The Kielce Ghetto Memoir:

A Fragment of
My Mother’s Life

By Sarah Rembiszewski

 

Lola

 

  Lola

 

 

I would like to share a very emotional experience I went through when, after several years of research, I was able to locate a memoir that revealed previously unknown information concerning my mother.Lola was born in Kielce (Pinczow), Poland on May 6, 1920, into the Fajnszat family of textile merchants. She grew up during the interwar period as a typical middle class Jewish teenager of her time. She became a beautiful girl, a pupil of the Jewish gymnasium. Lola loved fashion, and was upbeat and sporty, especially ice skating.

 

REMB 2 Lola and Her Brother Alter in Pre-War Kielce rev (1)
Lola and Her Brother Alter
in Pre-War Kielce

Together with her mother and siblings (she was the third of five children), Lola was an active member of the Revisionist Zionist movement, Betar. This worldly, outgoing activity was not necessarily unusual for a daughter from a traditional Jewish home at the time, but demanded a daring spirit. And that she had.

Almost until the outbreak of the war with Nazi Germany, Lola enjoyed a very comfortable youth. Life became increasingly difficult for the Jews in Kielce after Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, and then changed abruptly for the worse when German troops invaded Kielce in the afternoon of September 4, 1939.

One and a half years of hardship later, her father had committed suicide, her elder brothers were deported to forced labor and shot, and on the eve of Passover—on March 31, 1941—Lola was locked into the Kielce Ghetto together with 28,000 other Jews. Here, still dreaming of a better future, she married her first husband, David Taumann, on December 27, 1941. (See Wedding Record here.)

The Kielce Ghetto was liquidated in August 1942. Lola was sent to work in a slave ammunitions plant in Pionki, but first she saw the rest of her surviving family transported to Treblinka, where they were killed on arrival.

Lola survived many hells. After slave work in the ammunitions factory, she was „evacuated” to Auschwitz, where she became number A 15092. From there her via dolorosa brought her to the infamous tent camp in Bergen-Belsen, to Bomlitz and to Elsnig-Wasag, slave workers’ camps in Germany.

On April 20, 1945 (Hitler’s last birthday), Lola was finally “liberated” after she escaped the train she had been locked in for three days when it was bombarded by the Allies in the village of Seddin, near Potsdam, Germany.

REMB 4 David Taumann Prisoner Card from Mauthausen rev (1)
David Taumann’s Prisoner Card From Mauthausen; click here for full document

Her husband, David Taumann, was killed on April 28, 1945 in Mauthausen, eight days after Lola liberated herself from the train.

My mother returned to her hometown in Poland only to face the bitter reality that she remained the only survivor of her entire family. There in Kielce she met Abram Rembiszewski, her future second husband. Soon both of them had to escape from Kielce, due to what became known as the Kielce Pogrom of July 4, 1946, during which 42 survivors of the Holocaust were lynched by their Polish neighbours.

After a lengthy odyssey through Poland and Germany, Lola and Abram found themselves in the Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp, where they got married. They stayed in Hamburg, which although initially was meant as a temporary arrangement, turned out to be their home.

Both my brother Jimmi, who lives with his family in London, and I, were born in Hamburg where I lived until my Aliya.

Lola never spoke about the horrors of the Holocaust. Nevertheless, she left the Auschwitz tattoo A 15092 on her left arm, contrary to many of her friends who removed this sign of utter dehumanization. The number became part of her, not only an eternal reminder of what she went through but also what she was able to endure, thus being prepared to overcome whatever disaster was awaiting her.

REMB 5 Wedding of Lola and Abram Rembiszewski Displaced Persons Camp Bergen- Belsen 1947 rev (1)
Wedding of Lola and Abram Rembiszewski, Displaced Persons Camp, Bergen-Belsen, 1947

The few times my mother did mention her life during the war, she told us of “lucky moments”. For example, from her life in the Ghetto she only chose to tell about the “nice wedding” she had. The only memory she shared of her time in Auschwitz was that of a meeting with a Polish communist resistance fighter who recognized her in Birkenau, even without her hair. He told her that he owed money to her father and in return brought her to the Kleiderkammer – Barrack, a place where she found herself standing in a kind of trance before mountains of clothes from thousands of murdered Jews. She was able to choose some clothes to wear, something that might have helped her and her friends to survive over the next few weeks. My mother also told us about that lucky day in April 1945 when she was able to save herself and her camp sister Bella from that burning train, a disaster where many others died. This was about all she ever told us.

I wanted to know more about my mother’s life during the war. In searching for information about the Kielce Ghetto on the Jewish Records Indexing-Poland database, I came across an article by Elliot Cohen, M.D., in the Summer 2003 issue of the Kielce-Radon SIG Journal, Volume 7, Number 3, regarding the memoir of Mildred Manja Feferman-Wasoff. She had written her memoir of the Kielce Ghetto, The Processed, in 1945-46 in Polish and translated it into English in 1979. I had heard about this memoir of the Kielce Ghetto and had tried to locate a copy for a number of years.

lola and abram
Lola and Abram Rembiszewski, Post-War Hamburg, Germany

At the end of Dr. Cohen’s article, he included an index he prepared of all the names mentioned in the memoir. There on this list were the names Lola and David Taumann. I was anxious to know in what context they were mentioned. I contacted Dr. Cohen and he sent me a copy of the English translation of the memoir—the entire book. I was stunned. I did not know Elliot Cohen and yet he was kind enough to make such an effort to help me.

I started reading it at once. When I reached page 48, I held my breath as the author described my mother giving birth somewhere in what was left of the Kielce Ghetto after the murderous liquidation of most of its inhabitants.

Lola never spoke about this child. My brother and I had heard rumors that she might have been pregnant while she was in the Ghetto, a situation which was almost unbearable, as pregnant women were shot on the spot if their pregnancy was discovered. We assumed that she probably had an abortion in order to have a chance to survive.

However, I found out through the memoir of Mildred Feferman-Wasoff that my mother was able to conceal somehow her pregnancy during nine months, saving herself and her unborn child through the horrors of the daily ghetto life and selections.

Did Lola notice her pregnancy when it was too late for an abortion? Did she insist on having the baby with or without the consent of her husband, and her family (who were still alive), hoping for a better or at least some kind of future? Did she and her sister-in-law Manja Rosenkranz, who was pregnant at the same time, have these endless discussions about the possible future of a family life in a free world? Was there a tiny chance for survival? I have learned that my mother and her husband went for advice to a rabbi, who told them that in order to give the mother and her family a chance to live, the child would have to be deprived of this same chance.

To all of these questions, I imagine different kinds of answers.

But there is one certainty; I suddenly became the sister of a sibling killed during the Holocaust.

January 2015
Tel Aviv, Israel

After Lola’s death in 2010, her family established in her memory the annual Lola Taumann Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Fashion Design – Bezalel, Jerusalem. See the 2014 poster here. Sarah asks that anyone with information regarding her family history contact her at sarahrem@gmail.com.

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