Fled a Death Transport 

The Jewish brothers Michael and Jurek Rozenek grew up near Krakow. After the Wehrmacht occupied Poland, their family was forced into the Lodz ghetto in Poland in late 1939. In August 1944, they were deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. Their parents and one sister were murdered, but the two brothers were sent to Czechowitz, a satellite camp of Auschwitz-Monowitz, where they were forced to work to total exhaustion.

In late 1944, Czechowitz was hastily evacuated as the Red Army approached. The prisoners were forced by the SS to trek to Gleiwitz on foot. There a transport brought the inmates, half frozen to death, to the Buchenwald concentration camp. A few days later, in January 1945, the Rozeneks were brought to Rehmsdorf, a satellite camp of Buchenwald, where they had to do extremely hard labor under disastrous conditions.

In early April 1945, all the prisoners in Rehmsdorf were being brought to Theresienstadt in open coal freight cars, without food or water. While in the Erz Mountains, the Rozeneks managed to jump from the train and escape into the forest. There they happened to meet Arno Bach of Niederschmiedeberg on April 16. As a stoker in a paper factory, Bach had been deferred from military service. He felt compassion for the totally exhausted men, gave them something to eat, and promised he would return that evening. “We were still mistrustful, since we thought it was virtually impossible that there were still Germans who really wanted to help us,” wrote Michael Rozenek in 1989 about his first encounter with the man who saved their lives.

When he got home, Bach, a former Social Democrat and an opponent of the Nazi regime, discussed the matter with his wife Margarete. She also wanted to help. They had recently learned that their oldest son had been killed in action and the younger one was missing. The Bachs hid the Jewish brothers in a shed behind their home. They had to be very cautious because there were Nazis living in the neighborhood. Margarete Bach would pretend that she was getting wood from the shed and bring along food in a basket that she used for garden work.

Arno Bach lived in the same house as his sister Luise Griesmann and her husband Alfred. The two of them and another neighbor Frieda Löser, a widow, also helped out. Arno Bach emptied their chamber pot at night and informed the brothers of the situation on the front. The arrangement was particularly dangerous because Michael Rozenek had tuberculosis and his loud coughing could have given them away.

On May 8, the Rozeneks were liberated by the Soviet army. They had a difficult time convincing the commander that they had been concentration camp prisoners. On their suggestion, Arno Bach was appointed mayor by the Soviets. The Rozeneks lived in Berlin until 1951, when they emigrated to Buenos Aires, where a sister of theirs was living. Miguel Rozenek, as he was called in Argentina, visited his helpers in Niederschmiedeberg in 1987 and 1989 and initiated their being honored by the Israeli Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem.

Rozenek, Michael. “Wie wird es einmal enden?” Bericht des ehemaligen jüdischen Häftlings Michael Rozenek über seine Rettung, edited by Gedenkstätte Buchenwald. Weimar: Gutenberg Buchdruckerei, 1991.