Rosa Robota of Ciechanow wrote in her blood and suffering a magnificent chapter of heroism, daring and moral uplifting in the annals of the resistance of the Auschwitz prisoners to their German torturers and murderers. In the literature of Jewish martyrology only rarely are words of saintliness used. However, because of her conduct in Auschwitz, Rosa Robota deserves to be counted among the saintly ones.
Rosa Robota was born in Ciechanow to well-to-do parents, an old, established family of the city. She had a sister and a brother. She finished grammar school with honors and was attracted, while she was still young, to public activity in the 'Hashomer Hatsair' youth movement.
She was a young girl when the Germans entered Ciechanow and took her and her sister to work in cleaning the house of the former head of the Polish government. The two sisters were severely tortured in this work. Meanwhile their house was destroyed and their family went to live with relatives in the ghetto until its destruction in November, 1942, and the transfer of most of its inhabitants to Auschwitz. Rosa was among those transferred. In the camp she experienced the terrible 'selection' at which the fate of the prisoners was determined - who was sent to the gas chambers and who to work to exhaustion.
Noah Zabludovitch, who was in contact with her, tells about the enthusiasm with which Rosa devoted herself to the activities of the underground. Her eyes burned with revenge when she managed to do something against the hated ones. Rosa was loved by all her friends in the camp to whom she gave bread in days of hunger. In a short time she managed to organize around her youngsters like her, who brought her the powder for the explosives. Rosa guarded the powder until it was given to the people of the 'Sonderkommando'. She accomplished this important and dangerous mission very quickly and carefully.
In mid 1944 the head of the underground in Auschwitz decided on a revolt which would include all the camps simultaneously. They hoped to get help from the A.K. The revolt was to take place on the first Sunday of the month of November, 1944.
The organizers of the revolt pinned their hopes on the people of the Sonderkommando who worked near the ovens. About 600 people worked in this cursed job. With clear knowledge that they would be killed by the Germans as were the previous ones, they decided to fight their murderers to the last man.
The Sonderkommando revolt broke out suddenly, at a time unexpected by the head of the underground. Moshe Kolko writes in his memoirs:
"On that day there was a rumor about the transport of men from the Sonderkommando. Soon after the 600 workers of that command revolted. Oven number two was set on fire and the German "kapo" who excelled in cruelty was thrown into the burning oven. In face to face combat four of the SS people were killed and some were wounded. The area around the ovens turned into a battleground. The barrier around the area was destroyed and the rebels escaped.
All the SS people in the area were alerted. The working groups stopped their work and returned to their shacks. The prisoners were counted and the SS people ran around the camp like poisoned rats. They never expected to have to defend themselves against the Jews.
Unfortunately, the help that was expected from the other prisoners [Ed. Note: Polish Underground] in the camp never materialized. The Germans regained control of the situation, killed all those that took part in the revolt, including some of the citizens of Ciechanow, and conducted a thorough investigation accompanied by terrible torture.
The investigation, of course, showed that the powder which had been used by the rebels came from the ammunition factory. Some of the women who worked in the powder department were suspected. They were jailed and transferred to block no. 11. Rosa Robota was among these women.
The failure of the revolt, the torture and the killing frightened the prisoners of Auschwitz. Each of them thought that his end had come. The most depressed were the few people of Ciechanow, who were connected to Rosa Robota, and knew about the terrible suffering and the horrible torture that she was going through. They wanted very much to see her before she died.
With the help of a Jewish "kapo", the SS man who guarded block 11, was allowed to get drunk and Noah Zabludovitch smuggled himself into block 11 "I was fortunate to see Rosa for the last time a few days before her death," Zabludovitch writes in his memoirs. "At night, when all the prisoners were asleep, at the time of the curfew when no movement was allowed in the camp, I went down to the "bunker" of block 11, through the corridors and the dark rooms. I heard the sighing of the prisoners and shivers went through my body. I went down the stairs, guided by the "kapo", until we arrived at Rosa's cell. Yaacov,( the "kapo"), brought me into the cell andthen disappeared. When my eyes got used to the darkness I noticed a shape covered with torn clothes thrown on the cold cement floor. The shape turned her head toward me and I barely couold recognize her. Etched on her face were endless suffering and torture. After a few minutes of silence, Rosa started to tell me about the sadistic methods the Germans used during the investigation and told me that she took upon herself all the responsibility and did not mention any other name.
I tried to comfort her but she refused to listen. "I know what I did and I know what is coming," she informed me. She requested that the comrades continue with their work. "It's easier to die," she explained,"when you know that there is a continuation to your actions." I heard a sound near the door. Yaacov called me to leave. I parted from Rosa. This was the last time I saw her.
A few days later, the Germans gathered all the women who worked in the "Union" factory to watch the hanging of four of their friends. Among them was also Rosa. The women told of the peaceful (untranslated), heroism, and pride with which the Jewish heroine from Ciechanow walked to the gallows. This was the end of November, 1944. (Editors note: Actually Jan. 6, 1945, according to official Auschwitz records.)
(Submitted by Allan E. Mallenbaum, Chairman of the Rosa Robota Foundation, in memory of his cousin, Rosa Robota, and all of the Jews of Ciechanow who were murdered at the hands of the Germans, 1939 - 1945, Aleihem HaShalom.)