverted to a Russian POW camp which was ultimately liberated by the U.S. Army on May 1, 1945.

Following his liberation Tobet befriended an American officer who made him trustee of a German general store whose owner was undergoing the de-Nazification process. This was in Wolfratshausen. Subsequently, Tobet established a textile business in Germany.

In September 1945 Tobet married a Hungarian woman who survived the Holocaust with her parents and two sisters. In 1949 Tobet and his wife emigrated to the United States where Tobet was working in the textile business again. He has two daughters and three grandchildren. Tobet is the only survivor of his entire family. He expresses very strong feelings against the Polish people, stronger than against the Germans.

Interview Information:
Date: October 22, 1996
Interviewer: Hans R. Weinmann
Length: 1 hour 15 minutes
Format: Video recording