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The Leadership Return to the School (cont.)

 

Accommodation for Jews

The mobilised Jews who, like all Jews in the Generalgouvnement, had to wear an arm band with a blue Star of David as identification were able to stay in their houses. Outside Jew-workers were accommodated in the proximity of the School in three houses on Slonna Street (now called Ulica Poniatonskiego), which had become a mini-camp surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by armed Ukrainians. Each day these Jews were marched under escort into the School for work and returned under guard in the evening. Gradually, the Jewish population from Bad Rabka were massed together there. The Jews of Rabka fared better than many other communities in the district, not only retaining 200 workers in full employment (without pay) but they managed to stay alive.[156] Many of these Jews had been personally selected by Rosenbaum from Jews in the immediate town or brought in from outside the area. The camp kitchen was under the supervision of the Jewess Alicja Nogala.

 

Appearance of Rosenbaum

Rosenbaum made sure of showing himself regularly in his impeccable smart uniform during his service and free time. According to the dress regulations, he was wearing 'roebuck leather' or grey gloves. On his blue uniform shirt, he was wearing, apart from the gold H-J sign (Hitler Jugen), the Reich-sports sign, the SA-sports sign and later the war merit cross with swords and other decorations.[157] Within the Sipo-SD-Fuehrer-corps, he was looked upon as a sharp, dynamic and well-educated Sipo-SD-Fuehrer. Rosenbaum, in the first place considered himself an SS-Fuehrer above his loyalty to Party. He was proud of being promoted SS-Fuehrer at the age of 25, and being the youngest SS-Fuehrer in the Krakow District.

 

Conduct of Subordinates

Friends of the same rank considered Rosenbaum to be arrogant and a man where the 'Fuehrer went to his head': others considered him friendly in their official and private relationship. The Sipo-SD-staff under him, knew to respect him. Rosenbaum appeared to others as a superior who was used to giving orders and being obeyed without question. Nobody dared not to execute his orders, nor act without his orders for important things. Rosenbaum was correct and polite towards female employees of his office. They considered him to be a lively and cheerful Sipo-SD-Fuehrer.[158]

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Conduct towards Jews

Rosenbaum exercised power with a despotic cruelty over his Jewish-workers. He tortured them physically, psychologically, mentally and hurt their religious feelings. From their point of view, he was the 'master over life and death', 'the horror of the camp', a 'God'. He put the Jews working in the School in constant fear of death. Each worker avoided him. His appearance in the places of work meant corporal punishment, or the possibility of being shot. Almost daily, Rosenbaum appeared on foot or horseback at the building sites in the School area, shooting range, sports grounds, and stables. Among the workers, everyone became restless; working faster, not to attract attention. Rosenbaum urged on the frightened people: 'Shovel, Shovel, fill the carts and run!', 'Shovel, shovel, shovel you Jews, I will show you how to work!', 'Go, go, on the double!' were his commands. If a worker drew attention for no reason, he received a lash with a whip covered by a metal piece at its end, which Rosenbaum always carried with him. The lash was given in such a way that the metal end of the whip would hit the victim from the back towards the front in the face, in the proximity of the eyes causing swelling and bruising of the eye socket. Rosenbaum also used other objects and his bare fist to maltreat his workers with the slightest excuse.[159] He used every possible opportunity to hurt the Jews in their human dignity – the 'foolish kid' of Dr Schoengarth was making his presence felt with unprecedented power.[160]

There was a catalogue of violence and abuse against his Jew workers, that would pale into insignificance when placed alongside the catalogue of murder that was about to break out in the Rabka School.

 

Training Students

Of particular significance, was the 'on-site' practical training using 'live bait'! – Jews: men, women and children specifically selected from the locality and held in captivity in the School grounds, were brought out of their confinement when required for shooting practice seminars, as happened with the young mothers and children from the Jordanow 'action' on the 30th August, 1942. The practice of shooting babies in the air, which was practised in the School, was a preferred method and adopted mostly by the Ukrainians. The ostensible reason was to avoid ricocheting bullets which were a danger to the shooter, and were well documented in occurrences in the Generalgouvrnement. The dominant motivation was to show their total disdain for the Jews and show off their expertise.[161]

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Gravesites in the School

Another practice introduced during training was the digging and preparation of graves at the sites of execution. Under supervision of SS-Scharfuehrer Bohnert, these graves were dug by the Jewish staff in the presence of the instructors and students. The graves or pits were of exact Berlin manual dimensions of shape and size, but may be varied according to soil construction. At Belzec where the ground was all sand, pits (between 10m. x 10m. x 6m. deep and the largest 65m. x 25m. x 6m deep) were dug by hand with straight sharp edges. Later a machine was brought in to do the excavating. In these isolated execution sites (like Rabka) small and large pits (5m. x 5m. x 3m. deep), the digging was all done by hand. Initially, the Jews were told that this work was for 'air raid defence', but they were never fooled and there was always one spare pit held over for unexpected arrivals[162]. When Hans Krueger organised the mass killing of 12,000 Jews on 'Bloody Sunday' (12.10. 1941) in Stanislawow, he preferred to have the pits 'V' shaped so that body fluids settled below the corpses. Another addition practised at the School and elsewhere, was the plank over the pit method used by in the villages in the Stryj valley. Alternatively, the plank was placed on the pit edge. In both these cases the victims were ordered to stand on the plank; in one case they fell into the pit when shot, in the other, the victim was propelled forward into the pit. The idea of executing Jews in the woods near the SD School appealed to the Gestapo for its exclusiveness.

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Methodology of Murder

Initially throughout the GG, the Jewish victims were shot clothed, but this changed when orders came from the RSHA that all Jews were to be shot naked, the clothes cleaned and sent directly to the KdS in Krakow.[163] The method of shooting and the selection of weapons were also displayed at the School. Rosenbaum preferred to shoot his victims in the back of the neck with a pistol, a practice he had learnt from Dr Schoengarth in Lvov, but the instructors used all manner of weaponry depending on circumstances. For running targets across the School shooting range carbines were used. Throughout the Generalgouvnement and occupied areas, particularly on Soviet territory, the Einsatzgruppen initially executed their victims with more or less standard execution procedures using rifles, two shooters to a victim or properly convened execution squads with man to man, woman or child! There were no such considerations or niceties in Bad Rabka.

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Supply and Demand

To fit in with training schedules, Jews were often snatched off the streets in towns and villages and bussed into the School from a wide area: Nowy Sacz, Lvov, Tarnow, Krakow, etc.[164] Several witnesses declared that Rosenbaum hacked hands and feet off Jewish children, then ordered the children tied to trees, and then proceeded to shoot these atrociously tortured human targets himself.[165]

gal026.jpg
Figure: 26 (circa. 1950). Sent to the author by Krystyna Kynst. On the back of the photograph was written:
'Silver fir tree next to where people were shot. It was hit by so many bullets that its sap ran like tears.'
[166]

 

During his quieter moments, Rosenbaum would take pot-shots at Jews from his office window, from his horse carriage, while on horseback, or just walking the grounds. In one of his more enlightened exhibitions, Rosenbaum called on one of his instructors to demonstrate to a gathered audience the School's torture techniques which had become a daily occurrence. The selected victim had an iron rod placed across his neck. The instructor balanced his full weight on the rod, rocking from side to side until he had crushed the man's neck until he died. Another victim was brought forward and the exercise was repeated with variations.

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It wasn't just the Jews who were subjected to this inhuman behaviour as there are many recorded instances of similar atrocities committed against POWs under German control, particularly the Russians: some were tortured with bars of red-hot iron; their eyes gouged out, their stomachs ripped open; their feet, hands, fingers, ears, and noses hacked off.[167] During the Barbarossa campaign two Russians, political and military personnel, were found nailed to a stake with a five-point star carved on their bodies. Another Russian soldier found nearby was burned and his ears cut off.[168]

All forms of murder and torture were carried out here at Bad Rabka: shooting, hanging and beatings. It is estimated that over 2000 Jews from 30 neighbouring villages were held and the victims executed in the School grounds. It was in many cases murder by appointment.

Further evidence came from the local official named Grimmlinger. He exposed the Weissmann, Hamann and Rosenbaum murder conspiracy. Grimmlinger's office supplied goods to the School from Neu Markt and was a regular visitor to the School and was present when executions were taking place. He remembers on one occasion over 100 Jews were being prepared to be shot at the shooting range. He was also privy to the shooting of Beck at a later date. Grimmlinger stated that there were many murders of 'picked-up' Jews by the Border Police. It was an accepted procedure for a phone call to be made to the School just to arrange a grave. The SS would just turn up, murder the victims and leave until the next time. It was only necessary to inform Rosenbaum or Bohnert by phone. No records were kept. See also Rosenbaum statement 9th August, 1962, 993/69, the witness Dattner.[169]

Pious Jews brought into the School were received with particular satisfaction as it gave the reception cadre the opportunity to extend their anti-Semitic cruelty even more intently, which also provided entertainment. These unfortunates were made to run the gauntlet of the SS and Ukrainians, who beat them mercilessly before being imprisoned in the specially prepared cells in the stables and pigsties which had been adapted for this purpose.[170] Kept imprisoned, without food or water in filthy conditions, they waited for selection at the whim of the Commandant.

Again, to fit in with schedules and the curriculum of daily instruction, a selected number of these pious Jews were brought out of the cells to be humiliated and ridiculed before being marched to the pits that had been prepared in the woods. Stripped naked, their scrolls cut into shreds, they fell or walked the plank before

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being shot into the pit crying 'Shema Yisrael!' (the Jewish prayer to be repeated at death). These actions were all staged managed performances in the presence of V.I.Ps, senior and junior SS ranks candidates from all over the Generalgouvnement. To cover up their murder, Rosenbaum ordered the Rabka Town Clerk, Cheslav Tribowski, to register the deaths as 'victims of heart attack'.[171]

 

Further Actions within the School[172]

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. For training on the shooting range, buses laden with children came from Auschwitz, and were released like 'Hares' to be shot as moving targets.[173] These incidents were widely known and were not isolated or unusual occurrences. We also have corroborated reports in the camps and ghettos, of Jews rounded up for liquidation, who were sent running and used as target practice.[174]We have other corroboration and confirmed reports from a number of locations where Jews were used for shooting targets at the whim of the perpetrator, particularly 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 School, then taken to the courtyard one by one and used for target practice.[175] 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 by the SS who then moved around the village taking pot-shots at other children running in the streets.[176] In the village of Voskresenskoye, Dubinin district, a three-year-old boy was selected for target practice and shot with machine-gun fire.[177] In the village of Basmanova, Glinka district, 200 schoolchildren working in the fields were rounded up and used for target practice.[178] In the village of Vinnitsa over 500 Jews had been rounded up in the market place where they tore up their paper money. The children, and there were many, made a run for it across the square only to be picked off by the marksmen: 'I saw children being shot as though they were hares and you could see a number of children's bodies lying in the street.'[179]

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, as explained by the Jew Michael Ettinger:

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'Selected Capos of the Jewish prisoners were regularly ordered by Scharfuehrer Bohnert to attend instruction classes which were usually 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 a time, even the Germans knew these lies were not practical. The pit had to be dug to precise measurements which would be given at the time. On 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 to instructions, which meant arranging the dead bodies, and then filling in the pits to a level. 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.'[180]

It was Ettinger that brought to notice that the Dutchman, Pieter Menten, was a regular visitor to the School when he would back his car up to the garage and unload the most magnificent paintings you have seen in your life.[181]

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 Generalgouvnement in which Rosenbaum was personally engaged. Only cases where there was direct evidence against Rosenbaum were the subject of later trials. There were certainly many other incidents that we will never know about.

In the case of mass executions, the Jews that were to be shot were accommodated during the day in the bunker next to the School, which was guarded by Ukrainians. Where smaller groups were concerned, which was frequently the case in executions of 'picked up' Jews, the victims were locked up in the so-called 'clinks' (cells).[182] One of these was the cellar under the pigsty where the victims were made to lie face down on earth floors.[183] According to the size of the group, a number of Jew-workers were ordered by Scharfuehrer Bohnert to dig the graves hard and fast so as to be ready on the day of execution. By the afternoon, the work of digging the grave always had to be finished ready

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for the executions which usually took place early evening. Small groups of 3-5 people, sometimes more, were taken out of the bunkers to the graves 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. The Jews had improvised their own method based on their experience to avoid being stuck in the pit: from a depth of 3 metres, the workers built steps into the side of the pit which enabled them to climb out in a hurry. It was frequently the case that the victims brought to the grave had already been beaten up and were ordered to undress and stand as directed. During this time, the gravediggers were either sent back to the School or had to hide in the undergrowth or amongst the trees in the woods some 20 metres from the graveside depending on circumstances. If ordered to hide nearby, they were instructed to turn away from the shooting until ordered to return and then seal the grave.

At the time of these executions, Rosenbaum would appear with his SS Party. Sometimes terrible scenes took place. The victims screamed in Yiddish for fear of death and begged for their lives. Mothers were imploring the SS to shoot them first, before shooting their children. Women refused to undress and their clothes were ripped off by force from their bodies. Then these chosen Jews were ordered, by force if necessary, to stand at the edge of the graves or sit around the graveside. They were killed by a single shot in the nape of the neck (as per training). The bodies fell into the grave or were given a kick by their executioner right after the shot. Other methods were also used: the plank was placed across the pit, and the victim was invited to walk across the plank to the centre when they were shot.[184] (This procedure was exactly the same adopted by Pieter Menten and zbV in their flurries into the villages in the Stryj Valley.)

The grave was a horrifying sight: the bodies were lying in total disorder, one on top of the other and covered in blood. The Jewish workers 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 were not dead. Rosenbaum or other executioners would fire additional shots to finish them off. After the shootings the bodies were covered with lime and then with earth. The execution site was then sealed over. The clothes of the victims were collected by the Jewish workers, taken to the School where they were cleaned and repaired, removing Jewish Stars etc., then either sent to Krakow or re-used locally.[185]

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On the 20th May, 1942, Rosenbaum ordered through the Judenrat at least 45 old and disabled Jews from Rabka (those that he had previously noted) to come to the School. Among them there was the mother of the Jewess Nogala (Mrs Paster), as well as the grandmother of the Jewess Schon (Mrs Ernestine Kranz), and her uncle (Chaim Beim). The grandson of Mrs Kranz, Mark Goldfinger, 11 years, remembers the day his grandmother (Mrs Kranz) was taken away by the local Polish policeman and a representative of the SS:

'When the Polish Police and SS called at our house they asked for Ernestine Kranz. My mother told them she wasn't at home, to which the SS man said 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.

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. We heard the shots as we lived close to the School. 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.'

The Jews concerned: the ones Rosenbaum had marked with a cross in his lists came during the day to the School, not expecting the worse. After their arrival, the Jews were locked in the bunker next to the School building and guarded by Ukrainians. They had to lie flat down, with their faces towards the earth floor. (See appendices re Mark Goldfinger and Werner Oder.)

That same day, Jewish workers had started to dig a grave at the execution site behind the School. SS-Scharfuehrer Bohnert had chosen about 20-25 Jewish workers to do this work. At 5 p.m., the locked up victims in the stalls were taken in small groups by the Ukrainian guards, who were beating them and urging them on to the execution area. The gravediggers 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 grave. One Jewess who refused to undress had her clothes ripped off her body. Simultaneously, Rosenbaum

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arrived with a posse of Sipo-SD and immediately started the action. Rosenbaum personally shot at least 6 Jews with his pistol in the back of the neck. Sipo-SD -Bohnert, Oder, Bandura, and the Ukrainian Wosdolowski all shot Jews into the grave. The bodies were arranged and the graves treated as generally described above.[186]

Rosenbaum believed the Jewish workers from Bad Rabka to be insufficient 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 Sacz was the Central Employment Agency for Jewish labour, so he made a number of requests for more labour. Between May and July, 1942, at least three working transports were sent to Bad Rabka from Nowy Sacz, on the confirmation order of the Commander-in-Chief of the Security Police (Dr Schoengarth).[187]

 

Nowy Sacz Actions (1)

In late 1940, Nowy Sacz had become a centre for a Jewish labour pool which was drawn from towns and villages in the surrounding area. The camp was established in the Carpathian Mountains in the village of Lipie near the town of Koluszowa. Here the Jews were put to useless work breaking up rocks and transferring the debris from place to place. Not far from Koluszowa and near the town of Debica, was the labour camp Pustkow where the Jews from the Lipie camp were often sent to join hard labour gangs building roads. This was a cruel camp whose Commandant, Schmidt, hanged Jews on a regular basis.[188]

The Gestapo Chief, in Nowy Sacz (1941-1943), was SS-Obersturmfuehrer Heinrich Hamann, (who was no less efficient than Rosenbaum) as he had already shot 881 Jews in the nearby Mishana Dolne,[189] and shot his own deputy SS-Untersturmfuehrer Koster in a drunken brawl following celebrations in the Casino after the shooting of 300 Jews in the town cemetery. Hamann was the organiser of this transport to Rabka, and later to the final clearing and murder all the Jews in the big ghetto in August, 1942.[190] Nowy Sacz was adjacent to Rabka and was the main supplier of Jewish labour to the SD School. A separate prison block of 12 large, 6 medium and 3 single cells had been set aside for Jews supervised by the SD School reject Bornholt.[191]

Prison Guard Bornholt gives us an interesting view as to the attitude to the shooting of Jews:

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'Members of the Grenzpolizeikommissariat, Krakow (Nowy Sacz), were, with very few exceptions, quite happy to take part in shooting Jews. They had a ball! Obviously they can't say that today! Nobody failed to turn up... I want to repeat that people today give a false impression when they say that the actions against Jews were carried out unwillingly. There was great hatred against the Jews; it was revenge, and they wanted money and gold. Don't let's kid ourselves; there was always something up for grabs during the Jewish actions. Everywhere you went there was always something for the taking. The poor Jews were brought in, the rich Jews were fetched and their homes were scoured.'[192]

Nowy Sacz Actions (2)

In May 1942, the first transport was organised from Nowy Sacz by Herr Swoboda, Head of the Employment Department for Jewish workers.[193] The Judenrat kept a file of all fit Jews available for transport. Those unfit for work were not registered and taken to the cemetery to be shot. When a registered Jew died, the card was marked with a cross in the files and then destroyed.[194]

A call went out from the Judenrat to the Jewish Police to round up male Jews between the age of 15 and 40, and bring them to the former 'Maccabi' clubhouse. After a short fitness inspection by the Employment Office a selection was made. At least 60, probably 80, 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 Sacz. On the 9th May, 1942, the transport with the Jew-workers left by train for Bad Rabka.[195] The transport was received in the afternoon by the Rabka Judenrat, Paul Beck (from the School), and Scharfuehrer Bohnert. The transport escort handed over a list of names to Beck who brought the Jews to the local baths where they were shaven. Beck then allocated them accommodation in one of the three houses in the work-camp.

The following morning the newcomers were brought to the School and received by Scharfuehrer Bohnert who checked the transport list. Rosenbaum arrived in a horsedrawn carriage. Beck informed the Jews: 'Here comes “Leutnant” Rosenbaum!' Rosenbaum made a speech and expressed with sharp words that one had to work and work again. Whoever did not work was 'dealt with'. Accompanied by Bohnert, Rosenbaum inspected the Jewish workers. The Jews were divided into 4 or 5 groups and each group had a Kapo who was chosen

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from the ranks. The Kapos selected were the Jews Farber, Sammy Frolich, Lonker, Hennek, Grossbard and Joseph Grossbard. The Jewish workers were sent to their places of work in the School. Separate groups were set to work levelling the terrain around the School, while other groups had to build a cellar under the Pigsties – later to be the prison bunker for the prisoners – and the biggest building project, the installation of the shooting range, which was planned a few hundred metres behind the School in the woods. In order to make clear the lines of fire on this range, considerable earth masses had to be removed.[196]

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 called Wieldstein who happened to have a scar on his face.

For the time being these 'noted' 8 Jews were ignored. Then on 26th May 1942, very shortly after, these 'noted' Jews were separated from their work groups and brought to the bunkers and imprisoned. A large posse of Jewish gravediggers supervised by SS-Scharfuehrer Bohnert and Ukrainian guards went to the woods and prepared a mass grave. That same day, the 8 Jews were paraded before an assembled class and shot by Rosenbaum in the back of the neck. Among them was the gravedigger 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.[197]

On the same day, in the evening, 60 Jews were brought to the execution site. Supervised personally by Rosenbaum who demonstrated to the assembled class how each Jew was to be shot, the Jews were made to undress which brought laughter from Rosenbaum because they couldn't undress quickly enough, then in small groups were made to face the pit and shot in the presence of the other waiting Jews. The witnesses to all this were the Jewish gravediggers hiding in the nearby bushes waiting for the 'whistle order' from Bohnert to cover the bodies and fill the grave.[198]

 

Nowy Sacz Actions (3)[199]

In June, 1942, a further transport of Jewish workers from Nowy Sacz arrived at the railway station to be picked up by Beck, SS-Scharfuehrers Bohnert and

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Proch. Several of the Jews from this transport were shot en route to the School. The others were dealt with in the normal way.

At the end of July, 1942, in the early afternoon, another transport of Jewish workers arrived from Nowy Sacz. Some of the 100-strong group were orthodox Jews with 'pajes', beards and dressed in traditional clothing: some of them were carrying holy books and Torah Scrolls. The Jewish workers were young, fit and healthy to be employed on the terrain or building sites in the School. The Jews were met by Beck, the Sipo-SD and Ukrainians and taken to the baths as described above. On the march to the 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 collected later by lorry and taken to the School to be buried with other actions of the day.[200]

When these Jews arrived at the School, Sipo-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 taken from the religious Jews were destroyed or kept back to allow these Jews to take them to the graves. This was not a consideration but an added torment as it produced laughter among the SS. Dogs were let loose on the Jews to frighten them, for fun. Their tormentors also beat 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?'[201]

During the day, about 20 Jewish workers had excavated a large grave in the woods. The pit measured 20m. X 4m. and 3m. (Deep) About 12-15 Jews were picked out from the newly arrived transport and separated from the others. That evening at least 59 Jews were executed in the woods. Rosenbaum personally directed the execution in the presence of eager onlookers and was carried out by the Sipo-SD and Ukrainian Instructors as described above.

 

Action against Picked-Up Jews (1)

Approximately one month before the deportation en-bloc of the Rabka Jews to Belzec (end of August), Rosenbaum ordered 5 Jewish workers to dig a grave in the woods.[202]The digging was supervised by the Ukrainian guard Jawoski. The Jewish workers had to hurry-up in order to finish on time. Some diversion brought Jawoski to say the following: 'Let's go, hurry up, if Rosenbaum finds you still working, he will kill you all!' All of a sudden, Jawoski ordered: 'Get

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out of the hole and disappear 10 metres in the vicinity; when you hear a whistle, show yourselves again!' The Jew-workers hid in the surrounding bushes and trees. Directly after that, Rosenbaum, whose voice could already be heard, appeared with SS-Scharfuehrer Bohnert. A family: father, mother and a 20 – year-old daughter with their grandchild were brought to the graveside. They were 'picked up' Jews, namely the kind that was either caught with Aryan papers, denounced, or had moved outside of their residential area.[203] The victims first realised what was about to happen when they saw the pit and started to scream. They were forced to undress and stand on the edge of the pit. The mother of the grandchild begged Rosenbaum to shoot her before the child. Rosenbaum shot the child first and then the mother. After the execution of this family, the Jew-workers appeared on the command of a whistle. The Jew Susskind was ordered to get into the pit and arrange the bodies. When Susskind touched the child, he almost fainted. Rosenbaum yelled and cursed: 'You dog, if you do not turn these people around, I will shoot you!' The Jew Form took his working colleague out of the pit and took his place in the pit. During this time, Rosenbaum was standing at the edge of the pit and was watching the Jew Form working who was now covered in blood. Subsequently, the grave, as usual, was closed and levelled.[204]

 

Murder by Appointment

At about the same time as the 'group' hanging at the School was organised by Rosenbaum, the Zakopane Gestapo team led by SS-Captain Weissmann and SS-Scharfuehrer Bottcher, brought to the School a large group of people and placed them in the detention block. It is not know if they were Jews or Poles. The Rabka Jews, supervised by SS-Scharfuehrer Bohnert, prepared a very large grave in the woods. In the late afternoon the prisoners were brought out in small groups to the execution site where they were individually shot into the pit.[205]

About two days later, the Zakopane Gestapo team returned with a single Polish prisoner and took him directly to the stable block where he was hanged with rope supplied by Bohnert. The Jewish workers took the body to the woods for burial. Some days after this hanging, the Zakopane Gestapo brought a family of American Jews (named Falk or Feig) to the School. They had attempted to cross the border into Slovakia but were caught. The family were taken to the woods in the usual way where they were individually shot by Proch.[206]

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Group Hanging

A few days before Sunday the 30th August, 1942, when the deportations took place in both Bad Rabka and Neu Markt to Belzec, a new type of execution took place, deviating from the now practised methods. News about a forthcoming deportation had filtered through to the Jewish population. Some of the Jews who belonged to the permanent staff at the School decided to escape. Two of the escapees, the brothers Czarnowicki, both of whom worked in the tailor's shop, managed to reach Krakow. More Jews escaped when they started to close off the accommodation of the Jewish workers, whose 3 houses were below the School premises right on the Slonnka River. Based on this development, Rosenbaum decided to put a plan to the test, in order to avoid further escapes.

Immediately after work, the Jewish workers were ordered to gather for a roll call on open space behind the School. Not less than 150 Jews paraded. In a barn type shed on the building site, at the back of the School, preparations were made for a hanging. Ropes were placed or attached with hooks on horizontal beams. Underneath there were boxes or barrels covered by boards. Apart from the Jewish workers, Rosenbaum, SS-Bohnert, Oder, Badura, Paul Beck (Jewish foreman), the Ukrainians instructors and students were present. Ten Jews were brought to the spot, among them being the young boy Edek Liebenheimer who was Rosenbaum's 'boot boy'. All the victims had been locked in the 'clink' (cells). Also among these chosen Jews was one member of the Judenrat, Simon Zollmann. The 10 Jews were placed on the prepared barrels and boards. The ropes were put around their necks. Rosenbaum yelled to the gathered mass that workers had escaped and therefore these Jews would hang as a deterrent. The gathered Jews were ordered to look in the direction of the execution place. The boards were pushed from under the victims' 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 fell on the ground. Liebenheimer tried to escape. When the Sipo-SD was about to shoot him, Rosenbaum yelled in wild excitement: 'Do not shoot, hang again!' Liebenheimer begged Rosenbaum: 'Mr Untersrurmfuehrer, please shoot me!' Rosenbaum yelled at him: 'You dog, for you I am not a 2nd Lieutenant 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.[207]

The victims were taken by the Jew-workers to the grave in the woods. One living victim, carried by the Jew Kalfus, was shot on the way. Shots were fired

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in the grave to make sure all were dead. Rosenbaum stayed at the execution place until the end of the hanging action.

 

Eyewitness Statements:

Hirsch Schiffeldrin

On Yom Kippur Eve, 1942, many Jews were rounded-up for failing to report for a deportation (to Belzec). Hirsch Schiffeldrin recalled:

'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.'

Dr. David Yacobovitz:

'Untersturmfuehrer Willhelm 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.

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When the Judenrat could not come up with the payment, Hamann gathered 800 Jews in the square and murdered them.'[208]

 

Frania Tiger:

We Jews of Rabka were only 1500 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,[209] 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.

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.[210]

On Yom Kippur Eve, 1942, many Jews were rounded-up for failing to report for a deportation (to Belzec).

The end of August, beginning of September, 1942, (a few days after the hanging) the widow of Simon Zollmann (one of the hanged) was 'picked up' with one of their two sons. The Jewess Zollmann and her son were locked up in the bunker and the pigsty with other Jews including a certain Stern.

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 'doesn't know he is a Jew'. Rosenbaum shot the child and then the mother. The grave was covered in the usual way.

 

Picked-Up Jews (2)

A woman, man and young girl aged 18-19 years – most probably a family – were 'picked up' and brought to the School. The Jew-workers Kalfus and two others from the Neu Markt transport, Bier and Grunspan, were ordered to dig a grave in the woods. The victims were ordered to undress and face the pit. One of the SS

[Page 96]

who was watching said that the girl was so fat that soap could be made out of her. Rosenbaum executed the family in the usual way.[211]

 

Picked-Up Jews (3)

Towards the end of 1942 when the ground was already frozen, the Jew-workers Form and Stammberger were ordered to dig a grave in the woods in the usual way. In the afternoon, at least 15 Jews from the bunker were brought to the graveside. While passing the bunker, the Jew-workers heard yelling and screaming through the grated windows. The prisoners were hungry and wanted food and water. Among the Jews who were walking towards the wood, was a father, mother and a 4-year-old child who was being carried in the father's arms. When the group knew what was about to happen, they hugged and kissed each other. Among the group was a girl in her teens. She was approaching the grave cheerfully and pleased in protest. One of the Sipo-SD guards, or maybe it was Rosenbaum, went to the girl and yelled: 'Do you not know where this is leading to?' The young girl answered: 'I want to show you how a Polish girl faces death!' Rosenbaum led this execution in the usual way.[212]

 

Shooting of the family Rosenbaum (7)

In Bad Rabka, there was a Jewish family who had the same name as the School Commandant (Rosenbaum). There was a mother, father, and a 15-year-old daughter and son, who was about 10 years old. Before the war, the mother's side of the family owned a haberdashery shop near the railway station. Until the German occupation, the father was a 'driver'; he took care of all the affairs in Bad Rabka, travelling to other cities and to the countryside. As soon as the School of the Commander-in-Chief of the Security Police (BdS) was settled in Rabka, he became a Jewish worker in the School; he worked on the small farm and guarded the sheep. Only when the Jewish population had to present themselves in the School, in the spring of 1942, SS-Rosenbaum noticed that there was a Jewish family in Bad Rabka with his name. He could not stand the thought of this. Rosenbaum realised he had a name with a Jewish sound and therefore, he had previously filed an application before the war to change his name, which was never taken care of. It was a standing joke amongst the School staff and they would talk about 2nd Lieutenant Beck (the Jew) and the Jew Rosenbaum (the Commandant).[213] This was also the basis for his being so shocked and infuriated: that the Jewish origin of his name was confirmed by this family Rosenbaum from Rabka.

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On one occasion, in the summer of 1942, quite a while before the general deportation of the Rabka community to Belzec, Rosenbaum killed the family Rosenbaum. In a late afternoon, they – father, mother, daughter and son – were brought to the School. Whether all the family members were brought together or father and son, who worked in the quarry, were brought later, cannot be ascertained. After the family had been assembled in the School yard, Rosenbaum appeared and rushed at the father, cursing: 'You damned Jew, by what right are you carrying my good name!' He then beat the father. Rosenbaum called for SS-Scharfuehrer Bohnert and ordered him to shoot the family there and then, on his responsibility, on the School premises. Bohnert drew his pistol and shot the family in Rosenbaum's presence. The news of the shooting quickly spread throughout the community and resulted in an increase of outrage, fear and terror among the Jews.[214]

Simon Wiesenthal reflects on the shooting of the Rosenbaum family which he passed on to the author 1990:

gal027.jpg
Figure:27 : Simon Wiesenthal

 

'I first heard of Sammy Rosenbaum in 1965, when a Mrs Rawicz from Rabka came into my office in Vienna to testify at a War Crimes trial. Mrs Rawicz remembered Sammy Rosenbaum as “a frail boy, with a pale, thin face and big, dark eyes, who looked much older than his age – as did many children who learned too early about life.” Sammy was nine-years-old in 1939 when the Germans entered Rabka and made life a nightmare.

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Sammy's father was a tailor who lived in two musty rooms and a tiny kitchen in an old house. But they were happy and religious. Every Friday night Sammy went with his father to the synagogue, after his mother and sister lit the Shabbat candles.

In 1940 the SS set up a training centre in a former Polish Army barracks near Rabka. In the early phase of the war, the SS platoons shot their victims; fifty, a hundred, even a hundred and fifty people a day.

The SS men were being hardened at Rabka so they would become insensitive to blood, to the agonizing cries of women and children. The job must be done with a minimum of fuss and maximum of efficiency. That was a Fuhrerbefehl – the Fuhrer's order.

The school commander was SS Untersturmfuehrer Wilhelm Rosenbaum from Hamburg. Cynical and brutal, he walked around with a riding crop. “His appearance frightened us,” the woman from Rabka remembered.

Early in 1942, SS Rosenbaum ordered all Rabka's Jews to appear at the local school to “register.” The sick and the elderly would be deported, and the others would labour for the Wehrmacht.

Toward the end of the registration, SS Fuhrer Rosenbaum appeared, accompanied by two deputies, SS-Oberscharfuehrer Wilhelm Oder and Walter Proch. SS Fuhrer Rosenbaum read through the list of names. “Suddenly, he beat his riding crop hard on the table,” the woman from Rabka told me. “We each winced as if we had been whipped.” SS man Rosenbaum shouted: “What's this? Rosenbaum? Jews! How dare these verdammte Juden have my good German name?”

He threw the list on the table and strode out. We knew the Rosenbaums would be killed; it was only a matter of time. People would be executed because their name was Rosenberg, or if their first name happened to be Adolf or Hermann.

The Police school practiced executions in a clearing in the woods. SS students shot Jews and Poles rounded up by the Gestapo, while SS Fuhrer Rosenbaum observed students' reactions with clinical detachment. If a student flinched, he was removed from the execution squad and sent to the front.

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After the registration, Mrs Rawicz worked in the police school as a charwoman. “When the SS men came back from the clearing in the woods I had to clean their boots covered with blood.” It was a Friday morning in June 1942. Two SS men escorted “the Jew Rosenbaum,” his wife, and their fifteen-year-old daughter Paula. Behind them came SS Fuhrer Rosenbaum.

“The woman and the girl were marched around the schoolhouse and then I heard some shots,” the witness said. “I saw SS man Rosenbaum beat our Rosenbaum with his riding crop, shouting: 'You dirty Jews, I'll teach you a lesson for having my German name!' Then the SS man took his revolver and shot Rosenbaum the tailor two or three times. Then the SS sent an unarmed kapo (Jewish policeman) to the quarry to get Sammy.”

He went to Zakryty in a horsedrawn cart. He stopped and waved at Sammy Rosenbaum. Everybody in the quarry stared – the Jewish labourers and the SS guards. Sammy put the stone in his hands on the truck, and walked toward the cart.

Sammy looked up at the kapo. “Where are they?” he asked – “Father, Mother, and Paula. Where?” The kapo just shook his head.

Sammy understood. “They're dead,” he muttered, and spoke matter-of-factly: “Our name is Rosenbaum, and now you've come for me.” He stepped up and sat down next to the kapo.

The policeman had expected the boy to cry, perhaps run away. Riding out to Zakryty, the policeman wondered how he might have forewarned the boy; allow him to disappear in the woods, where the Polish underground might help him? Now it was too late. The SS guards were watching.

The kapo told Sammy what had happened that morning. Sammy asked if they could stop for a moment at his house. When they got there, he stepped down and walked into the front room, leaving the door open. He looked over the table with the half-filled teacups left from breakfast. He looked at the clock. It was half past three. Father, Mother and Paula were already buried, and no one had lit a candle for them. Slowly,

[Page 100]

methodically, Sammy cleaned off the table and put the candlesticks on it.

“I could see Sammy from the outside,” the kapo told Mrs Rawicz. “He put on his skullcap, and lit the candles. Two for his father, two for his mother, two for his sister. And he prayed. I saw his lips moving. He said Kaddish for them.” Kaddish is the prayer for the dead. Father Rosenbaum always said Kaddish for his dead parents, and had shown Sammy the prayer. Now he was the only one left in his family. He stood quietly, looking at the six candles.

The Jewish policeman outside saw Sammy slowly shaking his head, as though he suddenly remembered something. Then Sammy placed two more candles on the table, took a match and lit them, and prayed.

“The boy knew he was already dead,” the policeman said later. “He lit the candles and said Kaddish for himself.”

Sammy came out, and sat down near the kapo, who was crying. The boy didn't cry. The kapo wiped away his tears with the back of his hand and pulled the reins, but the tears kept coming. The boy didn't say a word. He gently touched the older man's arm, to comfort him – to forgive him for taking him away.

They rode to the clearing in the woods, where SS Fuhrer Rosenbaum and his students waited.

'About time!' screamed the SS man.

No tombstone bears Sammy Rosenbaum's name. No one might have remembered him if the woman from Rabka had not come into my office. But every year, one day in June, I light two candles for him and say Kaddish.'

 

The Jews of Jordanow

Jordanow's location near the Slovakian border also led to its 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

[Page 101]

for no apparent reason. The women cleaned the streets and other menial tasks at the whim of the Germans. In 1940, the Jewish Quarter was placed under curfew and the arm band 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 a census to be conducted by the Judenrat to list all Jews in the town. Unachievable 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, many of the Jews removing their gold teeth as a donation to the cause.

On the 30th August, 1942, on the same day as the Nowy Targ liquidations, instructors and recruits from the Rabka Sipo School, led by Rosenbaum, assisted by the SS/SD 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 some unknown reason at that time, mothers and small children were separated from those assembled and marched off separately Specially prepared pits had already been dug in the lawns of the Jewish cemetery bordering the square. 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-Scharfuehrer 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 grave site had to stamp the ground to even out the heaving earth.[215]

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 who were immediately shot on the spot. Some Jews escaped into the nearby forest and tried to cross into Slovakia. The local Polish peasants assisted in the search that then extorted from the Jews their last valuables before handing them over to the Gestapo, who killed

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them on the spot. Local farmers with their wagons collected the corpses 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'.[216]

Late in the afternoon, directly after the slaughter, horsedrawn wagons arrived in Rabka, fully laden with young mothers and very small children (babies and 3 – 4-year-olds). The local Jewish community did not know about the massacre, 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.[217]

gal028.jpg
Figure 28: c. 1942 'Selection'

 

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 women and children had been spared by the SS. They knew enough not to expect humanitarian considerations. A few weeks later, on a date unknown, all became clear:

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 for the spared selection did not take long to emerge. A few weeks later, all the women and children were rounded up and taken into the School. They were imprisoned in the stables and bunkers where

[Page 103]

previous prisoners had been held. The mothers and children were used in small batches of 3 and 4 at a time and used as examples by the SS staff at the School to show the new recruits how, and the best way, to murder women and children when engaged on Ghetto-clearing duties and other actions. Recruits who showed dissatisfaction after these exercises were carefully noted and removed from the School. After the completion of these exercises, the bodies of the women and children were disposed of in the usual way in the woods.[218]

It was at about this time that Dr Schoengarth became aware of an SS investigation into corruption and theft of the Krakow and Lvov Sipo-SD which was instigated at the highest level. There was now a damage limitation exercise by Dr Schoengarth and a hurried covering of tracks began. The first action was the shooting dead of the Jew Beck at the Rabka School.[219] Beck had been privy to every known murder in the Rabka School. As a Jew, he was in possession of very sensitive information of the personal activities of Commandant Rosenbaum, his senior members of Staff and their murdering activities. Beck must have known that he was only tolerated for his expertise, and that after all a 'Jew is a Jew', and anathema to the Reich Masters. Beck had witnessed the huge warehouse in the School packed with beautiful paintings, he had helped to carry the property to Rosenbaum's villa, and had assisted Pieter Menten (who we shall deal with later) to reverse his trailer and helped unload the goods. The Jew beck was the man who knew too much about the black market deals of his Nazi bosses that had been played out before his very eyes. Dr Schoengarth sent an immediate order to Rosenbaum to have Beck shot.

Within hours of that order, SS-Unterscharfuehrer Bohnert had taken Beck to the woods and shot him dead.[220] There was panic in the School among the Jewish staff. There were escapes in all directions, many ending up voluntarily in the confines of the Plaszow Lager. The Jew Ettinger, who, like Beck, was just as privy to the goings on in the School, had escaped to Krakow and found his way into the clothing factory of Julias Madritsch.[221] Ettinger met his brother Henryk there, and together they were taken out of Plaszow with the Oskar Schindler transport to Brunnlitz in Czechoslovakia, and survived to tell the tale of the Rabka happenings.[222] The important point is that these Jews somehow survived, and in the final analysis, were able to give evidence at later war crimes trials.

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 January 1945, when it was transferred to Berlin due to the Russian advance.

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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 the domestic staff at the School. That is why most executions were committed in the evening time, 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) – all employed in the offices of the School in 1942 – were quite ignorant, the witness Elfrieda Bohnert – wife of SS-Scharfuehrer Bohnert – noticed the places during her walks in the woods where graves were located. She had overheard the kitchen staff that Jews were killed. However, she considered questions about this were 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.

However, this is not the end of the story. The conspiracy of associations between our protagonists steps up a gear, as we shall see!

 

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