Born: ca. 1897, Poland
Rachel, or Ruchla as she was called, was raised by Jewish parents in the small southwestern Polish town of Bedzin. In 1930 she moved with her husband, Bernard, to the nearby city of Katowice, where Bernard had a wholesale leather business. The couple lived with their two children, Moses and Genia, in a three-bedroom, upper-floor apartment on Jordana Street.
1933-39: Ruchla was active in Hadassah, a women's Zionist organization, and in 1939 she and her husband prepared to emigrate to Palestine [Aliyah Bet, "illegal" immigration]. Their daughter, Genia, had left for Palestine three years earlier to study piano at a conservatory. Bernard sold his business and the family packed up their household. Their luggage was waiting to be shipped at the Katowice railroad station when the Germans attacked Poland that September 1.
1940-44: By 1942 Ruchla and her family had been deported to a labor camp, on the site of an ammunition factory, in Skarzysko-Kamienna. Ruchla was put to work in subcamp C where workers filled artillery shells with picric acid, a yellow, poisonous powder absorbed through the skin. One day, someone dropped a loaded artillery shell that exploded, injuring several people, including Ruchla. To help her recover, her husband had his gold teeth extracted and sold the gold on the black market to buy Ruchla nourishing food.
With no medical care, 45-year-old Ruchla died. She was one of some 18,000 to 23,000 Jews who died at Skarzysko-Kamienna between 1942 and 1944.
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