Born: November 24, 1920, Sochocin, Poland
Roza was born to a Jewish family in a predominately Catholic village near Warsaw. Her father owned a prosperous pearl button factory that employed some 100 people. They shared a large home with Roza's grandmother who ran a general store and bakery in the village. Roza and her three sisters attended Polish schools and took Hebrew lessons at the towns' synagogue.
1933-39: My father frequently did business in Warsaw so we moved there in 1934. We loved the city, and often went to concerts and the theater. My older sister, Hinda, emigrated to Palestine [the Yishuv] in early 1939. I'd just begun language studies at the University of Warsaw when the city fell to the Germans. Father knew the war would be terrible for the Jews. He divided the gold and jewelry between us, and said, "Whoever can save himself, should."
1940-44: The gold bought me a new identity as a Catholic, Maria Kowalczyk, and with it, a new status by the Nazis: slave to the Reich. I was deported by cattle car to Germany; the Germans appointed me "leader" of my car because I could speak German and relay their orders to the Polish prisoners. I panicked--the appointment drew too much attention to me. They could have found out that I was a Jew, but I was rewarded for interpreting by being permitted to select my forced-labor assignment. I chose the seclusion of a farm.
Roza spent two years working on a farm near Stuttgart, Germany, before being liberated by American troops in April 1945. She eventually emigrated to the United States.
Copyright © United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC