Taken in conjunction with previous material by the author regarding the demise of Galician Jewry, there emerges a vast conspiratorial web of deceit, involving murder, corruption and robbery, committed by the higher echelons of the Nazi state. This paper focuses on just three aspects: the building and expansion of the Sipo-SD School at Rabka using Jewish labour and cruel anti-Semitic practices; the criminal activities of the school CommandantSS Untersturmführer Wilhelm Karl Johannes Rosenbaum--between 1940 and April 1943; and SS operations in East Galicia.
The protagonists referred to within the Rabka School investigations (see appendices) were prominent when the Barbarossa campaign commenced in June 1941. They comprised the political spearhead that entered East Galicia and set up the machinery of destruction, culminating in the deportations to the death camp at Belzec and the mass shootings in the forests.
Within the context of the Final Solution, the happenings at the SS school in Rabka are significant. As the central training establishment in the General Government it became the very centre for the dissemination of orders, planning, and practical instruction for German and non-German security personnel of all ranks in realizing the ideals of National Socialism. It would embrace the policies of destruction already carried out in the East under the auspices of Barbarossa, and in particular, in East Galicia--from the smallest Jewish communities in the Stryj valley, to the larger Jewish communities of Stanislwow, Kolomyja, and Lwow. The experience gained from these actions became the basis of planning for future operational activities and in the preparation for the ultimate accomplishment of the destruction of European Jewry. The Rabka school was the central training establishment for SS and Ukrainian extermination squads.
Zakopane was turned into an entertainment centre for senior officers of the SS and Werhmacht. All Jews were supposed to have been removed from the district by the end of November 1939, but two years later, 47 Jews were still residing in the area. The Nazis had set them to work uncovering hidden Jewish treasures in the town. Some 200 documents relating to the three years of the activity of the Judenrat in Zakopane have survived.
Immediately after the Nazi takeover, Zakopane's largest hotel, the Palace, was converted into the headquarters of the Gestapo. The main hall on the first floor of the hotel was reserved for dances and entertainment for the officers. Part of the building served as the labour bureau, where Jews were sent to register for forced labour. The deep cellars served as an interrogation centre and prison for Jews accused of disobeying Nazi laws. According to a number of Jewish witnesses who survived the war, as many as 300 Jews were murdered at this centre, many of them women and children. The Palace Hotel was known locally as Death's Head Resort. The leading Nazi officials at the time were the Chief of the Gestapo, Robert Weissmann, and his deputy, Richard Samish.
In late 1939, on the outskirts Zakopane, the Sipo-SD Academy was established and located in the hotel Stamary. On April 20, 1940, SS Untersturmführer Wilhelm Rosenbaum was appointed as Police Secretary at the school and deputy to the Commandant, SS Hauptsturmführer Hans Kruger. Rosenbaum's duties were more of a matronly nature--arranging board and lodging, salaries, welfare of conscripts, and general administrative duties. Among other permanent staff were the brothers Wilhelm and Johann Mauer, who had been seconded for duty at the school. The brothers, once officers in the Polish army, and who spoke Ukrainian, were enlisted to train and instruct Ukrainian personnel. Their sister, Lisa Schumacher, nee Kaufmann, did the office work. The kitchen and feeding arrangements were organised by local Polish personnel. The curriculum and training at the school underwent a number of changes according to the progress of the war. From selective recruitment of the SS security services, Ukrainian and Polish collaborators were trained in intelligence and counterintelligence activities.
In Zakopane, through the intermediary of the Jewish Council, Rosenbaum selected male and female workers from the Jewish population for maintenance and cleaning work, such as care of the gardens and all other rough work. Paul Beck, a Jew, was appointed overseer of the Jewish workers and to liase with the SS. With his experience in practical things and a good portion of deceitfulness, Beck, who spoke a number of languages, knew how to conduct himself and mediate between the Jewish workers and the German authorities. When, in July 1940, the school and its permanent staff moved from Zakopane to Bad Rabka, a number of Jewish workers were selected by Rosenbaum (among them Beck) to move there. It was at this time that Jews residing in the surrounding areas began to feel and experience the Nazi onslaught on their communities.
Institutions and offices of the Reich and Wehrmacht, as well as other organisations, established themselves in Bad Rabka. Apart from the local Governor's office and government departments, there was a military convalescent home, children's homes and a German guesthouse. Bad Rabka had all the trappings of a small town, served well by both road and rail. The adjoining railway station of Chabowka, which also served Bad Rabka, was a central junction for the larger towns in Poland.
The SD School initially occupied the premises of a requisitioned Jewish religious institution for children, situated near the Chabowka railway station. In the late autumn the school moved to new and much larger premises in the Theresianeum (also called Thereska), a high school for girls. The four-story building was located in the northern part of the town called Slonna, on a tree-covered slope alongside the Slonna River, which flowed into the Raba River.
SS Hauptsturmführer Hans Kruger arrived with his entourage at the newly converted school and remained there until July 1940, when he was recalled to Krakow to take up the duties of deputy to the BdS, Dr. Eberhard Schongarth. For a short period, SS Hauptsturmführer Rudolf Voigtlander took over, but within a few weeks Rosenbaum was appointed Commandant of the school, where he remained until April 1941. At that time he was recalled to Dr. Schongarth's office for preparatory work for the implementation of Barbarossa. The school activities were suspended but a small staff was retained to take care of the premises. The Sipo-SD School did not recommence activities until November 1941, when both Rosenbaum and Dr. Schongarth returned from military duties in East Galicia.
In the late autumn of 1941, when Dr. Schongarth's Einsatzgruppen (zbV) had been disbanded and the personnel distributed throughout East Galicia, Rosenbaum and Dr. Schongarth returned to Krakow. Dr. Schongarth resumed his duties of Commander-in Chief of the Security Police (BdS). Rosenbaum returned to Bad Rabka as Wirtschaftsführer (Economic Leader) of the SD School to prepare and rebuild the school for new courses.
Within days of the Rabka School becoming operational, a large black flag with a swastika was prominently mounted on the roof. In large black letters, the following was displayed across the top floor of the building:
Rosenbaum had no authority or influence in the educational training at the school. As wirtschaftsbeamter (clerk), his duties were the same as in Zakopane: to arrange accommodation for students attending courses. As a measure of Dr. Schongarth's opinion of him, Rosenbaum was titled Headmaster, but despite this unflattering title, as Commandant of the school he wielded enormous power. Rosenbaum remained as administrator of the school until the spring of 1943, when the activities of the school were the subject to internal SS internal criminal and corruption investigations, and he was removed to other duties. During this period, the crimes for which he was indicted after the war were committed.
BEFEHLSHABER der SICHERHEITSPOLIZEI und des SD im GG SCHULE des SICHERHEITSPOLIZEI
The Rabka School, since its establishment in Zakopane, had introduced specialised Ukrainian instructors, namely, the Mauer brothers and SS Scharführers Wosdolowicz, Jaworski and Vasilko, who were all transferred to Rabka to supervise and train Ukrainian recruits. In overall command of training were SS Oberscharführers Bohnert and Schuppler, who had been on the permanent staff since November 1940. SS Scharführer Bandure was the school driver, and SS-Scharführer Dziuba was clerical officer. SS Oberscharführer Hermann Oder joined the school in March 1942, and SS Hauptscharführers Walter Proch and Pohland joined the small team in July 1942, and acted as deputies to Rosenbaum. The female contracted staff (and later witnesses) were Meta Kuck (nee Speck), Schindler (nee Hendriks), and Engelmann, who was secretary to Rosenbaum.
In addition to the basic recruits, Sipo-SD officers for the senior command structure were sent to the school for pre-promotion and refresher courses. There is photographic evidence of senior Sipo-SD officers from various districts of the General Government in the classroom being lectured by Dr. Schongarth. There is no way of knowing what the subject of discussion was on this occasion, but in view of the circumstances at that time, we may assume with probability that the engagement of the war and the Jewish Question was high on the agenda. These courses for potential SS leaders were between three and six months in length, and geared to those officers who would return in the short term to the occupied zones, and the future leaders within SS structure. Lecturers at the school came from the elite of the Nazi hierarchy: Dr. Hans Frank, Globocnik, and Hofle from Reinhardt headquarters in Lublin; F. W. Kruger, Scherner, Muller, and Grosskopf, from the security services in Krakow. Visiting lecturers were Katzmann and Tanzmann, and Hans Kruger from eastern Galicia also contributed.
Accommodation for Rosenbaum and his guests and lecturers was in the villa Margrabianka, which was known as the Führerheim. The villa had a sentry posted outside at all times and was situated on the other side of the Slonka. A casino was also available for the SS leaders. A recreation place for the general SS was established in the villa Haus Annemarie. Rosenbaum's lady friend, Annemarie Bachus (whom he later married in 1943), managed the house.
Shortly after Rosenbaum's return to the school, he arranged and built new buildings, and appointed auxiliary staff, and by December 1941, the first inductees were entering the school. On the school premises Rosenbaum had installed a variety of workshops: a tailor's shop; shoemakers, saddlers, and hairdressers shops; all administered by the Jew Borger and his son under the direct supervision of Ukrainian supervisors. The brothers Czarnowicki and the Jew Herman Gold belonged to the Jewish tailors. The Jew Zelinger worked in the saddlery. The Jew Trieger was the gardener, and Michael Ettinger was locksmith and driver, whose domain was based in the school garage, and as such, was in a position to observe the school activities on a daily basis. The Jewess Hella Baumann had been brought from Zakopane to work in the laundry. The Jewesses Sara Schon (nee Luisa Goldfinger) and Ada Rawicz (nee Ada Peller) were cleaners and worked in the Margrabianka. The Jewess Schon also worked as a maid and nanny in the household of the SS Scharführers Schuppler and Proch.
Based on the employment of the Jews, Rosenbaum built more buildings in the school grounds. He also laid out a sport ground and shooting range in the small woods behind the school. Building materials for this construction work came mostly from Jewish cemeteries in the district. From the Jewish cemetery of Nowy Targ, the smooth granite and marble stones were shipped to the Rabka School and used in the construction of the shooting range and the paved area at the front of the school.
Since December 1941, there had been a steady stream of Polish, Ukrainian and German military conscripts passing through the training courses of the Rabka School. This was in addition to the Senior and Intermediate Command courses that had just commenced. The length of the courses fluctuated, but usually they were for a month for the non-commissioned personnel, and between 3 and 6 months for the senior commanders. During the Barbarossa campaign, emergency courses were the norm, but once the initial phase of the destruction of the judobolsheviks was realised, the school settled down to a more conventional syllabus, and continued in this manner until 1944, when it was transferred to Berlin due to the Russian advance
Already mentioned were the visits to the school by senior officers to lecture on a number of subjects. Dr. Schongarth would often chair these lectures and meetings. Dr. Kurt Neiding, from the BdS in Krakow, remembers one such lecture given by an SS Führer from the Reinhardt office of Odilo Globocnik:
I once took part in a commanders meeting in Bad Rabka, which was chaired by Dr. Schongarth. An SS Führer, who was stationed in Lublin, brought a piece of soap with him. It was an experiment, which on the orders of Polizeiführer Globocnik had been made out of Jewish corpses. There were obviously attempts being made to use the Jewish corpses to make soap.
Behind this façade, the building was to become the training area of the SS extermination section; training of German, Polish, and Ukrainian executioners and students of the intermediate Sipo-SD Command Structure took place here. The idea of executing Jews in the woods behind the SD School appealed to the Gestapo; for the students it was good practice. All forms of murder were used: shootings, hanging and beatings. It is estimated that over 30 such roundups from neighbouring villages were held, and the victims brought to the school, where they were executed in the school grounds. Pious Jews brought into the school were received with particular cruelty and made to run the gauntlet of the SS and Ukrainians who beat them mercilessly on their path to the pits that had been dug in the woods. Their scrolls cut into shreds; they fell into the pit crying Shema Yisrael. To cover up their murder, Rosenbaum ordered the Rabka Town Clerk Cheslav Triboski to register their deaths as victims of heart attacks. Rosenbaum obtained more Jewish workers from the responsible Employment Office in Nowy Targ. Later on, from May 1942, Jews from the neighbouring district of Neu-Sandez and surrounding areas were transported to the school based upon need.
Apart from the case regarding the hanging of 10 Jews in August 1942, it concerns the murder of people by shooting. The recently constructed shooting range at the school was used for the training of recruits for target practice. In addition to the recognised form of static targets, Jews were brought to the school specifically to be used as running targets across the shooting range. There are reports that transports of Jewish children were brought to the school from Auschwitz and used as running targets. This was not an unusual occurrence, as we have confirmed reports from a number of locations where Jews were used for shooting targets at the whim of the perpetrator in the Janowska and Plaszow camps. In the town of Makov Podhalanski, near Zakopane, Jews were taken to the Gestapo headquarters at the Marishia Hotel, where they were tortured by recruits from the Rabka Sipo Academy, then taken to the courtyard one by one and used for target practice. In the village of Bely Rast, Krasnaya Polyana district, a 12-year-old boy was placed on the porch of a house where he was used as target practice, and then shooters moved around the village taking pot shots at children running in the streets. In the village of Voskresenskoye, in the Dubinin district, a three-year-old boy was selected for target practice and shot with machine-gun fire. In the village of Basmanova, in the Glinka district, 200 school children working in the fields were rounded up and used for target practice.
It wasn't only the students of National Socialism that underwent instruction. The Jews had to undergo courses of instruction but of a very different nature. According to the Jew Michael Ettinger:
Selected Kapos of the Jewish prisoners were regularly ordered by Scharführer Bohnert to attend instruction classes, which were arranged early in the morning. We were taken to the fields behind the school where we were given instructions as to how to conduct ourselves when called upon to dig pits. We were not stupid and knew that people were being shot in the woods. At first they told us that the pits were for anti-aircraft purposes, but this lie had no meaning to us. After time, even the Germans knew these lies were not practical. The pit had to be dug to precise measurements, which would be given to us at the time. On the arrival of the Commandant, we had to make ourselves scarce and hide in the bushes with our backs to the pit. On the sound of a whistle we would return to the pit and work according to instructions, which meant arranging the dead bodies, and then filling in the pits to a level.Rosenbaum gave the orders for all executions and was present at all the following ascertained actions. These actions of both mass shootings and individual shootings were carried out according to a specific plan based upon trained shooting practices in the General Government. Rosenbaum was a trained killer, having been indoctrinated in methods at the shooting seminar given by Dr. Schongarth in Lwow.
Of course, some of us looked at what was going on: groups of people were brought to the edge of the pit and made to undress. Then they were positioned at the edge and shot in the back of the head. The shouts, pleas and screams were terrible.
In the case of multiple executions, the Jews who were to be shot were accommodated during the day in a not very secure bunker next to the school and guarded by Ukrainians. Whenever it concerned smaller groups, which was frequently the case in executions of picked up Jews, the victims were locked up in the so called clinks; one of them was a cellar under the pig sty, where they were made to lie face down until the time for execution. According to the size of the group, a number of Jews were ordered to dig graves on the day of execution. After Staff Sergeant Bohnert determined the exact measurement of the grave in the woods behind the school not far from the shooting range, the grave Kommando set about their task. Digging began under the supervision of a few chosen Jewish Capos who were responsible to see that the job was finished on time and according to plan. When the digging was completed, a signal was sent and a short time later, small groups of 3-5 victims, sometimes more, were taken out of the bunkers to the graveside and executed.
The gravediggers had to come out of the graves as soon as they saw the victims arrive in order not to be shot themselves. In order to come out of the grave quickly from the 3 metre deep pits, the Jews built steps based upon their experience to assist a hurried exit. The people brought for execution were frequently beaten and ordered to undress facing the pit. During this time, the gravediggers withdrew to hide in the undergrowth or among the trees in the woods.
At this time of the proceedings, Rosenbaum would appear with other SS officers and Ukrainians. Sometimes terrible scenes took place. The victims screamed for fear of death and begged for their lives. Mothers implored the commandant to shoot them first before shooting their children. Women refused to undress, and their clothes were ripped of by force from their bodies. Then the chosen Jews had to stand at the edge of the graves or sit around the graveside. A single shot in the nape of the neck killed them. The bodies fell into the grave or were given a kick by their executioner right after the shot.
The grave was a horrifying sight. The bodies were lying in total disorder, one on top of the other and covered in blood. The Jews were called, usually with the blow of a whistle, and were sent into the graves to arrange the bodies. Often they would notice that some of the Jews shot were not dead. Rosenbaum or other executioners would fire additional shots to finish them off. After the shootings, the bodies were covered with chalk and then with earth. The execution site was then grassed over. The clothes of the victims were collected by the Jews, taken to the school and cleaned, repaired and used.
Rosenbaum sat at a table with lists of the Jewish inhabitants in front of him. He instructed the Jews to walk in front of him while Beck (his Jewish interpreter) read the names. Together with SS Scharführer Bohnert, Rosenbaum inspected the Jews and made notes of the names that interested him, especially the disabled Jews, whom he marked with a cross. After a final roll call, he allowed the Jews go home again.
On May 20, 1942, Rosenbaum ordered through the Judenrat at least 45 Jews from the list, the old and disabled, to present themselves at the school. Among the Jews listed was the mother of the Jewess Nogala, Mrs Paster, as well as the grandmother of the Jewess Schon, Mrs Ernestine Kranz, and her uncle named Beim. The grandson of Mrs Kranz, Mark Goldfinger, remembers the day his grandmother (Mrs Kranz) was taken away:
I remember being at home with my mother and grandmother in our house, which was not far from the SS School. There was knock on the door. My grandmother went to a prepared hiding place at the back of the house. When my mother opened the door, there was an SS man and a Polish policeman standing there with a list. They asked for Ernestine Kranz. My mother told them that she wasn't at home, to which the SS man said that my mother should come instead. My grandmother must have heard the conversation, as she suddenly appeared and identified herself. She was taken away to the SS School.The Jews listed came to the school during the day, not expecting to remain, and certainly did not expect what was to follow. After their arrival, the Jews were locked in the bunker next to the school building and guarded by the Ukrainians. They had to lay flat down with their faces towards the floor.
On the next day I took some sandwiches to the school, hoping to give them to grandmother. I approached the school from the rear, and when I reached the clearing by the woods I saw that a grave was being prepared. I was watching from behind a bush, when suddenly a Ukrainian guard saw me and told me to clear off as fast as possible.
That same evening, my grandmother was among a number of Jews who were shot into the grave. My sister Sarah, who worked for Rosenbaum, told me later that Rosenbaum had come to her and regretted that her grandmother had to be shot, but assured her that he hadn't allowed her to suffer.
That same day, the Jewish grave Kommando started to dig and prepare a grave in a small clearing in the woods behind school. SS Scharführer Bohnert had chosen 20-25 Jews to do this work. Bohnert had selected a larger area in the woodland glade for the grave, which had to be 3 metres deep. The work was done according to instructions. At 5 PM the locked-up victims in the stalls were taken in small groups by the Ukrainian guards to the place of execution, with the guards beating them and urging them on. The gravediggers had left, but were concealed in the bushes nearby, facing away from the execution site. The Jewish victims were ordered to undress and then to stand or sit around the pit. One Jewess who refused to undress had her clothes ripped off her body. Rosenbaum arrived with a posse of executioners and immediately shot 6 Jews in the back of the neck with his pistol. SS Scharführers Bohnert, Oder, Bandura, and the Ukrainian Wosdolowski all shot Jews into the grave. The grave Kommando were recalled and set about arranging the bodies as instructed. The graves were then covered as described above.
Rosenbaum believed the number of Jews from Bad Rabka and from the immediate area not to be sufficient for the work to be carried out at the school. He requested more workers to complete the projects he had in mind. The Employment Office of Nowy Sachs was the Central Employment Agency for Jewish labour, so he made a number of requests for more labour. On the orders of Dr. Schongarth, between May and July 1942 at least three working transports were sent to Bad Rabka from Nowy Sachs.
The first transport organised in Nowy Sachs was by the Head of the Employment Department for Jewish Workers (Jewish Employment Office). The Jewish Office kept files on the Jews who were fit for work and available for transport. Those unfit for work were not registered. When a registered Jew died, the card was marked with a cross in the files and then destroyed. The transports to Rabka were organised by the Gestapo Chief in Nowy Sachs, SS Obersturmführer Heinrich Hamann, who was no less efficient than Rosenbaum, having already shot 881 Jews in nearby Mishana Dolne.
The first indications of a call for Jewish labour were by the Judenrat and the Jewish police, who posted a request for male Jews between the age of 15 and 40 to present themselves in the former Macabi clubhouse. After a short medical inspection by the Employment Office, at least 60 healthy and fit Jewish men of the required age group were selected and ordered to present themselves with their luggage in a few days at the Jewish Employment Office in Nowy Sachs.
On the May 9, 1942, the transport with the selected Jews left Nowy Sachs for Bad Rabka. The transport was received in the afternoon by members of the Judenrat of Rabka and by the Jew Paul Beck (from the school). The transport escort handed over a list of names to Beck, who brought the Jews to the town baths where they were shaven. Beck then allocated them accommodation in one of the three houses in the work camp close to school.
The following morning, the newcomers were brought to school and received by SS Scharführer Bohnert, who checked to see if the transport was complete. Rosenbaum arrived in a horse drawn carriage. Beck informed the Jews: Here comes 'Lieutenant' Rosenbaum! Rosenbaum made a speech and said sharply that one had to work and work again; whoever did not work would be dealt with. Accompanied by Bohnert, Rosenbaum inspected the Jews. The Jews were divided into 4 or 5 groups and each group had a Kapo who was chosen from the ranks. The Kapos were the Jews Farber, Sammy Frolich, Lonker, Hennek, Grossbard and Joseph Grossbard. The Jews were sent to their places of work in the school. Separate groups were levelling the terrain around school; other groups had to build a cellar under the pigsty, later to be the bunker for the prisoners. The biggest building project, the installation of the shooting range, was planned for a few hundred metres behind school, in the woods. In order to build the lines of fire, considerable earth masses had to be removed.
Already, Rosenbaum and Bohnert, during their inspection walks, had made notes of individual Jews. Rosenbaum had a list of 8 Jews in his notebook. He would approach a work-group and say to a Jew, What's your name? This selection was entirely random. In no way did it concern weaklings or Jews unfit for work. It may have been because the Jew wore glasses, or looked in a particular way. Among the noted Jews was the fit and healthy butcher Wieldstein, who happened to have a scar on his face.
For the time being these noted Jews were ignored. On the day that the action against the Rabka Jews was carried out, these noted Jews were separated from their work groups and brought to the bunkers where the Jews from Rabka were imprisoned. Together with them, they were shot in the early evening hours in the manner described above. Among them was the Jew Schermer, who probably was not part of the chosen victims, but was in the grave to arrange the corpses, and had failed to get out in time.
The roundups continued in Nowy Targ. In July and August 1942, those Jews who had been imprisoned for foreign currency offenses were all taken to the Rabka School, where they were shot in the pits behind the school. The remainder of the Jews in the town were rounded up and taken to the railway station and shipped in boxcars to Belzec. Finally, the Gestapo, commanded by Weissmann, rounded up all the sick, disabled and elderly Jews, who were transported to the Rabka School and murdered in the usual way.
In dealing with the Nowy Targ Jews, the Gestapo worked according to lists that had been prepared with the help of local Poles. During the clear out, more and more Jews were brought to Nowy Targ from neighbouring towns and villages, including Zakopane, Shchavnitza, Ohotniza, Habubka, Mamanova, Manioba, Caminitza, Shaflari Hoholov, and Kroshcnenko-on-Dunaietz. These incoming Jews remained in Nowy Targ awaiting their fate. The congestion was unbearable. The Judenrat, which had been spared the initial deportation, were pressed by Weissmann for ransom to avoid their own departure. In late August 1942, despite assurances by Weissmann, cattle cars arrived at the railway station. The Judenrat were told that work had been found in the Ukraine for the remainder of the Jewish population, where they would work on the land. Those that volunteered boarded the transport believing they had been saved. This transport left, calling at Rabka, Skawina, Krakow and finally, the death camp at Belzec. There were no survivors.
On August 30, 1942, the remainder of the Jews in Nowy Targ were ordered to assemble in the Pilsudski Stadium. A barrel was placed at the centre of the field and the Jews were ordered to drop in the last of their valuables: heirlooms, rings, bracelets etc. Weissmann then made a selection of workers and non-workers. A mother and child whom he considered were walking too slowly were shot on the spot. About 600 young people, the workers, were sent to labour camps, including some to the Rabka School. The rest, several hundred, were taken to the local cemetery where they were lined up in batches against a wall. The Gestapo went from one victim to the next, shooting each one in the temple and pushing the bodies into a huge pit that had been prepared earlier.
After the slaughter in the cemetery, the Germans gathered in the clubhouse and celebrated their victory over the Jews. One SS man, Schmidt, boasted that on that day he had murdered his 1,000th Jew. To celebrate this achievement, he wrote the number on the cork of a beer bottle and put it around his neck. Later Schmidt committed suicide.
In June 1942, a further transport of Jews from Nowy Sachs arrived at school and was put to work as described above. One day at the end of July 1942, in the early afternoon, another transport of Jews arrived from Nowy Sachs. Some of the group of 100 were orthodox Jews with pajes and beards, and dressed in traditional clothing. Some of them were carrying holy books and Torah scrolls. The Jews were young, fit and healthy; to be employed on the building sites in the school. The Jews were met by the Jew Beck, the Gestapo, and Ukrainians and taken to the baths and cleaned up as described above. On the march to school, between 5 and 10 Jews from this transport were shot by the escort. Some of the corpses were buried on the spot at the side of the road; others were collected later by trucks and taken to the school to be buried with victims of the other actions of the day.
Rosenbaum tortured his Jewish workers mentally and to hurt their religious feelings. He took Jewish gravestones from neighbouring Jewish cemeteries, and used them to build a large staircase in front of the school building. When the Jews arrived at the school, the SD and Ukrainians organised games. The Jews were driven back and forth in wheelbarrows; the elder Jews had to sit in the wheelbarrows and the younger Jews had to push them through dirt and water pools until the wheelbarrows turned over. The Torah Scrolls were taken from the religious Jews and destroyed. Dogs were let loose on the Jews to frighten them for the entertainment of their tormentors, who were also beating them with sticks. Rosenbaum took part in this scene by whipping the Jews and screaming to these anguished people: Where is your God now, you damned Jews? Whenever he saw Jews whistling in school he would yell: Only we are allowed to whistle and sing, as we are fighting and winning. Rosenbaum appeared frequently at the Jewish tailors with a blood stained uniform, telling the tailor: Clean this swine blood. Turning to the Ukrainian guard Radke, he said, referring the tailor Gold, He is a good tailor but will be shot anyway.
During the day, about 20 Jewish workers had excavated a large grave in the woods. The pit measured 20x4 metres and 3 metres deep. About 12-15 Jews were picked out from the newly arrived transport and separated from the others. That evening at least 55 Jews were executed in the woods. Rosenbaum personally directed the executions, which were carried out by the SD and Ukrainians as described above.
About five days before the Rabka deportation, directly after the days work, the Jews were ordered to gather for a roll call on open space behind school. Not less than 100 Jews paraded. In a shed on the building site, at the back of school, preparations were made for a hanging. Ropes were attached with hooks to horizontal beams. Underneath there were boxes or barrels covered by boards. Apart from the Jews, Rosenbaum, and SS Scharführers Bohnert, Oder, Badura, Paul Beck and the Ukrainians were present. Ten Jews were brought to the spot, among them was the young boy Edek Liebenheimer who was Rosenbaum's boot boy. Among these chosen Jews was one member of the Judenrat, Simon Zollmann. The 10 Jews were placed on the prepared barrels and boards and the ropes were placed around their necks. Rosenbaum yelled to the gathered mass that workers had escaped and therefore these Jews would hang in retaliation. The gathered Jews were ordered to look in the direction of the execution place. The boards were pushed from under the victim's feet so they fell; the ropes tightened and strangled the victims. It didn't all go according to plan. The Jew Liebenheimer's noose ripped or he slid through the noose of the rope and he fell on the ground. Liebenheimer tried to escape and when the guards were about to shoot him, Rosenbaum yelled in wild excitement: Do not shoot, hang again! Liebenheimer begged Rosenbaum: Mr Untersturmführer, please shoot me! Rosenbaum yelled at him: you dog, for you I am not an Untersturmführer anymore, you will be hanged! He was hanged a second time. This time, the noose also ripped and he again fell to the ground. The third attempt was successful.
The Jews took the victims to the grave in the woods. One living victim, carried by the Jew Kalfus, was shot on the way. Shots were fired in the grave to make sure all were dead. Rosenbaum stayed at the execution place until the end of the hanging action.
We Jews of Rabka were only 1,500 souls, in a population of 10,000. On the 31st August 1942, all the Jews were rounded up and later sent to their death in Belzec. The Poles were warned not to help Jews, nor conceal information about them, under pain of death. Many Jews were shot wherever they were found. Those who tried to escape were hanged. The common graves dug for the victims in the woods at the Rabka School contained seven times as many corpses as there were Jewish inhabitants in Rabka before the war.On Yom Kippur Eve, 1942, many Jews were rounded-up for failing to report for a deportation (to Belzec). According to Hirsch Schiffeldrin:
Eight days before the deportation, my mother and I hid in an attic. My father was working for the Germans in Nowy Targ. Our hiding place was not discovered because the attic had a secret access. We survived the war due to the help of a Polish neighbour, Mrs Wagner.
There was no way out. The Gestapo was making ready to deport the Jews. I had to return to the labour camp. At the railway station I presented my travel pass, but the Polish policeman ignored it and took me to the gathering area in Rabka. I saw my family there. Along with the others we were divided up by Rosenbaum. I found myself in a special group of four: a man named Shaut, a tinsmith; Yehiel Tirk, a mechanic; Finkelstein, a locksmith. I, an electrician, was the fourth. We were put to work on maintenance of the target practice range.
On Yom Kippur Eve 1942, the four of us were taken to a spot where 30 Jews were to be executed for failing to report for the deportation. The Germans shot them. Next to the pit stood a barrel of lime. The four of us were ordered to pour lime on the corpses and cover the pit with earth. All the possessions of the Jews were taken to a large warehouse for sorting and refurbishing.
The Jew Gold, with others, was ordered to dig a grave in the woods, the usual procedure. The locked up Jews were brought to the graveside, including the Jewess Zollmann with her son. Zollmann begged Rosenbaum for mercy and implored Rosenbaum to keep her son alive, as he didn't know he was a Jew. Rosenbaum shot the child and then the mother. The grave was covered in the usual way.
Well before the war, Rosenbaum realised that he had a name with a Jewish sound and filed an application to change it, but was never finalised. It was a standing joke among school staff, who would talk about Untersturmführer Beck (the Jew) and the Jew Rosenbaum (the Commandant). This was the basis for him being shocked and mad that this family Rosenbaum from Rabka apparently confirmed the Jewish origin of his name.
Since the general roll call, the Rosenbaum family was living in fear of the Commandant. One day, in the summer of 1942, quite a while before the general deportation of the Rabka community, Rosenbaum killed the family Rosenbaum. In a late afternoon, the father, mother, daughter and son were brought to school.
After the family had been assembled in the school, Rosenbaum appeared and rushed at the father, cursing: You damned Jew, with what right are you carrying my good name. He then proceeded to beat the father. Rosenbaum called for Scharführer Bohnert and ordered him to shoot the family there and then. The order was carried out immediately in Rosenbaum's presence. The news of the shooting quickly spread throughout the remaining Jewish community, and resulted in an increase of outrage, fear and fright among the Jews.
Dr. David Yacobovitz:
Untersturmführer Wilhelm Rosenbaum was the worst of all the Gestapo men in the Rabka district. The others tried to hide their barbaric acts by committing them some distance outside the town. Rosenbaum and Heinrich Hamann, head of the Gestapo in Nowy Targ, committed the atrocities in broad daylight for all to see.Rosenbaum's favourite place for executions was the densely populated Salona quarter. The doctors in the sanatoriums complained that the cries and shootings disturbed their patients, but Rosenbaum paid the complaints not the slightest heed.
Hamann selected Mishana Dolna for his executions. He demanded that the Judenrat collect an exorbitant amount of money, supposedly to pay for the deportation of the Jews. When the Judenrat could not come up with the payment, Hamann gathered 800 Jews in the square and murdered them.
Jordanow's location near the Slovakian border also led to an early occupation by German forces. Like Nowy Targ, the Jews were immediately subjected to the now familiar restrictions. A Judenrat had been formed and the Jews ordered to register for labour. The young were sent to work as forced labourers in the stone quarries where, like the Jews in Nowy Targ, they were made to break up rocks for no apparent reason. The women cleaned the streets and performed other menial tasks at the whim of the Germans. In 1940, the Jewish Quarter was placed under curfew and the armband regulations introduced. In 1941, all Jewish property was confiscated. Jews from the town of Sluptza in the Posnan district were cleared and sent to Jordanow, where the Judenrat had to arrange accommodation for them in the dilapidated Jewish Quarter.
At the beginning of 1942, the Nazi destruction machinery commenced with the introduction of resident lists of all the Jews in the town. Ransom levies were demanded from the Judenrat. The Judenrat, who were unable to pay such large sums, went to their community for help. Great efforts were made to meet these quotas, with many of the Jews removing their gold teeth.
On the 30th August 1942, on the same day as the Nowy Targ liquidations, recruits from the Rabka Sipo School, assisted by the SS from Nowy Targ, carried out a brutal action in the town of Jordanow. The Jews of Jordanow were rounded up and taken to the town square where they were assembled for selection. For some unknown reason at that time, mothers and small children were separated from those assembled and marched off separately. Local Poles, who needed no invitation, assisted the SS in guarding the Jews, and when the Jews were ordered to remove their clothing and shoes, the Poles took it away for their own use.
Rosenbaum, who had taken personal charge of this action, had sent a team under the supervision of SS Oberscahrführer Proch to prepare the pits in the Jordanow cemetery. Apart from the mothers and children, every Jew in Jordanow was shot into the pits using the plank and walk technique perfected by Proch. Many were not killed outright, but no mercy shot was given. The pit was filled in, burying many half dead Jews. Reports that the ground was heaving are not exaggerated. The Ukrainians and Poles who were guarding the gravesite had to stamp the ground to even out the heaving earth.
On checking their lists, the action squad discovered that some Jews were not accounted for and still at large. All houses in the town and surrounding villages were searched, ferreting out those they could find and shooting them immediately on the spot. Some Jews escaped into the nearby forest and tried to cross into Slovakia. Local Poles assisted in the search, and extorted from the Jews their last valuables before handing them over to the Gestapo, who killed them on the spot. Local farmers collected the corpses with their wagons and took them to the horse cemetery at Ushlatz. That day there was a great celebration at the Rabka School for a job well done.
Late in the afternoon, directly after the slaughter, horse-drawn wagons arrived in Rabka fully loaded with young mothers and very small children (babies and 3-4 year olds). The local Jewish community did not know about the massacre at Jordanow, and were perplexed at the arrival of these wagons and their distressed cargo.
The SS had killed every Jew in Jordanow, with the exception of these young mothers and children. The mothers from Jordanow were in shock after seeing their families shot in the cemetery. On Rosenbaum's orders, the mothers were taken to the Judenrat who were ordered to house and feed them.
Mark Goldfinger, who was then 11 years of age, was with his mother when this dreadful sight entered the town. Mark remembers going with his mother to collect clothes, food and blankets for the unfortunate women of Jordanow. The Jewish community could not understand why the SS had spared the women and children. They knew enough not to expect humanitarian considerations. A few weeks later, on a date to be determined, all became clear:
Mark Goldfinger: I was living in Rabka with my mother, in a house within a few hundred yards from the SS School. My elder sister, Lucia, who was 20 years old, worked for Rosenbaum in his villa. Our family knew exactly what was going on in school; that Jews were being systematically killed by shooting. We all lived in fear of the happenings in Rabka. Our home was so close that we could hear the gunfire, and when the wind was in the right direction we could hear the screams and distress of the prisoners. I can remember the horses and carts coming into the village street with the women and children. I went with my mother to collect food, clothes and blankets; we went house to house collecting for these women and children.The arrival of these women was the first indication of what had happened in Jordanow; that every Jew, with the exception of the women and children, had been murdered.
The explanation of the selected seizure did not take long to emerge. A few weeks later, all the women and children were rounded up and taken into school. They were imprisoned in the stables and bunkers where previous prisoners had been held. There had been a recent intake of about a 100 Ukrainian, Polish and SD conscript personnel. The mothers and children were gathered in small batches of 3 and 4 at a time and used as examples by the SS staff at school to show the new recruits how to murder, when engaged on Ghetto clearing duties and other actions.
Recruits who showed dissatisfaction after these exercises were carefully noted and removed from school. After the completion of these exercises, the bodies of the women and children were disposed of in the usual way in the woods.
One of the most curious aspects of the Rabka School murders was the secrecy Rosenbaum was able to maintain. When Rosenbaum gave evidence at his trial in Hamburg in 1968, he agreed that he had done his utmost to conceal the murders from domestic staff at school. That is why most executions were committed in the evening, when all the general office and domestic staff had finished work and gone home. To this extent he was successful. While the witnesses Meta Kuck, Kathe Engelmann and Adela Schmitt (non Jews who were all employed in the offices of school in 1942) were quite ignorant, the witness Elfrieda Bohnert, the wife of SS-Scharführer Bohnert, noticed the execution places during her walks in the woods. Mrs Bohnert had overheard the kitchen staff discussing that Jews were being killed in the woods. However, she considered questions about this to be inappropriate. The Jewess, Lucia Schon, in her special relationship with Rosenbaum and the senior SS staff, mentions that the SS wives climbed onto the roof to view the killings when they were taking place in the woods.
Lucia Schon was a very important witness due to her domestic attachment to the day-to-day household activities of the Rosenbaum family. She would reflect when Rosenbaum would flick through some of the most beautiful paintings she had ever seen, sorting them, like plates in a rack.
In east Galicia, SS-Hauptsturmführer Hans Kruger, the first commandant of the Rabka School had been busy since October 1941 destroying the Jewish communities in the region of Stanislawow, and in March 1942, the first deportation transports started rolling towards the Belzec death camp.
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.
Rabka Police School, Poland Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright © 1999-2013 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 28 Aug 2005 by LA