Within a few months after the commencement of Barbarossa (June 1941), the German hierarchy realised that the war would be long and protracted, with the result that there was no more emphasis on political and military training requirements. Final decisions had been made with regard to the 'Jewish Question', and these requirements would be reflected in the new courses about to commence at Bad Rabka.
In occupied Poland, although the German police and security personnel were thin on the ground, they resisted taking into their confidence the indigenous population. Generally speaking the Polish police, although used for law and order purposes in the Generalgouvnement, were rarely given full access to the SS/SD security services in Jewish actions. Paradoxically it was local Jewish collaborating cadres who were preferred to Poles when Jewish actions were contemplated In German eyes, the Poles were only just above the Jews in the pecking order of 'untermenschen'. Only those Poles fully vetted and considered loyal collaborators, usually of some years standing as V-Agents, were favoured for further training in the SD establishment.
To encounter their military move into the east, the School curriculum was updated to reflect their foreseen duties. Selected candidates for the re-established School were nominated and recruited from a wider range of sources, but mainly from German security establishments, Waffen SS, and the Civil Service (Polish and German) throughout the Reich. Pro-Nazi Poles and Ukrainians were also open for selection for police training and V-Agents (spies). The Rabka School,
since its establishment in Zakopane, had introduced specialist Ukrainian instructors, namely, the Mauer brothers (Johann and Wilhelm who had remained behind with Hans Krueger in Stanislawow), and the Ukrainian SS- Scharfuehrer s Wosdolowicz, Jaworski and Vasilko were all transferred to the SD School at Rabka to take charge of the Ukrainian and Polish recruits. The Ukrainians were in a slightly more favoured situation having welcomed the Germans into the Ukraine proper and were now considered trusted friends of the Reich. The carrot for them was the prize of Ukrainian independence, a prize they were never to achieve.
Organisation: Academic Chart of the RSHA 1941 1943:
Chief of the Sipo SD and overlord of Training Establishment at Rabka: the Befehlshaber der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD (BdS) of the General gouvernment, SS-Oberfuehrer Schoengarth (Krakow)
Divisions of Exam Study and the engagement of lecturers under the Direction of SS-Lt Rosenbaum:
Visiting lecturers to the School were drawn from specialist offices in the Generalgouvnement. Many of the teaching staff, in addition to the established instructors, came on secondment from Berlin and were specialists in their field, e.g., SS-Captain Heinrich Vopel was an expert on 'Free Masonry' and questions of 'World View', SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer George Schaepel, Head of section V (Criminal Investigation), BdS Krakow, took the Polish Police courses for Criminal Law and Procedure during the wartime emergency.
Prospective candidates for non-commission courses were required to be healthy men between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five, were ranked and segregated according to their standard of education. Not all recruits were successful. Johann Bornholt, an ethnic German was inducted into the School but was soon found to be below the educational standard required. Bornholt was transferred to the prison establishment at Nowy Sacz where he was made a prison guard in the SD security detention block.
Since November, 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 were continually going on. 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 practice, but once the initial phase of the destruction of the Jewish population were 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.
There were specially designed courses for those doing emergency service, i.e., the armed SS. SS- Unterscharfuehrer Wilhelm Oder was in charge of this course. Although Oder was on Rosenbaum`s staff, he was directly answerable to Dr Schoengarth. He was at the Rabka School from the autumn 1941 until March, 1943 when Rosenbaum left. Oder did much of the killing by way of example to his student conscripts. He was an expert in the 'shot in the neck' method. He would show his students how to do this, using his pistol, a Walther PPK, calibre 765, shooting Jews at a distance of 10-20 centimetres. Also used were a various assortments of machine-pistols. (See appendices re Werner Oder.)
SS-Hauptscharfuhrer Walter Proch was also one of the main instructors at the school and like Oder he trained the conscripts in the art of killing and torture. He personally shot many individual Jews in the School. He shot a Jew in the street of Rabka just because he had a beard. Proch shot many people single
handed during operations witnessed by the Jews. Aszer and Grossbarth Blatt were witnesses to the following:
'SS-Hauptscharfuhrer Walter Proch 1942-3 Gestapo officer at the Rabka School shot 6 people for no reason. In 1942, the transport of Jew-workers from Nowy Sachs (Neu-Sandez): he shot 6 Jews while they were washing, and a further 2 for no reason. On the same day he shot up to 50 Jews in a Rabka action. Blatt personally saw Proch hang a Jewish family who were U.S. citizens in the woods at a School execution action.'
Also on the teaching staff: SS-Hauptscharfuehrer/Kriminalassistents Alois Bohnert and Schuppler had been on the permanent staff since November, 1940. SS-Scharfuehrer Bandura was the School driver, Dziuba was clerical officer. These officers from the Waffen SS were brought in to train emergency conscripts and the lower ranks of the Sipo-SD. The female contracted staff (and witnesses) were Meta Kuck (nee Speck), Personal Secretary to Rosenbaum (41-42), Schindler (nee Hendriks), and Engelmann who were also secretaries to Rosenbaum and senior staff. As many as 200-500 Ukrainians, non-commissioned Poles and Germans passed out of the School each month after 6-8 week courses. Students of officer rank on the command courses were of between 3 and 6 months duration.
In addition to the basic recruits, Sipo-SD officers of the senior command structure were sent to the School for refresher courses of shorter duration and personal assessments prior to promotions or change of duty before returning to the war zone. As early as November, 1941, there is photographic evidence of senior Sipo-SD officers from various districts of the Generalgouvnement in the classroom, being lectured by Dr Schoengarth. There is no way of knowing what was subject under discussion, but in view of the circumstances at that time, we may assume with some probability, that engagement of war and the 'Jewish Question' were high on the agenda. Lecturers at the School came from the elite of the Nazi hierarchy: Dr Hans Frank (GG); Globocnik and Hoefle (Lublin); F.W.Krueger, Scherner, Muller, Grosskopf, Schoengarth, Dr Neiding (Krakow); Katzmann, Tanzmann and Hans Krueger (Lvov).
The Soap Rumour
Dr Schoengarth would often chair these lectures and meetings before retiring with his students to the casino for refreshment. Dr Kurt Neiding, a sitting Judge
of the SS/SD Court in Krakow, remembers one such lecture given by an SS-Fuehrer (probably Hoefle) from the office of Odilo Globocnik, SS-Lieutenant General, Lublin and the overall officer in charge of 'Action Reinhardt' in the Generalgouvnement:
'I once took part in a commanders' meeting in Bad Rabka, which was chaired by Dr Schoengarth. An SS-Fuehrer, who was stationed in Lublin, brought a piece of soap with him. It was an experiment which on the orders of Polizeifuehrer Globocnik, had been made out of Jewish corpses. There were obviously attempts being made to use the Jewish corpses to make soap.
In the same trial the statement of the Jew Goodrich who dug the graves in the woods of the Rabka SD School is recorded; he was present when a family was brought to the school for execution. When the family were standing naked, one SS executioner remarked, 'the girl is so fat that soap could be made out of her.'
worker and witness to the activities at the School
(March 2011: Lucia Schon celebrates her 90th birthday in Israel)
Accommodation for Rosenbaum, his guests and lecturers was located in the villa 'Margrabianka', known as the 'Fuehrerheim' situated on the other side of the
Slonka river closely guarded by Ukrainian sentries at all times. The Casino was also available for the SS-Leaders and visiting Security Service personnel. A recreation place for the general SS was established in the villa 'Haus Annemie'. Rosenbaum's fiancée, Annemarie Bachus, was managing the establishment.
Shortly after Rosenbaum's return to the School with Dr Schoengarth from Lvov he appointed auxiliary staff to open up and prepare the School for the first intake of students in the third week of November, 1941. In the School premises he had installed a variety of workshops: tailor's shop, shoemaker, saddlery and a hairdresser's shop, which were all manned by Jewish workmen under the direct supervision of a few Ukrainians; 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 Hela Bauman had been brought from Zakopane to work in the laundry. The Jewesses Sara Schon (Nee Louisa 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 households of Krueger, SS-Schuppler Proch, and finally Rosenbaum. Overseer of the Jews and personal interpreter to Rosenbaum, and very much central to this investigation, was the Jew Paul Beck who lived on the School premises with his son.
Construction of the Shooting Range
Based on the employment of the Jews, Rosenbaum constructed more buildings in the School grounds. He also laid out a sports ground and shooting range in the small woods behind the School. Building materials for this construction work came 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.
Rosenbaum obtained additional Jewish workers from the responsible Employment Office in Nowy Targ. Later on, from May 1942, Jews from other neighbouring towns were transported to the School based upon his needs. When these Jews had outlived their usefulness, they were simply killed off and replaced by others. Arthur Kuhnreich recalls his time in the School:
'On September 1, 1939, war broke out between Poland and Germany.
When the war started, I was 16 years old. I had a beautiful family: a sister, Hessa who was 18 years old and parents. Father's name was Eliasz, mother's was Braindl. We had a lumber export business, chemical farm fertilizers and building materials. We were considered well off and respected by the townspeople. The Germans confiscated everything they could lay their hands on. We found ourselves stripped of all our possessions and for food had to barter clothing, linen, etc. At times, local farmers who knew us brought some potatoes and bread. A Judenrat (Jewish Council) was established in Makow at the order of the Gestapo. They nominated an Obmann (Chairman), Beno Pastor. Asked to join, my father categorically refused. Every day, the Germans gave orders to the Judenrat demanding money, jewellery, furs, furniture, works of art and free labour. Every Jew in town from 16 to 60 was obligated work, without pay, of course. Makow had a population of approximately 5,000, of which 500 were Jews. All Jews had to wear a white armband with a blue Star of David.
In 1941, the Jewish population was about 450. This was a resort town, near Rabka and Zakopane. For some reason, our town was lucky; there were no killings as yet. All this changed drastically with the start of war with Russia in 1941.
At that time, the Gestapo took over the villa Marysin and made it their headquarters. The chief was named Schmidt. Every day, someone was beaten, arrested or shot. The first one to be murdered was the Shochet of
Makow, Mr Mann, for ritually killing a chicken. A short time later, an elderly couple, Eliezer and Liba Grubner were murdered for selling yard goods in exchange for food. They raided a farm house in Bialka on the outskirts of town, wiping out the entire family of Artur Edelstein, an attorney, his wife, son and daughter. Everyone was very fearful.
In the first week of December 1941, the Gestapo demanded twenty men to be sent to Auschwitz concentration camp for work. Father was arrested, but released. We were so happy they let him go, we could hardly believe it. My father said, I don't trust them. It must be a trick. The next day, early in the morning, all of us, men, uncles, cousins, seven in all, went into hiding at the farm of Polish friends, Salapatek, who helped us many times. That same day, two Gestapo men showed up at our house asking for me. My mother told them that I was at work. They said very politely to report to them in the evening and bring all my documents to be checked. My mother asked innocently if there was anything wrong. They said, No, just checking. Naturally, I stayed in hiding, never slept or ate at the same place, afraid of being caught. Of the twenty men arrested and sent to Auschwitz, nobody survived. All were dead within two weeks' time and their ashes were returned to their families for which they had to pay.
In Rabka Zdroj, a similar situation existed, but on an even more cruel and much larger scale. In 1940, the Gestapo confiscated a large building, St. Teresa School, and a couple of villas near a forest. This place became a training School for SS Gestapo (Sicherheitpolizei) in occupied Poland. The sole purpose of this School was to teach how to torture and kill people. From here, murderers were sent out to other places to torture and kill. Chief of this 'college' was Wilhelm Rosenbaum. In 1942, at age 25, he held the fate of thousands of Jews in his hands. In Rabka, he murdered around 1,000 Jews. Nearby, Nowy Targ had another murderer, Heinrich Hamann, who butchered hundreds of Jewish people.
In Makow, we lived in fear, not knowing whose turn would be next. On the 28th April, 1942, large contingents of Gestapo arrived early in the morning in towns of southern Poland: Rabka, Nowy Targ, Nowy Sacz, Makow, etc. They took Jewish people out of bed to the Gestapo, where they were shot. Being on the list of hostages, they came to get me. I made the mistake of sleeping at home that night. They knocked on the
door and shouted, 'Aufmachen!' ('Open up!') Thinking that they were probably looking for men, my sister pushed me toward the window and urged me to jump out and escape. My father also jumped out and we hid in the cellar. When they opened the door, my mother was too stunned to answer, but my sister spoke up, saying that she did not know our whereabouts. They told her to get dressed and to come along. She was taken to the villa Marysin, which housed the Gestapo. After it quieted down upstairs, we came out of the cellar. Upon learning that my sister was arrested, I went to surrender myself so that she is freed. My parents were against that. My father made a notation in a Holy Book, saying that his daughter was arrested and he hoped that she would not be harmed, that perhaps she will only be sent off to work. On my way to surrender myself, I met a former Polish policeman, who asked me where I was going. I told him. He said that it was already too late; all hostages, including my sister, were shot immediately against the wall of the Gestapo building, ten men and two women. He said that if I went there, they would do the same to me. I went home, very sad and depressed, but kept quiet, not being able to relay such terrible news to my parents. The Polish neighbours knew and also kept quiet. About three weeks later, my father found out from a Volksdeutch, who worked for the Gestapo. How my parents took this is very hard for me to describe. Father made another notation in the Holy Book, giving the date and describing what happened. In case someone survived, Kaddish (Memorial Prayer) could be said for my sister. The Holy Book was found after the war by a friend of mine, and because it had our business seal with the name on it, he knew it belonged to us. He found me and mailed it to me.
In 1941, the Gestapo raided the house of Warenhaupt, who was a barber in town. He had four sons, one of whom, Dolek, lost his life on the front in 1939. Three were active in the Underground. One day, while visiting their parents in Makow, the Gestapo came to arrest them. They jumped the two Gestapo men, banging their heads together, thereby knocking them out. They escaped. Two of them, Kuba and Heniek, survived the war. Maniek was recognized in Katowice, in late 1942, while cutting hair in a barber shop. That same Volksdeutch who told my father the news about my sister, recognized Maniek Warenhaupt and shot him on the spot. Sometime later, the brothers Kuba and Heniek, together with partisan friends, came to Makow. They took this murderer out in the middle of the night, read him the Underground death sentence and shot him for the murder of their brother.
The weather in the months of May, June and July 1942 was beautiful. All was in bloom. But at the same time, ominous clouds were gathering over the Jewish people. Everyone felt that something terrible was about to happen. During that summer, my father and I were on a list of employees at a brush factory, supposedly employed. The owner, Mr Emil Pierog, was my father's friend from School. This used to be a brick factory and the tall chimney served to hide the antenna of the Polish Underground radio transmitter. Mr Pierog was a leader in the Underground, but we did not know it at that time.
I was afraid to go home, staying away to avoid capture. One day, on the 1st, 1942, there was a commotion near our house. Noticing a local unarmed policeman, I asked him what was going on. He told me that my mother was arrested and held at the prison, the reason being that the Gestapo had me on their list of three men who were needed in Rabka. I told him, You can take me with you, but make sure my mother is freed. He kept his promise. Mother cried and was very upset about my surrender. I told her not to worry, it might be safer for me in Rabka and it was only for work. That same policeman escorted me to Rabka camp. Before boarding the train, my aunt, Kaila Kuhnreich Lebron, her husband Jonas, son Romek, and daughter Henia, who had come to stay with us to avoid going to the Cracow ghetto, gave me postcards, with instructions that I should write when I arrived, so that my parents would not worry. It was strictly forbidden to do that, but the policeman mailed it for me. On the 2nd of August, 1942, I found myself together with one hundred young men between 18 and 28 in the Rabka camp. We had to be ready for work at six o'clock in the morning. Breakfast consisted of dark warm water, nothing else. At noontime, there was soup and one slice of bread which had to last the entire day. We were building a sports complex and to work 14-15 hours a day at a fast pace, seven days a week. Armed guards watched us and beat us for no reason at all. They told us how much had to be accomplished every day; if not, ten of us would be shot. If they thought that you worked too slowly, you were shot on the spot. At times, the Gestapo brought large transports of Jews from nearby towns to be executed in the forest. We were forced to dig the ditches, and then bury the victims. We were forced to watch a hanging of ten innocent people. This was part of Wilhelm Rosenbnaum's entertainment. Besides being exhausted, desperate and horrified, we were also starved all the time. Some of our people could not take it and committed suicide. Many were on the brink of it. When
leaving for Rabka, I had promised my cousin, Henia Lebron, that I would write another card to the address of our Polish neighbour, Mr. Kokot, and that I would tell how it was at the camp. I wrote that it would have been better for me to have gone where my sister Hessa was. They understood my message. I received two food packages from home; at the time, I did not know that it had been smuggled in by Mrs Genowefa Pierog, who risked her life doing it. She was the wife of my father's friend, Mr Emil Pierog. Mrs. Pierog, with her two daughters, survived the war, but her husband, Emil, was arrested in the summer of 1944, sent to Zakopane, tortured, and then executed in the Montelupich prison in Cracow for Underground activities.
The other two men from Makow, besides me, sent to Rabka, were Feingold and Fischer. Rumours began circulating that any day now, the whole southern part of Poland would become Judenfrei (free of Jews). The feared end came on a sunny Sunday, the 1st September, 1942.
Wilhelm Rosenbaum and his cohorts assembled all Jews from Rabka at our camp. He also removed from the camp anyone with red hair, which he especially hated, those who wore glasses, and, in general, anyone who did not pass his scrutiny. They were all herded off on a freight train to their final destination, Belzec. One of the three from Makow, Feingold, was among those taken, because he happened to have red hair. That same day, the Jews of Makow, about 160 in number, were packed into freight cars after being ordered by SS Officer Heinrich Karhof to assemble at the railroad station. Among them was Szmuel Zainwel Beer, the Rabbi of Makow. All were sent to the crematorium in Belzec. Out of 600,000, not one person survived.
About 92 Jews escaped into the surrounding villages. They could not hide out for very long. They were captured and gathered up at the villa Marysin, the Gestapo headquarters. They were kept in the cellar under inhuman conditions for two to three weeks, and then taken out into the yard, one at a time, and shot. All were killed and buried right there. The Obman of the Makow Judenrat, Beno Pastor, shot himself. One Jewish woman was saved by the stationmaster of Makow. He received a medal from Yad Vashem in Jerusalem after the war. Jewish workers in Zakopane were all executed on that fateful day of September, 1942, among them, my cousin, Romek Lebron.
I was one of 100 men left in the Rabka camp for the time being. The atmosphere among us was that of hopelessness. We knew that the past had been destroyed forever and we did not see any future. Even the Gestapo looked depressed, for there were no more Jews to be killed. Here and there, some were dragged out of hiding, from bunkers, but very few in comparison to the past, and that made the SS unhappy. Also, they did not relish the idea of going to fight at the front. Three of us, Unterberger, Schiff and I, were assigned as gardeners for Rosenbaums' girlfriend, Ann Marie Bachus.
A villa belonging to a rich Pole was confiscated for their love nest. It had a big orchard. We were to work, doing gardening, picking and storing the fruit in the basement. Every morning, we were escorted by an armed guard to work and back. The three of us wanted some apples, but all were afraid, until I got careless and before leaving work, I stuffed some into my knickers' legs down in the basement. It seems the guard must have noticed and promptly reported me. Rosenbaum and his girlfriend, with other SS, were having a dinner party upstairs. One SS came down to check it out. He ordered me to open my knickers and the apples fell out. Seeing the crime, he punched me hard in the jaw a couple of times and said not to do this ever again. Next time, just ask. Of course, I never did. After a while, we thought that this episode had been forgotten. Rosenbaum did not. One evening, after 9:00 p.m., armed guards came to tell the three of use and seven others who must have sinned, that Rosenbaum wanted to see us in his office. We cried, said goodbye to our friends and thought that this must be the end. The guards took the ten of us to the Gestapo building. We waited in the hallway in utter terror. We saw Polish prisoners brought in for interrogation and heard their screams; they looked awful. Around midnight, Rosenbaum showed up with a cane in his hand. We were lined up in a row; each one was hit with the cane over the head, once forward and once back. Two huge bumps swelled up on each head. I had one bump, being at the end of the line. It was painful and we had swollen heads, but were glad to be left alive. We returned to the camp and went to work the next day as usual. This was a first in the history of this camp. We still worked on the sports complex which was carved out of a forest.
In the middle of February 1943, the camp was ordered to be divided in half. Fifty workers were sent to the Plaszow concentration camp. I even volunteered, thinking about escape. There was no chance at all.'
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